Last weekend, my daughter Valerie, an archaeologist, found out she would have an opportunity to do some field work. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), unless you have a Ph.D or two, it’s very rare to be invited to do on-site digging— one usually has to pay significantly for the privilege. So naturally, she jumped at the chance. And then rose the all-too-familiar desperate wail:
“What do I wear?”
Just to put this dilemma in perspective, an everyday look for Valerie would be a pencil skirt, sleek sweater or top, and heels. (Yes, unlike her mother, she’s very Hollywood-glam; not exactly vintage, certainly not retro, just modern glam.) Unfortunately, this style doesn’t (I assume) lend itself well to crouching down in a hole for hours at a time, sifting buckets of dirt, etc.; maybe this is glamorous work to an archaeologist, but even so, a pencil skirt somehow doesn’t seem… appropriate.
What would be appropriate? Valerie says definitely not jeans: too hot, restrictive, uncomfortable. But pants do seem indicated. I suggested something like khakis and/or cargo pants. This was a little like suggesting to a vegetarian that she try a lovely dish of calf’s liver, but eventually, she realized that if she had to wear pants (and casual pants at that), she could do worse. Khakis went on the list.
She also needed some casual tops, i.e. ones she wouldn’t mind getting covered with dirt and dust. These should be long-sleeved (for sun protection), natural fiber (for coolness), and above all, washable. Long-sleeved cotton t-shirts went on the list.
Now that Valerie’s shopping list was forming, she had to decide where to shop. Since she didn’t want to spend a lot on clothes for such a specialized purpose, I suggested thrift-shopping. (There are 2 really good shops quite close by.). Honestly, since I almost never shop for pants (at any kind of shop), I didn’t know what kind of selection we might find, but on the other hand, thrift shops generally have a wider assortment of brands to choose from. So I thought the odds of finding something were actually in our favor.
Other list items: Wide-brimmed sun hat, work gloves (leather), and comfortable shoes or boots that can get dirty.
Valerie’s going to write a guest post for Changing Your Clothes about this experience, but for now, I’ll just tell you that, in less than 3 hours, we went to 2 shops, she tried on over 30 pairs of pants (and about a dozen tops at the first shop), out of which she got 2 nice long-sleeved t-shirts, 2 pairs of khaki/cargo pants, and even a bonus pair of Ralph Lauren jeans in the most interesting shade of silvery-white! Total spent: $43.00!
Future post alert! It occurred to me during our shopping trip that planning for Valerie’s new field-work wardrobe was not unlike planning a travel wardrobe: both have specific needs, deadlines, climates, events, and budgets to consider. This is an idea I’m going to explore in another post (or three); the more I work on these concepts, the more I realize how helpful it is to start with a concrete strategy.
I’d love to show you pictures of Valerie’s new(ish) stuff, but she got a last-minute notification to go in this morning for 6 hours of orientation and training for her field work. (It’s a good thing we didn’t wait until the last minute to shop!) She went off looking professional, appropriate, comfortable, and even —surprise— chic!
Thrift-Shop Thursday posts appear every 2 weeks here on CYC.