Two New Ways to Reinvent Your Old Sweaters // The Real Gal’s Fashion Files No. 2

sweater header

Sweaters are the chicken and dumplings of the winter wardrobe, the comfort staples of our closets.

From Fair Isles and chunky knits to cashmere and luxe wraps, there are countless ways for women of all shapes, sizes, and ages to rock the sweater.

But it’s easy to tire of the ones we have. We reach for the same combo each time — sweater + jeans + boots. And if we’re really feeling adventurous, we may layer on a scarf and call that living on the edge.

For the love, let’s thank the sweater for all her faithful years to us by reinventing her just a bit and breathing new life into our well-loved wintry cables.

Here you go, two ways to revive the sweaters you probably already have.

1. Wear it as a “shirt.”

Why should sweaters always be the top layer? Did you ever consider that maybe your sweater is a bit on the shy side and doesn’t want to be so much on display? Fitted sweaters can serve as a cozy, texturey “shirt” under vests and blazers.

sweater + vest

Here I am in Starbucks wearing a chartreuse fitted sweater under my vest. {Let’s pretend this is a quality photo.}

I love this combo and could wear it every day. See how the chartreusey color makes it pop under a neutral vest? The sweater is a bit too fitted to wear on its own {for my personal taste.} But layered under a vest or sweater, it serves as a warm and cozy shirt.

And because I don’t want to break into a sweat or feel too claustrophobic in all of these layers, I just wore a long-sleeve tissue tee under the sweater. This combo is as comfy as fleecey loungewear but a little more appropriate for public spaces.

Let’s look at a few more examples, shall we?

sweater + pink vest


girl + fur vest


sweater + blazer + tie shirt



2. Wear it as a tunic.

Soft, cozy, drapey goodness over anything with lycra and preferably an elastic waistband? Yes please. Especially since it’s the season for Candy Cane Joe’s Joe’s. {Curse you Trader Joe’s.}

tunic sweater + scarf


This ensemble makes our slackness look intentionally chic, relaxed, and modern. The fact that it’s uber-comfy is a bonus. Tis’ the season to make merry, not make ourselves miserable by wearing clothes that punish us. {I’m looking at you zippers and fitted shirts.}

tunic sweater + fur scarf


What’s the key to wearing an oversized sweater without looking, well, oversized? Follow the rule of contrasting proportions. If you’re going loose and drapey up top, go slim on the bottom. Think leggings and skinny jeans. And might I suggest a pair of booties or winter wedges to elongate this look and dress it up a bit?

Here’s what I’m talking about.

long sweater + booties


This would be super cute with flats or riding boots but the heel on the booties make it modern, slimming, and spiffy for date night. {I hear some couples actually get those.}


How to Make These Looks Work For Real Gals With Real Budgets

I know what you’re thinking. “Marian, these looks are all fabulous because they are models.”

I hear you. That’s the thing about putting clothes on long, leggy people all under the age of 27 — they have a way of looking fab in a potato sack.

But I know for certain that real gals like all of us — gals who are 5’1 instead of 5’11, gals who are over 65 instead of 16, gals who are full-figured instead of stick-figured, can wear these looks. {I know because I help them choose outfits from their closets and give them lists of what to shop for.} But I also see them out and about in real life — at the elementary school, church, family gatherings, and my local Target.

Here are a few tips for making these looks work for you:

Tip #1: Work with your proportions and with contrast in mind. {See above comment about that.} Drapey sweater on the top? Go skinny on the bottom. And vice versa. Fitted and tailored on the top? You can go with a more generous fit on the bottom.

Here’s another example of proportions. This petite gal pulled off a long, drapey sweater by adding skinny pants and booties. See how much it elongates?

leggings with booties


Tip #2: Work with your stage of life. That’s a polite way of saying “age.” I doubt my mom will want to wear black skinny jeans and black suede booties. But she could still make this look work for her by wearing dark denim slim-fit jeans with maybe a lower-heeled brown leather bootie. Long sweaters look cute on everyone from my teenage daughter to her Nana. {Hi Mom!}

Tip #3: Work with your budget. I didn’t have any long sweaters but I recently found a “vintage” Adrienne Vitadini number at the thrift store for $3. When my daughter’s friend told me she loved it, I figured I was doing alright. Thrift stores have sweaters galore.

Tip #4: Work with different sizes. If you want to wear a sweater as a “shirt,” you can shop a bit smaller since you’re looking for a fitted piece. The sweater as a shirt number I’m wearing today is a smaller size than I’d choose if I was going to wear it solo. And if you’re wanting a sweater as a tunic, you can shop a bit larger. The one I scored recently is a couple of sizes larger than I’d normally wear. I did a bit of thrifting today and bought a drapey Mossimo sweater in an XL. I’m normally a smaller size but for the look I wanted, this actually worked.

Tip #5: Add pattern to spruce up blah colors. My long Adrienne sweater is a chocolate brown and cream-colored weave. It’s fine but dark brown + denim jeans + gray-ish booties left me feeling sad and colorless. However, once I added a navy and white gingham button-up underneath, it was party time. The contrasting prints broke the sweater of its 90s blah-ness. A patterned or colorful scarf can work the same magic.

See how this lovely gal took her gray sweater from plain to party with a patterned shirt?
sweater + gingham


Remember, these aren’t rules. And this isn’t revolutionary fashion information. These are just simple ideas to get you thinking outside the box, ways to refresh what you already own or find something fun and new for a few dollars.

Now go forth and pull those old sweaters from the back of your closet and see if you can’t reinvent one. Or if you’re like me and need to add a sweatery piece to your wardrobe, go find one at your favorite thrift store for the price of a latte. And then come back and tell me what you scored.


P.S. The last couple of weeks I’ve had real-life friends text, call, and hunt me down at church to show me their blazers. Some were rescued and revived from the backs of closets. Others were scored at thrift stores and given a second chance. You guys! I’m so proud of you. Let me say that you inspire me back with your enthusiasm and quick learning. Keep it up.

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Week 3: Why You Really Are Prepared for Christmas. Even if You’re Not.

advent 3

It will be a Christmas memory for the archives. All five of us, on December 13th — just two weeks behind schedule — traipsing through the Lowe’s parking lot to find our family tree.

It was a soul-sucking vignette, to be sure. Megastore garden center at night. Vacant cinder-block stalls, emptied of the best trees. Bad fluorescent lighting that reflected off the cement and handed me a shot glass of depression. The whole scene felt a bit like prison.

2014 — The Year The Vischers Bailed Out a Christmas Tree

One child stood in the corner, arms folded and scowling and I can’t believe this is the tree we’re getting!

The other two pushed each other around on the flatbed metal carts because their mom was too melancholy to care. And my husband, God bless him, channeled his inner Clark Griswold and assured his disgruntled family that this was indeed a fine tree and that we were going to have a hap-hap-happiest Christmas after all.

We drove out of the parking lot as the kids complained about our small-statured tree and how we’re putting it up late this year and why aren’t there lights on our house and so on.

I simply stared out the window in silence. As we drove home, my husband asked me what our schedule looked like this week and when no answer came, he looked over and saw tears rolling down my cheeks. Of course he asked what was wrong and all I could get out was, I’m just overwhelmed.

We didn’t realize until recent weeks that the last half of 2014 was tougher than we’d acknowledged, an extended season of physical, emotional, spiritual, and relational stress that gradually seeped in without fanfare or acknowledgement. Sometimes we’re so busy putting out the fires and making the decisions and dealing with the issues at hand that we don’t realize we’re actually drowning. The waters have risen, ever so slowly, and we find ourselves gasping for breath.

Or in my case, crying on the way home from Lowe’s and telling my husband that for the first time ever, I wish we could just skip Christmas.

And then there’s the guilt. December 13th and no Christmas decorations. No advent readings {because the books are packed up in boxes} and therefore no hearts “prepared.” No intentional memory-making endeavors like gingerbread houses and Christmas lights and tree farms and putting on the ornaments while we pass the hot chocolate.


For the mom who’s overwhelmed by her stress, her lack, her distraction, her loser-ness, there is only one answer.

To be overwhelmed by grace through Christ. 

I can look at the expectations, overwhelmed by how I’m coming up short. Or I can look at Jesus, overwhelmed by his sufficiency.

I can look at the all the moms getting it “right,” overwhelmed by my pitiful comparison. Or I can look at Jesus, overwhelmed by his favor for me.

I can look at my kids’ expectations, overwhelmed in a torrent of guilt. Or I can look at Jesus, overwhelmed because there is no condemnation for those who are in Him.

In far too many moments, I’ve been looking in the wrong places for approval, affirmation, and joy. And I should know my now — that always leaves me gasping for air, emotionally bankrupt, and reeking of self-focus.

Why are we so prone to define ourselves by what we’re doing {or not doing} instead of what Jesus has already done?

It’s been a December in which I’ve been ambushed by my culture’s expectations, others’ expectations, and my own expectations instead of overwhelmed by the simple yet profound truth of the Gospel.

But it’s only December 15th. And I’d love a do-over. I long to shift my gaze.

Because even if the tree never went up and the cookies never got made and the advent readings never got read, Christmas would still come because Christ still comes.

And when He showed up on the scene over 2,000 years ago, no one was prepared, not even his own family. There was no matching layette, no birth plan, no carefully prepared suite, not even a room at the inn.

Do we think Christ’s humble beginnings were a result of poor planning or just happenstance? Do we criticize Mary for not having it just a little more together, seeing as how she was getting ready to birth the Savior of the World?

Of course we don’t.

Because God isn’t a God of coincidence, the world’s unpreparedness was no coincidence.

If your own Christmas preparations feel behind, pitiful, or less than enthusiastic, you’re in good company.

Christ came to the unprepared, the unlikely, and the unsuspecting. And He didn’t show up with a checklist. He showed up with compassion.

On this third week of Advent, know that it’s never too late for your heart to “prepare Him room.”

And though He is God in the flesh, though his glory is beyond our comprehension, He is the most gracious guest for whom we’ll ever prepare. He’s not impressed by lights or tinsel or even our intentionality as parents. He doesn’t require garland or even a Christmas tree by December 1st.

He simply asks that we receive Him — just as we are, just as He finds us.



Advent week 1 300


advent week 2 300

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The Real Pretty Shop. Last Day! {And…there’s a SALE.}

2nd sale header on sale

Yesterday was so fun! And you still have all day today to shop. Below are the outfits that haven’t been picked yet but you can go to yesterday’s post because those items are still up for grabs until midnight tonight.

If by chance there are two outfits you like and you’re the only one who picks them, you can purchase both and shipping will still be FREE.

There are a few lovely ensembles still left and waiting for a closet that will love and cherish them.

And I put them on SALE!

Because sales are fun and also because I want to clear out my “shop” to make room for new inventory. {I am so legit with my shopgirl lingo.}

SHOP NOTE: This doesn’t mean I’ll always mark down what’s still available. Otherwise no one will put their name in the hat for future sales — in hopes that I’ll mark it down the next day. But this sale has TWELVE outfits and it’s right before Christmas and Marian needs to clear it out.


Here’s what I still have available.
2.6 w tags on sale 2.6 collage

MARKED DOWN FROM $25. This is a similar look to outfit 1 — blazer + button-up sweater + necklace. But this one is a much more relaxed look. Camel-colored blazer is tapemeasure {brand} size 8. Sweater is daisy fuentes size large. Let’s talk about fit. I’d say both of these are a medium. The sweater runs small and the fit of the jacket is somewhat cropped {slightly above hip-length} and with a relaxed fit. I added a sweet necklace made of wooden beads and white shells.

If you want the look of a blazer but with the comfort of “real” clothes, this is a great outfit — comfy and easy.

  • Any and all denim with tall boots or booties.
  • The blazer will look great with a button-up, fitted casual sweater, or graphic tee.
  • I’d wear it with a solid tee and chunky beaded necklace or a sweatery scarf. Or maybe a lightweight printed scarf.
  • The sweater is super cute on its own. Unbutton it and wear a solid tee or casual button-up with a chunky, wooden-bead necklace.
  • All three of these pieces can be mixed and matched with the rest of your wardrobe.


2.8 on sale 2.8 collage

MARKED DOWN FROM $35. Rock N’ Republic is famous for its spendy, fabulous jeans. But a couple of years ago they came out with a line for Kohl’s. This blazer — size 10 — is edgy but not too edgy. I love that it’s linen {not too heavy and bulky} but with a studded lapel. If red and orange and coral had a baby, it would be this color. It’s fantastic. Here’s a pic I found online that shows the shape a bit better.

Don’t trust my amateur pics on this one! It was hard to photograph. I tried this on again this morning and the shape is so fab, very elongating and creates a lovely shape. I feel this jacket is the best fit for someone 5’4 or taller. Also, this is really a medium to large. It’s relaxed tailoring and I feel it could fit someone between a size 6ish and a size 10.
  • DENIM. Because of course. This is rock n’ roll, not your Easter outfit.
  • I’d go with skinnies. You can go with bootcut if they’re fitted and if you wear a shoe or boot with a little bit of a heel. This jacket is a tad longer so you’ll want balance.
  • White jeans.
  • Black jeans.
  • Cowboy boots or some other sassy sort of bootie or wedges.
  • Pair the blazer with a denim shirt, graphic tee, or fitted sweater. Because it’s linen, you can wear it in the spring / summer. Because it’s a blazer, you can wear it in the fall / winter.
  • Pair the multi-seasonal black shell with anything and everything.



2.10 new w tags 2.10 collage new
I actually have TWO different necklaces you can wear with this blouse and I’m going to let you choose!

A metallic and stone necklace and a wooden beaded and leather necklace. These would both look great with lots of other stuff in your wardrobe.

MARKED DOWN FROM $20 AND WITH YOUR CHOICE OF NECKLACE. I won’t be super sad if this one doesn’t sell because it’s so very giftable. {I’m looking at you sisters-in-law.} This gorgeous blouse is silk and it’s Banana Republic and one of you will look lovely in it. The pictures don’t do justice to this luxe button-up blouse in the most beautiful wine color {that I want for myself.} It has 3/4-length sleeves and I’ve paired it with a long necklace. I love this ensemble so much.

It’s a size large and true to size but you could be a medium and wear it a bit looser or plan to layer something on top of it. It’s much less boxy-looking than the photo shows. Since it’s not a tailored piece, the size is more forgiving both ways.

  • A vest. This would be stellar with a faux fur vest or plush sweatery vest. Vests are super in right now and easy to find in stores.
  • Throw on a blazer or cardigan for layers.
  • A scarf — sweatery {for contrast} or a flowy, drapey fabric.
  • Jeans — any rinse. Or white or black skinny jeans.
  • Tuck it into a skirt to dress it up and make it more tailored.
  • All kinds of boots.


2.11 w tags on sale 2.11 collage

MARKED DOWN FROM $30. So blazers don’t have to be tailored and layered with fitted sweaters and button-ups. I adore this swing-type velvety jacket in plum. Again, the pics don’t show her true loveliness. This jacket has three pewter-looking buttons, 3/4-length sleeves, and is fully lined. This is a size 14. 

I’ve paired it with a batik-type lightweight scarf that will be your go-to scarf for everything, from your denim shirt to your flowy knit tops.

  • You can go dressy or casual with this one too. Because it’s velvety and festive, you can for sure dress it up with satiny black pants or winter white dress pants.
  • Wear it as a cape-style jacket over a black dress or holiday dress.
  • Pair it with jeans or cords to contrast and go casual. The scarf takes it down a notch and makes it look great with denim.
  • You can go with skinny jeans / slim pants or wear bootcuts.


2.12 w tags on sale


2.12 collage

MARKED DOWN FROM $30. Festive and fun and wonderful — that’s what this ensemble is. Chartreusey / citron Jones New York cardigan, size 2X, with 3/4 – length sleeves and sweet details. Notched collar and chiffon-type overlay on the trim of the pockets and at the collar.

I’ve layered it with a soft, sweatery scarf that’s embellished with a flower and I included one my handmade tassel bracelets. {Stack this with any gold bangles you already have.}

  • Add a long-sleeve knit top, shell, or button-up.
  • Dress it up with statement jewelry and dressier pants.
  • Make it everyday wear with jeans, your scarf, trendy sneakers, or booties.
  • Love the sweater but afraid this isn’t your color? Pair it with a scarf — this one or your own — and it’ll work. This color actually contrasts well with other colors like pinks, purples, and blues.
  • Because it’s lightweight, it’s multi-seasonal. Because it’s a sweater {and has a scarf}, it’s just as perfect for this time of year.



  • See something you like? Go to the comments section and tell me what number outfit you like.
  • Then include your PayPal address in the comment box. This is very important. If you don’t include your PayPal address, I can’t send you an invoice. {Or your outfit.}
  • The comments section will stay open until Friday night at midnight. If there are multiple people who all want the same outfit, I’ll draw a name and send you an invoice. That way everyone has a chance to get their hands on an outfit.
  • If there’s more than one outfit you like, go ahead and comment on both. Let me know your first and second choices.
  • Even if someone has already commented on the outfit you want, comment anyway since you all have the same chance to win. The comments will close at midnight EST on Friday night {Saturday morning.}
  • I can’t ship your items before payment. Obviously.
  • All outfits will ship USPS priority mail flat-rate shipping. You guys, shipping is expensive. I really didn’t know. So in an effort to keep this truly affordable, your ensembles will be smushed into a tiny gelatin capsule that you’ll have to soak in water for 20 minutes and then poof, your outfit will dislodge. Kidding! But it will be tightly folded up like origami when it arrives. I apologize for the wrinkles. Blame the USPS. Throw your duds in the dryer with a dryer sheet and a damp towel and you’ll be good to go.
  • No returns, much as it pains me. {My people-pleasing self hates this rule but it just has to be.} If for any reason an item doesn’t work out, you can pass it along to a friend, split up the items {keep what works for yourself or pass along what doesn’t to someone else}, or donate it to your favorite thrift shop.
  • Like the shop? Know someone who would dig this sort of thing? Spread the word. You can use those share buttons at the bottom of the post.



You may also like these posts:

That Time I Put Liz Claiborne Labels in My Target Shoes

The Women Who Inspire Me With Real Fashion {And I’m opening a shop. Or shoppe if you want to be fancy.}

For the Love of Blazers {and how to wear them} // The Real Gal’s Fashion Files

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