Dr. Livingstone's closet, I presume...?
June 27, 2011 11:26 AM   Subscribe

I am a woman starting completely over with my wardrobe. Help me look like a femme Indiana Jones!

What I Want: I want to look like an adventurer! But in a chic way. Think romanticized archaeologist or anthropologist*, travel-ready with just a touch of militant and/or sexy. My favorite things that I own right now are a fantastic antique chestnut leather backpack that's aged in just the right way, a topstitched linen dress that makes me look like I'm about to explore British India, and a Tibetan scarf in subdued hues of green and orange. I'd like to expand on that vibe, and I'm starting over completely from scratch-- so suggestions for a general look or a particular store or specific outfits, accessories, coats, bags, clothing, shoes, haircuts and even how I do my makeup and nails would be great!

Who I Am: I am a 5'7 chick, slender and small-breasted on top, tiny waist, but quite the booty. I'm probably a small-to-medium on top but a 12 on bottom. (Because of this, I need stuff with a waistline, por favor.) I have a round face and, currently, short brown hair that's growing out from a mohawk-- but I'm comfortable with all lengths of hair and it grows very quickly so suggest as many styles as you like.

How Much I Have to Spend: Here's the tricky part-- I'm poor. Think slightly better than a student budget. I am willing to spend up to $125 on an item if I love it and it's going to last me a really, really long time. Anything more expensive than that, well, it goes on the Christmas list!

I hope everyone has as much fun with this question as I do daydreaming about my new outfits!

*I realize that anthropologists and archaeologists actually wear whatever is comfortable/appropriate in the field, not my weird internalized version of chic explorer.
posted by WidgetAlley to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
Brands that I like for this look:
posted by k8t at 11:28 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Filson might have some stuff that works... they popped into my head at the thought of archaelogists and Indie, for what it's worth. They're a bit pricey but mostly less than $125 for items.

They have appropriate hats & gloves for sure and one of the jackets/coats might work, too. Really just browse through their stuff I suppose and take look.
posted by empyrean at 11:33 AM on June 27, 2011

Maybe try the Loft? They have sort of a safari thing going on this summer, and it is very affordable. I could see some of their stuff working for what you're looking for.
posted by afton at 11:37 AM on June 27, 2011

Never under estimate the power of military gear. I shop at BDU.com - who sell stuff that fits military spec. I'm particularly fond of the Proper brand tactical pants - the light weight and standard ones are amazingly comfortable and I get a BUNCH of comments asking me what designer they are. They also have a ton of really stylish looking vests and shirts as well, though those are slightly less feminine.
posted by strixus at 11:46 AM on June 27, 2011

The J. Peterman Company sounds right up your alley. It's a little on the pricy side for you, but if you might be able to score some good deals in the "Last Chance" section.
posted by platinum at 12:02 PM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Always been a fan of Eddie Bauer. They always have great stuff on their sale rack. J. Peterman catalog seems interesting too but may be pricey.
posted by PJMoore at 12:03 PM on June 27, 2011

I'd think this look would involve lots of khaki, linen, cotton, wool and leather, that colours should be natural and neutral (i., brown, cream and green brightened up with the occasional splash of colour) rather than saturated or severe (i.e., black, white, primary colours), that everything should look comfortable and durable.

For this look, I'd get a pair of lace up brown leather ankle boots that look like hiking boots and sturdy brown leather sandals, a leather bomber jacket, a leather vest, a sheepskin jacket, khaki pants and skirts, simply trimmed natural straw hats, more linen and cotton dresses, and loose tunic-style linen and muslin embroidered tops that you can cinch at the waistline with a leather belt. Some of these things will cost you, of course, but you can always hit thrift shops.

As for hair and makeup and nails, I'd keep them all natural and classic. You could get a easily cared for classic bob, or grow your hair longer and wear it in a braid or done up (wearing it loose will get in the way of your lion hunting and small plane flying). And I'd go with minimal makeup with a neutral palette and clear nail polish.

I'd watch Out of Africa and take note of both Meryl Streep's and Robert Redford's outfits for inspiration. Maybe Jewel of the Nile too, and other such colonial-era based movies that still have a great visual look 20 years on.

And this is such a fun question. You're going to look charmingly individual!
posted by orange swan at 12:10 PM on June 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

I'm picturing Christiane Amanpour as a muse; is that way off? Also Meryl Streep's character in "Out of Africa," particularly as the movie progresses and she adopts more of the "safari" style

I think you'll get a lot of bang for your buck with accessories, and it sounds like you're willing to go bold, so all the better! Even a budget-friendly tee-and-jeans (or -khakis) outfit will get that global-adventurer vibe if you pile on thick chunky necklaces, a big beaded bracelet worn above your elbow, a range of gigantic scarfs like your Tibetan one wrapped around your neck or warn as a sarong, etc..
posted by mauvest at 12:12 PM on June 27, 2011

Also, once you find some labels that fit your style, set up a couple of ebay alerts so you'll know when anything matching your description pops up. Here is a J. Peterman vest for $25 on eBay, probably goes for $100-125 brand new!
posted by platinum at 12:17 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think scarves will be your friend. It's good for your look and very affordable.

Also...I'm built similarly to you, and I think a nice swath of scarf around my neck helps to balance out the booty below. But I may be tragically deluding myself.
posted by pantarei70 at 12:19 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Believe it or not, National Geographic actually has a clothing section on their website. Their men's clothes are more interesting looking than their women's clothes, but it will still give you some ideas.

I'd also try eBay for some older Banana Republic pieces.

Tallyho and good luck!
posted by faheypb at 12:21 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

For maximum versatility and bang-for-buck, I can highly recommend a pair of convertible pants. Unfortunately, my very favorite model of these, the North Face Paramount Porters, has been discontinued, but it looks as though there are some likely successors out there.

Especially in khaki, these fit perfectly into an explorer/jungle aesthetic (unlike twill khakis, they have a nice rumpled texture, and nylon fabric gives them a linen-y drape), plus you can switch at will from wide-leg pants to capris to shorts-- three bottoms in one!
posted by Bardolph at 12:25 PM on June 27, 2011

A well worn leather Aussie bush hat would serve you well.
posted by muirne81 at 12:33 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you've got time on your hands, hit up some thrift shops. especially since lots of stuff you'll want will be 'classic' or 'weathered,' thrifting should be right up your alley. definitely for leather jackets, wool coats, worn-in boots, khakis, camp shirts, any decent thrift store will have a selection.
posted by genmonster at 12:41 PM on June 27, 2011

To go from my French anthropology professor (who was actually written up as a 'the only well dressed anthropologist' in a report from a conference once), the answer is scarves, as well as what others have said. I think Orange Swan and Mauvest have a great answers hitting the major points of what I was going to say. J Peterman and travel clothing catalogs for inspiration, and stock up on basics when you see them, be it at Goodwill or department stores. I'd say basic muted or earth tones for major clothing pieces, and medium to dark brown leather, but go wild with scarves and accessories. A hat is necessary in the summer. If you're comfortable wearing shorts, by all means do.

The places to go 'severe' can be jewelry (you will learn to spot 'anthropologist jewelry', for example, anything from 10,000 Villages) and, if you want to, you could do a sharp bob (symmetrical or not) for your hair.

(Real archaeologist fashion: anything you don't care about never getting entirely clean again, and boots that are easy to kick off. Nails? Mine are finally growing back.)
posted by cobaltnine at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2011

Hit the clearance racks at REI, Erehwon or similar stores for Patagonia and Ex Officio stuff.
posted by desjardins at 12:45 PM on June 27, 2011

That National Geographic store is an absolute goldmine for this style, and made me think of a few things I should add.

For sweaters, go for "ethnic" designs: chunky Irish cables and Peruvian colourwork or Nordic patterns. And for jewelry, go for unpolished, ethnic and inexpensive: wooden beads and medallions, tooled silver, and semi-precious chips or stones like jade, turquoise, amber and carnelian. Some of these latter pieces can still add up, but you might treat yourself to a nice piece for your birthday or Christmas. You won't need that many pieces because they will be versatile.

The idea with these "ethnic" pieces is to look like bought them in their country of origin at an open air market from the person who made them.;-)
posted by orange swan at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2011

Amelia Earhart's style might give you some ideas.
posted by amyms at 1:04 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

The above suggestions are good. Too bad the Banana Republic of the late 1980s doesn't exist anymore, because it would have been perfect! Sierra Trading Post has a ton of cheap "travel clothing" including the occasional Patagonia item. I just came across this which might be sort of what you're looking for...
posted by chowflap at 1:25 PM on June 27, 2011

Kakadu Traders has a pretty good selections of bags (and some clothing) that fit the aesthetic I think you want. I have the utility bag and love it.
posted by cp311 at 2:03 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Flax clothing might have some pieces that fit the aesthetic you're going for. They are certainly comfortable and durable and reasonably inexpensive.

Tarsian & Blinkley might have a good accessory piece, if you want something that looks like you bought it in the field. I have never purchased from them, but I have made email inquiries, and you can just buy one piece for yourself.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:16 PM on June 27, 2011

I bought a pair of vintage campus boots on ebay - matching them with skirts and dresses for me makes them feel a little more like I'm about to go adventuring through the mud or something. And it gives you an opening to add earthier-toned accessories if you're trying to convert one of your existing outfits to have this feel?
posted by amestar_runner at 2:18 PM on June 27, 2011

Your description made me think of Victorian Trading Company right away. I've never actually bought from them, so I can't vouch for quality, but they have been around for 25 years, so that's something. The clothing is quite expensive, but might be great for inspiration or for the occasional gift suggestion. Some of the accessories are a little more reasonable. At the very least, you can use the site to figure out what you like, and then use eBay or Etsy to find affordable versions.

For makeup, I'd keep it natural & earthy--whatever your skin tone. Coral lipstick is kind of in fashion now if you can pull it off. You could do a dark rosy pink lip if that's more flattering. For your nails I'd say either keep them un-polished but neatly trimmed, or get some of the "nude" polish hues that also seem to be popular right now.

Also check out Sock Dreams for awesome woolly knit tights & knee socks, which totally make me think of Lady Adventurers in skirts & boots.

This is a really fun wardrobe idea! You should post pictures of your new favorite outfits!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 2:49 PM on June 27, 2011

Ohhhh this question is right up my alley. The adventure-anthropologist is one of my very favorite looks (the second most favorite being something along the lines of a girl in Charlie Chaplin "Little Tramp" outfits).

For inspiration I recommend you obsessively Google Marina Munoz. She has an amazing Gaucho Anthropologist look going.

In general, roll up the sleeves on everything, get leather lace-up boots, go weird with accessories

As for finding the clothing, I do much of my shopping in the Vintage sections of Ebay and Etsy. You've already got all your keywords (safari, rustic, adventure, ethnic, leather, anthropologist etc.) in this post, so searching for items should be pretty easy. Since you probably can't return items based on fit issues, you want to make sure you get detailed measurements. Take your favorite garments (or even garments that fit you well but that you don't plan on wearing because they don't suit your style) and take as many measurements as you can think of; hips, waist, bust, shoulder width, armhole opening, shoulder to waist, sleeve length. Then be sure to request these measurements from online sellers. Do this with your shoes too. Also remember that shoes that look extra round in the toe can be shorter than those with a bit of a point. Never trust the size listed. Ever.

Also, depending on where you live, Goodwills and thrift stores in the more rural areas outside of your city can be complete goldmines. Take a road-trip!

Feel free to memail me more specific sizing info if you want free online personal shopping. I do it enough that I should probably charge, but I can never bring myself to charge fellow broke people. Maybe that's why I'm broke...whatever, I loves me some personal styling, so let me know if you want more links.
posted by JuliaIglesias at 3:53 PM on June 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

You might want to check out Peruvian Connection for their South American knits, scarves, leather bags, and ethnic jewellery. Yeah, they're expensive, but you may get some good ideas from them.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:35 PM on June 27, 2011

Ethnic accents are apparently all the rage right now. There are so many feathers on crap right now that it's almost annoying. Conversely, I've been loving all the African and Central American inspired handbags I've been seeing around Brooklyn so far this summer.

You could also try an ikat scarf, a kurta, or huaraches.

That said, I think all of these things require a lot of moderation. I especially wouldn't combine them with too much of a "safari" aesthetic. I'd pair all of these things with simple tees, jeans, blouses, flip flops, shorts, etc. You could throw in a little linen, but don't go overboard.
posted by Sara C. at 6:24 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Doesn't look like anyone's mentioned The Territory Ahead. Might not look like it at first glance but if you dig around, you can find great pants and often jackets that have that look and feel. It's not inexpensive, but the pieces I've bought there are well-made and long lasting.

Good luck! That's a style I have always liked and had more than a few pieces of when I was younger.
posted by emcat8 at 12:00 AM on June 28, 2011

Everything needs to look lived in (or rather, safari'ed in) except your boots. My dad tells me off if I don't polish my walking boots after every use. Keeps the leather supple.

Practical interpretation: search ebay and charity shops for the clothing parts, and spend your budget on a really nice, really comfy pair of lace-up, leather walking boots.
posted by greenish at 2:26 AM on June 28, 2011

Definitely a trench coat. Mind you, it doesn't have to be Burberry but they are lush. You can easily find a cheaper version, just make sure it has a classic cut and a belt. Think Lauren Huttun.
posted by like_neon at 4:29 AM on June 28, 2011

posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 3:51 PM on June 30, 2011

You might want to check Napapijri.
posted by leigh1 at 4:18 AM on July 4, 2011

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