Last week I debuted my capsule wardrobe–both the concept behind it and the entire wardrobe itself. This week I thought I’d share with you a few of the purchases I made during the capsuling process. Building a capsule wardrobe isn’t just about minimizing and reducing–though that is the lion’s share of work–it’s also about making… View Article

Capsule Wardrobe Reviews: Standing Desk Shoes, Joggers, and Leggings

Last week I debuted my capsule wardrobe–both the concept behind it and the entire wardrobe itself. This week I thought I’d share with you a few of the purchases I made during the capsuling process. Building a capsule wardrobe isn’t just about minimizing and reducing–though that is the lion’s share of work–it’s also about making sure that your wardrobe suits you, and at times that can mean building out your wardrobe in places where it’s lacking. For me, those areas were glaringly obvious: lounge wear and comfortable shoes for work and play. Buying into the McBlogger stereotype, my wardrobe had far too many heels and outfits suited for outings like cocktail parties. Have a look at the biggest fashion bloggers and you’ll see this McBlogger look in action. Part of the capsuling process for me was realizing just how much time I spend cozied up at home with friends or just my husband, and how much time I spend doing activities, like standing at my desk at work, that require comfortable and supportive footwear. So I decided that these areas in my wardrobe needed some serious spiffing up.

Given that I knew that the purchases I was about to make would be lasting ones, I decided I needed to put some serious thought into what I was shopping for. I committed myself to being extremely discerning about my choices. No garment I picked would be “good enough.” I had made too many purchases like that in the past, and it left me with a sprawling, unmanageable wardrobe full of subpar items. My quest, as I defined it, was to find the perfect garment for each of my purchases. Happily, I think I’ve done just that.

Navy Flats/Loafers

The first task on my list was finding comfortable shoes for work and play, so to speak. These shoes would need to be comfortable and supportive enough to stand at my desk all day or support me through errands and long walks. Given that I usually keep one pair of shoes like this at work and one pair at home (and in between I commute via walking the 2.5 miles each way in sneakers) I decided to get two pairs that each fit in the color scheme of my capsule. After a bit of thought I decided on navy and cognac.

The serious question up front was obvious: what type of shoe to buy. The first thought that sprang to my mind was ballet flats. Everyone my age wears ballet flats to work or on errands that require walking, it seems. As I pondered the idea of ballet flats and what retailers I could look at to find really supportive ones an uncomfortable truth slowly surfaced in my mind. I hate ballet flats.

I really hate them. I’ve always hated them. Why? Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • Flats elongate the foot due to their long, canoe-like shape. My size 9.5 feet already look gargantuan on their own–they don’t need help looking even longer.
  • Flats are inherently unsupportive. Even the best ones have thin soles–and most average flats have rock hard bottoms. I’ve read all over the place that the best structure of a shoe for the foot is a slight elevation at the heel, and flats totally belie this.
  • Perhaps this is more subjective, but flats seem have always seemed unambiguously flimsy and crappy as footwear to me. Just look at them. Is that really what you want to stand in all day? They just have the air of deflated compromise; they scream: I’d rather be wearing pumps but I need to walk somewhere so I had to choose these.

I didn’t want to buy yet another pair of flats that I would wear for a few months before deciding I detested them and needed to try yet another pair of flats to see if maybe they would suit me better. I wasn’t sure exactly what the right choice would be, so I spent some time searching the internet for comfortable footwear for work, and before long I stumbled on loafers.

I’d never considered loafers before–I think mostly because I immediately wrote them off as “grandma shoes.” Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older, but as I perused various collections of loafers I found myself rather liking them. Loafers seem to be a nice combination of all the features I’m looking for: they’re walkable and supportive; they’re classy enough to wear at work; and, at least in my opinion, they’re pretty cute.

I still felt a bit nervous about leaping feat-first into the deep end with loafers, so I decided to order several pairs of loafers and flats to compare them. I did my research and ordered my shoes from companies known for making supportive shoes. Here are my results.

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Aerosoles Test Drive

These were the shoes I was most excited about after my research. Aerosoles had good reviews around the web as being very supportive, and I liked the look of them.

Sadly, these shoes did not live up to expectations. The cushioning was somewhat minimal and they were clearly cheaply made. They just looked rather poorly constructed.

  • Quality: Poor
  • Style: Okay
  • Support: Okay
  • Cost: $50
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Clarks Doraville Nest

These shoes from Clark seemed nice and high quality and had an okay amount of padding and support. Ultimately I passed on them because their sole sort of wraps up the heel–a feature common in “drivers,” and not one I particularly like. The leather was really nice though–it was a beautiful color.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Okay
  • Support: Okay
  • Cost: $90
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Tory Burch Laila Driver Ballet Flat

Tory Burch is often seen as the pinnacle of women’s footwear for work, so I felt I couldn’t leave a pair of her flats out of my review. I do actually own two other pairs of Tory Burch flats, and both are about as unsupportive and hard as kitchen linoleum on the bottom. Still, these drivers were touted as being quite comfy and supportive, so I gave them a try. They did not meet expectations. They have no support of any kind.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Okay
  • Support: Poor
  • Cost: $200
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Vionic Chill Kenya Loafer

I discovered Vionic in the various lists of comfortable footwear brands I perused before starting this process. They seemed quality enough, so I gave them a shot. I’m so glad they did. I almost didn’t order these loafers because the color in the picture of them on Zappos isn’t very flattering. They looked much better in person, and whats more, they felt amazing. Vionic fits their shoes with orthotic soles and inserts, so they feel almost like you’re wearing a pair of thin sneakers. I’m absolutely in love with them. I’ve been wearing them at my standing desk for the last few weeks and they work beautifully.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Support: Good
  • Cost: $130

Cognac Flats/Loafers

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Walking Cradles Bronwyn

If it were just down to the color of the shoes, these would have won in a landslide. Just look at that gorgeous luggage leather! They were also quite comfortable for a flat–the most comfortable flat I tried on during this process, actually–but ultimately they still had one fatal flaw: they’re flats. This process really taught me that flats are not for me.

I also should mention that one of these shoes had a sharp, pokey spot right where the footbed meets the side of the shoe. I don’t know how details like that escape shoe retailers. Perhaps it was just a fluke and if I’d been delivered any other pair of these shoes it wouldn’t have been a problem. But I can say this, I would have had an enormous blister had I worn these to walk almost any distance.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Okay
  • Support: Good
  • Cost: $100
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Dr Scholl’s Vixen Flat (c/o)

Disclaimer: I actually wrote to all of these shoe brands asking if they’d like to collaborate with me, and Dr. Scholl’s was the only one to respond. I picked two pairs of flats for them to send my way. This was my favorite of the two, though be aware that they run half a size small. The support on these shoes was good on the footbed–they have memory foam padding–but I have to admit that the overall shoe was very stiff. It would have taken a lot of walking to break them in.

  • Quality: Okay
  • Style: Okay
  • Support: Okay
  • Cost: $70
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Dr Scholl’s Really Medium Flat (c/o)

Similar to the Dr. Scholl’s above, these flats were super stiff. Many blisters would result from the process of breaking them in. I also was somewhat disappointed in the leather. The color is so flat that it really gives it the appearance of being fake leather, which is sad because it’s real. Overall, I wasn’t super happy with these.

  • Quality: Okay
  • Style: Poor
  • Support: Okay
  • Cost: $70
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Aerosoles Drive In

If you had asked me which shoe I liked best after I tried on all of the above, I would have said these. I just loved the styling and the way they fit on my foot. Plus they felt soft and pliant, and subsequently very comfortable. I decided to keep them, but that’s when the trouble started. The footbed was so soft that the support immediately began to allow my foot to rotate inward (to pronate) which wasn’t great. But the real blow came when I noticed, after only five or so wears, that the leather at the toe had torn. Have a look for yourself below. I’m so disappointed that I’ll be writing to Aerosoles for my money back. A pair of shoes should last longer than a handful of wears.

  • Quality: Very Poor
  • Style: Good
  • Support: Poor
  • Cost: $70
loafer review standing desk shoes review

So, then, which brown loafer did I end up going with? After the Aerosoles I originally selected gave out immediately, I decided to order the Vionic loafers that had worked so well for me in the brown color as well.

Leggings

Around the time I began working on my capusle wardrobe I had a few pairs of sweatpants–none of them optimal. Many were too small or too big, some had holes, and some were just getting old and ratty. Prior to building my capsule wardrobe, I mostly bought sweatpants and leggings at Target, which had the disappointing habit of ripping or running threadbare after a few month’s wears. I decided to up my game.

I really thought hard about what I’d like to lounge around in. What, I asked myself, would be the ideal outfit to put on when watching movies with friends, when hosting informal Netflix parties, when playing DnD? I landed on two generic outfit types: leggings + a tunic or a dress and sweatpants + a tank top + a sweatshirt.

Let’s start with the leggings. My first thought, I’ll admit, as just to go for the top shelf, to buy a pair of Lululemon leggings and be done with it. I reigned in my excitement, though, and decided to give the gamut of quality leggings a shot before spending the truly big bucks. Here are my results:

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Athleta High Rise Chaturanga Tight

If you read my first post on building a capsule wardrobe you’ll recall that I discovered that Banana Republic was one of my favorite retailers. Given this, I decided to incorporate other stores from the Gap family into my purchases, and that included Athleta. In general, I really like Athleta’s clothing (I tried on a good deal of it during the capsuling process). These leggings weren’t winners for me, though, simply because they were more athletic-wear than lounge-wear. They would make great running tights, but I couldn’t see myself pulling them on to sit on the couch.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Okay
  • Cost: $75
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Under Armour Mirror StudioLux Leggings

Like the Athleta tights above, these Under Armour leggings were simply better geared for the gym than for lounging around. The bright blue color was also not quite what I was after, but had I been looking for running tights I would have liked them much better.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Okay
  • Cost: $75
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Adidas Originals Linear Leggings

These were by far the worst leggings I tried on. Their material was more cottony than synthetic, which I actually liked, but their construction was all wrong. There is one cardinal sin when it comes to leggings, and that is having a narrow band of tight elastic at the top. Sure, that band will help keep your leggings up, but it will also cut into your stomach horribly anytime you sit down or bend over. It feels simply awful. These went straight back.

  • Quality: Okay
  • Style: Poor
  • Comfort: Poor
  • Cost: $35
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INC International Concepts Pull-On Ponte Skinny Pants

These were actually my runner up leggings. Their material was decidedly more cottony than synthetic, and I actually liked that they almost had the air of pants. You could definitely wear these with a casual top and some loafers and be fine to run a few errands. That said, I found the fabric a bit thick for my liking. If you’re looking for a more pants-like option, though, I’d give these a try.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Good
  • Cost: $37
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Lululemon Align Pant II

And now we come to it, the ineffible Lululemon legging. I spent some time on their site and landed on two leggings to try. This was the winner of the two. They’re constructed of the softest material Lululemon offers, engineered to leave you feeling almost naked.

You guys. I couldn’t believe how comfortable these were. I almost wanted them to fail–after all, there’s something satisfying about hating a yupstery store like Lululemon. But they didn’t fail. They are hands down the most brilliant pair of leggings, perhaps legwear at large, that I have ever worn. They’re so soft. So. Soft. I knew as soon as I put them on that no other leggings had a chance.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Outstanding
  • Cost: $100
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Lululemon Wunder Under Hi-Rise Tight

I quite liked these Lululemon leggings as well, however they weren’t quite as soft and comfortable as the Align IIs that I went with. They were a bit tighter/firmer/more restricting. Perhaps better for a workout than for lounging around in.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Good
  • Cost: $100

Joggers

Having nailed down leggings, I turned my attention to sweatpants. All of my sweatpants, when I began my capsule, fell under the umbrella of sweatpants that are basically leggings that flare out below the knee. It struck me that not only are this kind of sweat pant sort of, well, trashy looking, they’re also not terribly comfortable. I wanted something that was the essence of comfort. Something that, when I put them on, made me feel like I was curled up in a club chair under a downy blanket in front of a roaring fire, glass of wine in hand.

Okay, maybe that image is a bit far fetched. What I really wanted was something that approximated the comfort of my husband’s baggy old hanes sweatpants that I often wore around the house when I was alone. Realizing this, I decided that I might as well just buy something similar myself. I poked around the internet, and found that jogger sweatpants were more or less exactly what I was after.

I set off on my search for a pair of joggers with a bit of trepidation. Why? Well, it must be admitted that they are inherently frumpy. My goal was to find a pair comfy enough to inspire yearning thoughts of putting them on after a long day of work but sleek enough to feel comfortable wearing them around my husband and close friends. Basically, I didn’t want to look too much like a frumpy hipster or a hobo. Here are the results:

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Gap French Terry Utility Joggers

As I was editing the photos of this pair I found myself feeling genuinely surprised at how good they look. In person I found them quite frumpy–too much baginess in the crotch/butt region. Looking at these pictures, I’m realizing that maybe I was too quick to judge them. They were a nice color and made from quality material with a nice amount of thickness.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Good
  • Cost: $50
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Gap Softspun Knit Joggers

These joggers were simply too thin. Something about the clingy material from which they were constructed left them looking decidedly unflattering.

  • Quality: Okay
  • Style: Poor
  • Comfort: Okay
  • Cost: $50
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Athleta Lined City Jogger

Had I been looking for joggers to actually jog in, these might have been the winners. They had a nice moisture-wicking lining and solid construction, but they just weren’t comfortable or loungey enough for my purposes.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Okay
  • Comfort: Poor
  • Cost: $98
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Ivy Park Jogger Pants

These joggers were surprisingly thick. I actually quite liked that about them, however the baginess of them plus the thick material left them looking weirdly bulky. Plus I had to honestly consider the possibility that I might immediately spill coffee or something similar on them and ruin them.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Good
  • Cost: $58
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Make & Model Sunrise Joggers

These joggers were way too thin. I could see my underwear through them, which in addition to being a problem in and of itself also meant that they’d leave me freezing on an average Chicago winter morning. They are cute, though.

  • Quality: Poor
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Poor
  • Cost: $45
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Uniqlo Women’s Sweatpants

I had yet to shop at Uniqlo before I purchased these sweatpants. As soon as I ran across them on the web I had a feeling they would be what I was looking for. They’re pretty much just classic, good-old sweat pants. They feel like they’ll get softer with each pass through the washing machine. I love them. I look forward to putting them on after work, just as I’d hoped. I no longer steal my husbands sweats, for which I’m sure he’s grateful. I’m actually considering buying a second pair just to keep as a standby for when these eventually wear out–that’s how much I like them. The fact that they’re the cheapest pair I tried on is just icing on the cake.

  • Quality: Good
  • Style: Good
  • Comfort: Good
  • Cost: $20

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