Raiding the men's rack

Searching for new unique piece for your wardrobe? Perhaps you need look no further than a man’s closet.

Menswear-inspired looks and androgynous dressing are nothing new. But it can lead to big cost savings when you actually scoop the pieces free from your partner, or shop the menswear section at second-hand shops.

Some of the best items to repurpose for yourself are:


There is a reason many denim makers sell “boyfriend” jeans. Well-worn and roomy through the hips, men’s jeans are a perfect combination of comfort and casual.

If they are too long or wide at the bottom, take in the inner seam, cut to capri length and roll up the cuff. Or turn them into jean cut-offs. My favourite denim shorts were pairs that my husband no longer wore.


Basic men’s cotton shirts are cheap as chips. Pick up a Hanes three-pack for as little as $15 and you can create multiple looks with a pair of scissors.

I like to cut the sleeves off on an angle toward the neck to create a loose tank, then cut a slit in the middle of the back’s bottom edge to tie the tee fitted around the waist.


Unlike womenswear, you can find blazers and jackets for men in every possible fabric and pattern imaginable. Simply roll up the sleeves for a super chic boxy look that compliments fitted bottoms. 

One of my favourite things to wear in high school was my father’s captain’s jacket from when he worked in the airlines. I thought the broad shoulders and epaulets went smashing with jeans.

If the jacket is long enough, cinch around the waist with a belt or belt-bag. Speaking of which....


The best belts in our closet are all my husband’s. For some reason, it’s almost impossible to find the kind of thick chunky leather belts that look great with jeans in the women’s section.

Button-up shirts

Remember when Sharon Stone wore her husband’s shirt with a satin skirt to the Oscars in 1998? A classic men’s button-up can look incredibly sexy on a women.

I’ve also found new life from my husband’s discarded dress shirts by sewing two together to make it long enough to wear as a dress.


Loose baggy pants cinched at the waist are all the rage, and you can find these styles in all sorts of materials and patterns in the men’s department.

Pair with a fitted simple tee, and if you’re feeling extra sassy, wear with suspenders as in the picture above.


The suiting section at thrift stores are great places to find classic men’s button-up vests. They add extra flair to a blouse and pants look for work, and look great with casual jeans.

Have fun raiding your husband’s or brother’s or dad’s closet to create fun new styles.



The destruction of the former Sears department store in Orchard Park mall is being viewed by some as evidence of the death of retail.

True, there have been massive closures of bricks-and-mortar stores across North America since 2010. Gap and Banana Republic have closed more than 200 outlets, Michael Kors has shut its doors at 125 locations, and the few Sears and K-Marts left in the U.S. are struggling.

However, the rise of online shopping only accounts for a small percentage of this retail downturn.

Discount shops such as Marshalls, TJ Maxx in the States, and Walmart have shown strong sales growth. On the other end of the spending spectrum, luxury department stores such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue continue to expand locations in Canada.

In the middle, you have fast fashion stores such as Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 still performing well.

And many independent boutiques are thriving thanks to those embracing the “shop local” mantra, especially Millennials and Gen Z.

All this confirms a suspicion I’ve had for a few years about the future of fashion.

If you are anything like me, you are becoming increasingly critical about how you spend your clothing budget.

Many are choosing to put as much of their discretionary income as possible toward experiences instead of materials, so what is spent on fashion has to be good value for the money.

For some, this means well-made basics at an un-inflatated price. For others, value might be found in paying a premium for classic designer articles they’ll get years of wear from.

Both these rationales favour the discount and luxury department stores. 

Like treasure hunters, discount shoppers are willing to sort through rack upon rack to find that steal of a deal. And premium shoppers are still visiting high-end chains in order to get their hands on that elusive brand-name item along with coddled service.

What is gone is the middle-ground large retailer offering a little of something for everyone.

Who has the time or inclination to wade through a huge store designed for all ages and styles, without offering either great deals or luxury?

If this trend continues, I suspect we’ll see more closures of fashion chains that don’t cater to specific demographics. Any clothing retailer wanting to succeed in this market has to find its target audience and treat them like gold.

The rise of loyalty programs and incentives is further evidence of this.

So, the end of brick-and-mortar retail if far from coming. When it comes to fashion, most of us still want to touch and feel and try on something before we buy.

But I do think the end of mid-level department-style stores is happening, and it’s sad for those who grew up shopping and working in them.

When I was a kid in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I vividly remember every fall making the pilgrimage to Sears in Orchard Park and Saan in Capri Mall for back-to-school clothes. These memories feel nostalgic now, like trying to recall the world before the Internet and Facebook.

Let’s face it, though, this was also the era of pilly acrylic sweaters and wide collars. 

Stylish scents

Fashion is primarily a visual thing. We access the colours, shapes, and patterns of outfits with our eyes.

But one part of our individual style is appreciated through the nose. And there’s more to it than just perfume.

How we smell is a combination of body chemistry, personal hygiene, and the products we use.

While it is not considered PC these days to douse oneself in heavy colognes, we shouldn’t completely ignore the olfactory vibes we are giving off. Even the most couture frock is ruined by an offensive odour.

I’ll assume anyone reading a fashion column has a good grasp of personal hygiene. But here are some smelling-good tips worth repeating:

  • Think about the products you regularly use and if their scents complement or clash. For example, rose petal dryer sheets for your clothes, coconut mint body lotion on your body, a baby powder scented deodorant, layered with a woodsy perfume might not make for a great combination. I prefer to buy most lotions and detergents in unscented versions to avoid competing scents.
  • Shoes can cause a big stink. Treat your sneakers with baking soda to eliminate odour, or wash them if possible. Anti-microbial socks and shoe liners with activated charcoal work well in flats.
  • Carry mints or Listerine strips in your purse and use before talking to someone at close proximity. ‘Nuff said.
  • Certain foods do affect our body chemistry. If you are going to be in a social situation, you might want to avoid garlic, onions, cruciferous veggies, meat, and alcohol up to 36 hours prior.

With those preliminaries taken care of, it’s time to consider adding a scent. 

Women and men have been using perfumes for thousands of years. Like fashion, fragrances succumb to trends too.

If you were alive in the 1980s, you’ll remember the rise of the celebrity scents, like Elizabeth Taylor dripping in White Diamonds.

It seemed every woman had a bottle of Georgio Beverly Hills and every man wore either Polo or Drakar Noir, and everyone practically bathed in the stuff.

Today, there are more olfactory options than ever. Thinking of a new signature scent? Read on...

Fragrances are categorized into four basic profiles: floral, woodsy, oriental, and fresh. Each evokes a mood, a time, or place.

  • Florals, as the name suggests, use flowers as their base notes such as rose, lily of the valley, and gardenia. They are typically considered very feminine, and can run the gamut from seductive to matronly. Today’s popular florals are Dior J’adore and Marc Jacobs Daisy.
  • Woodsy scents use elements from trees, bushes and grasses such as patchouli and vetiver to create earthy, outdoorsy smells. Many popular unisex and men’s fragrances are woody. Check out Terre d’Hermes, Dior Sauvage, and Gucci Guilty pour Homme.
  • Also known by the more culturally-sensitive terms amber or warm, oriental scents use spices like vanilla, musk and sandalwood to evoke mystery and an exotic sensuality. Typical oriental fragrances are Dior Poison and YSL Black Opium.
  • Fresh fragrances smell upbeat, happy, and clean by using fruity notes. Popular fresh scents include Clinique Happy and Aqua de Gio.

Sephora has created an online fragrance finder; simply answer a few questions about your style and favourite smells, and it will suggest colognes for you to try.

However, there is no substitute for testing a perfume in real life. You can’t buy based on a quiz or a review.

What becomes your signature scent is a highly personal thing, a combination of what smells you are attracted to and what works with your body chemistry.

Here’s how you will know it’s the right one: when you put it on you will feel great and want to hug yourself. Then it will linger for a little while until it becomes unnoticeable.

It should blend in and just smell like “you.”

If someone hugs you and hangs on for a little extra moment, it’s a winner.

But if you are still smelling it hours afterwards, likely it is overpowering to those around you and not a good fit.

When you’ve found your favoured fragrance, use it sparingly! This exclamation point is specifically directed to young woman wearing too much Prada Candy. Please stop these olfactory attacks.

Here are some scents and scent-makers worth noting:

Tom Ford’s swoon-worthy fragrance line is wildly coveted for a reason. His scents are so delicious one is even simply named “F#@king Fabulous." 

Whenever I wore his Santal Blush I felt amazing and got a ton of compliments. However, this luxury doesn’t come cheap. If shelling out $250+ for a bottle is too much, you can find tester sizes on eBay.

Demeter has a massive fragrance library consisting of every imaginable smell, including bottled versions of Dirt, Kitten Fur, Paperback, and Sunshine. I love their Earl Grey Tea fragrance; it captures the exact scent of freshly-brewed black tea and bergamot. Available online at demeterfragrance.com.

Juliette Has A Gun was created by Romano Ricci, grandson of famous French designer Nina Ricci and creator of L’air du Temps. His signature “Not a Perfume” is a synthetic version of the single note ambergris and creates a different smell on each wearer.

It is also said to be non-allergic and OK to wear in scent-sensitive environments.

I recently purchased his Discovery Set of eight fragrances and can’t decide which is my favourite - they all smell wonderful. 

One of the best ways to experiment with new fragrances is to buy a mini size tester set. I highly recommend these great values: Juliette Has A Gun’s Discovery Set for $30, Atelier Cologne’s Perfume Stories for $25, and Nest’s Discovery Set for $52, all available at Sephora.


Show your Canuck Pride

Holidays and events give us an opportunity to be playful with fashion that we don’t get in our everyday lives.

This Monday, it’s all about putting your Canadian pride on full display.

Of course, the most obvious go-to outfit is wearing red and white. But feel free to get creative with this combo. 

For example, don all white with red earrings, lips, hat and shoes for a sophisticated take on the flag. 

Get crafty. Paint a maple leaf on a plain white shirt. If you don’t want to permanently alter your shirt, cut out leaves and stripes and hand-sew them on so they can be removed later. Or cover your shirt with a ton of Canadiana pins.

If you’re taking in the day’s festivities with a group, you can each wear a letter spelling out “CANADA” or “NORTH” or “EH” depending on the number in your party.

Do you have a Canadian flag? Depending on its size, use it as you would any large scarf. It can go around your neck, wrap around your waist as a skirt, or even be a halter dress.

Skin can be part of your canvas too. Face paint and temporary tattoos are a fun and easy way to show your Canada Day spirit.

Check out YouTube for inspiring Canada Day makeup tutorials. I especially love the look by MagTag519 found here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-P8HDjM0w8U

Not a fan of the red and white? There are tons of other ways to show your national joy.

Wear a jersey from your favourite Canadian sports team. Don a Mountie hat. Add a beaver tail to your bottoms. Wear Hudson’s Bay stripes.

Though these ideas play on stereotypical Canuck imagery, they are most certainly fun.

While I wouldn’t recommend buying clothes just for one day, if you are thinking of adding to your wardrobe, a great option is getting something from Roots Canada collection.

All pieces feature our iconic colours, are made in Canada, and look great any day of the year. Shop in-person in Orchard Park Mall or online at: https://www.roots.com/ca/en/women/collections/canada-collection-by-roots/

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About the Author

Marla is best known for her 19-year career in the local charitable sector as a fund development and marketing manager with the Okanagan Regional Library, United Way, UBC Okanagan, and Kelowna Community Resources. 

In 2014, Marla and her husband decided to take a break from the work world, and, four years, later they are still enjoying Okanagan summers, winters in Mexico, and extensive travel. 

Marla has had a life-long passion for fashion, designing her own graduation dress and formal gown for the 1990 Miss Interior competition before age 20.

In 2014, she was named one of nine Style Ambassadors for a year-long marketing campaign at Orchard Park Mall. Her motto is “Life is short...you might as well go through it looking good."

If you have a style question or topic you’d like Marla to cover in this column, contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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