What to Beg, Borrow, and Steal from Your Childhood Home Over the Holidays

Who are we kidding? Steal—just steal.

There are many things to appreciate about being back under your parents' roof, even if it's only for a week, most of which will be spent WFH and not in the fun Fifth Harmony way. Unlimited snacks. Free WiFi. In-unit laundry. Lots of natural light. Am I forgetting something? Oh, right—having access to a suburban walk-in closet heaving with clothes from when you were a much less sophisticated person. (And love and warmth and family—that too.)

Mind you, mining these sartorial deep cuts is not for the faint of heart. At best, you might sweep aside armfuls of Abercrombie rib-knit, have a chuckle, and experience catharsis, after which you acknowledge that this confused kid whose stuff you're going through is growing up to be a clever, passionate, woke, well-dressed woman. At worst, you might be like, "This is completely tragic" and collapse onto a pile of pastel polos thinking of all the offenses committed against you between grades six through 12, because this is the only sort of eidetic memory you were doomed to have.

In either case, you will be reminded of things. That you were a follower. That you weren't very good at shopping. (Still not, in some cases.) That kids can be cruel, but embroidered bouclé coats were above their feeble mental capacities, so who's the one laughing now, huh? That you were a bit lost before your aesthetic grew to be "strong AF," direct quote from an Instagram commenter. (Again, suck it, would-be tormentors.)

While you work through the repressed memories, one garish Forever 21 top at a time, here's a shopping list of pieces to bag and wear in your real, chic, adult life. But what do you say when they ask where it's from? "Provenance: me."

1. Quarter-Zips

Not the pillowy, waffle-knit Patagonia kind. Not the kind you might have paired with boat shoes and a beribboned ponytail (I don't want to know). The slimmer and plainer the better—for layering under slip dresses and making the top half of a Fashion Sweatsuit.

2. Weird T-Shirts

My vote for what the downtown-girl uniform is these days: cropped, possibly flared denim, jumbo earrings, a jumbo-er shearling or faux-fur coat, and a novelty t-shirt with some obscure/ironic/inside-jokey slogan or image on it. With enough élan, the souvenir shirt from your sophomore-year spring formal (held on a yacht!) can become cool. Probably. Extra credit for using the crop-top renaissance to get around children's sizing.

3. Weirder Denim

When most people are being dragged down Memory Lane, they think of the One That Got Away; I think of a pair of straight-cut Limited Too jeans beaded with vines. As is, I could cram five-eights of a hip in there, but with the expertise of a tailor, who knows? #nevergiveup Also, you might happen on some other trousers you once deemed not tight enough during the early aughts. Now is the time to grab them, as jeans slouch back downward, hopefully not toward the crack again.

4. Jerseys and Pinnies and Shrunken Hoodies

Maybe it's because I didn't play organized sports, but athletic wear—particularly vintage—is suddenly very appealing as a foil for the just-this-side-of-sweet. Mesh against chinoiserie. Heather gray fleece against white satin. The Northwestern Wildcats against Christopher Kane! Think of all the juxtapositions.

5. Duffle Coats

Back then: too Paddington Bear. Now: Italian count who rules the menswear blogs and wears five jackets and two pocket squares at all times.

6. Cameos (If You've Got Access to a Grandma)


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Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.