What is 3 Ways or the Highway?

When considering a new purchase, it is important to set some ground rules. The rules apply to anything we add to our closet! As a reminder, the rules are as follows: (1) Style the item in question 3 unique ways. (2) 15 minutes to create each look (3) Weigh all the looks and the store/brand/cost and decide if the purchase is versatile enough to be worth it. Start the clocks.


My daily uniform for the past couple months has been sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a sports bra so that I have one less excuse when thinking about exercising. A slew of hours spent in the house, interspersed with earnest attempts to spend time outside doing activities like walking, bird watching, jump roping, or even kicking a soccer ball against a wall. My internal thermostat is going haywire even with limited exposure to a variety of climates: someone opens a window in the house after finishing a workout but I haven’t moved at all so now I am cold; drawn by a big open road in the morning - usually never clear in “normal times” - I decide to impulsively sprint down it; curled up in a chair with a fuzzy blanket and not wanting to be restricted in any way while drifting into a short nap.

As simple as it may seem, a long sleeve polo kept coming to mind over the week as a piece of attire that would solve at least 80% of the above problems for me. So I picked this item to assess:

Pastel polo to be evaluated

The Item 411

Source/Brand: Lands' End. Beyond their collaboration with Reese Witherspoon’s brand Draper James, it looks like an all-American aesthetic clothing company offering a range of utilitarian items like windbreakers, polos, swimsuits, and cotton dresses. Good On You evaluates them as “Not Good Enough” on their sustainability rating scale, last updated in 2017. Lands’ End has a recycling program that they report metrics on, and also offer information about sustainability initiatives on their website.

Cost: $30.95, with free shipping on orders over $75.

Design: The materials are listed as 100% cotton interlock - a type of performance fabric that is less smooth and more soft that other performance fabrics, like those used for leggings.

So! Should I buy this?

"3 Ways or the Highway" Rules

Before adding items to our closet, each one has to go through these 3 rules:

  1. Style the item in question 3 unique ways (call me out if I cheat)
  2. 15 minutes to create each look
  3. Weigh all the looks and the store/brand/cost and decide if the purchase is versatile enough to be worth it.

Start the clocks.

Outfit 1

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • The polo silhouette is pretty standard but the color was a real decision to make. I picked the yellow and shaped this outfit based on the “stick of butter” concept proposed by ManRepeller’s Harling Ross, which is essentially: dress like your idea of a stick of butter. She asserts that this plan, if applied to an outfit concept, is an incredibly easy formula for combining all your favorite white, ivory, yellow, and taupe clothing. So Harling, please consider this outfit as my application for entry into the #stickofbutter club.
  • I was also inspired by an outfit I saw writer Mary HK Choi wear as an all white ensemble. She tends to dress monochromatically from what I have seen, and the result looked effortless to me. I wanted to achieve the same.
  • I played around with different browns for pants and decided on true beige denim over the peach or taupe color palettes. The neutrality and vibrance of the right beige elevated the yellow polo rather than making it all look like a drab safari guide.
  • Combat boots seemed right to add to the androgynous vibes of the outfit as it progressed, but when I put them together it was too utilitarian and chunky with the loose shirt and jeans. To make things stylish I picked boots instead, fitted around the foot to contrast with the top. Strappy sandals were too feminine.
  • The initial bag chosen was a croc embossed white tote with sheen. When put together, the neutrals and natural fibers like denim and cotton clashed with the polished bag. I opted for a rope bag to tied in much better with the other textures of the outfit.

Outfit 2

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • I decided this second outfit would be centered around “What would I wear if I joined a new recreational softball league and I wanted to show I was cool… but not be afraid to get my clothes dirty in case I had to slide and show my worth?” Some may say complicated, I call it intentional.
  • Cotton shorts provide maximum thigh room when moving and I moved from butter inspiration to sorbet instead. I tried a lavender and blush pink pair of shorts with the yellow and felt pink brightened the entire ensemble. On top of that, putting that together made me think I might read as pink and yellow Starbursts personified, and if my new teammates associated me with this my work would be done.
  • The rest of the outfit came easily enough to me. Sneakers to be able to run around in and a yellow hat because adding another pastel color to the outfit seemed like one step too far when we are supposed to be focusing on the game.
  • This hypothetical game is getting intense.

Outfit 3

Thoughts while creating this outfit:

  • The last outfit was a struggle for me because I wasn’t sure what else other than pants and shorts people wear polos with. As I looked for inspiration and the clock was ticking, I first tried pairing it with a boiler suit. That made no sense. Then I stumbled upon overalls. It could work, but the twist? I think I hate overalls.
  • I cannot wrap my head around someone wearing overalls as an adult if they are not painting a house or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. Without a reason, they seem so… corny? I tried to create an outfit with net socks and imagined wearing it to work but I could not bring myself to accept it.
  • Halfway through I leaned into my mental model of the only appropriate place to wear overalls and designed an outfit I would wear when working in the community garden near our house.
  • This was much easier to fathom and I quickly picked some funky cotton socks, the plaid overshirt, and a large brimmed hat to finish off some farmer girl cuteness.

Final verdict

Seeing these outfits together:

  1. Versatility: I would wear one of the outfits to a non-outdoors event, and two of the outfits are for sweating in. They are all relatively casual, and I don’t mind that because I still believe the shirt would get a lot of mileage as an activewear piece. It feels promising that the shirt can work in a non-athletic environment at all.
  2. Would I wear all the outfits created?: Yes I would. I accept the overalls because they are for gardening purposes in my mind.
  3. Is the price worth it?: I think the price is fine. Reading the reviews, the fabric seems to still look new after many washes, a plus. I especially like this shade of pale yellow, and that it doesn’t look too much like exercise clothing.

I have decided I am going to buy this shirt!