Friday, March 26

Friday's Find

This week a little something Springy. Cause it's nice out today. And to prove that not everyting I own is vintage or vintage- inspired.

A pretty little Spring dress, quite new in both age and style. It's that soft, crinkly kind of Rayon, with a self-lining.

The stats:
Found at: The local Goodwill
Cost: $4.99

Bring on spring!

Wednesday, March 24

Perfect Jeans

Jeans don't fit right.

Can I get an Amen?

I don't care what your body type is, it seems all of us have this problem. Jeans are either too curvy, too straight, too long, too short, and on and on. I don't know any ladies that can just go into a store and grab their size off the rack, and take them home with confidence. Like my Husband does. He just grabs a pair or 34-32s, classic fit, and we're done. Or, other guys give him their old jeans, and he just wears them. With a belt if necessary. I need a belt just to make sure no one can see into the massive gap left by a waist that is not nearly curvy enough. Or to hold up jeans that are so low-rise I may be in danger of them collapsing like the stock market.

Several years ago, I figured out what my problem was: I'm too long. Not only am I long in the legs, I am long waisted. If I find jeans that ARE curvy enough, they're certainly not long enough from hip to thigh for me to take advantage of those curves. So I need curvy jeans in xtra-long. And I need to either chop off a couple inches at the bottom, or just let them get really, really scruffy. Sigh. And let's not forget the most important consideration: bells.

I have got to have my bell bottoms! I made my first pair of inset bell bottoms in junior high. The tight-rolling trend was just starting to drift away. I got a cute pair of vintage jeans with little flowers embroidered on the back, and my mom helped me inset some flower-patterned material. My best friend told me my pants were so ugly she wanted to puke. But she was just jealous. They were gorgeous. The next year Bell-bottoms came "out" and I got a pair with bleached in Daisies off the rack. (This was in 7th grade, so I didn't have hips yet.)

I've been inserting bells ever since, because 1)I am a little bit of a flower child, and 2)Let's face it, girls with hips look better in bells. I don't care how popular skinny jeans become, my butt will not look good in them. Even with a tunic.

Enter Thrifted jeans. For one thing, it is so much easier to chop up a pair of jeans that you got for $3.49 than ones you spent $60 on. And there are so many groovy styles just waiting to be found. And there is the added bonus that they've already shrunk!
Often, I go for Wranglers, which are not only made curvy and high waisted, but come in more precise lengths, and in this rural area, I can almost always find a pair in 32" long. Sometimes there are nice surprises. Like, I recently got a pair of GLO by J.Lo that only needed to have the hem let out. (Turns out I have a more ethnic figure than my Scottish-Hungarian ancestry accounts for.)

Here are my current favorites. They are by Blue Asphalt, but the bells are by me. (With a little help from some of Adam's old jeans.) They're a little more low-rise than I usually go for, but that makes them fun. And they look super with a peasant top.

I know I'm not alone here, and I'd love to see or hear about your thrifted jeans!

Tuesday, March 23

The Rules in Practice

So, last week when Elisabeth came over with The Dress, it took like five minutes to fit it, measure her, and record the Befores. Then she said that she thought we should go to Goodwill. You know, to get material for the Blog. And we did, of course.

Off we went, and we just made a quick trip. Only an hour or so. Which for us, is more than enough Time. (Rule One.) And I documented it. For the Blog.

Here is Elisabeth demonstrating Rule Two: Touch everything. (Well, she is at least being a good sport and cheating out while she does it.)

Here is our combined cart full of stuff showing off Rule 3: Take It. We took it!

After that, we went into the dressing room, and all details of Rule Four just between us. I will say that neither of us got stuck in anything. But we laughed a lot anyway. Then, I took a picture of out sorted piles. It was a good haul that day, so we took the sternest possible take on Rule Five: Thin it out.

The yeses are on the left, the Nos on the right, and down at the bottom, the maybes. We sorted as we went. As you can see, the Nos are the biggest pile. Yes, I did try on that fuschia MuMu. Yes, she is a very good friend. I ended up getting a sweet black dress and a black slip to go with it. And a T-shirt. As we did the final sort, Elisabeth commented that, "The Maybes are Maybes for a reason." And she stowed them with the Nos on the put-back rack.

Once again, the Rules paid off (Yes, we talk about the Rules while we shop. We are Thrift-a-nistas. And slight Nerds.) We left with our new clothes and went off about town to look at wedding Items. A good day.

Monday, March 22

Big Plans

This is it, folks. The dress. Sort of.
So Elisabeth is getting hitched (8 Weeks from today! Yay!), and has been searching for a dress, as most Brides do. She checked out one of the major bridal chains, and found a dress she loved, but it was PRICEY. She checked out some fantastic vintage gowns on line (links sent by yours truly, of course). Nothing was clicking.

So, she called me one day, wondering whether I could alter her old white prom dress enough to make it look like the one she loved. Of COURSE! Here she is modeling said prom dress as a "before" shot. Now I'm going to chop it up, let it out, cover it with something white, and before you know it, I'll be showing off the finished product!

What could be more stylishly recycled than Using "Something Old" to make Something New?!

Friday, March 19

Friday's Find

In honor of the Other Elisabeth, a find that does not actually belong to me, but to her. But it was in my sewing room for minor repairs, so here it is.

It's a vintage 70's purple polyester dress with a lovely sparkly shine of silver threads throughout. It's so her. One of the first finds she made when my sis and I taught her the rules, it's a classic that never goes out of style. And it has the original silver belt.

Found at: a local Goodwill
Cost: $4.99
Modifications: Needed to have the side seams re-sewn, as the thread was giving way. Fairly common on poly dresses that age. And fairly easy to fix!

And speaking of the Other Elisabeth, stay tuned Monday for all kinds of goodies, including a Wedding dress in the making!

Tuesday, March 16

I wash Wool

And Cashmere. And Silk. And things that say "Dry Clean Only". In fact, there is very little I won't wash. I've even plunked a couple of vintage gowns in the bathtub with soap. And the honest truth: I have never ruined anything. Really, though, almost everything is from Goodwill, so I wouldn't be out too much if I did ruin it. Which is why I embarked on machine washing my woolens to begin with.

Here is my most recent escapade. (Isn't my laundry room cute! I love to sit out there and read.) What you see are two brown wool sweaters- both from my local Goodwill- drying flat. First, I wait until I have enough super-delicate items to make up a small load. I set the water temp to warm/cold, and the water level higher than my load actually is- so if it's a small load, I do a medium water level. Then I add a bit less soap than I normally would. Once the load is washed, I put the silks, acetates, and other non-wools into the dryer with LOW heat and run it for short bursts (some of those synthetics get really hot!) I lay the woolens out flat to dry. And presto! No dry cleaning required.

I have my reasons for doing this. And It's not actually because of the green factor, although I'm sure some will tell you that dry cleaning chemicals are not good for the environment. Whatever, we have bigger problems. The reasons I do it are these:
1. It's cheap. I mean, If you pay three bucks for an all- wool imported sweater, would you pay someone to clean it? I wouldn't.
2. It's convenient. I get clothes dirty. Seriously, the sleeves get grubby and there are food spots down the front. If I had to run out to the cleaners every time my sweaters needed cleaning, I would be broke and naked, because my sweaters would all be at the cleaners.

So the message today is: don't be afraid to wash stuff. Your great-grandma washed all her wool, and she was just fine. If she had acetate, she would have washed that, too. You have my permission to be just as clean as she was.

(I love feltmaking, and the easiest way to make felt is to run an all- wool sweater thru the wash on hot with lots of soap. Ta daa! Shrunken, waterproofed, feltable felt. Great for crafting. But, not wearable.)

Monday, March 15

My Favorite Clothes

This is my new favorite outfit. I really wanted to do a post just about my bell-bottoms, but the other day, Adam was taking the pics for me, and they look so good! It was raining, so my hair looks awesome, too. The jeans will just have to wait for next week.

You may have noticed, I am a comfort-based dresser. But even more than that, I have some sort of weird inner compulsion that tells me what to wear each day. Maybe it's a holdover from all my years doing plays- like I have to have the right costume for that day's Character or something. Sometimes I just "feel Yellow" or I "need a sweater". And if it's too hot, or too cold, or one of the things I need is in the wash, I can totally freak out and spend hours trying to figure out what to wear. (Ask Adam. He's been witness.)

And the sheer volume of clothes I have doesn't help, it gives me too many choices! I've even had bad dreams about sifting through mountains of clothes all night, and every time I find a piece of one outfit, I'm missing the one I had, and I have to start all over putting together an outfit. This dream is based firmly in the reality of "Where are my tights, oh my gosh where is my Sweater!" Sunday mornings. (I may need therapy.)

So I love an outfit I can put on any time, and it "feels right." And right now, this is it. It's comfy, but also so "me".
The top is lightweight cotton jersey- a t-shirt with style.$2.99
Underneath is a nude-tone cami by Express- I scored camis in several colors last fall and I wear one every day. No more cold back! $0.99
And of course, the bell-bottoms. The jeans were $3.49 (I think), and I added the bells from some of Adam's old jeans.
All pieces are from my local Goodwill.
It's a can't miss outfit that feels right no matter what.
Does anyone else share this compulsion? Or do you just have a favorite outfit you want to share?

Friday, March 12

Friday's Find

A beautiful Vintage 50's beaded Cardigan by Lilly Koo. Tan colored with iridescent brown beads. The tag says it's hand beaded in Hong Kong. There's no content label, but it feels like a wool blend and is fully lined. (I'm not sure whether the lining is Silk or synthetic.) It has hidden hook and eye closures up the whole front. I've got to be honest, this is literally the one thing in my closet I haven't worn. But it's just so fantastic I can't get rid of it. Someday, I will find an outfit that goes with it, and then I will be so glad I have it!

The stats:
Found at: Goodwill, Hutchinson KS
Cost: unsure, but less than $5
Considering I found a powder blue version on-line for $85, it's a Fabulous steal any way you look at it!

Wednesday, March 10

What is Vintage, anyway?

So, in Thrifting and thrifty sites, Vintage is a big word. There are on-line empires built around Vintage clothing finds. Our local Goodwill had a "vintage" rack for a while, where they raised prices on "vintage" stuff. There seemed to be some confusion among the workers as to what vintage was, and after a while the hodge-podge rack of 80's dresses, housecoats, and choir robes(...?) disappeared.

Finding Vintage is not just fun and Thrifty, it's a real way to use less for any occasion. Why buy a new dress off the rack when you could wear a really unique Vintage frock? Even Celebrities do it! Reese Witherspoon wore Vintage Dior to the Oscars when she won in 2006.

Photo Credits:

But how do you identify a real, Vintage piece? Let's start by defining Vintage.

I prefer this definition:

If it's older than me, it's vintage. (That means anything earlier than 1980.)

If it's younger, or just a couple of years older than me, it's Retro. As in Retro-1979 jumpsuit. Retro things tend to be definable also as "groovy".

(And, if it's more than 100 years old, it's an antique. Antique clothes are usually too old, too delicate, and too small to wear. But they are awesome to have!)

A good way to start knowing what's Vintage is to learn a little about fashion history. There are lots of web resources, but frankly, a good library book is faster, easier, and more portable. You can take an overview of 20th century fashion along on your next Goodwill run if you want to. Knowing what styles and lines originate in what decade is very helpful.

The feel and smell of the fabric is often the easiest way to spot a treasure. Older fabric just plain smells older. Most places don't (and shouldn't) wash nicer items, so that "been in the closet for 40 years" smell will be there. And often older fabrics feel very crisp or very stiff; or they will be a fabric that is unfamiliar to you. Some very old vintage pieces (think 40's or more) will be of extremely delicate fabric- try them on with care!

Another thing that easily identifies vintage is the closures. Metal zippers on skirts and dresses are always vintage. Worn, fabric covered buttons are usually indicators of an older piece.

Tags and labels, if they're there, tell you a lot, too. Some even have a date or a "collection" name on them that you can use to date it. But don't overlook handmade vintage. In days past, a lot more people made their own clothes, and in most cases, they made really nice clothes. Whether homemade or store bought, looking inside the garment to see how something is made will tell you a lot.

So go bright green the next time you're out Thrifting and check for some Fabulous Vintage Finds!
If you have a great Vintage find, tell us about it!

Tuesday, March 9

For What It's Worth

So a certain someone Facebooked the other day asking how to justify $90 dollars for sandals. I think she was being Facetious.
This reminded me of a conversation my sis and I had Recently. We were in a department store, rummaging the Clearance racks(truly the only place we look in a department store). She tried on a fantastic coat, which they had in Small and Large, but neither fit quite right. As she put it back she remarked that it just wasn't worth the price if it didn't fit exactly right. We laughed that $15 dollars was too much for us to pay for a coat.
We've been spoiled, it seems, by Thrift Shopping. Even brand new on a clearance rack, $15 is still an overpriced coat, $4 is really pushing it for a blouse. Getting clothes (and other things) so cheaply for so long has made us really consider what we're willing to give for something.
And that is the key, in my mind- every time I shop, I'm giving something. Something I've earned, something I could easily give to something else. I have so many choices of places to give my dollars. Do I want give my dollar for this? The question, to me, goes beyond the item in question. While I'm not one for examining fair trade and human rights every time I try on shoes, I do feel keenly the fact that my dollar represents my values.
It's not just the thrill of bargain hunting for me. Thrifting lets me indicate what I truly value. When I find a great dress for $4.50, I don't just get a dress. I get a reassuring sense that I am being a good steward of my hard earned money. I get a secret, self-righteous kick out of using less and making less waste. I get the satisfaction (usually) of funding worthwhile projects in my own community. I get the quiet happiness that comes from wearing something that is totally unique to my style. And, compared to regular prices, I get at least two dresses for the price of one. (Okay, so it's more than a little about the thrill of the bargain!)
What it's worth to me is about more than just the price tag. It's about what I value. I value thrift, green living, Style, and most of all, giving.
So, no, I can't justify $90 for sandals, even if they're really, really, really comfy.

Monday, March 8

A Tale of Two Dresses

Once upon a time, I met a really cute guy and we really hit it off. No, I mean really. On our first date, we got so into talking that we walked around the same block 3 times, forgetting to cross the street. But it was the second date that clinched it.
He took me to the ARC in Colorado Springs. He helped me pick out dresses, then sat in an old office chair and waited while I tried on about 30 of them. He gave helpful comments on the ones I showed him. And then he bought me the two I wanted. How much more perfect could a man be?

This is one of the two dresses. It's a vintage blue-flowered polyester shirtdress. I love the colors. I love how comfy it is. I love how any Sunday morning, I can just grab it and throw it on and look fantastic.

And even now, nine years after I got it, and umpteen years after it was first sold, it still gets compliments. I wore it to church yesterday, and one dear lady told me how well I was doing the new trend of flower prints! So here's to style that never goes out of fashion.

In case you're wondering, the other dress he bought me that day was also a 70's dress. It's a filmy white cotton peasant dress, knee-length with puffy sleeves. There's no picture of it here because, frankly, it's seen better plays. Seriously, I wore it for two summers as the shift layer of my ren-fest costume, and it most recently served as a 1910 blouse in a High school production of "Charley's Aunt". I think it still has purple lace at the collar and cuffs. I sure got his money's worth out of that one, and it's still in my costume closet.

Friday, March 5

Friday's Find

A Fabulous dress to get us through the weekend!

This Is a vintage 60's cocktail dress in Peacock Blue taffeta. It appears to be homemade as there is no tag, and the inside is unlined. Regardless, someone put a lot of effort into making this dress fabulous! It fits like a glove, and I just love the little bow detail right under the rear.

Here's the front view. I can't wait for the weather to warm up a little so I can wear it!

The most fabulous part of this vintage find was the price, so here's the stats:
Found at: Goodwill Store, Wichita KS
Cost: $3.49
Modifications: None! It was already perfect!

Monday, March 1

The Rules

Secondhand shopping can be perplexing- where to shop? when to shop? how to shop? It's not the same game as regular shopping. Things are rarely in order by size (and even when they are, they aren't). There are no displays of the season's newest in five colors. There are just racks and racks of mixed up things. To me, that's exciting. It's like being some kind of crazy Archaeologist: if I sift through enough rubble, I just might find a priceless treasure.
But if you head in there thinking, "I just want to grab a pair size 9 and run out", you will be disappointed. You need a plan of attack. Here are the tried and true rules for finding great clothes at great prices. I promise if you follow these rules, your wardrobe can be as Fabulous as mine.

1. Take the Time. And I mean time. Clear an afternoon, find a girlfriend, and wear comfy shoes. You'll save a lot of money, but you must invest time. There is nothing more irritating than having to leave before you get to the skirt section!
2. Touch it. Get a cart, start at the front, and walk down the row slowly, touching each item. I like to slide the hangers by one at a time, as touching so many fabrics can be hard on the skin. But you must look at every single thing! If you want a skirt, look at every skirt; for jeans, touch every pair. If you don't you will miss the really great finds amid all the rubble.
3. Take it. Everything that catches your eye, put it in the cart. I mean it! If the color, fabric, style, or tag makes you look twice- Put it in there! Be open minded and take things even if you have the slightest whim. You are only excused if the item in question is clearly more than 5 sizes difference from your size-- if you are a 2 and it's an obvious 22, okay you're excused. But in many cases, the size marked has no bearing on reality, so ignore that, and put it in the cart! (For example, I'm currently a 7 in jeans. But I have a pair of 7's that are too big, and a pair of 11's that are too tight.)
4. Try it on. Once the cart is so full you can't pile any more on, head for the dressing rooms. (if your cart is not that full- go back and touch more things!) You'll find about one fabulous thing for every 6 you try on, so take as many things as you can fit in there and pile them up. Strip down (I often wear camis or other under-layers that will fit under anything, but keep me from getting quite so naked!) and start trying on everything. Don't deliberate or think too hard- try things quickly, and make decisions quickly. It really isn't that hard to see if you like something- If you do you just know, if you don't, you don't. Which brings us to the last rule:
5. Thin it out. As you try each item, sort it into one of three groups: Yes, No, and Maybe. Or if you prefer: Fabulous!, What was I thinking?, and Hmmm. Your biggest pile should be the No pile (until you get really good at this). When you finish, you should have a small pile of really fantastic things, a huge pile of misfits, and another pile that needs one more look. I like to compare the maybes against the yeses, and see if they hold up to the standard of fabulousness. Usually they end up as Nos too.

It's fun to go with a friend who can help you find the finds and can gag in sympathy at the horrible watermelon-colored vintage polyester pantsuit that you thought (for a fleeting second) might be cool. When you've followed all the rules, you should end up with a few things that you really like that fit you. Be nice to the people who work there- put each item back on the hanger, and Hang the no's up where the rejected things go. Take your new treasures and wander over to housewares Triumphantly.

Start at the Beginning

Almost every day someone says to me, "Nice blouse!" To which I nearly always reply, "Thanks, Goodwill!"
This is not to wish them a good day. It is the name of the place I got it. When I say this, they always say, "Really?!?" The tone of the "really" varies form impressed to incredulous to a subtle, secret, "I wish I could find nice stuff there."
Regardless, I end up wishing I could share the secrets of sustainable shopping with almost everyone I meet. There is something so satisfying about the hunt for really fabulous, unique, and quality clothes at a fraction of the price. Such a thrill when you find something so right. Vintage, retro, and brand-new-with-the-tags-on, all are there, if I'm willing to look.
My obsession with thrifting started as an expression of my need not to wear anything that someone else was wearing, but it became so much more. Starting with my organic garden and moving right down the line, I developed a desire to have a better, cleaner, "greener" life. Everyone wants to go green these days, but few really succeed in using less. What better way to have a smaller impact and be utterly fabulous at the same time than buying and wearing used? And my closet didn't have to shrink at all!
So, here it is for the world to share: the Rules, the Triumphs, the Fabulousness of Recycling with Style.