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TBT: Fast-Forward Fashion

This blast from the past is funny, because my personal style and shopping habits have evolved quite a bit since my 20s--in fact, full circle to the advice in the first paragraph I wrote, which I went on to reject at the time. In my 20s, I enjoyed extremely silly fashion. I'd look at Vogue magazines and then imitate designer looks in ridiculous ways. I tried to anticipate near-future trends, which I nailed in the first picture here, where I've "put a bird on it" before the meme was born. Yus! ...But.

Now that I am a fully fledged adult with a more relaxed budget, I hardly ever shop for clothes or accessories, not even at thrift shops, where I am now more afraid of picking up bugs. I still have a lot of clothes, but I rely heavily on swaps and hand-me-downs from friends and family. Occasionally I browse garage or church sales in communities I trust to sell clean garments. The world is now drowning in excess clothing, so it's easy to rake in quantities of barely-worn or never-worn garments without spending much or any money. When I do buy something new, I make sure it's something so well-made and classic--or so "me" that I don't care if it's on trend--that I can imagine keeping it for at least 20 years. A lot of things in my closet today are at least that old. I take things to the tailor and the shoe repair shop on occasion. I do not buy junky plastic things anymore, not even secondhand or on super clearance. I've curated a wardrobe that helps me present my best self, not only aesthetically but ethically.

These days, I take fast fashion much more seriously than I did as a young adult because it's one of the main drivers of pollution and climate change, which is reprehensible. It's such a vapid, senseless cause of mass suffering and death that no longer feels fun to me in any way. And that's fine with me, because natural fibers and well-made garments look and feel a lot better anyway, and it's fun to play with restyling familiar pieces in new ways.

I still do a good job at rotating items in my closet about once a month so I'm always aware of what I have and so that my "capsule wardrobe" of items placed front and center changes with seasons and current fashions. Sometimes a weird skirt or top will stay in the very back corners of my closet for years until it suddenly comes back into style, and I'm able to "vintage shop" my own closet. And then, so I avoid looking like a desperate suburban mom trying to necromance my own Y2K-era adolescence, I make sure I wear those pieces differently than I did as a teen, and in updated combinations that better complement my present self.

I still own the following items shown below: brown turtleneck with ribbon sleeves, mixed metal earrings, suede miniskirt, plaid stilettos, Mexican silver and onyx necklace, one of the LBDs (the '50s vintage one was traded to a stylish friend), strappy leather sandals from a Roman flea market, ruffled apron, vintage silk stockings, vintage furs, sporty Oakleys, mint green shorts, two wide black belts, scarf.


I've read in women's magazines that when your purse is light, you should purchase only very classic, un-trendy clothing that won't quickly go out of fashion. Spend a lot of time shopping for a few pieces that are of excellent quality and perfect fit that you can wear over and over again for years and years and years. 

To this advice, I say NAY! I have nothing against a sensible camel trench or pair of durable work trousers. But you absolutely CAN be fabulous, edgy, stylish, and on the bleeding edge of high fashion while spending (as I do) less than $50 per month on clothing and accessories (including undergarments, hair ties, jewelry, shoes, and purses). Listen, it sounds like a lot, but do you realize how easy it is to blow $200 at a Victoria's Secret semi-annual sale? That's four months' worth of fashion right there. Or how about a new winter coat? That means not a single scarf, belt, or hat until spring or summer.

Anyway, the "secret" is something that punky teenagers, drag queens, and public access TV ladies have been utilizing since time immemorial: Thrift stores, of course! As a bonus, there is nothing more eco-friendly--not even a sarong made of soy, hemp, and solar panels--than upcycled clothing. What a good person you are. Remind yourself of this. Stroke your ego. It's good for your posture, which will make your clothing look all the more stylish and flattering.

Please note: Clearance racks at big department stores can also be shopped just like thrift stores.

BUT WATCH OUT! Bargain hunting is treacherous business. You don't want to come out LOOKING as though you shop at the Goodwill Emporium, with bag-lady getups and a bedroom closet that looks like a thrift store in itself. The Salvation Army is not as user-friendly as Macy's. Be not hypnotized by the one-digit prices and the pink tag special.

Tips for optimal thrift store (or clearance zone) shopping:

1. Write a Fairy Godmother list of clothing items you want right now. The trendier, the better. Go ahead and put down ridiculous items that you cannot reasonably expect to find. Look for inspiration in fashion magazines such as Vogue or Glamour. My last thrift store shopping list went something like this:

*faux reptile skin wedge heels
*metallic stillettos
*citrus toned plaid dress
*ruffled shirts
*chain strap bag with nautical stripes

2. Budget the exact amount of money you can spend this season (or month or whatever) and take it to the store in cash.

3. Bust through those aisles like a woman on a mission. You don't have time to inspect every smelly, used-up skirt and sweater in the place. You are seeking a few very specific items. If you come across something absolutely, astoundingly dazzling that is not on your list, don't worry. It will scream out for you to throw it in your cart to try on. If it doesn't scream at you, move on. Quickly. Hurry up.

When you come across something that IS on your list, it will be like Santa Claus planted it there just to see the look of elation on your face. What are the chances??? You couldn't have been expecting to find all those ridiculous items. Don't be tempted to buy it if it's too small, but go ahead if it's too big or missing some buttons. Minor repairs and adjustments are cheap and easy. When wish list items appear, it's truly magical. When they don't appear, it wasn't meant to be. You probably would have looked stupid in it anyway.

[On my last thrift store trip, I actually found a pair of faux reptile skin wedge heels--in my size. That cheap, $3 pair of shoes felt like a pair of glass slippers from my very own Fairy Godmother. No regrets from that purchase! There were no metallic stillettos available, but the other shoes were so glorious that I didn't care. I also found a citrus hued plaid dress, but of course I tried it on before buying. It made me look like a dumpy schoolmarm and was made of flimsy, stringy fabric. Alas, it was not meant to be. Ruffled shirts I found aplenty and chose only those that looked cute on me, and lo and behold, I found a chain strap handbag with nautical stripes for only $4. Cheaply made, but new and clean. Certainly worth the effort, since I tend to destroy purses anyway. Total purchase: $7.]

4. Treat each garment you have just purchased like a Byzantine princess. The ONLY way that thrift store shopping can work for you as a lifestyle is if you have a meticulously ordered closet and dresser. Whatever system works for you is fine. I keep all sleeveless tops together, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve, etc. Dresses have a spot; pants and skirts are separated by belts. Within those categories you can further organize pieces by color or style or in order of how much you like them this week. But they MUST be organized. Keep everything you own in mint condition if at all possible, and make sure you can find it. Reorganize your closet monthly.

As an aside, I often hear, also, that you should frequently get rid of clothing that you don't often wear. This practice has been one of the biggest regrets of my life. Never get rid of a piece you have once loved unless it does not fit properly or is in poor condition... or you literally have run out of room to adequately store your wardrobe. (You'll be surprised at how much fits in tidy closets and drawers.) No matter how absurd or outdated, it WILL work with new pieces. It WILL come back into style one of these decades. You WILL miss it if it's gone. Even if it never comes back into style, your teenage daughter/niece/eccentric friend will absolutely need it for a special event in the future.

5. Take your pants, dresses, and anything else that could use a little alteration or repair to a tailor. It only costs about $10 an item and makes a huge difference. Better yet, do what you can by yourself. Your clothes will fit like they've been, well, custom-made just for you, which tends to look classy and expensive.

6. Go wild with combinations. Flip through artsy fashion shoots for inspiration. Try throwing things together in new ways. Some will look fresh and exciting... others will cross the line into heinous. Trying stuff on is the only way to find out.

Here are some of my recent thrifty ensembles:

Sweater: clearance sale
Suede skirt: thrift shop

Dress: thrift shop
Shoes: Sears clearance

Apron: handmade gift; priceless

Dress, mink stole, and gold silk stockings: vintage
Leather and metal shoes: flea market

Dress: thrift shop
Flower hairpiece: stolen from landscaping

Tank: Kohl's clearance
Mint green shorts: garage sale

Pirate hat and moustache: FREE
Swimsuit cover-up: thrift shop

Dress: same thrift shop swimsuit cover-up over a slip
Shoes: Sears clearance
Suede and satin jacket: thrift shop

Tee: H&M sale
Belt: came on a cheap pair of pants from Marshall's
Jeans: outlet mall sale

Hat: found in mother-in-law's closet
Dress: $6 clearance skirt hiked up to the armpits
Corset belt: $3 Charlotte Russe clearance

Victoria's Secret semi-annual sale, of course

Top: grocery store clearance
Dress: thrift shop

Dress: H&M sale
Belt: scarf from a $10 grocery store dress
Stockings: American Apparrel sale
Shoes: faux reptile skin cork wedges from the thrift store (really!)


Happy shopping!

Comments

  1. have a clothing swap with people you know. or trade a friend who can sew something for that tailoring!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes!! Excellent ideas, Lisa Truax. We should post some photos of some beautiful clothing you have made.

    ReplyDelete
  3. let me know if you want them, i can send you some picts!

    ReplyDelete

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