Skip to main content

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

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be: You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")    35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't

TBT: The Magic of Essential Oils

Oh essential oils, beloved friend of loopy-goopy women of my own demographic marketing cohort, along with magic crystals, mystic doulas, organic pesticides, multi-level-marketed leggings, anything labeled as "herbal supplements," and alternatives to vaccination. The essential oil craze is something that has a basis in scientifically verifiable reality but has been endowed with magical, holy, pseudo-scientific properties for marketing purposes. I bought into it wholeheartedly before I learned that not all that crunches is harmless. All too often, legitimate fears based in reality (of toxic chemicals, unnecessary medical interventions, pharmaceutical side effects, etc.) are stoked to induce women like me to jump from the frying pan and into the fire of an "alternative" that may be at least as harmful as what it is supposedly protecting me and my family from. I still use certain essential oils for cleaning and other purposes, and I think everything I've stated in t

Rustic Open Shelves for a Bogcore Kitchen

Open shelving isn't for everyone, but it is essential to the 2020s bogcore kitchen. My family's DIY kitchen elegantly blends cultural influences from our ancestors which include Depression survivors, Viking-descended woodbillies, theater people/carnies, art fags, and Slavic sluts. My husband and I have crafted a wall of shelving and a pantry that combine rugged practicality with queenly flamboyance. Minimalist jars of raw ingredients line up alongside a vase of old peacock feathers. A ceramic sculpture displays our collection of grocery store spatulas. In the pantry, a large, cheap microwave nests snugly among rustic baskets, oiled wood carpentry, and our collection of well-loved, antique cast iron cookware. Bogcore is a welcoming, inviting, embracing aesthetic that can truly absorb and accept just about anything, with style. For example, I can hang up a dish towel from a wide range of colors and patterns that will work within the look of the kitchen. I don't have to be pic

Dodging the School Fear Pandoomerang

Can you believe this is the THIRD school year affected by the Covid-19 pandemic? At the beginning of 2020, the novel coronavirus still felt like a novelty. A two-week holiday from office work and school was supposed to flatten the curve, but it wasn't enough. My daughter never went back to finish third grade. Then she didn't start fourth grade in person. Most of the school year took place on a Chromebook. She returned to campus in the spring along with fewer than 1/3 of her classmates; the other families couldn't work around the inconvenient dropoff and pickup schedule or they didn't want to take the risk, even in one of the most careful and safety-focused districts in the nation (now among the minority of districts requiring masks without a state mandate). This year's back-to-school season holds the record as the most dangerous time in all of this long, dragged-out pandemic for children under 12 , and there is no online option. Parents must choose between sending

Pocket of Joy: Starting a Shiny New Project

Oh, the buoyant thrill of a sparkly new idea! Ooh, the giddy joy of starting in on it--like planting the first footprint on a blanket of new-fallen snow, or drawing the first line on a clean sheet of paper, or sweeping the first brushstroke of slick, wet paint across a wall! Of course, it takes follow-through to manifest a dream through the sweaty, dirty, messy middle of any big project. But when you know you can do it, you can hold onto that shiny new feeling to sustain you all the way to the finish. Here I am chiseling away at the remains of my old kitchen back in the spring, when my new kitchen lived only in my imagination. My husband and I have been working on our kitchen (with my parents' help early on) for four months now. Our summer has been a marathon of hard, sweaty, dirty work littered with setbacks, frustrations, and frequent changes of plans--including the decision to redo our main bathroom at the same time, while we're at it! Anyone who has repaired or remodeled a

"September" by Helen Hunt Jackson

"September" by Helen Hunt Jackson is one of my favorite classic poems about one of my favorite times of year. No matter what's going on in the world, the natural splendor of September comes each year as a comfort and a delight. September The golden-rod is yellow; The corn is turning brown; The trees in apple orchards With fruit are bending down. The gentian’s bluest fringes Are curling in the sun; In dusty pods the milkweed Its hidden silk has spun. The sedges flaunt their harvest, In every meadow nook; And asters by the brook-side Make asters in the brook. From dewy lanes at morning the grapes’ sweet odors rise; At noon the roads all flutter With yellow butterflies. By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather, And autumn’s best of cheer. But none of all this beauty Which floods the earth and air Is unto me the secret Which makes September fair. 'Tis a thing which I remember; To name it thrills me yet: On

Pocket of Joy: Two-Month Belly Dance Challenges (with results from my 20s vs. my 30s)

This summer, I'm beating the bloat and feeling better about my belly! I participated in two 30-day belly dance challenges online, first Jasirah's Belly Challenge and then a summer challenge by Mahtab of Best Belly Dance Workout . I chose these two because of the kind of challenges they were--not strenuous and sweaty but instead technically difficult. I am at a healthy weight that I want to maintain, and I am recovering from moderate to severe anemia, so I wanted to avoid anything exhausting or high-impact. This summer, I worked on balance, joint flexibility, and the kinds of technical skills that work out the brain and nervous system, and I targeted the "corset" muscles that cinch in the waist, deep beneath the outer ab muscles. I've said thanks and goodbye to the visible abs I had in my slimmer 20s, which are now obscured by an age-appropriate skim of subcutaneous belly fat that I don't want to starve myself or go under the knife to banish.  And besides, af

Pocket of Joy: Loving The Fall's Complexities

Fall, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love the cool mornings, the storms that mix blue-gray rain with yellow leaves already showering down from my walnut tree, and the afternoons that heat up and draw out that rich, warmed-earth, sun-dried leaf scent. I have always loved the dawns of autumn, the tender turning of the earth, the anticipation of color and movement, the coming fall! The motion of it, the actual falling of the leaves, the accelerating changes that saturate the senses. Later comes the Grimshaw phase of autumn, with its metallic sheens and spidery mists. It isn't just the festive harvest season or the bright middle of the fall that I love but the whole arc of it, the warm and the cold, the light and the dark and the glowing twilights humming with the shades and scents of memory mixing with rebirth. "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall," F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his exquisitely dissatisfying novel about accelerating, blaz

$Monday: Bog Witch Style on a Budget

Autumn in a pandemic is the perfect time to tap into your inner bog witch with wild hair, cozy clothes, forest rituals, creepy cats, fire, books of spells, and Dark Cottagecore home decor mood boards on Pinterest . You don't have to live in a literal swamp. The word "bog" comes from a Gaelic term for "soft," and it sounds nearly identical to Slavic words for gods or divinity with Proto-Slavic roots that refer to earthly fortune. Bog witches burrow into the true goodness of life nestled beneath all the hustle and polish and show of making a living. They focus on soft wealth and spiritual power. The vibe is slow, earthy, comfy, moody, sneakily seductive, maybe sticky, wise rather than smart, preferring old things to new, charming rather than impressive. It's about harmonizing with the natural environment, blending, melting, enveloping, and sinking into earthy, downward energy. Bog witchery vibes with hygge, friluftsliv , and the indigenous earth wisdom of whe

$Monday: Testing a New Kitchen Design Before Renovation

My husband and I planned to renovate our worn-out kitchen this year, with my dad's help. And--oop!--we all know what happened to everyone's plans for 2020. There is no way I can keep my family fed properly through the pandemic in my designed-circa-1990, tacked-together, corner-cut, stingy-cheap, crazy, nailed-it-wrong kitchen nightmare that has been crumbling, grumbling, rotting, rusting, and breaking since we bought this house in 2008. We have to do something, so we turned a setback into an opportunity to slow down and beta test some of our new kitchen ideas with temporary staging. It might look insane, but who cares? We won't be having the queen over for tea anytime soon, so we can take time to play with space and function before we commit to building permanent structures and finishing surfaces. For example, open shelves are not practical for everyone. They don't hide clutter or protect things from dust. However, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and prefer