Changing Your Clothes

Shopping, Sewing, Upcycling, Repairing: Make the most of your clothes!


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Thrift-Shop Thursday: View from the Trenches

Previously on Thrift-Shop Thursday, I told you about my archaeologist daughter’s last-minute quest for the perfect dig-site wardrobe— and by perfect, I meant quick and thrifty, and she meant practical, yet chic. For a girl who just today wore a black pencil skirt, charcoal-grey cowl-neck top, cream fishnet hose, and taupe heels just to get her hair done, satisfying both of us threatened to be a very tall order. Today, Valerie is my very first guest blogger, with her own take on this thrift-shop-based experience. Welcome her to Changing Your Clothes!

“A garment in the closet is worth two in storage.” —Ancient proverb

What-ho from your guest correspondent. The above-mentioned trenches are also proverbial: I did indeed leap at the recent chance to help excavate an archaeological site within commuting distance of my home address, but we are digging in 1 x 1 meter squares! Although I insist I never actually wailed, “What do I wear?”, proper attire was an immediate concern. Because of the nature of this dig, I needed little more than the clothes on my back and the knowledge in my brain; but by the nature of my recent life, my entire closet was oriented to libraries, museums, and evening events —distinctly indoor clothes. If it were merely a question of finding acceptable work clothes, rugged and washable, it would have been a simple utilitarian jaunt to the nearest clothing-seller and this post could end with this paragraph.

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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Having A Field Day

Last weekend, my daughter Valerie, an archaeologist, found out she would have an opportunity to do some field work. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), unless you have a Ph.D or two, it’s very rare to be invited to do on-site digging— one usually has to pay significantly for the privilege. So naturally, she jumped at the chance. And then rose the all-too-familiar desperate wail:

“What do I wear?”

Just to put this dilemma in perspective, an everyday look for Valerie would be a pencil skirt, sleek sweater or top, and heels. (Yes, unlike her mother, she’s very Hollywood-glam; not exactly vintage, certainly not retro, just modern glam.) Unfortunately, this style doesn’t (I assume) lend itself well to crouching down in a hole for hours at a time, sifting buckets of dirt, etc.; maybe this is glamorous work to an archaeologist, but even so, a pencil skirt somehow doesn’t seem… appropriate.

What would be appropriate? Valerie says definitely not jeans: too hot, restrictive, uncomfortable. But pants do seem indicated. I suggested something like khakis and/or cargo pants. This was a little like suggesting to a vegetarian that she try a lovely dish of calf’s liver, but eventually, she realized that if she had to wear pants (and casual pants at that), she could do worse. Khakis went on the list.

She also needed some casual tops, i.e. ones she wouldn’t mind getting covered with dirt and dust. These should be long-sleeved (for sun protection), natural fiber (for coolness), and above all, washable. Long-sleeved cotton t-shirts went on the list.

Now that Valerie’s shopping list was forming, she had to decide where to shop. Since she didn’t want to spend a lot on clothes for such a specialized purpose, I suggested thrift-shopping. (There are 2 really good shops quite close by.). Honestly, since I almost never shop for pants (at any kind of shop), I didn’t know what kind of selection we might find, but on the other hand, thrift shops generally have a wider assortment of brands to choose from. So I thought the odds of finding something were actually in our favor.

Other list items: Wide-brimmed sun hat, work gloves (leather), and comfortable shoes or boots that can get dirty.

Valerie’s going to write a guest post for Changing Your Clothes about this experience, but for now, I’ll just tell you that, in less than 3 hours, we went to 2 shops, she tried on over 30 pairs of pants (and about a dozen tops at the first shop), out of which she got 2 nice long-sleeved t-shirts, 2 pairs of khaki/cargo pants, and even a bonus pair of Ralph Lauren jeans in the most interesting shade of silvery-white! Total spent: $43.00!

Future post alert! It occurred to me during our shopping trip that planning for Valerie’s new field-work wardrobe was not unlike planning a travel wardrobe: both have specific needs, deadlines, climates, events, and budgets to consider. This is an idea I’m going to explore in another post (or three); the more I work on these concepts, the more I realize how helpful it is to start with a concrete strategy.

I’d love to show you pictures of Valerie’s new(ish) stuff, but she got a last-minute notification to go in this morning for 6 hours of  orientation and training for her field work. (It’s a good thing we didn’t wait until the last minute to shop!) She went off looking professional, appropriate, comfortable, and even —surprise— chic!

Thrift-Shop Thursday posts appear every 2 weeks here on CYC.


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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Top Off a Dress Tutorial

Last time on Thrift-Shop Thursday, I was a little time-challenged, so I gave you a preview of today’s project. The concept: start with a knit top that’s a little too short for me, and turn it into the bodice of a dress by adding a skirt (or in this case, 2 skirts). I’ll show you how I made mine, including creating a high-low hemline with the double-layer skirt, attaching the top to the skirt, and adding an elastic casing to the waistline.

First, a quick review. Here’s the thrift-shop top I’m starting with, a substantial silk/viscose knit V-neck:

Jade silk-blend knit top

Jade silk-blend knit top, $7.99 at the thrift shop. Slightly challenging length for me to wear (a.k.a. fine as long as I don’t raise my arms), so it will become the bodice of my new dress.

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Thrift-Shop Thursday: Top Off a Dress!

A couple of weeks ago, following my archaeologist daughter’s example, I started digging through a lot of old stuff. Specifically, garments that for various reasons I didn’t wear any more, but was curiously loath to discard. All right, maybe what I uncovered wasn’t as exciting as King Tut’s tomb, but a certain pattern did come to light: I found 5 different tops with nothing wrong with them at all— except their length. Yes, each one hovered just below my waistline, meaning they would ride up whenever I, well, moved. Not being 4 years old, I didn’t think midriff-baring would be cute, which I assume is why all 5 tops ended up in the same bag, lurking in shame in the back of my closet. What can I do with them?

A while back, I think during a phase when I was intrigued by various dresses-that-look-like-separates on the market, I remember thinking maybe I could come up with my own version, using some of these too-short tops. So when I discovered this beautiful jade-green silk/viscose knit top, I thought it was the perfect candidate.

Jade silk-blend knit top

Jade silk-blend knit thrift-shop top. It’s just a little too short on me to wear without fear of midriff-baring.

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Thrift-Shop Thursday: A Fresh Crop

For many (including moi), thrift shopping is primarily about the thrill of the hunt: slowly circling the aisles, gradually narrowing your search until you finally zero in on the one pristine cashmere sweater in the entire store. Yesss! You do the dance of joy. You carry your prize home in triumph, carefully remove it from its recycled plastic shroud, lay it on your bed to admire it, and then can’t resist slipping into it. Which is when you realize the sleeves are longer than you thought.

This has happened to me, and I have to admit (shamefully) that it mostly happens when I don’t try things on in the store. But wait— all is not lost!

Even non-thrift shop purchases often come with a catch: alterations that are necessary for a really perfect fit. In the case of a sweater, alterations can be challenging; you’re dealing with a knitted fabric, so cutting into it means having to secure a lot of ends so that runs don’t happen. I’ll probably show you how to do this at some point, but for today, I’m going to use something simpler as an example a common thrift-shop garment alteration: shortening yoga pants.

Thrift-shop yoga pants

Thrift-shop yoga pants, before cropping. Even on a 5’6″ girl, these are way too long.

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Thrift-Shop Thursday: More Online Experiences

In last week’s Thrift-Shop Thursday post, I gave some suggestions for an online version of the thrift-shopping experience (not the same thing, I know, but I tried). Today I’d like to focus on consignment and vintage shops that sell clothing online, and more specifically on those shops that only sell online—at a discount.

First, for the sake of clarity, some definitions:

Consignment is a deal between the owner of an item and a store (brick-and-mortar or online), where the store agrees to sell the item on behalf of the owner, in return for a percentage of the sale. Since the store naturally wants to make a profit, consigned items usually will have higher prices than the average thrift shop. On the other hand, consigned clothing tends to be of much higher quality; often high-end designer pieces find their way into consignment stores, because the owners want to recoup at least a little of their original investment, rather than just give them away.

Vintage is slightly more difficult to define precisely, although the correct usage is a reference to the year something was made (e.g. a VW Bug vintage 1968). Unlike the term antique, which describes items of a minimum age (usually 100 years), vintage generally seems to refer now to almost anything that’s not actually brand-new. However, in this post, let’s assume we’re talking about clothing that’s clearly not from the current fashion era, say, 10 years old or more.

In the interest of keeping this post relatively short, I’m just going to give you one example shop in each category. (If you’d like to look around for more, I used the search terms “online consignment shop”, and “online vintage shop”.) Continue reading


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Thrift-Shop Thursday: The Online Experience

I was thinking this week about how lucky I am to live near so many fantastic thrift shops, when it suddenly occurred to me to wonder about those of you who don’t. Maybe you live in a rural area, or a residential-only suburb, or perhaps it’s physically difficult to get around. Whatever the issue is, what can you do to feel the thrift-shopping thrill?

What about bargain-hunting online? Okay, maybe clicking and typing is not as visceral an experience as riffling through rack after rack in a thrift or consignment shop, but it’s always exciting to find something beautiful/unique/inspiring— especially when it’s discounted!

So where do you start? There are the usual big-name thrifty suspects, like eBay and Amazon, each with their bargain specialties. On eBay, check out their Daily Deals page; today they’re featuring electronic-related items (including 20% off an iTunes gift card). eBay is also a wonderful source for vintage clothing and collectibles, among many other categories. Personally, I’ve used eBay mostly for buying and selling yarn, fabric, and patterns; there are amazing bargains to be found in these categories.

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