A Year (and a half) in Review: Reflecting on my Secondhand Shopping Experience

Hello all, it’s been a while!

This has been a crazy, wonderful semester of new experiences and lots of change, but I am very happy to get back to blogging. Although the future of Ecouturier is still in the works, I would like to share some of the incredible things I’ve learned in the last year and a half of buying exclusively secondhand clothing. I set off on my mission in order to boycott the wastefulness of the ready-to-wear market, but I have discovered some wonderful benefits to shopping secondhand that I did not expect.

The first of these is perhaps the most obvious: the budget-friendliness of secondhand shopping. If you shop wisely, a thrift store can become an upscale boutique where everything is on sale. Most secondhand stores thoroughly check garments before they are sold to make sure they are of the same or similar quality as when they were first purchased, yet because they were previously owned, they are sold at fractions of the original price.  Thus, your dollar can stretch farther for the same clothes you would find at the mall, but without the mall price tag.

Because of this, shopping secondhand has made it easier for me to obtain high-quality garments and accessories. Before making the switch, I often could not afford luxury items and typically spent what money I had on garments that would last for a season or two, or that would fall apart before their time was up. Now, quality is accessible. When clothing of varying levels of quality are reduced to a more similar price range, there is simply no contest between the Urban Outfitters tops I used to buy and shirts from Nordstrom. Being able to compare garment quality side by side without price influencing my buying habits has both made me more aware of quality and more adept at identifying it, but has also increased the quality and longevity of my wardrobe overall. Because of this, I can shop less because my clothing lasts longer, reducing my footprint in the long run.

Although I have reached these fantastic conclusions, there are some differences in the secondhand shopping experience that I needed to adjust to. One of which is the fact that you cannot go secondhand shopping for anything specific. At first, this simple truth was infuriating. Before, I knew I could pop into H&M and find a perfect-fitting pair of jeans or a wear-with-everything cardigan and finish shopping in minimal time. However, if you go thrifting with the same expectations, you will be disappointed. Most of the time, you will not find exactly what you’re looking for. However, if you keep an open mind, you can find something that fills a need. In my own excursions, I have been forced to be creative, and as a result, my closet has become more diverse, experimental and unique.

For the times that I need something specific and can’t find it, I create. Many times this happens when I am trying to find trends that have barely hit the markets: at the moment I am struggling to find velvet elements and items in Pantone’s color of the year, “Radiant Orchid”. However, orchid and velvet aren’t new. Somewhere in the depths of my closet are the remnants of their last glory days, waiting to be resurrected in today’s fashion scene. The latest trends don’t have to be purchased, they can be created with what you already have, which is what I have been promoting through my past posts and projects. If anything, shopping secondhand has pushed my creativity further while simultaneously being good to our environment.

I hope that this post sheds some light on the awesomeness that is shopping secondhand. Personally, I have found this shift so beneficial that I have extended my original goal of a year without new clothes to just over a year and a half, even while adjusting to life in a new city. Buying secondhand has certainly served me well as a penny-pinching college student who still wants to dress impeccably for art school each day. Although I started this journey with an end date in mind, I see no need to stop now.

Alteration Nation (and Other Fixer-Uppers)

doc20130723111839So, you’ve got a problem. There are clothes in your closet that you love, however, they have some issues. They’re too tight, too loose, too long, too revealing and take up far too much space in your already limited closet, especially when you can’t even wear them. You know you need to get rid of them, but you’re attached to the beautiful prints and little details that attracted you in the first place. What is there to do?
The answer is very simple: Don’t hoard your unwearable clothes, don’t get rid of them, remake them! There are plenty of quick fixes only involving scissors and a needle and thread (thus this week’s illustration) that can transform your problem pieces into wearable garments once more! If you click on my illustration, you can view my own super simple transformations of a maxi dress into a crop top and skirt, a frumpy skirt into a fierce mini and a plunging top into a more wearable piece. Check it out, there are probably plenty of pieces in your closet you can continue wearing with a few simple alterations!

Slick Slits Tee

Slit tee illustrationMy love of t-shirt transformations continues this week in the form of a sunburst/cage motif around the neckline of a slim fitting tee, creating an edgy effect on an otherwise simple shirt. I always have a problem finding a top to match a wilder bottom, like a punchy-print maxi skirt  or studded shorts, because I do not want my top to conflict with the bottom, but I don’t want a drab top either. This tee solves the problem, adding interest while remaining versatile and easy to work in to your wardrobe!

Probably one of the quickest projects yet, there is no sewing involved! There is some semi-meticulous measuring and marking, as I explain in my directions, but if you’re a confident crafter, you may be able to eyeball your shirt and reduce the time for this project even further. Here’s what you’ll need:
Slim-fitting tee
Ruler
Fabric pen/pencil
Scissors

Click my illustration for instructions, and look through my completed project pictures for variations on the tee design!

Mixed Media Sandals

doc20130611163424While browsing the Zara website for inspiration, I came across several great pairs of flat sandals with interesting shapes and straps in divine combinations of colors and textures. All of them seemed so effortless, adding a pop of interest to any breezy summer jumpsuit or a simple t-shirt and shorts. Upon looking at the shoes close up, I discovered that many of the straps resembled hemp and cord friendship bracelets I’d made at summer camp years ago. I rounded up all the bracelets I could find, plus some mismatched trims, old flimsy headbands and of course, my trusty bedazzler, and got to work! The end result was a pair of eclectic, versatile sandals that recycled both shoes and old accessories! So, if you too have a stash of old camp bracelets, this project is certainly for you!

Materials:
Sandals
Fabric glue, needle and thread, etc. Something to hold your straps and trims on!
Bracelets, trims, ribbons: whatever could become a strap!
Click my illustration for instructions and photos!

Happy Crafting!

Bow Back Tee

doc20130611163538Hooray for limitless tee transformations! As exemplified by the 2014 resort collections, there is no end to the ways t-shirts can be dressed up, down, shredded or blinged out. This week’s tee is inspired by both the incredible diversity of the tee on recent runways, as well as the bow motifs I’ve seen on everything from stationery to blouses. My DIY is a super simple way to combine the two trends, as well as cooling off a plain body-con tee… by cutting out most of the back. Here’s what you’ll need:

T-shirt (The one I use in the tutorial is slim, but feel free to experiment with a looser tee!)
Ruler
Scissors
Fabric pencil
Needle and Thread

Click my illustration for the tutorial and project photos!

Fanciful Fantastical Flower Crowns

doc20130611163538-1Just in time for Bonnaroo, some more music festival inspired goodies are on the way, including this incredibly easy to make flower crown! This floaty headpiece radiates with summer goodness, and looks great when paired with a featherweight maxi dress or a spaghetti-strap tank and shorts. Although Urban Outfitters has plenty of these pretty pieces in stock, I prefer a crown recycled, made with love, and tied with a beautiful bow instead of plain elastic. You don’t need to spend time or money at Urban when all you need is  is some fake flowers (you probably have some around your house somewhere!) and some basic household supplies:
Ruler
Pencil
Hot glue, fabric glue or a needle and thread
Ribbon, or something else to tie around your head
Now get to it!

For photos and instructions, simply click my illustration (I told you updates were coming!)

Secondhand Shopping Guide Continued + Summer Updates

Hello there! I’m glad to get back to blogging after a crazy few weeks of graduation festivities (yippee!) During this time I have stumbled across a few local consignment stores to add to my previous list!

Myers Park:

J.T. Posh: Already a favorite of many in the Myers Park area, this store has eluded me until very recently! Sporting one of the largest consignment selections in Charlotte, this store specializes in delightful designer deals with plenty of fresh, colorful jewelry to complement any look. At my last visit, I scored a pair of olive green Alice+Olivia shorts covered in zippers, and a brown patterned Ella Moss romper.

Cotswold:

Savvy Seconds: Praise the Lord! Cotswold FINALLY has a consignment store! Similar to J.T. Posh, the store specializes in gently used designer clothing as well as plenty of shoes and jewels to match. Though it has only been open a few months, they had a fantastic inventory when I first visited- including my sweet Tibi graduation dress, metal-studded Tory Burch sundress and Marc Jacobs top!

In addition to finding these great new stores in Charlotte, I’ve been busy thinking of new blog projects abroad! My recent trip to New York City overwhelmed me with new ideas, and I’ve been sewing and snipping and styling ever since. Along with this new batch of projects, I’ll be switching my blog post day to Wednesdays, so remember to check up for new posts one day later than usual. Get ready for Ecouturier’s best (and first) summer ever!

Coachella Dreaming Denim Shorts

Image003Inspired by the sloughs of photos from Coachella Festival and my nostalgia for outdoor summer concerts in NoDa, I decided to create a pair of perfect, loud, tough, crazy, fun jorts that I imagine myself wearing to one of these music celebrations.
For my shorts, I used a pair of high-waisted, leopard print stretch jeans from Buffalo Exchange (that I bought for $13.00 I might add!) Though I was fairly tame with my use of studs, I invite you to go crazy with yours!

Materials:
Jeans (of any pattern, color or fit, as long as you don’t mind shredding them!)
Bedazzler and studs (Yes, I do love my bedazzler)
Pliers
Fabric pencil
Ruler
Scissors

For instructions and photos of my killer finished jorts, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/86405222@N02/sets/72157633427378630/

Charlotte’s Secondhand Shopping Guide

Happy belated Earth Day! In honor of our glorious earth, I compiled a list of my favorite resale stores in Charlotte to spread fashion and environmental consciousness to all! I promise, if you visit some of these places, you will realize that you don’t have to surrender your sense of style in order to shop sustainably.

Dilworth:

Summerbird Consignment: The closets of the sophisticated 20-30 somethings from Dilworth and Myers Park have been opened to the public! Though some pieces may be a little pricey, they have a great sale section that changes out pretty quickly. I found  a pair of $10 black jeggings with zippers there, as well as my favorite putty colored Rebecca Taylor sweater.

Plaza Midwood:

Buffalo Exchange: Imagine the most harmonious combination of Urban Outfitters and Madewell, and you have Buffalo Exchange. With equal parts edgy street style (see employees, they always look phenomenal) and Southpark sportswear, it’s my go to for nearly every event. I’ve found multiple homecoming dresses here, as well as jeans and sweet accessories.

Hong Kong Vintage- THE place for authentic vintage. The selection includes pieces from every decade of the last century, and every piece is incredibly well preserved. My favorite pieces from Hong Kong include a floral 50s housewife dress and a slouchy men’s plaid button down. Yes, there is a men’s section, so bring your guy friends!

Junior League Wearhouse- though the window displays may be aimed at an older audience, don’t be fooled! I’ve found plenty of sweet dresses, Citizens jeans and youthful blouses here. Also, all proceeds go toward the Junior League’s initiative to promote women’s involvement in service and to help children in need in the Charlotte area.

Frock Shop- set up in a beautiful old home, this delightfully well-organized store offers a wide variety of secondhand clothes from the early 1900s to the present. Some of my favorite finds include a snuggly grey cashmere sweater and vintage Kate Spade pumps!

NoDa:

The Rat’s Nest- the perfect place for vintage Levi’s cutoffs, fringed biker jackets and cowboy boots for all! Complete with a functional Pong game and an extremely conspicuous rat painted on the front of the building, this place is equally fun to shop and hang out in.

Ballantyne:

Ballantyne Goodwill: As mentioned in a previous post, I found my chic red BCBG sheath here, and it was a total success at homecoming! I have also found eclectic sweaters, grandpa-esque moccasins and a plaid schoolgirl skirt!

Post-Consumer Prom

Image001 In a sea of monochromatic column gowns, how does one stand out at prom? By wearing vintage, of course!

Inspired by The Great Gatsby and Downton Abbey, my prom ensemble consisted of my grandmother’s silver beaded evening bag from the 1950s, vintage clip-on earrings and bracelet from Varnadore Costumes (ah, the perks of being an employee!), and a below-the knee beauty of a dress in white and silver beads from Bygone’s Vintage in Richmond, Virginia. My darling date, Davis, sported a rented tux with tails to complete the Gatsby theme, looking dapper while staying economically and environmentally savvy.

Why buy an on-trend gown if every girl at prom will be wearing the same thing? Why invest in a style that won’t last for several seasons? My advice is to invest in the tried and true designs from decades past, and purchase pieces as unique as they are eco-friendly!

If you care to explore Bygone’s, visit http://www.bygonesvintage.com/
And for my own prom pictures, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/86405222@N02/sets/72157633258212578/