I'm on my third month of buying tons of cheap thrift store clothes and transforming them into cute, wearable creations. (I've done this kind of thing on and off for ages, but only in such large quantities these past few months.)
The thing is, once you start doing this, it is super duper addictive. I'll see a dress for $40 in the store, pick it up, and then think of all the cute dresses I can make for like 20 cents each. Beyond just the budget standpoint, I've also gotten kind of addicted to the idea that NOBODY out there has the same dress I do. Sure, there might be other people in the world wearing the original dress I started with, but after I've altered it, it's one of a kind. That's pretty flippin' cool if you think about it! Plus, refashioning thrift store clothes is super eco-friendly! Rather than going into a landfill, these clothes get a whole second life!
I thought I'd share a few tips I've picked up along the way thus far for this week's Thrifty Thursday post!
*Do some thrift store research! Locate the closest stores to you with either a map program like Google Maps (put in your home address, click "search nearby" and type in thrift store!) or the thrift store finder at The Thrift Shopper. Once you know which stores are near you, you can do a little comparison shopping. For instance, the shop closest to my house charges $10 for a grocery bag full of clothing, while another a few miles farther has the same sized bag for $3!
*Once you have done a little recon to check out the stores near you, see if they have Facebook pages or websites. Not every store does, but most of those that do use their page to announce sales! By liking your local shop's FB page, you'll see right in your news feed if they're having a 50% off sale today, and you can run over to take advantage of it!
One local shop posts these promo calendars on their Facebook so you know in advance what's coming up!
*Train yourself to see potential. This is probably the #1 most important skill if you want to refashion thrifted clothes (or any other items!). Most of use are very used to watching the clothing racks for specific shapes that we know look good on us, certain cuts that we know will flatter our figure. It can be HARD to turn off that hard-wiring in your brain so you don't automatically dismiss everything you wouldn't normally wear! You need to be able to look at a tragedy of a dress and think "Yeah, it's ugly now, but what would it look like if I..." I've found that the more I read other blogs about refashioning (see New Dress A Day, the Refashionista, the Renegade Seamstress, etc.), the better I become at picturing the possible "after" when looking at an item.
*Pay attention to the fabrics! Here's the thing- Almost any $1 (or cheaper) thrift store dress is cheaper than buying the same amount of fabric at a craft/fabric store. Looking at dresses and skirts as raw materials rather than finished products can help you find items you can really use that you might otherwise overlook! If you love the pattern or feel of a fabric, a little creativity will help you turn almost anything into something cute and wearable. Along that same line, though, if you hate the pattern or texture of a fabric, no amount of amazing sewing skills will turn it into something you love to wear.
*Don't forget- you can dye! If you find the PERFECT white dress, but you're looking for red, a $3 bottle of dye is the only thing standing between you and your dream dress. Don't let color hold you back!
*Sometimes, thrifting stinks. Literally. I am SUPER sensitive to scents, so I have to use fragrance-free laundry detergent at all times or I basically die of sneezes. Unfortunately, most of the clothes I get at thrift stores come in smelling like their former owner dumped a gallon of April Fresh Morning Dew scent on them before donating. One sniff gags me. You would think that just washing them a few times would kill that leftover scent. You'd be wrong. This has definitely been the challenge that's driven me the most crazy! Washing on hot (if the fabric allows it) and adding vinegar to the wash help a little, but the thing that has helped the MOST, oddly enough, is just hanging clothes outside in the sun. A few hours outside does more to eliminate the smells than 4 trips through my washing machine. Who knew? (If you have other deodorizing tips, I'd LOVE to hear them, though!)
*There are basically two types of clothes to watch for. The first is an interesting dress/shirt/skirt/whatever that you can have fun transforming into something cute. That's the obvious type. The somewhat less obvious type of clothes to look for are items you can use as embellishments or parts of other designs. For example, you'd probably not grab a plain black tank top as an item to make over, but it's perfect for cropping and sewing a skirt to to create a summery tank dress.
*Use Pinterest or something similar (or just a file folder on your computer) to collect images of clothing you like. This can be SO helpful when you're staring at a dress and have NO idea what you want to do with it. I try to make notes on the things I pin like "interesting neckline" that remind me what I like about that particular item.
I recently pinned this dress from Thakoon's Resort 13 collection. I think it would be so much fun to make a similar dress by cutting 2 dresses into strips!
*Last but not least, don't be afraid to try. I've gotten a lot of comments along the lines of "I wish I could sew!" or "I wish I could make dresses like that!" Dude, YOU CAN. This is not rocket science, I promise. Yes, some of the dresses I've been working on get a little complicated, but for the most part, anyone can cut of sleeves and shorten a hem. It doesn't matter if you can't sew a perfectly straight line- neither can I half the time. Unless someone gets right up close to the bottom of your skirt, they probably aren't going to notice it's a little bit off. If you don't want to sew at all, there's always fabric glue. Invest a few dollars in a couple of dresses and just try it out! Chances are you'll be impressed by what you can accomplish! And if it turns out to be a total disaster, all you've wasted is a couple of dollars!
Share any tips you have (or fire away with the questions!) in the comments!