Last week, I went to a Goodwill Outlet store. It was an experience.
If an item has been at a Goodwill thrift store for a few months, it gets sent to a big outlet warehouse. It’s the last chance saloon for this stuff and most of it can only really be categorized as Stuff. None of the stuff is arranged or priced or folded. It’s thrown into wheely bins that are about the size and shape of dumpsters (but shallower). Very similar to dumpster diving. At the end of the time, you roll your cart onto a scale, then they charge you per pound of clothing. It’s not a relaxing shopping experience. It involves a ton of digging through junk, the employees are constantly switching out the bins and yelling warnings about switching out bins…..
Truth be told, I don’t shop at thrift stores very often. If I’m looking for something, I’ll occasionally run through my local thrift stores and see what they’ve got. Right now, I’m in the market for a dresser, so I’ll check through a thrift store when I’m out and about to see if they have a dresser. But you can’t count on any particular thing being at the thrift store, so you need imagination and patience. Some people can’t stand sifting through junk in the hope of a hypothetical treasure, but I enjoy it. It brings out all my junk dealer DNA. (We come from a fine junk dealer tradition in my family.)
Thrifting Tip: Never shop desperate. If you go into a thrift store NEEDING something, you’ll probably get disappointed and frustrated. Only go if you have the time to sift through and if you are okay with leaving without buying anything.
My challenge for myself this week was to feature clothes I bought from thrift stores or clothes that I’ve altered in some way. If I thrift clothes or alter my own clothes, those clothes get a second life and it’s fun and satisfying.
Day 1: Red Arrow Sweater
I loved this sweater as soon as I saw it in the outlet bins. I think this is what the inside of my brain looks like. I don’t usually do red and black as the primary colors in my outfits, because it ends up looking serious. I’ll usually pair red with gray or brown or navy, just to soften up the look. But sweater is the opposite of serious.
But I didn’t just look at the amazing pattern when I picked it up. I looked for stains and holes and made sure it didn’t stink. I know my limits. I also made sure I didn’t have to dry clean it or hand wash it. Unless it’s a very special piece, I don’t want to have to dry clean clothes. I love clothes that I don’t have to fuss over. In order to fit in with my life, my everyday clothes must be worry-free. And easy to dance in. And comfy. And cute. And sometimes hilarious. This sweater ticked all those boxes, so I rescued it from the bin and now it has a new home in my closet.
Day 2: Reworked Wrap Top
This white cotton Ralph Lauren top is another bin rescue. I loved the lace detail on the sleeves, but it was way too big for me, so I decided to make it into a kimono-like layering piece. That way I could utilize the wrap style it already had and make the looseness into a feature, not a bug.
This project made me pull out my sewing machine for the first time in forever. I started out by doing some hand stitching on it, but I ended up stabbing my finger with the needle and then I got blood spots on the white shirt. Yeah….. So I washed out the blood, let the top dry overnight and used the machine to hem it the next day. This is the result!
Here’s what it looks like when it isn’t tied in front:
I didn’t do much to rework this top – it involved seam ripping the hem along the front of the shirt and detaching the sides. Then I re-hemmed the base and stitched up the sides again. It took some tweaking to figure out the angles I wanted on the front, because I had to leave enough slack to make a tie. The main thing was just making sure everything was symmetrical and one side wasn’t way lower than the other. Is it the finest sewing job? Nope. But it was fun to plan out the logistics and then have a functional garment.
Day 3: Knit Dress
I found this J. Jill dress in the bins and it definitely didn’t deserve to be in that situation. It was better than that. This dress is a basic tunic dress made from quality fabric. It’s comfy, stretchy, machine-washable, and the print is classic and versatile. I’ve worn it twice in the past week (Sunday and Wednesday) and I loved it both times. It’s just so COMFY.
No alterations necessary for this dress, but since it is fairly shapeless, I added a wide belt on Sunday and a buttoned cardigan on Wednesday. The belt and the cardigan are both great shaping pieces. It’s all about showing that you have a waist – there’s no need to make the outfit tight or uncomfortable. I’ll probably wear it without a belt at some point, just for variety, but a belt is an easy way to alter clothes. No sewing necessary!
Day 4: Reworked Top
I was going to give this cream top away to a thrift store, because I didn’t wear it anymore. There was a stain at the neck and the sleeves were that awkward length. The length where it’s too long to be a real short sleeve, but it’s not elbow length…. The sleeve length combined with the high neck made me look matronly and I try to avoid matronly.
But the material has great texture and I have hardly any white shirts, so I was wavering between keeping and giving it away. Then I saw Black Panther and got super inspired by the costume design, so I decided this shirt was the perfect blank canvas to experiment with embroidery! And I cut the sleeves off. That improved the shirt by about 85%. The embroidery isn’t perfect, but it draws attention up to the neck and gives the whole top more visual interest.
Day 5: Striped Turtleneck
This turtleneck has roughly a million colors and short sleeves, so it was the wild card purchase of the outlet trip. It gave me mad nostalgia vibes, because I used to wear shirts exactly like this. I’ve been seeing this style of top coming back in, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a style that might look terrible on me. The fit is actually okay, but the sleeves don’t hit at the most flattering place. They form a perfect line right across the wide part of me.
But with a printed blazer and fitted trousers, this outfit turned out to be one of my favorites from this week. Even if I always wear it as a layer underneath a jacket or a sweater, it was worth the less-than-a-dollar that I paid for it. Cute, funky throwback style.
Thrifting is fantastic for trying a funky color, or a different silhouette, or a current trend that you aren’t sure about (*cough cough* bell sleeves). I’ve lived through the bell sleeve trend once. I had some bell sleeves that I really liked and some I really hated. If you spend very little money, if it doesn’t work out, you don’t feel pressure to keep wearing it. If you don’t end up wear it, give it back to the thrift store or cut it up and use it as a rag or embroider all over it and make it cool again.
One thing I really loved about my childhood was that mom didn’t worry about our clothes. She let us run around outside and get dirty and not worry. I never buy anything at full price. I take reasonably good care of my clothes, but I never worry about them. I try not to buy clothes that come with a side of guilt. I buy clothes that come with a side of happy. That happiness comes from cuteness or comfiness or easy-breeziness. Don’t buy clothes that make you miserable. That should be easy, right? But it’s amazing how easily we can make ourselves miserable with worry. It’s great to enjoy your clothes!
Bonus: DIY Mask
I went to masquerade ball on Friday night and I made my mask from tulle left over from trimming the bottom of my dress. My dress is now the correct length AND I had material for a cool mask. Win-win.
Bonus: The Thrift Treasure
The real star of the outlet shopping trip was this beaded cardigan. The beading is immaculate, which is incredible, because I’m sure this baby came from 1950s. This is pure Sandra Dee vintage right here. It was exactly the kind of thing I hoped to find and I couldn’t believe that I got to walk away with it!
I haven’t found the right thing to wear it with, but I adore it, so keep an eye out for Sandra Dee! Yup. I’ve named the cardigan.