Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Secondhand September, Part 2

Hi again, everyone! This is Kari, back to talk more about thrifting.

Today, I want to touch on a skill that's often overlooked when it comes to second-hand wares: the art of vision. What I mean by vision is this: the ability to mentally take something out of it's current context and place it in another. One has to do this when shopping retail, but retail stores help us have vision through suggestions. When thrifting, there are fewer suggestions.

Vision is another area where strong personal style is crucial. If you are well acquainted with your "likes," you're better able to have vision. This process is very intuitive, but if there were coherent steps, here's what they might be: 
  1. Something about the piece attracts you. It could be the color, the print, the style, or the cut. It could hint at a dream piece you've had in your head. It could somehow complement something you have at home. It could meet a practical need, or fill a hole in your wardrobe.
  2. Further examination shows it's imperfect. Maybe the pant legs are too long. Maybe the shirt is too big. Maybe the neckline is too low. Maybe the pattern is too overstated. Maybe the color isn't just right.  
  3. Brainstorm - can you fix the imperfection through alterations or styling? Can you roll up the pant legs, or hem them? Can you take in the shirt, altering it's cut while you do so? Can you layer or tack the neckline to give more coverage? Can you wear or layer the patterned piece with something less pronounced to tone it down? Is dyeing the piece at home an option?
It's difficult to do this shape-shifting in your mind, but it's a talent worth exercising. Some of my favorite clothes are those that I've had to alter, or bought specifically because they'd complement something else.  Here are some pieces from my own wardrobe that needed a little imagination.
My butterfly dolman: It started as a beautifully printed sack, which I altered to fit.
My yellow chino shorts: They started as too-big, wide-legged highwaters. I wanted to try the bright shorts trend from last spring, but didn't want to pay J.Crew prices.

My long-sleeved olive top: This started as size extra large. I merely took this piece in. I liked the timeless color, and recognized that it would be very versatile.
My half-sleeved leopard print top: This shirt started as a 3XL! I wanted to try the leopard print trend. I chose to stay with a shirt on this piece, but I had also considered making a pencil skirt - there was enough fabric! (Also pictured are my favorite jeans, which I had to hem to my length.)
I hope this inspires you!

A note of caution: If after brainstorming you cannot satisfactorily solve the problems you see with the piece, don't buy it. Again, never compromise on your personal style. But if you're reasonably confident, take the risk! You're spending much less than you would at a retail store, and it's good practice. You can learn just as much from failure as you can from success.


  1. This is super inspiring! I can't wait to try my hand at thrifting (as an alternative to clearance rack shopping)!

    1. So happy to hear that, Kimberly! I'm getting really inspired, too -- thanks Kari :D