Friday, September 17, 2010

I came, I saw, I at least tried!

Earlier Drafts:
These wedges are some of my wardrobe workhorses!
I found this cameo ring while visiting Savannah, Georgia.

mustard babydoll dress (Dear Creatures via Plato's Closet, thrifted for $12)
teal tights (Target)
wedge sandals (RJ Girl via Piperlime)

Lately I've tried to become a thrifting girl.  Partly I'm inspired by vintage-hunting enthusiasts, and partly I'm trying to shop without going broke.  Remember this job interview?  You guys helped me assess my outfit after the fact, and, thankfully, the ensemble didn't make the horrible impression I expected.  I got the job (Woohoo!).  I didn't accept it (Womp, womp).  The position came with a one-way commute of an hour and 15 minutes, the same commute I had made for the past two years.  I was tired of driving daily, and I was hopeful to find work closer to home.  So I took a risk and turned down the offer.  Two months of hand-wringing later, I'm still jobless, which means my bank account is nearly bone dry.

This period of tighter financial belting seems ideal for reacquainting myself with thrifting.  I use "reacquaint" loosely, because I've never actually been a serious thrifter.  My past experience involves college and Friday afternoon Salvation Army trips, if that explains anything.  I own several 80s-style taffeta prom dresses as proof of those excursions, but no other gems.  Assuming that my personal ethics have evolved since then, I now brave the world of secondhand shopping with a fresh - that is, more appreciative - perspective.

I remember that thrifting is unpredictable.  In the past it has sent me down several shopping rabbit trails (hence my small 80s-style prom dress collection).  So, for my first foray in eons, I set a goal.  Inspired by Caitlin's yellow houndstooth jacket, Tania's canary-hued accessories, Clare's matchstick pants, and E.'s ode to goldenrod, I determine that I need more mustard in my life.  I set out, focused on yellow.

Which is why I barely tried on this dress after stumbling upon it in a local Plato's Closet!  I didn't even remove my tank top, I just threw on the dress over my head!  Presto!  Declared it a perfect fit!  Purchased!  No refunds!  Done!

I mean, does a more autumnal shade of yellow existOf course I would buy it.

Giddy over my perceived success, I toted the dress home and proceeded to launder and steam-iron it. Not until then did I realize the armpits are snug, and the brown cording hits me above the bust line, and the hem is a wee too short for public.

So what do I do now?  Is the frock salvageable?  And how can I avoid this type of thrifting mishap in the future?

(Happy Friday to all, by the by!  Thanks for rallying around Katie yesterday.  The details are hers to share, of course, but the three of us feel fortunate to have such supportive blogfriends.  Your heartfelt comments mean so much.)
  • Any ideas for salvaging this dress?  
  • What are your fitting rules for thrifted garments?  Is "too big" more workable than "too small"?
  • Caitlin recommends spending no more than $25 for a thrifted or vintage piece.  Do you abide by similar pricing standards?  (Speaking of Caitlin, I'll be over at her blog, Frosting and Bows, later this weekend to share about this same shopping mishap.  Do stop by!)
  • What are your favorite secondhand pieces?
  • Any other shopping advice for me?  I need it!


Diana said...

I like the mustard dress, and honestly you can't tell from the pictures that it has fit issues, aside from possibly being on the short side. I'd probably wear it as a tunic with skinny jeans or leggings. I'm also trying to add more mustard to my wardrobe, as it's the only shade of yellow I like!

Like you, I've never been a serious thrifter, primarily for a couple of reasons. First, I've been making a conscious effort recently to be more critical and selective in what I buy in terms of how flattering someting is, how much use I will get out of it, etc, and when I am faced with racks and racks of really cheap clothes, that tends to go out the window and I end up with things that are impractical or oddly fitting or whatever, but that I buy because they are just such a good deal. The other problem I have with thrifting clothes is that I am really sensitive to bad smells (mothballs, body odor, and cigarettes are the big ones) that can be really hard to get out of used clothing. This is less of a problem at consignment shops where stuff is looked over before it's accepted for sale, but those shops are also more expensive.

I do like thrifting accessories though!

Alterations Needed said...

Is there any extra fabric in the seam at the shoulders? If there is, a tailor could take it out a bit at the shoulder, which would open up the arm holes, and drop the waist a tad.

Or...are those shoulder straps at the shoulder? Perhaps remove the straps and add it to the shoulder?

Anonymous said...

Does it have side seams? If so, you can just unpick the seam below your arm and re-sew it at a comfortable area. For that matter, you can just cut a tiny slit down under your arm and re-hem it comfortably.

And I think it's cute! Worth adjusting!
- Mackenzie

orchidsinbuttonholes said...

Oh what a fun piece!

I second Alterations Needed - I think dropping the shoulder would bring it down just enough to be a perfect fit. I hope you keep it and rewear it - it's a gorgeous color and has such a cool vibe. I'd love to see it with a wide belt and denim, maybe with a blazer.

Scholar Style Guide said...

I also think it would look great with a pair of dark skinnies (but what do I not try to wear with dark skinnies?).

The color looks really great on you, especially with your hair tone. I've been admiring this on the other bloggers around the way, too, but I'm not sure if it would look good with my complexion, so I had considered starting with a more basic piece and layering over it. Way to go big or go home! : )

Diana, I have the same problems with thrift shopping. Plus, I'm super impatient. I wonder if a consignment shop like the one AM visited would be a good middle ground for me that might launch me into shopping at goodwill, etc. more successfully.


Plummy said...

I'm both a serious thrifter and I am a sewer (often altering my thrift-shop finds!). First, I would make sure you can't return it--I shop at Plato's over in Washington State and they have a really decent return policy. Check before you chop! As for the alteration, I would say that for me, unfortunately, I would not take on this project--if there is absolutely no hope of return, fine, but I have tried a similar project with not-great results. It is extremely hard to drop down the shoulders of a dress while maintaining the professional look of it (and not looking Becky home-ec-y). Think about it--what material will you use to 'drop' it down? Either you find a perfect fabric match, do a contrast fabric (which could work) or use ribbon/something else, which would probably compromise the simple autumn look of the shift. You would have to match the finishing type (I'm assuming it has facing along the edges instead of a turn-over hem) to keep it all looking cohesive from the front--the different hems make it look different from the front.

As for keeping it as is, I've also done that with a similar garment (I've been thrifting for many a year and have loads of bad experiences, haha), and inevitably you will find yourself reaching for it less and less because a too-tight armhole is just uncomfortable! Also, I will just say that bust seams in the wrong spot is one of my pet peeves, and if it was me, it would bother me because I would know it wasn't 'perfect.'

I know this is coming across rather harsh, but I've made all these mistakes before and the flaws always inevitably bother me, and up until I chuck the item, the garment hangs in my wardrobe, taunting me! I try to avoid these problems now, even not buying items that need more than simple alterations (because I simply don't have time any more).

To avoid a mistake like this in the future, I try not to look at the price tag of my thrift shop item. I know, it's a weird concept. However, you will get a skewed frame of reference shopping in a thrift shop--I definitely did! Why spend $20 in a thrift shop when most shirts are $4? So I ended up with a ton of $4 shirts that I didn't really love, just because they were cheap, instead of a great second-hand find for $20.

If you don't look at the price tag, you have to evaluate the item based on how much you like it, not taking into account how cheap it is! I also try to see how much I want the item in my closet, how it will work with everything else, pretty much the same evaluation as I would in a store, and then at the end I look at the price tag and see how much it works in my budget. I've had some pleasant surprises ($2!) and some not-so-pleasant surprises ($45) that I decided to leave behind.

The best advice though, is to just go to a ton of thrift shops (you will find which ones are the best for different items, which ones are great, and which ones aren't as good), and to go frequently without planning on buying frequently--just looking is fun and helpful! Also, don't get discouraged when things don't work out quite as well as you might have hoped. You didn't lose a ton of money, and you got a good experience out of it!

Between Laundry Days said...

Okay, I totally love this. I TOTALLY love this. The dress is so pretty! I definitely vote that you hold onto it and try to find a way to make it work.

Thrifting can be risky, but full-priced retail shopping can be, too. I find that thrifting is almost always worth it.

Iris said...

I like this is you can make the shoulders work you could shorten the dress into a top since you think it's a bit too short or skinny jeans always work! I like it with the tights though. I am very wary of thriting and not being able to try things on in the store. I try to stick with brands and shapes I know will fit me. I hope you can make it work :)

Rebecca said...

I love it! But yes, rather short for public consumption. Is there any hem to take out? I'd probably wear with boot cut jeans and your wedges or cowboy style boots under the jeans. You could create slits in the side hem at the bottom to create more of a tunic look.

Scholar Style Guide said...

Thanks for all the great thrifting tips and the tailoring ideas! It sounds like you guys have this game down. :)

Plummy, I'll try to prevent myself from peeking at the price tag next time, give that strategy a shot.

Clare, I agree: shopping is risky no matter how we slice it. Thrifting may be risky for _different reasons_, but no less than retail shopping. Through the years I've learned how to minimize the risk of retail -- why not master thrifting too?

I'm planning to take the dress to the tailor this week, and I'll unload all these wonderful ideas during the consultation. Can't wait to show off the finished product!


Bekah Mae said...

That looks so darling! Very modern. I love your tights and how you have put this outfit together. Vintage pieces are so fun to work into daily life!

Rachel said...

I don't know what your craftiness level is, but you could add a panel of fabric in a contrasting color to the bottom to make it longer.


What Would a Nerd Wear said...

plato's closet is a good gateway drug to thrifting, because their stuff is better sorted than, say, goodwill. i love this dress--it's such a fabulous find!
and i LUUURRRVE that you're doing tights and sandals like that. it is my plan, too, once the weather changes from sweatysweltering to merely sweaty.

Amber W. said...

Were you able to fix it?