Thrifting again

LogoCleaning out the storage room as well as trying to make more space on our bookshelves has resulted in me taking two loads to the local thrift store recently. Of course, I can’t just drop things off without taking a look around! As a result, for a total of just $7, I added three items to my wardrobe last week. Today, let’s take a look at why I chose each one.

Since finding my little packet of colour swatches, I’ve been looking at my closet with a critical eye and realizing that I need to work on returning to the colours that suit me best. That means no more black worn anywhere near my face unless I can add something, such as a scarf, in a colour that doesn’t wash me out. While I can wear a light dove grey, I’ve really overloaded the closet with greys of every shade and I need to steer away from that colour for awhile. Colour was definitely my main focus as I looked through the racks of second-hand clothing.

IMG_0728

Navy is a universal colour and for me, a much more flattering background for this blouse’s large floral design than black would be. Even the peachy and rust tones in the roses are part of my Spring palette.

The top ticked lots of other boxes as well. In spite of the fact that it’s a small and I usually wear medium, the fit is absolutely perfect. Even the sleeves are long enough which is often a problem for me. That’s one of my tips for second-hand shopping. Don’t limit your search to the size you usually wear. If something catches your eye and looks like a possibility, try it on. I love the shirttail hem that hangs longer at the back. Though I’m wearing it with jeans, it will also provide plenty of coverage with leggings. Lastly, this will be a great piece for travel. The lightweight polyester crepe won’t take up much space in a suitcase, is hand washable, dries very quickly, and doesn’t wrinkle.

IMG_0746

As I looked over my closet, I noticed a distinct lack of green. The greens shown in my little packet of swatches are a pale pastel, a brighter lime green, and a shade that I would probably call emerald. Muddier tones like moss and khaki green are more often included in a Fall palette, but some colour analysts also recommend them for people with my Spring complexion. Since Springs and Falls both have warm undertones to our skin, we can more easily get away with wearing colours from one another’s palettes.

IMG_0748

Cozy sweaters are an essential part of my winter wardrobe. This soft acrylic knit is lightweight and comfortable and provides just the right level of warmth at this time of year. The V neck is flattering and the attached mock cami makes getting dressed super simple. Though you can’t see it in the photo, the back of the neck is high adding to the cozy warm feeling on a chilly winter morning. Again, the fit is perfect; body skimming but not tight enough to show off any bulgy bits. Closer examination reveals that, though predominantly green, the knit is actually a mixture of many warm colours.

IMG_0760

I was at the counter ready to pay for my other purchases when this eternity scarf called my name from a nearby display.

IMG_0761

My photographer wasn’t home when I was finishing up this post, but you can easily see how I can use a scarf like this one to add colour close to my face when I wear a black sweater or top. The turquoise background is one of my Spring colours as are the shades in the repeating pattern which, on closer inspection, turned out to be an owl.

IMG_0764

Earlier this week, while doing some research on the most eco-friendly fabrics available, I read that wearing recycled clothing is the most sustainable way to dress, so if you’re concerned about the environment, why not join me and go thrift store shopping!

2019 fashion shopping review

LogoFor the second year in a row, I kept a list of all the clothing purchases that I made over the past year so that I could analyse my shopping habits and establish goals for the following year. I started doing this at the beginning of 2018 in part because I wanted to be a more ethical shopper. I was also interested in finding out more about my spending habits and I wanted to be more intentional about wardrobe development. 

Based on what I learned in 2018, I came up with the following goals for 2019. Let’s see how I did.

  • I will continue tracking my purchases for the coming year so that I can review and evaluate my shopping habits again a year from now. Done!
  • I would like to buy less and spend less. Partial success. I actually purchased more items, but I spent less. 
  • I intend to buy basics that I need and items I love that work well with what I already have. Mostly successful. I did buy two thrifted items, a tank top and a necklace, that didn’t fit into my wardrobe very well. Both have already been returned to be enjoyed by someone else. 
  • I will resist the pressure of friends to buy pieces that they like, but that aren’t right for me. Complete success! 
  • I will continue to buy quality pieces, not wasting money on fast fashion items that are poorly made and end up in the landfill after only a few wearings. Success!
  • I will continue to write a weekly fashion post! Done!

It’s difficult to find accurate information on women’s shopping habits and it clearly varies from place to place, but it appears that on average most women purchase approximately 70 items of clothing a year and spend somewhere between $150 and $400  a month or approximately $1800 to $4800 annually. Personally, I can’t imagine buying or spending anywhere near that much! Over the past year, I spent a total of $1071.74 CAD or approximately $89 a month. With that, I purchased 43 items including clothing, accessories, and footwear. The biggest change from the previous year was the number of accessories I bought which included two hats, two purses, one belt, one scarf, and several pieces of jewelry. Accessories take up very little space and don’t have to be expensive, but they are the finishing touches that add interest, individuality, and detail to an outfit.

Another difference from the previous year was the number of thrifted items that I added to my wardrobe. I bought only 5 second-hand pieces in 2018, but 14 in 2019 and some of those are amongst my favourite purchases. I paid full price for only 9 items over the past year. The majority of the brand new garments that I bought were on sale. I also added several cabi pieces to my wardrobe at half price by hosting a party in my home in September. The most expensive item that I bought all year cost $99. I have no idea what the total value of my purchases was because I don’t know the original prices of the thrifted items, but I do know that if I’d paid full price for all the brand new items, those pieces alone would have cost me $1609.80. All in all, I’m very satisfied with my wardrobe spending over the past year.

When it comes to shopping ethically, however, I wouldn’t consider myself particularly successful. Finding accurate information in order to make wise choices is extremely difficult. In late June I wrote this post outlining my concerns about purchasing items made in China. I thought seriously about refusing to buy anything else that was produced in that country and for awhile I tried. I read labels and even walked away from a few items, but I soon found myself caving in. In spite of my increased concern, I did only marginally better than the previous year. Some of my thrifted purchases were missing their labels so I don’t know where they were made, but I knowingly bought 18 made in China items in 2019 compared to 20 the year before. Many of the others were made in third world countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bangladesh. I have no way of knowing if they were manufactured in factories that are socially and environmentally responsible or sweatshops where workers are exploited and forced to work in unsafe conditions, but at least those countries are not the threat to Canada that I believe China to be.

So what are my goals for 2020? Many are the same as last year, but I’ve revised some a bit and added a couple of new ones.

  • I will continue tracking my purchases for at least one more year so that I can review and evaluate my shopping habits again a year from now.
  • I will continue to buy things that I need and items I love that work well with what I already have.
  • I will strive to buy less and experiment with new ways to wear what I already have.
  • I will continue to buy quality pieces and not waste money on fast fashion.
  • When considering a purchase that was made in China, I will attempt to find a suitable alternative made elsewhere.
  • When adding to my closet, I will consider five adjectives that begin with C… classy, confident, comfortable, casual, and creative. These words all describe what I’d like my wardrobe to say about me. Thank you, Pam Lutrell, for inspiring this one!
  • I will continue to write a Fashion Friday post each week.

As I look at my list of purchases from 2019, it’s difficult to choose just a few favourites to share with you here because I truly love so many of them! You’ve seen most of them on the blog before, but here’s a small sample:

IMG_0630

 

 

This is what I wore on New Year’s Eve for an evening of fine dining and dancing with my hubby. The little black jacket was my first purchase of 2019 and has been worth it’s weight in gold. It has appeared on the blog several times throughout the past year as it can be worn with so many things in my closet. The Dream Dress from cabi was bought half price at the end of the Spring/Summer season and I picked up the vintage evening purse at our local thrift store for just $3!

 

 

 

The Airwalk Speed Vitesse sneakers that I purchased at a Payless closing out sale were absolutely perfect for walking the streets of Europe in May and have continued to serve me well ever since. They were amongst several items that were bought specifically for traveling in 2019.

img_7320

img_9026-version-2

 

In this photo, taken in beautiful Bruges, Belgium, I’m wearing a favourite thrifted top and carrying the anti-theft crossbody bag that kept my valuables safe while we traveled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

img_9738

 

 

I can hardly wait for summer to return so that I can wear my DIY frayed white jeans again! They were also thrifted and cost just $2 plus a few minutes work to let down the hems and fray the edges.

 

 

 

 

 

Here I am on a hiking trail wearing two more favourite purchases from 2019, a lightweight thrifted hoodie and my Uniqlo ultra light down vest. Both have proved to be great travel companions!

img_0159

And finally, here’s my zebra print top from cabi.

IMG_0071

 

 

Environmentally conscious shopping

LogoIncreasing interest in sustainability, climate concerns, and other environmental issues is having a significant impact on the fashion industry which is said to be responsible for 8 to 10 percent of global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined! It’s also a huge consumer of water. It takes approximately 1800 gallons to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of blue jeans!

The industry has been increasingly coming under attack for what is known as fast fashion. Fast fashion, or disposable clothing as I like to call it, refers to a phenomenon that sees retailers introducing new products as often as multiple times a week. Garments are manufactured quickly and inexpensively allowing consumers to fill their wardrobes with trendy styles without spending a great deal to do so. These clothes are usually characterized by shoddy workmanship and low quality fabrics and quickly end up in the landfill.

Fast fashion’s target market, young, style-conscious shoppers on a budget, are also among those most concerned about the health of the planet. As environmental consciousness increases, their buying habits are changing. Dwindling sales forced fast fashion chain Forever 21 into bankruptcy at the end of September and is resulting in the closure of up to 350 stores internationally including all 44 locations across Canada. Some see this as signalling the end of an era in shopping.

One of the noticeable effects of this shift is a change in attitude toward second-hand clothing. The stigma that was once associated with wearing someone else’s hand-me-downs is rapidly disappearing. Now it’s the environmentally conscious thing to do!

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I’ve been an avid thrift store shopper for years. I much prefer smaller not-for-profit stores to ones like Value Village where the prices are higher and very little of the revenue goes to charity. Most of my second-hand clothing comes from two small volunteer run shops, one in the town where I live and the other just a few kilometres away. Here I’m wearing a couple of recent purchases.

IMG_0458

When I put my tall winter boots away last spring, I knew that they were nearing the end of their life, but I was hoping to get one more season out of them. The first time I wore them this winter, however, my feet got wet! Clearly they needed to be replaced, but the closest shoe store is an hour away. I decided to check out our local thrift store and luck was with me! I snagged this like-new pair for just four dollars! They’re even dark brown, one of this seasons most popular colours. I bought the cardigan for three dollars.

IMG_0460

I’m wearing the two thrifted items with the comfy corduroy pants that have been a workhorse in my wardrobe for several years, a sleeveless V-neck top recently purchased at Cleo, and a black pearl necklace from a previous cabi season. No fast fashion for this frugal fashionista!

For 18 tips on successful thrift store shopping, check out this post.

Checkmate!

CheckmateMy husband is a very generous man who loves to surprise me with unexpected gifts. Last Friday was my birthday and he definitely outdid himself! When cabi’s Fall 2019 Collection was released, I fell in love with the cozy Checkmate Jacket, but I balked at the price and decided not to buy it. Apparently, although I don’t remember the conversation, Richard overheard me telling our daughter about it. Engaging the help of my cabi stylist friend and another friend who was hosting a cabi party, he arranged to buy it for my birthday!

He’s definitely a winner! Checkmate!

IMG_0261

The jacket’s roomy, double-breasted style, shoulder pads, and faux horn buttons give it a slightly retro vibe and the soft polyester blend feels like I’m wearing a hug! Panels of stretch fabric on the inner sides of the sleeves reduce bulk and add to the comfort.

I wore it to the city on Tuesday. After seeing my doctor, hearing the good news that there’s been no significant change to my thyroid cancer, and making the decision to simply continue monitoring it, we headed over to West Edmonton Mall to check out the brand new Uniqlo store. I wasn’t really planning to buy anything, but one of the first things I spotted was this lovely orange blouse on sale for a very reasonable price.

IMG_0276

It was immediately obvious that it would coordinate beautifully with the jacket, so I snapped it up. I especially like the 3/4 sleeves and the shirttail hem that’s longer at the back, but I wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t known that I could also wear it with several other things in my closet.

IMG_0282

IMG_0284

IMG_0289 2

If the jacket looks familiar to you, perhaps you saw it in the August 16, 2019 issue of Family Circle magazine!

0536_001-1

Logo

 

 

DIY frayed hem jeans

LogoYou may have noticed that frayed, raw hems (really no hem at all) are very much on trend this summer, especially on jeans. They aren’t limited to any particular denim fit but are seen on just about every style from skinny to straight leg to flares.

Some say that if you wore something the first time it was in style, you shouldn’t wear it again the next time it comes around. I guess that’s a gentle way of saying that you’re too old for whatever it is, but I’m not into the dos and don’ts or the shoulds and shouldn’ts of fashion. I say, if you like it, wear it! If it makes you feel fabulous, go for it! I’m not sure if frayed hems are going to make me feel fabulous or not, but I’ve decided to give them a try even though I wore them way back in the 60s and 70s! 

Rather than rushing out to buy a pair of the latest style, I looked at the jeans I already owned with an eye to eliminating the finished hem on one of them, but none seemed to be just right for the project. Then I was browsing in our local thrift store when a pair of white jeans caught my eye. White jeans have also been on my wish list for awhile, so I took a closer look. These were my size! They looked brand new, but I knew that they’d been hiding in someone’s closet for quite awhile because they were Jockey. Much to my dismay, Jockey Person to Person went out of business in March 2015.

I thought I’d found a real treasure until I tried the pants on. They fit perfectly except for the length. They were too short; not short enough to be crops, just awkwardly short. The store was having a “brown bag” sale though; everything you could fit in a grocery bag (except jewelry) for just $5. I was already well on the way to filling a bag, so in went the white jeans. That night I took the hem down and voila! I had both my white jeans and my frayed hems! They’re nothing like the drag on the ground frayed jeans that I wore in my teens and early 20s!

IMG_9749

IMG_9734

The top in the photos is also thrifted.

IMG_9738

IMG_9746

Do you wear frayed, raw hems? Would you?

 

How to shop like a celebrity

LogoI thought that taking my oldest underwear to Europe was a great packing tip, but actress Helen Mirren goes much further than that.

“I love a good charity shop, especially when I’m travelling. When I’m going to cold places, I take nothing – just underwear. On my way from the airport, I ask the driver to take me to a good charity shop, and I buy boots, socks, trousers, jumpers, sweaters, hats and scarves… On the way back to the airport, I have it all in a big bag and drop it off at another charity shop,” she said in August of 2010.

She’s also been quoted as saying, “The whole thing of clothes is insane. You can spend a dollar on a jacket in a thrift store. And you can spend a thousand dollars on a jacket in a shop. And if you saw those two jackets walking down the street, you probably wouldn’t know which was which.” 

I first learned of Mirren’s penchant for thrift store shopping when I saw this meme on Facebook. I immediately knew that we were two of a kind!

Helen Mirren thrifting

Apparently Helen Mirren is far from the only celebrity who shops for second hand clothing. Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, and Sara Jessica Parker are just a few others who can be found searching the racks of thrift stores. Eva Mendes even attended her first movie premiere in a $6 dress from Goodwill. I love the fact that they prove that thrift stores aren’t only for people who haven’t any other financial options, but why would stars who can easily afford to be selective about where they shop choose second hand? Perhaps it’s because it allows them to find unique pieces that they know their fellow actresses won’t be wearing. Perhaps they hate fast fashion and see thrifting as a way to contribute to the well-being of the environment. Or perhaps, like me, it’s more about the fun of going on a treasure hunt.

So, if you’d like to dress like your favourite celebrity, it might not be as expensive as you think. Instead of dreaming of hiring a stylist and shopping luxury stores, why not be a frugal fashionista and check out a few thrift stores?

How should I wear it?

LogoI’ve written about some pretty serious stuff this week and I really appreciate the many supportive comments both here and on Facebook. Today, however, I’m looking forward to getting back to something more fun… Fashion Friday! In this post I want to share an item that I recently purchased at our local thrift store and solicit your advice on how you think I should wear it. I was hoping to shoot the photos outdoors, but it was pouring rain, so that didn’t happen.

IMG_9511

Other than the $1.50 price tag, what else do I like about this shirt? Almost everything! The dark moss colour is one of my favourite neutrals and is also very popular this season. I love the length, the shirttail hem, and the three-quarter sleeves. The brushed cotton/polyester fabric with just a touch of spandex is comfortable and easy to care for. The epaulettes, the small chest pockets, and the split cuffs add a bit of interest.

IMG_9517 - Version 2

The shirt is also versatile. I can wear it with tons of things in my closet and use it as a topper or on it’s own. I love it over the Breton striped t-shirt shown above, but it would also work well over a plain white tee.

So, what’s not to like? It’s the 15 cm zipper to nowhere in the middle of the back that has me confused. Yup, that’s right. A two way zipper that doesn’t zip anything!

 

IMG_9518

I’m trying to figure out whether to wear it zipped, partially zipped, or not zipped at all.

In these two photos, the zipper is fully closed.

 

With the zipper undone, it’s a more relaxed fit.

 

Now that you’ve seen the possibilities, it’s your turn. How do you suggest I wear it?

PS. The bracelet that you see on my right wrist is not a new accessory. It’s a plastic hospital band that I have to wear for the first week following a treatment to alert emergency workers to the fact that I’m highly radioactive. It provides them with phone numbers to call in order to access information about how to deal with me in an emergency situation. Thankfully, it’s never been needed!

It’s so me!

IMG_7143

When I spotted this top in our local thrift store, I immediately remembered this post by Brenda Kinsel, one of my favourite fashion bloggers. Though the style of her coat isn’t something that I’d likely choose for myself, I loved the fabric.

BK-text-coat-from-Sonoma

Brenda Kinsel

I love to read, I love to write, and I’m a self-professed word nerd. What could be more perfect than all those block letters on a comfy, eye catching top? It’s unique and it’s so me! My only regret is that I didn’t find it 15 years ago when I was still a language arts teacher! Wouldn’t the kids have loved it?

IMG_7142

Here, I’m wearing the top with a wide silver bracelet that was also thrifted.

IMG_7148

In my closet, this top is unique in another way. It was made in Italy!

Screen Shot 2019-02-16 at 4.27.29 PM

I’m always curious about any unfamiliar clothing lines that I find when I’m thrifting. A quick online search revealed that the Pistache designer is based in Toronto, Canada but all of the clothing is made in Italy. Sadly, while the “Made in Italy” label tends to suggest quality craftsmanship, I also learned that many of the garments that are made in Italy are stitched by illegal Chinese immigrants working in sweatshop-like factories in Tuscany.  Unfortunately, as is so often the case, I was unable to find out whether or not Pistache clothing is made in one of those. As much as I want to be an ethical shopper, it’s very difficult! In this case, however, I can comfort myself with the fact that my top was bought second-hand and was, therefore, at least a somewhat ethical purchase.

Logo

 

2018 fashion shopping review

LogoOn January 4 of this year one of my favourite bloggers, Sue Burpee, writer of High Heels in the Wilderness, published a post entitled Is It Possible To Be An Ethical Shopper? In it, she analysed the progress that she had made over the previous year in her quest to be a more ethical shopper and gave herself an overall mark of B-. By the time I was half way through reading her post, I had decided that I would keep a list of all the clothing purchases that I made this year and then analyse my own shopping habits. In addition to wanting to be a more ethical shopper, I was interested in finding out more about my spending habits and I wanted to be more intentional about wardrobe development.

Sue’s advice at the end of her post was

Plan carefully. Purchase wisely, not too much. Mostly quality.

And ethically… if possible. 

I divided my list into three categories: Clothing, Accessories, and Footwear. Within each category, I kept track of each item that I bought listing the date and place where it was purchased, where it was made, the regular price, and if it was bought on sale, the amount that I actually spent. I also indicated which items were thrifted.

So how did I do?

Alhough it’s difficult to find accurate information on women’s spending habits and it clearly varies from place to place, a survey of 1000 American women conducted by ING Direct and Capital One banks in 2012 found that most women, on average, spend somewhere between $150 and $400 on clothing per month, which equals approximately $1,800 to $4,800 per year. According to the research that Sue did for her post, the average American woman added 70 items to her wardrobe in 2013. Based on these statistics, I would give myself an excellent mark! In fact, I can’t even imagine spending or buying that much. All told, I purchased 35 wardrobe items in 2018. In addition to accessories and footwear, this included socks, underwear, and three badly needed bras. I paid full price for only 10 of the 35 items and I spent a total of approximately $1135 (CAD). Had I paid full price for everything, I would have paid somewhere around $2000. I can only give a rough estimate of that because I don’t know the original prices of the 5 thrifted pieces that I bought. For example, I spent $4.00 for a classic trench coat that would probably retail for $100 or more.

IMG_5731

Although I love thrift store shopping, I purchased fewer second hand items this year because I was determined not to continue filling my closet with impulse buys simply because the prices were fantastic. Instead, I spent more and focused on buying items that I needed and that could be worn at least three ways with things that I already owned.

My most expensive purchase was my new winter coat. It was a planned purchase and I shopped around to find  exactly what I wanted. I paid the full price of $179.99, but considering cost per wear it will probably be one of my most economic purchases. By buying the coat when I did, I also received a $50 rebate on any item in the store which my husband was able to use for a new pair of jeans.

IMG_6504

I did purchase one item that I’ve never worn; a piece of costume jewelry that didn’t look as good as I thought it would with the items that I planned to wear it with. Thankfully, I bought it at half price and only paid $8.98.

Now, back to the topic of Sue’s post. She came to the conclusion that trying to shop ethically is complicated and discouraging and I completely concur. 22 of the items that I purchased this year were made in China and 5 in Vietnam, but were they made in sweatshops where workers are exploited and forced to work in unsafe conditions or are they manufactured in socially and environmentally responsible factories? It’s often impossible to find out. I’ve learned that retailers seldom respond to inquiries especially ones that touch on sensitive subjects like this one. I bought 8 cabi garments this year. I’ve been told by two different cabi stylists that their products are ethically produced, but I can’t find anything on their website to verify that. Likewise, I purchased 3 garments from another retailer who assured me that she carries only ethically produced clothing, but how do I know for sure and even if the garments are produced in safe and responsible factories, we have no way of finding out anything at all about the production of the fabric itself. As a result, though I very much want to be, I really don’t know if I’m an ethical shopper, so I won’t be as bold as Sue and attempt to give myself a letter grade for this year’s fashion shopping.

What are my goals for 2019?

  • I will continue tracking my purchases for the coming year so that I can review and evaluate my shopping habits again a year from now.
  • I would like to buy less and spend less.
  • I intend to buy basics that I need and items I love that work well with what I already have.
  • I will resist the pressure of friends to buy pieces that they like, but that aren’t right for me.
  • I will continue to buy quality pieces, not wasting money on fast fashion items that are poorly made and end up in the landfill after only a few wearings.
  • I will continue to write a weekly fashion post!

And finally, here are of a few of my favourite fashion purchases this year:

 

 

Can I wear it 3 ways?

LogoI frequently drop into our local thrift stores in search of used books, but invariably the clothing beckons and I have to take a look! I’ve been more disciplined in recent months, buying less and not filling my closet with impulse buys simply because the prices are irresistible. I’ve accomplished that by asking myself one simple question: Can I wear this at least 3 different ways with items that I already have in my closet? If so, it will probably be a good purchase. This doesn’t work for something like a special occasion dress, but it’s a good rule of thumb for most other wardrobe purchases, new or used.

On my most recent foray into a second hand store, this blouse caught my eye.

IMG_6600

Could I style it 3 ways? Easily! It’s light and airy, so I could immediately visualize myself wearing it with capris next summer or perhaps sooner if we take a winter holiday to somewhere warm. It’s also long enough to wear over leggings or skinny jeans with some of my winter sweaters including the Prep Pullover that I showed you a couple of weeks ago. I decided to try it on.

On the way to the fitting room, I spotted this.

IMG_6599

A plain white cotton t-shirt dress. Could I style it 3 ways? I wasn’t sure, but I thought it would be a great layering piece and that it might actually look good under the black and white blouse.

What do you think?

IMG_6604

Even though I might have broken my 3 ways rule with the white top, both pieces came home with me and here I am wearing them with my light grey High Skinny jeans from cabi and a pair of black booties that were also purchased second hand.