Monday, 14 February 2011

A year of wardrobe thrift

About a year ago I decided to follow Judith Levine's example, join in with Tif's challenge and try my hand at buying only thrifted or hand-made made clothes for a year.


A whole year. It was daunting. I had visions of carrying home bags and bags of musty-smelling purple cardigans from charity shops by mistake and looking as though I'd dressed from the rag bag every morning.

I decided to approach it strategically. I made lists of things I needed. When I ran the charity shop/carboot gauntlet I had a specific mission each time. I tried hard not to be flummoxed by all the cardigans. 


































I didn't need any very smart outfits this year - fancy frocks aren't usually called for when supervising playdoh sessions or making jewels. I managed to find basic casual items that fitted fairly well and make up several outfits that I feel pretty good in. I was pleasantly surprised. 


































All of the clothing items shown were thrifted from charity shops or ebay and cost £4 or under, except the dark blue White Stuff dress, which was £15. The boots were bought before the thrifting experiment - they're Fly London. New tights are classed as essentials so are permitted.

On a crack commando mission to find trousers one day my eye strayed round the local Cancer Research shop and I spotted this skirt - vintage-style floral linen, edged with lace, twirly dirndl, £4. It's a good skirt. I was thrilled.


































So, so far so good, but I'm afraid I did not stick entirely to the virtuous thrifty path. Here's my confession:

I fell off the thrifty wagon three times and I bought:

Avoca cardigan coat: £60 (sale)
Fat Face dress £31 (sale)
A purple cardigan, TKMaxx. £19

Ha! I bought one after all (It is made of angora and has quite lovely leg o' mutton sleeves and MOP buttons so I think it'll be alright).

What about hand-made clothes? I had very good intentions but the reality of a five year old, a two year old, some jewellery customers, a conveyer belt of viruses and hardly any skill meant that I didn't hold out much hope. I went to Val's house last week armed with a copy of Weekend Sewing, a vintage brushed cotton candy stripe sheet and a total lack of confidence. I came home one pair of pyjama bottoms richer.

I MADE these! I'm gobsmacked. Val, you are a sewing sorceress of some kind. Massive, massive thanks for your tuition, patience and encouragement.


































So, what did I learn?

  • Thrifted outfits do not have to look scruffy or odd
  • Friends could not spot that I was wearing second-hand
  • Charity shops are upping their game because of the financial climate: the quality of stock is improving all the time
  • A budget stretches a lot further with thrifted clothes (obviously)
  • It felt good to be greenish

I will certainly be buying more thrifted clothes in the next year although I think I'm sorted for purple cardigans at the moment.

45 comments:

Floss said...

Lovely to read your experiences - it's all very in line with the February 'How Green are my Wellies?' chapter - this is a book I'm reading month-by-month this year.

I've given up buying new clothes unless for specific purposes (walking shorts for example) but I've kind of given up buying second-hand too! I have bursts of buying when in Edinburgh Charity Shops - I'm afraid French clothes don't seem to be designed for my 'generous but not overweight' proportions (well, that's how I think of them, the French just think of me as large, at size 12 - 14...)

Your buys are fantastic - I reckon you'd have more luck in France than me, too!

The Coffee Lady said...

I do buy quite a lot in charity shops but also find an awful lot of ropeyness locally - things from Primark, George at Asda, etc.

To be honest going without buying clothes for a year wouldn't be that different for me; I never have the damn cash anyway - my Christmas present voucher session in the White Stuff January sale is about it, really.

I do sometimes see things in charity shops and fear that I'll look like an idiot in them. I always want to go for a thrifted but slightly bonkers look, but fear that what I'll end up with is just bonkers.

Planet Penny said...

I'm SO impressed, and you look great! I find it really hard to find clothes to fit,anywhere, I always have and yet I don't look like a freak of nature!
Penny x

Gina said...

I must say you've always looked very lovely when I've seen you this year and I certainly wouldn't have guessed where your clothes came from.

SewHappyGeek @ excellcrafts said...

That was so awesome of you! Well done! I keep thinking I need to undertake something similar for me and my tween, but most the stuff we buy is clearance, and I don't buy anything I can make. So now I have tons of clothes cut and ready to sew, and no time! Aaargh!
that skirt is so cute, and your boots are fab! they look really comfy, too.

Locket Pocket said...

You've done really well Emma and come up with some gorgeous outfits - and you know how much I covet your handbag! Lucy xx

Calico Kate said...

Well done you - but will you continue with it?? I buy clothes in charity shops more often than I do in ordinary shops as I can never find anything I like or want when I want them! Ebay is a blast too!
You looked lovely and I love the skirt and the pj bottoms! Off to see if I can do something similar......!
CKx

Tabiboo said...

Hey Em, I think you've done really well. Far better then me - I'd always fall off the wagon come the first FF/WS/Toast sale.

Lovely thrifted outfits,

Nina xxx

Dan said...

What a great challenge! I love the skirt, it's gorgeous! We have a charity shop in town where one of the volunteers is so good at co-ordinating the clothes that the window display makes you wonder why on earth people donated them.
Dan
-x-

Julie said...

You've done very well with your shopping and they all look very wearable. My Mum equipped herself for all her cruises with charity shop buys of beautiful sparkly blouses and pretty skirts. Well done for the stitching too! Keep going!

PS I do love that little niche with the jug of flowers.

Sarah Talmage said...

Good on you, Emma - you're an inspiration and now I can't wait to see what you'll be wearing on Wednesday evening!

French Knots said...

Charity shop clothes suit my budget these days! You have picked up some great things that really suit you.
I've been to a couple of clothes swapping parties too which were great fun and free/recycled clothes and accesories means a guilt free wardrobe!

Betty said...

you have done well and worn some very acceptable items! I have had a mental barrier about thrift as I was brought up on jumble sales and never had new clothes until I bought my own with a saturday job age 13! This year I am indeed going to buy clothing second hand if it is a good price and I need it. Betty

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Well done Emma, it can't have been easy with two young children in tow, because sorting the 'wheat from the chaff' takes time, lots of time! Have a good week. Lesley x

Belinda @ Wild Acre said...

You have shown huge restraint and discipline - I am so impressed. I feel the urge now for a charity shop rummage, you've got me thinking!xx

Belinda @ Wild Acre said...

PS dont' know what I'd do without my brown Fly boots - they are the best!

Bobo Bun said...

I was discussing the Dottie Angel challenge with someone I met yesterday. My year ends in April and this woman asked me if I would be relieved and go back to how I was before. You know the buying it because you kind of like it and then never using or wearing the thing aswell as buying more than I needed anyway. I've realised as the year has gone on that it has been a wonderful challenge and has changed the way I perceive what I need and what I want. I can't imagine buying needlessly or without thought anymore. It sounds very much as if you're the same Emma. You looked fabulous in the Avoca cardi coat so that would have been a crime not to buy. Mind you all those shots of you look very wonderful creative cool woman and not at all granny charity shop chic.

X

mynestofyarnandbuttons said...

Wow, what an undertaking. I go to TJMaxx a lot and I can find lots of great inexpensive clothes. But I still like other things. I commend you. xoRobin❤

harmony and rosie said...

Do you think Mary Portas has helped the CS up their game too? Well done on the trews, what a sense of achievement, there's no reason now why you can't make them again in all sorts of different fabrics. And yes, Fly are definitely THE best!

greenrabbitdesigns said...

Well done you and you look great in the photos.
I can understand you being tempted by Avoca, I'm tempted by it all the time!!!
Vivienne x

Lina said...

Such a great post Emma and glad that you had a successful year. I have bought thrifted clothing myself for the first time in 2010. Not a huge amount, 3 or 4 tops (including a cardigan!!) and 2 skirts which I've worn quite a bit. I'm aiming for a bit more this year!

Jacquie said...

Great post Emma , I buy lots from charity shops , clothes for me and yarn and pretty things. I love searching for hidden treasure :0)
Jacquie x

Jackie said...

Well done. You look lovely in all of them I bet.
I'm a big fan of the cardigan..especially purple...when one has suffered hot flushes an easily escaped outer garment is a must.

Lynn said...

I don't care what you say about wet dogs and whatnot, you really do have the most fabulous hair ever.

Oh, wait - this post wasn't about hair, was it. Okay, the outfits were fab, too. I 'specially love that dress. And that you were bold enough to wear it with turquoise tights (and they worked!). And congrats on the sewing!! Of course, you couldn't have asked for a better teacher.

I forget to visit our one local charity shop, which is unfortunate because I have found some great stuff there. Including an as-new cashmere pullover for the equivalent of two pounds. Yowza! That settles it: I am hauling my offspring over there TOMORROW. Stay tuned...

driftwood said...

hurray for charity shops. they are in fact the only clothes shops here, unless you count dorothy perkins, and a posh old persons shop. and because I hate paying postage and sending stuff back that doesnt fit I never buy off the internet. the problems come whenever we go away and suddenly I find myself with new red shoes!

Menopausal musing said...

Don't you look lovely?! I love that last floral linen skirt. I "fell off the wagon" re flowers last week. I set myself the goal not to buy any all winter but bought two small posies at £1 each last week from Lidls. They were so reminiscent of the sort of bunches I put together from the garden. Love that little niche you have in your wall.........

Ali said...

Wow - you've done so well. I am such a hopeless shopper, charity shop or regular. And in spite of a stuffed wardrobe, I never seem to have the right thing to wear. How is that?

Rachel said...

I've bought secondhand ever since I was a student. The trick is in picking the good stuff, which does take time...

shadygrey said...

IMPRESSED! Well done, you look great and you're an inspiration. But could I do it? Maybe...

sylviesgarden said...

Well done. Some great outfits there.
x

Tara said...

Love all the outfits. Good for you. Great job with the pj bottoms. I've been wanting to make those for awhile myself. Maybe with warmer weather around the corner (okay, two months away), I'll make a pair for myself. Finally, too funny that you bought yourself a new purple cardigan.

Fiona said...

I went to a business meeting yesterday dress entirely in charity shop clothes - except for my boots - and didn't look out of place. It can be done.

Paula said...

Until very recently it had never crossed my mind to buy 2nd hand clothes although I'd been buying plenty of other stuff from my local charity shop. Then one day I saw this coat on the window and after trying it loved the way it looked on me it was just perfect. Since then I have bought 2 pairs of trousers, a jacket and 2 skirts and all this for a fraction of the price they would cost originally.

Madelief said...

Hi Emma,

Wow, you joined the chalenge! Well done! I am not sure if I could. Although I often buy second hand clothes I love to buy new things now and then. Your outfits look great. Love the floral skirt!

Lieve groet & happy day!

Madelief

Scented Sweetpeas said...

Fantastical, great to read your progress on being thrifty. I love buying second hand - you get some fantastic things that way. Also when you read how bad clothes production (especially jeans) is for the environment it really makes you think twice.

mrspao said...

What a great challenge! I'm trying to work on keeping costs down now I'm unemployed and it is great to read your thrifty ideas. I'm planning on doing a sewing course in the spring :)

mandy said...

I love your white stuff dress espesh with the tights, looks gorgeous.... I (obviously) think charity, bootees, and jumbles are the best! I'm inspired by the PJ's and love your nook (does that sound rude? Hope not!) x

home made gorgeous said...

Hi Emma, thanks so much for sharing your charity shop challenge this is really inspiring, you have bought some lovely things which don't look second hand at all, especially the White Stuff dress! Wow well done on the pyjama bottoms I am really impressed! Sarah x

kristina said...

Oh I am so impressed! This might have to be one of my resolutions for this year. Is February too late for resolutions? And hooray for pyjama bottoms! K x

Tania said...

How the heck does anyone get through life without a purple cardi?* So pleased to hear you have joined the ranks.

* OK, I do. But I am obviously entirely missing out. I'll be a woman on a mission in the Salvation Army shop tomorrow...

A still small voice said...

I would love to do that but I find charity shops rarely have nice things for us big girls. So I sell on eBay or charity shop things I don't wear and use the money to buy something new. I have a very small wardrobe and stick to a simple palate. Perhaps when I have lost weight I could follow your example.

jus said...

Hello petal, after looking at the photo's I can see why you're so tempted by the heidi top, you'd look gorgeous in it!
I've sent you an email about it anyway, x

Thimbleanna said...

Wow -- congratulations on a successful year Emma -- that's amazing!

Anja said...

The outfits look so good! Great bargains!

skybluepinkish said...

Love the comment about the cardigans. I head straight for the woollies because I boil them up and make them into other stuff. It's surprisingly hard to find good wool these days, everything is machine washable so you can't felt it.

I like the idea of a plan, that would make it so much easier, I tend to get so distracted and then when I come home I look at what I've bought and realise I now have 3 denimn skirts but still no decent summer tops!