Thrift Finds

My mom was stuck at home yesterday because there were no Amtrak trains running from Philadelphia to New York, and so she proposed we make a day out of thrifting. I hadn't gone to most of my favorite stores for months, or even since last summer, and I was excited to get my hands a bit dusty. I'm really excited about what I found and I think I'm almost set for the fall season.

Embroidered peach blouse - $4

The embroidered collar and scalloped edge along the buttons on this blouse tugged at my heartstrings. I'm concerned that I couldn't exactly pull it off with puff sleeves though, so I'm considering cutting them off. Perhaps it would look best with a sharp pair of dark wash jeans. Any thoughts on how I could avoid looking like collectible doll?

Gold coin chain belt - $3 

I think I could throw this belt over any of my dresses as a romantic, but not too sweet, touch.

Tan suedette dress - $5; Floral Express romper - $4; Pink skinny belt - $1

I'm most excited about this tan dress! It's a faux suede, which I don't mind because it's not heavy and doesn't have to be dry cleaned. I love the sleeve length and I'm going to hem it about three inches. The vertical pleats along the waist give the skirt a great shape. I love the print and buttons on this romper, I always end up finding  great pieces from Express circa the 90's. It fits as it is, but I'm planning on turning it into a dress.

Sparkle blazer - $5

Another piece I'm super super excited about is this sparkly blazer! I think I could throw it on top of basically anything if I ever got bored with one of my normal black blazers. It was too fun to pass up.

The Ways of the Thrift

Last week I received a message on my tumblr suggesting I show my favorite thrift finds and share some of my tips. My mother first showed me the ways of second-hand shopping years and years ago, taking me along to her favorite thrift stores and rummage sales. I'm by no means an expert and I still have days when I return home empty handed, but I have picked up some tips over the years, and so I'd be glad to contribute.

But before you go...

There are several kinds of second-hand shops, the most common being consignment shops, stores run by a charitable organization, privately owned thrift stores, and resale chains. Consignment shops take unwanted goods from an individual seller, and that seller is assigned a number or tag to place on all of their items being sold. The seller receives payment for whatever is sold over a certain period of time with a percentage going to the store, which is how the store makes profit. Stores run by charitable organizations include the Salvation Army and Goodwill, who accept donated goods and put proceeds towards funding public service projects. Privately owned thrift stores are often free standing mom-and-pop shops, and it's here that I tend to find the lowest prices. Resale chains, like Plato's Closet and Buffalo Exchange, look to purchase name brand or on-trend merchandise. I find these stores the least appealing, only because they tend to stock mall brands, which are inexpensive to begin with and are frankly not worth purchasing used.

I often notice recurring themes when I'm getting dressed; if I find that I'm looking for a certain piece to complete my outfit over and over again then I know for sure that it's worth purchasing. Clip outfits or items out of magazines, taking notes of styles that really catch your eye. Everyone knows that styles come back around, so chances are you'll find a vintage gem that could pass as a new purchase from a high-street store (90's floral rompers anyone??) Reblog outfits and photos to your hearts desire, fill inspiration folders or make Picasa collages full of inspiring photos. This will all help give you direction while shopping and make even the biggest mess of a store less overwhelming. Always shop with a goal in mind.

Most stores have specials almost every day of the week. The Salvation Army nearest me has a half-off sale on all color tags every Wednesday, which is my favorite time to shop. Stop in and ask the staff when they usually have sales and put a note next to your calendar as a reminder. It's also fun to make a day of thrifting, so know your store locations and try to plan out the most efficient route.

Also, bring cash and lots of small bills, maybe even a reusable shopping tote to carrying everything.

I actually picked up the first part of this tip from another blogger, who noted that she found the best items in stores that were located near wealthier neighborhoods. If you have an idea of where the most well-to-do citizens in your town live, locate the nearest thrift store. The idea behind this is that your fancy-pants neighbors have the means to discard all of the past season's designer duds and replace them with the newest and the best. I've also found that shops located in suburban or rural areas are far less than any store you'll find in the city. This is due to the fact that there is a higher cost of living in any metropolitan area as compared to suburbia. Even the CVS in Center City is more expensive that at home! Stores that are off the map also tend to have less traffic, while those in the middle of the city have stock that is heavily picked-through.

Vintage sizes are completely different from today's standard sizes. A 10 from the 70's probably fits a 6 of today. Don't rely on the tag to tell you how the item is going to fit. Try everything on, because depending on the style you might want something to have a looser or tighter fit. You'll have to wait a bit as fitting room space is often limited, but it's worth it seeing as second-hand stores don't accept returns.  I also like to look in the children's sections. I find that boys' blazers and button-down shirts fit me well, and they're usually a lower price than adult clothing. Oversized men's shirts are great projects too. You can always take in something that's too big, whereas there's nothing to do with an item that's too small. Which leads to my next tip...

I love altering thrift store clothing because it's totally cheap and it flexes my creative muscles. A huge, shapeless, albeit adorably printed muumuu can become the most flattering of frocks if you just raise the hem, take in the side seams, and add some well-placed darts. If the sleeves on a blouse are too short or just hideous, cut them off! Can't find shorts that are the right length? Hem a pair of pants that fit well. Dresses become skirts, shorts become skirts, even blouses become skirts with a few artful snips and seams. Be resourceful! If your project doesn't turn out to be wearable, only a few dollars were lost and you now have scrap fabric for that pennant banner I know you've been dying to make. 

It helps to know what fabrics are by either just look or feel. This skill is based off of experience, but the most obvious materials seem to be silk, wool, cotton or cotton blends, fur, leather, faux fur and faux leather. It doesn't hurt to look at the tags to double check, especially if a piece is dry-clean only or if you're irritated by certain fabrics.

Yard sales, estate sales, flea markets, and antique malls are all great places to find unique jewelry or housewares. Keep an eye out for inserts that advertise sales in your area, invite a friend or two and make an outing of it. I like to thrift with friends because they'll often bring to my attention pieces I would have missed. Take your time when searching through piles and racks. Go often, vary your route, but don't be discouraged if you can't find anything. Don't bully yourself into purchasing something you're doubtful about; "maybe" or "kind of" automatically mean NO. Also, when you sort through your closet, consider donating to your favorite shops to help keep them up and running. 

I hope this was helpful! I actually spent all day today thrifting and found some of the greatest stuff, I'll share it in a post later this week. If you have any tips of you own, don't keep them to yourself! Please share you thrifting wisdom!


Mexico, Part Two

Sandy toes

Every morning we found a set of chairs between the pool and the beach so that we could go back and forth as we pleased. I found that I much preferred swimming in the ocean; the waves were cooler while the pool was heated and more crowded. Hammocks, which were fun to swing in, were hung intermittently between the rows of lounge chairs.

Poolside reads and refreshments


We went snorkeling right off the pier where there were clusters of plants, coral, and TONS of fish! Hundreds and hundreds of them hid in the shade underneath the docks. You could swim right through a school of fish, and even though they would let you touch them, they were but inches away. I'm kicking myself for not getting an underwater camera. 

Floral dress $17, feather necklace $6 - H&M; Green satchel $20 - Urban Outfitters; black sandals $7 - Payless
Paths like this wove their way all around the resort, through the beautifully curated gardens. It felt like we were living in the middle of a tropical rain forest, full of blooming flowers, birds, and the occasional iguana. As I type this I'm listening to the steady rainfall outside my window, and I'm longing for the hot sun and ocean view. 

I hope you all enjoy your weekend, rain or shine!


How to Dress for a Hurricane

Mexico, Part One

As I anticipate the arrival of Hurricane Irene, I've begun to reflect on the days I spent on the sunny coast of Mexico earlier this month. I initially decided to document each day in photos, but decided against subjecting my already abused camera to a beach full of people and sand. I was also deemed the resident photographer for the trip which included tons of posed family photos, soon to be framed.

We were told to be up before the sunrise in order to get to the airport on time, a minor detail I wasn't informed of until only two days prior. And let me tell you, I'm no morning person. But I treated myself to a flavored coffee and a gratuitous number of magazines once we got to the airport. 

Java and guava, respectively, from the Guava & Java stand in Terminal A

Departures; the sunrise on the runway

We were in the air when lunch time rolled around, so I ordered a little snack box with the cutest little can of chicken salad. I'm a sucker for miniaturizations.

The lobby of the resort was open on all sides and surrounded by pools and gorgeous fountains.

Can you spot the little fish in this tide pool?

I'll never take for the granted the gorgeous turquoise of the Gulf or Caribbean Sea. The Jersey Shore is not even comparable! I'd trade an over crowed boardwalk full of tourist shops for palm trees and coral reefs any day.


Before the Storm

Feather print top $3 - Marshall's; Yellow skirt $15 pattern belt $4 elephant ring $4 - Forever21; necklace $6 - thrifted

When I woke up this morning I didn't feel like getting dressed. With no work over the weekend and all of my friends moving back to school I was in full-on bum mode. Then I turned on the Weather Channel to see what else, but the estimated path of Hurricane Irene, and I knew that today was the last day I had to wear something fun. If the storm is really as terrible as everyone is making it out to be, I imagine I'll be huddled up inside in a huge sweater and my Muk Luks slippers. 

We've started to move our patio furniture, flowers pots, or anything that could potentially be whisked away by 70 mph winds into the shed. Other than that, I'm not sure how prepared my household is for Irene. I'm afraid if the power goes out I'll be eating meals of Chips Ahoy! and Spam all weekend. I don't even move back to school until the quarter starts in mid-September, so thanks a bunch, Irene, for ruining my last official weekend of summer! 


The Gift That Came Here

1, 2, 3, 4, 5

This past Tuesday I received an exciting package: my first ukulele! I can't claim to be exceptionally musically inclined (I believe most of my talent lies in the visual arts) but I did play the flute throughout middle school. Not to mention my amazingly amateur rendition of a song about a jumping frog from a children's piano book. It appears as though no one else in my household is nearly as thrilled in my new hobby as I am, I've already received threats that involve turning poor Fitzgerald the ukulele into tinder. It's been raining all day long, with intermittent rumbles of thunder, making this the perfect day to stay inside and perfect my chords. 

Maxi Status

Pocket tee (discount), maxi skirt $9 - Gap; neon belt $2 - eBay; horse ring $4 - Forever21
Earlier this season I began a pretty serious closet clean-out. I emptied out a quarter of my closet, two drawers of my dresser, along with the entirety of one armoire (I actually have two in my bedroom). Last year, when I first moved away to school, I made the mistake of packing almost everything I've ever worn and I didn't even end up touching half of it. I decided to make it a habit to go through all of my clothes at least twice a year, selling what I can, donating what won't sell, and then putting the proceeds and extra space towards newer purchases. I hope that this plan, along with my new determination to shop more selectively, will help me build a solid wardrobe with not only longevity, but my personal sensibility as well.

I noticed the other day, after I had packed up loads of rejected clothing, that I was lacking one serious basic: a white cotton t-shirt. Who doesn't own a white t-shirt? Me, at least last week that was me. This one I found at Gap and what I like most is the way it's cut: the sides taper in towards the bottom, leaving the top loose, but it doesn't bunch up when tucked into pants or skirts. But it runs rather large and even the small is loose on me. I wanted to wear this maxi skirt to work last week, and I thought such a large skirt called for a the simplest of tops, which apparently I didn't own. I'm just afraid of looking too "formal;" I feel like a character in a period film when I walk up the stairs because I have to hike my swishy skirt up past my calves to avoid falling on my face. I've already gather some ideas of how I could dress it up, with a huge necklace and top bun.

maxi by colouredtheory featuring a black belt

I'm also working my way through One Day. I'm a really big classics buff (I was that kid who loved every single book you had to read for AP English) and wouldn't have picked this out myself, but my friends have been passing their copies around now that the movie's out. They had to go see it without me because I have this sort of "rule," when I can help it, not to see a movie that's based on a book until I've read the book. I was anticipating it to be terribly cliche, but I think the characters are familiar without being too predictable. I also went through a British author phase in the beginning of high school (Nick Hornby, Louise Rennsion) and so I have a soft spot for them. I think it's the slang I like the most.