Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Dirty Hippie's Guide to Fashion

The second and possibly final fashion post...We'll return to regular programming tomorrow.

It is hard sometimes to be a fashionista who cares about the world. And I get it, I get it. No one wants to be the worst dressed at the next Greenpeace meeting. I mean, I do, because I'm a dirty hippie, but clearly you don't. And that's okay. Because the truth is, you CAN be both eco-conscious and fabulous.

My tips will not only keep you beautifully clad, but they are good for the earth and your pocketbook all at once. So here we go. Without further ado, I give you, the top 10 clothing items to buy used:

Wait, what? Used clothes are gross!! You really are a dirty hippie!

No, they're really not gross. Just stick them in the washing machine.


Listen, do you want an eco-conscious and cost-effective wardrobe?


Then get over it. Okay, once again, the top 10 clothing items to buy used:

10) Accessories. Ever stared at a belt, and thought, that belt is great, but $30 for a belt is way too much. Or, maybe it was a scarf that you had your eye on. Well luckily, you don't have to spend $30 on a belt. Instead, head to the thrift store and pick up a cool belt or scarf for under $10! If you are looking to dip your toe into the used-clothing water, this is a good one because there's really no "ick" factor with used belts!

9) Jackets and coats. Again, there's not much of an ick factor with coats. Plus they're really, really expensive in the store.

8) Vintage Tees. Here's a crazy thought. Instead of buying a tee-shirt that "looks vintage" at American Eagle, why not head to the thrift store and buy the real thing. Plus, vintage tees give you way more street cred.

7) Dresses for special occasions. You know how you buy a dress for a wedding, and you think, "Oh, I'll wear it to these five events!" But then, after the wedding, you kind of don't feel like wearing it to something else, because everyone's already SEEN you in that dress. I get it. I mean we don't expect Nicole Kidman to buy one gown for the Golden Globes and then wear it to the Oscars, so why should you wear the same dress to two weddings? So instead of wearing the same dress everywhere, buy a dress used. Chances are it's only been worn once or twice. Then wear it to your special occasion, and turn around and sell the dress to someone else. Then go buy another used dress for your next special occasion. Voila! Now you too, can never be seen twice in the same fancy dress.

6) Designer dresses for non-special occasions. Did I mention that I used to have a huge weakness for pretty dresses? I did. Especially, Betsy Johnson. I had an enormous weakness for Betsy Johnson. I would rarely buy, but I always HAD to go into the store and try on the dresses. On occasion, I would find something I LOVED, and end up throwing down $250 on a sundress. I wouldn't do it that often, but still, that's a lot of money. So I got smart. I skipped the Betsy Johnson store, and instead, just hit the thrift stores. One of my favorite Betsy Johnson dresses was a thrift store score. It still had its $350 price tag on it, but I got it for $35.

5) Designer jeans. This is a tip I learned from my fabulous friend Annie. Go to Nordstrom. Try out every single pair of nice jeans- True Religion, Sevens, etc. Write down all the info of the jeans you like: size, brand, line, etc. Then stalk Ebay. Within a couple months, one of the jeans you like will eventually show up and instead of costing $180, they'll probably cost about $50. Or you can just cruise the thrift store every so often. Because frankly? I've been to thrift stores everywhere from San Francisco to Milwaukee, and every single one had a decent selection of jeans, many of them designer label.

4) Hats. You know how you're always saying, "Maybe I'm a hat person?" and then you buy a hat, and then you realize that you have no opportunity to wear a hat? Yeah. I mean you should really stop trying with the hats, but if you can't, at least buy a used hat. Then when you realize you don't have a reason to wear the hat, at least you can sell it back for about what you paid.

3) Suits. ESPECIALLY if you're just buying a suit for an interview, and you don't plan to wear the suit every day to work. Don't waste a ton of money on something that will last an hour.

2) Maternity wear. I know, I know, all the stars are wearing Prada Maternity. But seriously? In a few months, these clothes won't fit you anymore. Buy 'em used, and then you can sell 'em back!

1) Wedding dress. She only wore it once. You're only wearing it once. NO ONE WILL KNOW.

And that is it! Now you can save the earth without looking like a fashion victim. Notice that used underwear is not on the list. That is because I may be a dirty hippie, but even I know that used La Perla is a fashion faux pas. But that's okay my fashionista friend. You can skip the fancy underwear. Because, the truth is, your man does not care about your underwear. It is what's inside your underwear that counts! (Wink, wink.)

Oh, one last piece of advice. Alter, alter, alter. You think all those Hollywood stars just naturally look good in off-the-rack clothing? No, they don't. So if you love a piece of clothing, but it doesn't fit you quite right, take it to a tailor, and have them alter it to fit your body. Trust me. You will thank the dirty hippie later. (If you are planning to re-sell the item, you want to be a little more careful about this.)

And that's it. Good luck, fashion mavens! Good luck, and good (used) shopping!


hmd said...

I bought a used wedding dress for $125! Yep, that's right $125! My veil was more expensive. I had to make some alterations but talk about making a wedding affordable. Of course, that was my first wedding. When I married my current husband, we just grabbed clothes from the closet. You get way more practical the second time around...

Anonymous said...

I tried so hard to find used maternity wear. But I am a tall person (which cuts the choices down a bit, you can't make things longer!) and I discovered, people tend to hang onto their maternity wear until they're absolutely positive that they'll never be needing it again.

They also tend not to buy good stuff because they'll only wear it for a few months. The result is that (at least where I live) maternity wear in the op shop tends to be about 15 years old and tatty. Frankly, I bought a couple of new things hoping it would make me feel ok, but also veering to the cheapest new things. I felt nauseous and hideous the whole time, and I had three outfits to choose from, none of which I would normally have worn given a bit of choice. Thank God my sister outlaw made me a sweater that felt cosy and stylish!

Second hand maternity wear tends to work out better if you know someone roughly your size who doesn't mind lending you things. You'll have to promise faithfully that you'll hand them back if she ever gets knocked up again.

Other than that, I totally agree with you. Second hand clothes are generally cool.

EcoBurban said...

I agree completely, I just want to add one more to the top 10 list - Kids clothes! I try to steer clear of brand name clothing, but I now have middle school students and the pressure to fit in can be pretty intense. Considering abercrombie charges about $50 for a pair of jeans, more if you would like them holey and distressed, a little thrift store shopping is great!

There are racks and racks of kids clothes at the thrift store. Some with new tags, others gently used, but many brand name goodies. Gap, abercombie, Levis, you name it. Trust me, those of you with kids, they will never know where they came from or if they do, chances are they don't really care. Wash them, stick them in the clean laundry pile and BAM the kids have new clothes. And you paid 80% less for those abercrombie jeans - WITH distressing! Perfect for my boys, brand new jeans usually make it about 3 days before they get a little "playground distressing" anyway! :o)

Green Bean said...

Oh yeah, baby! I love hitting the thrift store. Nothing is better than buying a boutique brand of jeans I saw at Nordie's for $150 for $4.99. I buy 95% of our clothes at thrift stores. You can't beat the price and, frankly, the selection.

And Eco Burbs is so right. Why spend so much money and waste resources on growing kids. Mine are a lot younger than hers but an entire wardrobe can cost $20-30 for a season per kid and is almost always comprised entirely of brand names.

With all that money saved, you can now buy the organic cherries.

Anonymous said...

Raised by a super hygienically anal mother, I confess that I have some serious hangups about used clothes. Some unknown people wore them. Gross! But really, it is clearly more psychological than physical. The reality is, as you said, many outfits have been worn a couple of times. I have a few dresses in the close that have been worn once or twice.

Now, I have to find a thrifty store near me. Breathe, breathe, and give it a try.

ruchi said...

Heather & ICG, I have to admit I almost left off the wedding dress and the maternity wear. Given that I've never been married, nor pregnant, I wondered if I would really be able to follow my own advice. Of course, I don't plan to get married in a white frilly dress, but all the same, would I buy a used wedding outfit? I'd like to think so, and if my wedding was tomorrow, yes I would, but I'm not getting married tomorrow and who knows what I will eventually decide. That said, I kept both in because I think it's important at the very least to open up to the possibility of a used wedding dress or maternity wear. If it becomes impossible to find the right dress, or maternity clothes that fit, that's okay.

EBM, great point! Every time I go to the thrift store there are TONS of kids clothes. And because kids grow so fast, many of them are barely worn.

GB, organic cherries for everyone!!

Cindy W, if you are a thrift store virgin, I would recommend going to a "nicer" thrift store. If you think about it, where do people donate the clothes that they've worn a lot and trashed? Goodwill. Don't start off there. Instead, try a thrift store that doesn't accept donations, but that buys back used clothing. Most people only sell stuff that they've barely worn. Anything they've worn a lot goes in the donation bag. I used to be freaked out about used clothing too, and that's why I started off in the nicer thrift stores. Now, I'm happy to peruse Goodwill too, but it took a while for me to get there.

Jennie said...

I love this post! I got my fav belt at a garage sale for 50cents!! I love the point about dresses. I have a wedding dress that I've worn to three or four weddings because the same people where not at all of them, but I have my cousins wedding at the end of july and this dress doesn't fit me anymore!! I've debated buying a new dress because it's been a long time but I think, "I have so many dresses that I never wear." And I don't like rewarding myself for gaining weight.
You have inspired me not to buy a new dress. So maybe I'll check out the thrift stores or maybe I'll just go with one I already have.
Also, I think I need to hit up thrift stores more often. My version of eco friendly shopping is to not shop at all. I guess in this way I don't feel bad about the 1-2 pairs of new jeans I buy every year. But again I feel inspired.

Leila Abu-Saba said...

Re: wearing that special occasion dress more than once.

Why not? European women do. American women once did, and in fact one of my richest relatives did so for years, through the 2000s. She had a sequined suit I saw regularly at weddings and big parties she hosted. She was a big Demo. party donor in the Bay Area, too, so she socialized with all the top rich fashionistas. What is the big deal?

Just have some attitude and carry it off.

I wore the same dress to three weddings one season. There was only one other couple that attended all three weddings with me (the first couple to get married). She is a frugalista so she was cool. Anyway, who cares? Then I wore the dress again when I needed it - to a big bar mitzvah and whatever else was going on. Two years later I still have it and plan to wear it as necessary.

We spent a month in France when I was a teenager, in the 70s, including 2 weeks in one town. We got to see the same folk around our neighborhood. There was a grand lady, young 40s, who promenaded around every day in a gorgeous couture suit. It looked like Chanel to me. She wore it always. I, being an American teen, couldn't help but notice that. Same suit every day? It was her dress up suit, it was worth a lot of money, and she wanted everybody to see her in it.

The French idea in those days was to spend a lot of money on one good outfit, take good care of it, and wear it all the time. You didn't buy several cheapo items so you could have something different every day, you bought the best you could afford and wear it.

I'm just French, for fashion purposes. OK, my daily clothes change - you won't catch me wearing the same top every day. But I rotate the same two or three pairs of jeans pretty steadily. What's the harm?

Sam said...

Annie's tip is an excellent one (obviously I don't follow it since my clothes are too big for me because I overestimate my size and the thrift store I visit doesn't have changing rooms). But I should. Ebaying is so tedious however. I've been tryin to get a pair of Dansko shoes for over a year.

CindyW: It took me a very long time to try thrift stores. Even my non-environmental friends raved about thrift stores before I could stomach the idea of getting into one...but the smell of mothballs on clothing is enough to drive me away. I'm slowly getting over it.

Another tip arduous: lower expectations. Everytime my husband and I show up at a friend's wedding people are so amazed that we wore proper clothes that weren't stained by grease or oil or sauces (we're slobs). So if its outside the normal type of thing I wear...its considered a miracle. I am a dirty Appl.

Anna said...

hey arduous,
its anna, from the JUNK raft project - saw your comment on beths blog, and yes, launch is public, drag your friend and come on down! we'll have a press/public/q+a event from 2:00-3:00, thanks for checking out!

pink dogwood said...

Why can I wear old clothes from my sister, mom and friends, but not from strangers? This is a really hard one for me. I have been known to say that I would rather have no clothes than buy from thrift store. But now I am not so sure. Arduous, I need to get over this hangup of mine and convince myself that it is ok - my mom would be devastated if she found out though - what does your mom think about this? just curious.

ruchi said...

Jennie, glad you liked the post. Not shopping at all is indeed eco-friendly, of course. I'm all for shopping less, but when you do shop, I encourage everyone to at least think about checking out the thrift store before hitting up the mall.

Leila, you are right of course. And I totally agree. I don't think there's anything wrong with wearing the same dress to several events. But if you get bored of your dress after a couple times, then I think buying a used dress and then selling it is better than buying new dress after new dress.

Beany, hah! Lowering expectations is a good tip. :)

Anna, thanks for letting me know. I will try to see if I can make it down there!!

Pink Dogwood, I totally get the feeling. I used to feel weird about thrift stores as well, but over time I got used to it. I'm not sure how my mom feels about my thrift store shopping though she hasn't said anything about it. Honestly, I think she is more upset by the local food thing! She feels very strongly that eating say Indian mangoes provides a benefit to the Indian economy and that we should be supporting the Indian economy. I haven't quite decided how I feel about that mostly because I haven't done enough reading on it, but I can certainly see where she's coming from.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for used clothes, but I tend to approach it from the other direction: what kinds of clothes would i NOT buy used: let's see, undies (though i'm ok with used bras, just not panties), socks, and sometimes shoes, depending on how much they've molded themselves to the earlier owner's feet. If they're hardly used, then I'm ok with shoes. I can't think of any other kinds of clothes I wouldn't feel ok with buying used!

And while I'm not usually too focussed on clothes, when I went to the thrift store recently, I took the time to paw through all the racks, and was rewarded with four cute tops for 50 cents each! I felt like I scored big!

EcoGeoFemme said...

I have a dress that I bought for a wedding in 2002. It's a simple black affair that I still love and still looks cool (at least as far as I'm concerned). I remember that I paid what I thought was so much money for it, $98, but it was right after I finsihed college and had a job (although I still think that's a lot of money for a dress). I've worn it to almost every dress-up event since then, but with different accessories, and felt no shame for wearing the same thing more than once. Finding something I liked that was decent yet basic made it last and last.

Arduous, I think you have me almost convinced to get clothes altered. I'm super short, so I often reject clothes because they're too long. I always feel like I don't have money for a tailor; a tailor is for rich people. But if I found decent things in a thrift shop that were only too long in the inseam (as opposed to the shoulders, neckline, and waist too), it might be worth it to get them hemmed. I'm an exemplary bargain shopper, but I could probably do better with this approach and be much more sustainable too!

ruchi said...

Sue, yeah that's how I approach it at this point though I admit, not very long ago the ONLY things I would buy from a thrift store were jackets. I'm not sure I would buy bras. Are used bras supportive enough? I always assume that once they've made it to the thrift store they're really too stretched out to be much good.

EGF, ALTER!! I am short too and I have no torso. I get all my dresses altered and a lot of my tops. It is the only way to go. Also, dude. Tailors are cheap. Go to a dry-cleaner/alteration place. I've never been charged more than like $8 per alteration.

Anonymous said...

I have a hard time with this because I am super picky about clothes and because I wear a size 0 or smaller, which is difficult to find in regular stores! I've browsed a few thrift stores here is new york and saw nothing I liked anywhere near my size. Next time I want new clothes, though, I'll try again, maybe I'll have better luck.

Jennifer said...

I tried for almost a year to find a used wedding dress! I stalked ebay every day, and tried on everything in the thrift stores. I even looked into "renting" a wedding dress, but the $900 price tag disuaded me.

Unfortunately, I am a very difficult fit with VERY picky tastes, so I ended up having a seamstress make me a dress. At least I know it wasn't made by child labor like most of the dresses you can buy new!

It's still in a box in the closet; my sister is supposed to wear it, but who knows!

ruchi said...

Dasha, Ebay is your friend when you are a small size. It's like a giant worldwide thrift store! :)

Jennifer, heh, I guess part of the problem is that a lot of people like to hang on to their wedding dress for sentimental reasons. Which I totally get and respect, but it makes it harder to find used. And it's kind of too bad because most people only wear their wedding dress once. It would be cool if multiple family members wore the same dress like you and your sister are doing, but I also realize that it's a very important day and you want the perfect dress for you (which might not be the perfect dress for anyone else.)

Luckily, if and when I get married, I'm just going to be wearing several yards of fabric (i.e. a sari.) You don't have to worry about anything "fitting!"

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