Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nothing New in the New Year

This is a continuation of the conversation we were having on cheap clothing, focusing more on the environmental and social impact.

The 30 for 30 challenge had me thinking about disposable fashion and quick consumerism. As mentioned in my previous post, even before the challenge, I was getting fed up buying cheap clothing, washing it once, and having it be practically unwearable. I promise myself again and again that I will choose quality over quantity. I end up either falling back to my old ways or buying quality in quantity, which is no good for the bank account.

Even though cheap clothing can seem economical in the short term, long term they can have a much more serious impact. It is just not sustainable, ecologically or economically, to replace a majority of your wardrobe every season or every year even. That's what clothing manufacturers and retailers want. To convince you that something is "in style" or "out of style" so that you are always having to buy something new. I'm not immune to this. My own closet has a very high turnover rate. I take a load of clothes to the consignment store every season, and post 30 for 30, I was still able to donate over 100 items and set another 100 items aside for resale. This type of excessive consumerism is ridiculous. I want to focus on buying really well made items, that I really love, things that will stand the test of time.

There is also a social justice issue to clothing. I read an article in Reader's Digest (yes, I'm kind of a dork) about fashion and how so many manufacturing jobs were moving overseas to the cheapest labor. People in India, China, and other developing countries are working in clothing factories for pennies an hour. Literally $0.17 per hour, just so that I could buy a $10 t-shirt at some mass retailer. The article used Anna Sui as an example of one of the few designers who's clothing was still made in the U.S., but how many people can pay $500 for a dress. Not me. So it got me to thinking. What could I do to break out of the cheap fashion cycle?

  1. Not buy at all. Limit consumerism.
  2. Buy vintage (a lot was made in America).
  3. Buy second hand (might be made out of country, but I'm not directly supporting the company).
  4. Make my own clothing (fabric could still be made out of country, vintage fabric more sustainable).
I've been thinking of doing my own challenge. I would call it "Nothing New in the New Year". It would be my attempt to break free of the disposable fashion cycle. I would not buy any literally new clothing. Anything new to me would be purchased second hand or vintage or be made by me. I would make allowances for any clothing that is still made in the U.S., but considering most of this is out of my price range, I think that I will mostly stick to the earlier choices. Because too much of a good thing is still too much, I would give myself a monetary limit. $20 a month perhaps?

Simultaneously, I will be participating in Rachel and Elsie's Project Restyle. This challenge encourages bloggers to make use of unwanted items, by recreating them into something useful. Right up my alley.

Now I'm not entirely sure I can last a whole year on my "Nothing New for the New Year" challenge. I might just take it month by month. I know plenty of bloggers have gone a whole year without shopping or without buying anything new, so what I'm doing is no great feat. It's more about achieving my own personal goal. I'm just one person, so I'm not going to revolutionize the fashion industry, but in my own way I'll be taking a stand against unsustainable practices, unfair labor practices, and quickly dwindling bank accounts.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

From Trash to Anthro Treasure

Yesterday I was able to complete a craft project that has been on my list for a long time. I had liked a similar necklace that Anthropologie had a while back. I probably could have managed the $40 price tag, but free is much better, not to mention the pride that comes with wearing something that you have made with your own two hands.

Necklace Before

I started out with a few vintage "pearl" necklaces. These were damaged pieces that were in my Grandma's craft stash. Next came a silky, satiny scrap of fabric with the most gorgeous painterly print. The fabric was part of group that I got at a yard sale, $5.00 for a garbage bag full. Using this tutorial and a free afternoon, I soon had a pretty convincing final product.

Necklace After

Pretty good for a couple hours and practically no money. I think that I'm going to make a couple more in different colors. I have a really cute scrap of fabric that's red with white polka dots. I think it actually came from the same yard sale as this fabric.

It's Been a While

Hello, there. Remember me? I'm the girl that used to blog here, before she went on winter break and wore pajamas for a week straight. Well, even girls on winter break must leave the house eventually. Truth be told, I did wear some non-lounge wear outfits this past week, but it was either too dark to get photos, or we were in a hurry, or some such excuse. Yesterday I actually managed to get outfit photos. It was rather windy, so I picked the photo that looked most like "model with a fan" and least like "trapped in a wind tunnel". You should have seen the other ones.

Outfit 12.28.10

This outfit reminds me of J.Crew a few seasons ago, and it's over half second hand! The blazer is my newest acquisition. It was $5.00 at my LTS (local thrift store). The striped shirt was from my thrift haul last week. And of course the Frye boots I bought at a consignment shop. The pants are my James Jeans. I told you I really do wear these a lot in real life, even if they didn't make many appearances during the 30 for 30. The only other new thing I'm wearing is the fabric flower brooch from Anthropologie, bought several months ago and making it's first appearance yesterday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Vintage Modern

Outfit 122110

Jacket - Vintage, Thrifted
Sweater - Anthro
Jeans - Banana
Boots - Frye
Necklace - Anthro

The jacket above (along with a matching skirt) is another one of my Goodwill finds. I think the suit is late 50s or early 60s. I got both pieces for $10.00. It's a little costumy when worn together, but when broken up, both pieces manage to work well with my modern wardrobe. A funny thing is that the suit came from the same store where my Great Aunt worked as a seamstress during the 1960s. It's neat to think that she may have even worked on this jacket.

My aunt would tell stories of when they would close up the shop and stay late so that Elvis could bring in Priscilla. She told that Priscilla was really a size 12 or 14, but would want to wear a 4 or 6 so they would have to take the smaller clothes and adjust every seam possible just so they would fit.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


When I ran outside today to get my outfit photo, I didn't realize that I would blend in with the wall. Oh well, that's what I get for wearing neutrals.

Outfit 12.18.10

Church with the fam and then out to a birthday lunch for Dad

Top - Gap
Cardi - Banana
Skirt - Tucker for Target
Boot - Frye
Locket - Vintage
Belt - Flea Market

Interesting fact: My birthday (Dec. 14), my sister's birthday (Dec. 17), and my dad's birthday (Dec. 19) are all within 5 days of each other. We like to get most of our major holidays and birthdays over in one month.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Help! I've fallen off the wagon.

Okay, so yesterday I shopped so much that I made up for that entire month of not shopping. Oh well, the binge was bound to happen. I'm going to blame my lapse on the fact that I had to give a final exam at 8:00 in the morning and that all the stores had an extra 25 to 40 percent off sale items. I did manage to retain some of the knowledge gained during the 30 for 30. I walked out of Gap, Loft, and Banana without buying a thing. I was not quite as lucky at Anthro and J.Crew, however. Or maybe I was lucky, it depends on who you ask.

Anthro Haul

Anthro was offering an additional 25% off sale items. This is the first time I ever remember this happening, so I had to indulge a little. Three fabulous tops latter, I was a happy camper.

J.crew Haul

J.Crew upped the ante with 30% off sale items. I was able to stock up on a couple of basics there.

Thrift Haul

I was already up to my neck in indulgence. Why not go all the way? I had an early dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant and then on the way home stopped at a thrift store I rarely visit (usually too out of the way). I found some great vintage treasures: two vintage sheets, a deep green velvet blazer, a floor-length polka dot sundress, a navy ruffly dress, a striped button up, and some sunglasses.

Outfit 12-17

I recently read something that said that you should only buy things that make you want to rip of the tags and wear right away and that is exactly what I did. Well, not right away. I wore them today to our faculty potluck lunch. I did a little low/high paring, the thrifted blazer with one of the Anthro tops.

Outfit 12-17

Okay, so that's a lot of shopping for one day, but I did pass up a lot of items that I was just so-so about. Pre 30 for 30 Kara might very well have bought something that she wasn't crazy about just because it was a good deal or a good brand. Post 30 for 30 knows better now. She's making a concentrated effort to only buy things that she truly loves and that will truly work with her wardrobe. Why did I slip into third person? That's creepy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

27 Years

Guess where I was 27 years ago today.

27 Years

Deep Thoughts on Shallow Clothing

I’m breaking off a toxic relationship in my life. No, it’s not with a person, but with a category of things. I am trying to sever my relationship with cheap clothing. You know the kind of clothes I’m talking about. That $5.00 skirt on the sale rack at Target, the entire contents of Forever 21, the kind of clothes that are cheap and cheaply made and never hold a significant place in your wardrobe.
I’m all for trying out trendy items in an affordable way, and I wouldn’t have a problem with buying a few select pieces from these kind of stores each season. They can definitely add a little fun to one’s wardrobe. However, my problem is that I’m buying these items in bulk and then wearing them once, if at all. Very few of these items make the cut from one season to the next.
Like everyone else, I absolutely adore Target, but very few things that I buy from there are still in rotation a year later. I am sitting here and can think of maybe one or two items that have had any kind of longevity. The same is true for Forever 21, Old Navy, even Gap at times.

Oscar Skirt Dos

The things that last in my wardrobe are, for the most part, quality items that cost a little more. For example, take my J.Crew striped tee (the one used in my 30 for 30). I've had it for years. It still looks as good as the day I got it (despite many washes) and I wear it often. It was expensive (for me at least), $40.00, which seemed like a lot for a tee shirt, but it has outlasted 20 cheaper t-shirts that look terrible after the first wash, and will probably outlast 20 more. It's the whole idea of cost per wear. A $10.00 tee is not cheap, if you only wear it once; however, a $40.00 dollar tee worn 20 times is a better deal at $2.00 per wear.
All this is basically to say that I want my closet to have more quality and less quantity. I want to have fewer items, but for them all to be lovely things that I am crazy about, and can’t wait to wear. I am already taking steps to make this dream a reality.

Pile O' Clothes

Step 1. Thin out my current wardrobe. Yesterday, I gathered up over 100 items to be donated. The sad thing is that it made absolutely no dent in my closet(s). I probably have at least 100 more things that could go.
Step 2. Stop buying cheap, disposable clothing. Just because it is on sale or cheap does not mean that it is a good deal. Oh boy, I'm a sucker for the sale rack. I need to severely limit the number of these kinds of pieces that come into my life. I'm talking about maybe 5 trendy items a year.
Step 3. Invest in selected, well thought out, well-made items of clothing. The 30 for 30 challenge went a long way in breaking me of my "shopping just for the sake of shopping" habit. It has helped me to realize that I need to be much more discerning in what enters my closet and that more pieces does not mean more style.
This does not even begin to touch on the idea of cheap clothing as a social justice or sustainability issue. That's another post for another day. For now, I'm going to take a hard look at the contents of my closet and make a real effort whittle it down to the pieces that truly reflect my style and the person I want to be.
{Edit}: After reading everyone's comments, I thought I would clarify my position a bit. I don't think quick fashion is all bad. My problem is that I buy things that are just alright, just because they are cheap. I do this much more often than I should and pretty soon the "just alright" is overwhelming the "absolutely love" in my closet. It also has to do with relative value. I wouldn't blink an eye about going into Old Navy and spending $100 on 7 items, but I feel guilty about buying an $80 top at Anthropologie. It really boils down to me wanting to spend my money on a few pieces that I am crazy about instead of many pieces that I'm so-so about.


I'm playing catch up once again. Below is my outfit from my department's end of the semester party. The dress is a vintage 1950s Suzy Perette. I had never heard of this designer before purchasing the dress, but apparently she was really popular in the 50s and is known for good quality dresses.

I purchased the dress from a guy who was liquidating his vintage clothing collection. I actually bought several dress from him at the time (7 to be exact), but this is the first time I have worn any of them. The dress fit like a glove, with no altering. I had the perfect accessory, my mom's vintage 1950s pearls. My dad gave them to her as a gift for their 30th anniversary a few years ago. I felt very Mad Men-esque wearing the whole ensemble.

Soiree Dress

Architecture Department Halfway Soiree

Vintage Dress - Suzy Perette
Vintage Pearls - Borrowed from Mom
Peep Toe Heels - Gianni Bini

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back in the Swing of Things

Okay, so I'm not normally one to disclose prices unless I got an insanely good deal on something. Well, dear readers, my entire outfit cost less than $25.00. You heard that right, $25.00! That's the total for everything I'm wearing except the tights (I've had them so long I forgot how much they cost).

oscar skirt

The most expensive thing I'm wearing is my shirt. It's from Anthropologie, which normally means big bucks, but I found this baby for $10. Love their sale racks. My locket and bracelet are both vintage. The locket was my Great Aunt's and the bracelet was a gift, while my belt was $1.00 at a local flea market.

My skirt is vintage Oscar de la Renta. A big name in fashion, but not big money in this case. I found this during my post 30 for 30 Goodwill run, where all skirts are $3.99 and this was no exception. It was a bit on the long and dowdy side, but I've finally figured out how to make a blind hem on my sewing machine. I hemmed it up myself, taking off six inches and saving about $8.00 in the process (the amount a tailor would charge for the alteration).

Joan and David Couture Vintage Boots

Finally, the boots. Oh, the boots. These are vintage Joan and David Couture, also found at Goodwill, though several months ago. I paid $7.99 for them, but I know they had to be a couple hundred dollars originally. I wore them for the first time today to walk to the Walgreen's on the corner and before I could even get in the door a girl was complimenting me on them.

So that brings the grand total to under $25.00. Why am I telling you all this you may ask? I just want to make the point that you don't have to spend a lot of money to dress well. It's going to take a little more work, a little more looking, a little more DIY-ing, but with a little more effort it can be done.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Trouble in Paradise

Day 2 of my post 30 for 30 life, and I'm already struggling. It took me forever and a half to get dressed this morning. I planned almost all of my 30 for 30 outfits in advance, so getting dress in the morning was really easy. It also helped that I only had 30 pieces to choose from. Now with my entire closet at my disposal, I feel outfit block. Only two days of freedom and I'm already wanting to do another round of the challenge.

I'm thinking about doing a self-imposed mini challenge, picking a limited number of items to work with and hoping the limits spark my creativity. I would not hold myself to hard and fast rules. If I really felt like wearing something else that day, I would. This would primarily be for those days when I don't feel particularly inspired.
What about everyone else? Are you finding your transition into a post 30 for 30 world easy or difficult?


Blazer - Vintage Pendleton (Thrifted $2.00!)
Blouse - Banana Republic
Skinny Jeans - T.J. Maxx
Boots - Vintage

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Day After

How does one make a successful transition into a post 30 for 30 world? I've been perusing various books and magazines for inspiration. One book that I find particularly inspiring, even after two years (ancient in fashion years), is Isaac Mizrahi"s How to Have Style.


I got this book for Christmas a few years ago and love looking through it to glean inspiration. The advice in the book is practical, aimed at "normal" women, but it also manages to be chic and stylish at the same time.

Book Page

One bit of advice Isaac gives is to play fashion games. Find an outfit in a magazine and try to recreate it using what is already in your closet. I thought that this might be a nice extension of the 30 for 30 challenge, so I took Isaac up on his offer, and what better place to start than his own book. My inspiration image was the one on the right, but when I started assembling the pieces for the outfit I realized the skirt I wanted to wear had been left at my parents' house. On to Plan B.

Day After

Wearing whatever I darn well please. I'm planning a little thrifting expedition (it has been over a month) and I needed a comfy, casual look. Voila.

Army Jacket - Mossimo (Target)
Stripe Tee - Rodarte for Target
Skinny Jeans - T.J. Maxx
Boots - Frye
Necklace - Vintage

Maybe not the most exciting post 30 for 30 outfit, but I promise I will manage to translate my "lessons learned" into my real life.

Oh, I almost forgot. Be sure to check out Shop Unusual Form. I'll be selling some of my pieces that have not been getting enough love.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Final Thoughts

All Outfits

Use per item tally:
  • All shirts were worn twice, except for the chambray shirt (5), the stripe tee (6), and the floral blouse (3).
  • Both dresses worn once.
  • Black skinny jeans won pants category with 7.
  • Black skirt wins skirts with 5.
  • Black boots wins shoes with 10.
  • Navy blazer (4) just edges out grey (3) with lace well behind (1).
  • Yellow and stripe tie cardigan category (4) leaving red in the dust (2).

What I would have done different (clothing wise):
  1. Exchanged James Jeans for a pant with a different silhouette. All outfits with skinny jeans look more or less alike. I would have chosen a wide leg black trouser, something entirely different.
  2. Less shirts. Most were only worn twice, and some of those only because I forced myself to wear them a second time.
  3. Lose the lace blazer (only worn once) in exchange for a more causal topper.
  4. Lose the black dress (not as versatile as I would have hoped). Similar looks can be achieved with a black skirt.
Lessons I've learned:
  1. Limits encourage creativity. I chose bolder outfit combinations than I do when I have my entire closet at my disposal. When my wardrobe feels stale, I need to experiment with what I've got instead of rushing out to buy something new.
  2. Neutral aren't necessarily more versatile. I chide myself for buying so many crazy prints and colors, thinking, "These aren't versatile, I need to buy more neutrals." However, when it came to the 30 for 30, some of my neutral pieces were the ones I wore the least. I could have done without my black tank and also my black dress. They seemed like no-brainers when I added them, but in the end were not as useful as I had hoped.
  3. Shop in a more conscientious, thoughtful way. I need to stop using shopping as a hobby or pass time, and instead use it as a way to make wise additions to my wardrobe that will enhance, but not duplicate, what I already own.
  4. I need to thin out my current wardrobe. Less can be more. I'm starting by selling some of my closes here starting tomorrow.

It's funny, looking at all the outfits together, so many more combinations come to mind. Maybe I should have kept a big file with all the outfits the whole time.

Finally, did I cheat?

Perhaps, but only once. Last Saturday my mom and I went shopping. She bought me a few items for my birthday (which is coming up next week). I haven't worn any of them yet. Was it cheating? I don't know, you be the judge.

30 of 30!!!

The last day! The last outfit! A post full of exclamation marks!!! I will be back with a full round up of the 30 for 30 challenge and my final thoughts on it later in the afternoon.

Outfit 30

Day 30!!! (Student presentations)

Navy Blazer - Gap
Teal Tank - Altered, Vintage (via Etsy)
Floral Skirt - Vintage, Altered, Thrifted
Boots - Frye
Necklace - Yard Sale
Belt - Flea Market

Week 4

I feel like I should have a 31st outfit just so that I can have a full grid. Ha!

If you want some jewelry inspiration, be sure to check out Jewelscapes. She has a link-up party every Wednesday.

Monday, December 6, 2010

29 of 30


Outfit 29

Day 29 (Lunch with my parents, then back to the big city)

Chambray Shirt - Gap
Black Skirt - Banana Republic
Boots - Frye
Necklace - Vintage (Great Aunt's)
Belt - Gap
Bracelet - Mexico

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Around the World in 40 Outfits

So this evening we had a missions banquet at our church, part of the festivities was an international fashion show. A missionary couple brought 40 outfits out of the over 200 that they had collected in their travels around the world. Various members of the church (including me and my dad) modeled outfits for the show.

Maasai Costume

My first outfit was full on Maasai from Kenya. I had on a pile of intricately beaded jewelry. Apparently the amount of jewelry one wears is an indication of wealth. Well at least for one night I was prosperous.

India Costume

My second outfit was from India. I've always loved all the bright colors of the Indian culture. If I could decorate my life with The Darjeeling Limited, I would.

China Necklace

There was so much gorgeous fabric and jewelry. Everyone else thought I was crazy, because I kept saying, "Oh! I would wear that in real life. Oh, and that, too!" This necklace from China was just one of the examples of something that I could totally rock in real life. I think that the 30 for 30 challenge has made me bolder, especially when it comes to accessorizing.

28 of 30

Okay so this is really the second outfit for today, but I wanted to get back on track so that I could finish the 30 for 30 challenge on schedule (this coming Tuesday). I pulled out two of my favorite accessories that have yet to make an appearance during the 30 for 30. The necklace is faux Anthro from J.C. Penney's, but the belt is real Anthro. Check out that ikat fabric on the back. It is to die for.

Outfit 28

Outfit 28 (Back to church for missions banquet/fashion show, more on that later)

Cardi - Old Navy
Tank - Target
Jeans - James
Earrings - Vintage
Necklace - J.C. Penney's
Belt - Anthro
Boots - Vintage

Outfit 28

27 of 30

Ooh! I don't see how you Minnesota girls do it. Outdoor outfit photos are so cold in the winter and it was only 37 degrees in my neck of the woods. I'm a fairly good actress, but it is hard to act like you're not cold, even when it's just long enough to get a couple of outfit shots.

Outfit 27

Day 27 (Church and lunch with the fam)

Yellow Cardi - Loft
Floral Blouse - Tucker for Target
Black Skirt - Banana Republic
Heels - Gianni Bini
Necklace and Belt - Vintage

Saturday, December 4, 2010

26 of 30

Outfit 26

Why am I laughing so hard in the photo above? See the photo below. I chose to wear my flounciest, flowiest skirt on the windiest day of the year. I'm laughing because I'm holding both my skirt and my hair down to keep it from going crazy.

Outfit 26

Day 26 (Out about town with my mom)

Stripe Tee - J.Crew
Maroon Skirt - Vintage, Thrifted
Boots - Frye (via consignment)
Necklace - Loft
Belt - Flea Market

Friday, December 3, 2010

25 of 30

I'm getting so close to the end of this challenge, I can practically smell victory. Today, I finally decided to wear my lace jacket for the first time. I could have finished the challenge without it and then it would have been the 29 for 30 challenge, but I had it so I thought that I might as well use it. This is also only the second time that I've worn this top during the challenge as well. I've been keeping a running total of how many times I've used each of my pieces and I'll be sure to report on that after the challenge is over.

Outfit 25

Day 25 (Lunch with Mom)

Jacket - LC by Lauren Conrad (Kohl's)
Tank - Old Navy
Legging Jeans - Gap
Heels - Gianni Bini
Sunglasses - Vintage
Necklace - Anthro
Vintage Fabric Buttons - Local Boutique
Belt - Vintage
Purse - Simply Vera Vera Wang (Kohl's)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

24 of 30

I felt tres francais today. The stripes, the silk scarf, the red lips. If only I could really be as chic as a French girl everyday. Le sigh.

Outfit 24

Day 24 (Student Presentations)

Stripe Tee - J.Crew
Black Skirt - Banana Republic
Boots - Vintage
Scarf - Sheppard (Estate Sale)
Belt - Flea Market
Tights - Old Navy
Bracelet - Mexico

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Week 3 Wrap Up

One more week to go and I'm getting antsy. I really want to go thrift shopping. Black Friday held no allure for me neither did that 40% off coupon from Gap that my mom was trying to tempt me with. But Goodwill, oh the hold you have over me. My dad asked me yesterday if they had a layaway. I'm already planning a thrifting expedition for the day my 30 days are up (sounds like a prison sentence when I put it that way).

Week 3

What I've Learned (Week 3):

  1. I kind of like not spending money. It's nice to look at your bank account and to see that it is not dwindling.
  2. I thought I was having an outfit block for my last week, but I've come up with more outfits than I need.
  3. Perhaps limits are the best catalyst for creativity.
  4. I can spruce up my wardrobe with things I have on hand (see Outfit 23).

23 of 30

I found out that I can update my wardrobe using things I find on my apartment floor. Yes, you read that right. Yesterday, I found myself yearning for something new. I still have a week left in the 30 for 30 challenge, so I knew it had to be something I could make from what I had on hand. I headed to the good old internet for some inspiration. A short time later, I found this fabric flower tutorial. I literally picked up a scrap of fabric off my living room floor that was left over from a recent project. It took me 30 minutes, tops, to knock this baby out. The project was so easy that even someone who is not particularly skilled at sewing could make it. All you need is a needle, thread, a scrap of fabric, and a scrap of patience.

Outfit 23

Day 23 (Day Off)

Blazer - Gap
Grey Tee - Gap
Skinny Jeans - Banana Republic
Black Flats - Banana Republic
Fabric Flower - Self-Made

Fabric Flower

The fabric I used for the flower is vintage thrifted. I've previously used it for my kitchen curtains. The button in the center was a vintage one I had on hand. Those who are new to my blog may not realize that I really enjoy sewing and crafting. Check out my blog archive and Flickr page for my past projects.


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