A few weeks ago, Gladys asked me this:
Have you or do you embellish your own thrift store or items in your closet to change them or make them more “current”? Would you mind showing us some of your tips?
When Husband Mike and I bought our house, we were SO EXCITED because it didn’t need any major repairs or cosmetic alterations. It was just what we wanted, as-is. When I shop, I generally buy an item if it’s just what I want, as-is, too. But thrifting does offer a wealth of almost-perfect options and, if you have an eye for embellishment and the right skill set, you can transform trash to treasure quickly and easily.
Here are some of the quick-fixes that I’ve used to customize my thrifted finds:
Shorten skirts or dresses
I’ve only hemmed my own once – thanks to Trinknitty‘s patient tutelage and steadfast sewing machine – but found it to be fairly simple, and a great way to give dowdy garments new zing. A dress made from gorgeous silk in a lush print that hits you mid-calf is updated instantly when hemmed to knee-length. Here’s a great tutorial on the basics of hemming.
Love the fabric, fit, and cut but hate the buttons? Or love the whole design, but just want to add a little more personality? Swap out boring buttons for colors, shapes, or sparkles. Simple, quick, and cheap.
Add a belt
Not a bad idea to go thrifting WEARING a belt so that formless items can be better gauged for cinching potential. If you like to accentuate your waist, you’ll need to learn how to spot garments that might work belted: Anything that already nips in a bit at the waist or has some princess seaming is generally a good bet. It’s truly amazing how a flowy, tentlike shirt or dress can suddenly become chic and sleek with the addition of a defined waistline.
The belt that you wear while shopping is unlikely to be your final belt choice, but it’ll give you the general idea. Once you get home, try your actual belts, but also scarves, ribbon, even super long necklaces with your purchase until you land on the right garment-belt combo.
Unless you’re a fairly skilled sewist – or just want to hack some jeans into cutoffs and don’t care about fringing – this is an alteration that requires the aid of a tailor. But should you unearth well-made, classic pants that are merely too long, it’ll be well worth the additional $20 to get them reconfigured.
Add iron-ons, buttons, or other embellishments
Even the craft-impaired can print out a kicky graphic, stick it on a bright tee, and iron. You can buy iron-on paper that’ll go right through your computer’s printer, so it couldn’t be easier. (Please stick to your own original designs and photos, text messages or slogans, creative commons, or clip art.) Sewing a few colorful buttons onto the collar of a shirt or the lapel of a blazer adds a spunky, funky touch. And should you be in possession of a bedazzler, well, you know what to do.
How fun to pick up a $4 dress in a hideous shade, dunk it in a bucket of colored water, and end up with a fantastic new frock? Most pale to medium tones will take a dye, and many pale to medium STAINS can be covered up by a decent, fairly dark dye job. Rit makes home dyeing a total snap, and the Rit website has some great tips for easy fabric dyeing techniques.
Image courtesy Nessa Land.