I don't know when I first realized how wonderful a bargain thrifting was; or how much more fun it was to look for buried treasure in racks of musty garments and boxes of half-heeled shoes. It's been a part of my life for nearly as long as NYC has been: so forever, off and on. I can't remember who took me thrifting just before my freshman year of high school, either, although I do remember the thrill of my very first score: a blue velvet jacket with a mandarin collar and frog buttons-- not actual frogs, but the silky Chinese, buttony kind. I also remember wearing the jacket to my red belt high school in the south, and I remember that I sort of knew what I was doing, too.
That is: I knew what a revolutionary act it was to wear old vintage blue velvet in the land of uniform khaki. I also knew they were voting for superlatives that day. I was not completely flabbergasted when I was voted "Most Unique", probably, mostly on account of that jacket alone. It wasn't exactly a compliment, either, though it was for boys-- the boys that won that category usually also won "Most Popular" or "Funniest" while the girls were considered simply odd. However, it wasn't exactly the worst thing ever to be singled out for something in a school of 3,000 souls. At any rate, whether insult or compliment, the power to use fashion to express a feeling or an attitude hooked me, although for a while I did merge myself with the khaki sea around me, tired of fighting the tide. Still, I did eventually grow up and get out, and ever since, thrifting has been a major hobby of mine. I would now consider myself more of an expert treasure-hunter than a lucky duck. Instead of happening onto the buried loot, I know how to zoom in on where x marks the spot. However, I know a lot of people are intimidated by all the options out there, so here are some of my tips from a misspent youth for thrifting success!
1. If you are overwhelmed by thrifting, ask yourself this basic question first:
Let's call this: square one. What's your favorite color? If you gravitate towards racks with colors that vibe with you-- dove-gray lavender or brilliant lemon or sparkly emerald or prismatic purple-- I assure you, you will find something you love. I 100% guarantee you will pull something off the rack that will delight your soul and your wallet. (And, since it's secondhand, it's pretty nifty for the planet as well.) The odds will be even more in your favor if you add my next tip to the equation.
2. Find a Fancy Neighborhood and Check Out the Thriftstores There!
The best thrifting I've ever found has been in the wealthiest neighborhoods. A lot of people have the terrible habit of wearing things ONCE. ONCE. And then tossing them. It's unfortunately become a habit for people in any socio-economic strata, which is its own issue for another post, but sustainable issues aside, because of this habit, you can find amazing designer steals in neighborhood's where people buy designer clothes. I tend to hit a handful of favorite spots over and over-- Housing Works on Crosby Street or their branch in Park Slope on 5th Avenue or Bring N Buy in Ridgefield, CT or Greene Street in Chestnut Hill. Using this tip, I have found Burberry coats and Jimmy Choo Mary Janes and Theory leather jackets and cashmere sweaters and designer denim galore in spots like that. I even found the spot where the Vogue accessories director was dumping their closet for a bit-- I scored some Jimmy Choo gladiator sandals off that one! However, not everyone lives near or in or close to a fancy neighborhood. If you can't drive or Uber to a hot spot or if you're encumbered with babies and can't peruse the racks for hours, then check out my next tip.
3. Repeat after me: eBay is LIFE!!!
EBay can be pretty overwhelming, I know. I avoided the site for years. The key to success here is a simple two-pronged approach: you either a. search for something extremely specific like a maxi Reformation dress in size 6 or that pale lemon Christy Dawn dress you've been eyeing on Instagram or you b. check in with specific shops on eBay. My favorite eBay shop is called Linda's Stuff. Amazing selection and the prices hover around $24-- even for whisper thin Ulla Johnson tops or that aforementioned Reformation maxi dress.
Do you enjoy thrifting? If so, what are some of your treasure hunting tips? I'm always honing my hunting technique. If you don't enjoy thrifting, I'd love to here from you as well. Also, what's the best thing you've ever found thrifting? Check out my Pinterest board for a few ideas as well!
I love the word sartorial, because it's an embodiment of the argument that fashion can be art!! "Sartorial" rolls off the tongue, straightens itself like a graceful ballerina on the tip of the teeth, and makes one graceful leap of abstraction. "Sartorial" makes fashion sound stately and important and almost holy, which I think it is. If you treat your garments with care, you can almost always feel the same sense of calm satisfaction while wearing them as you do after indulging in a hearty meal, which is most definitely a holy thing. (Check out my latest food post for this vegetarian corn chowder we concocted this July 4!) Sartorial actually comes from the Latin for "tailor" and it's also the name of the muscle (or the "sartorius") used to move your leg into the seated position for doing some tailoring. So cool, right? Please make your sartoriuses cozy, let's all pretend I used that word correctly, and check out what shows have been keeping my own sartoriuses crossed in one never-ending, seated position this summer!
1. Love (Netflix)
Love is an odd, funny, touching, and sometimes painfully realistic love story between two unlikely candidates for love-- narcissistic Mickey and codependent Gus. Don't get me wrong: I love Mickey and Gus, but, honestly, I stayed more for all the secondary characters who make LA look like the capital of Quirk, not to mention Mickey's fabulous mix of vintage, thrift, and designer fashion on display each episode. The show's costume designer, Jennifer Eve, equates Mickey's style with " a hung-over Alexa Chung", and her costumes are as fun as that sounds! In fact, they're the inspiration for my hot weather outfit above! (More about the bag, one of which I've paired with Baiae to give away, below! And more deets about this outfit on my IG @IsabellaDavidVintage.)
2. The Time In Between/ El Tiempo Entre Costuras (Netflix)
This show set in Spain and Northern Africa in the '30s made me long to occasionally indulge in the odd tailored outfit and maybe even a hat or two as in the pic above. You'll fall just as in love with its plucky heroine as with her incredible costumes. See some of the best looks here (Just scroll down if you don't read Spanish!)
3. Call My Agent/Dix Pour Cent (Netflix)
They're remaking this show about an acting agency in Paris in English (of course). But as is, whether you speak French or not, it's one of the wittiest, smartest, sweetest shows I've seen in a long time, and it's set in the rarified, secretive acting world of Paris. Seriously, how are they going to top that?! Get past the first episode, which I found a little dry, and you'll love it! Plus, the Parisian It Girl has attained near mythical status. Check out this show for the real thing! And by that I mean the "real" real thing as many famous French actresses play (ridiculous, hilarious versions of) themselves each episode.
4. The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)
This isn't the obvious choice , but watching a world where everyone, or anyway every woman, wears no makeup, scraped-back hair and horrible cloaks in muted blue, hospital-scrub green, drab gray or even, my favorite color notwithstanding, a bright red makes me delight in wearing whatever I'd like. Gimme allllll the lipsticks!!! This series shows, not tells, how powerful a statement a woman's fashion can be like nothing else I've ever seen. Plus, this is for the hesistant crowd: it's so grim it can be kind of funny, especially if you watch it with a man who will find such a female-centric show about uniquely female suffering as foreign as we find the dystopian elements. Less funny: my husband has taken to calling me "Ofryan". Not cool, dude.
5. Younger (Hulu)
It's a little hard not to mention Sex and the City on a list like this, but Younger is as good as-- if not better-- a show to fit into my top 5 list as that other show. Just like Sex and the City, it's chockfull of incredible actresses like two-time Tony-Award winning Sutton Foster, the very fabulous Hilary Duff, hilarious Miriam Schor, and the queen of deadpan humor: Debi Mazar. They all look incredible, too, of course. After all, Patricia Field is responsible for costumes on both Younger and Sex & the City, and it's fun to watch her more contemporary and only slightly more down-to-Earth takes on the fashion scene! Read more about Field's stint as Younger's costume designer here.
What are you bingeing this summer? What other shows do you think I've left off this list?
P.S. Speaking of sartorial bliss, I've partnered with www.shopbaiae.com to giveaway this chic straw circle tote. Super easy entry until July 15! Click on the photo below to check my IG for details!
In my research into the sudden popularity of bamboo bags, I was surprised to learn that the term "It Bag" is such a recent one. Its coinage is as fresh as the 90s, when it was first being used to describe high-priced designer bags like those signature bags by Chanel or Fendi or Gucci. The concept of branded bags came about even earlier, though, back in the 1940s when the designer Roberta di Camerino created the first instantly recognizable bag, using artisan-made hardware and distinctive textiles. However, the It Bag didn't explode until the 90s for whatever reason. Maybe it was, as Wikipedia drily claims, because there was suddenly, simply this huge market for handbags.
That explanation leaves me with more questions than answers, personally.
Think about it: the market still exists. The fashion industry is a 1.2 trillion dollar annual industry, but by 2011 the concept of the It Bag was in decline.
Did the It Bag disappear because bargains became fashionable or because fashion is changing too quickly to make a huge investment in one expensive, transitory piece worthwhile? (Also, here is a great piece by Celia Walden on why she's glad the It Bag is over.) Or are It Bags over because It People are in now? Never mind It Bags. What does the "It Bag" mean now in an era where it's not only handbags that are branded but people themselves through their very own social media pages?
That's probably too deep a question for a slow fashion diary blog to address in 300-500 words. However, it did delight me to spot a different kind of "it bag" on many, many Instagram feeds. That same site that encourages people to brand themselves like fancy handbags. Now, it's not a humble bamboo bag you might suddenly notice every fashionably minded person sporting. Baskets in general are suddenly as ubiquitous as the Coachella wheel-- the sight of which, like fringe paired with cowboy boots, western belts, and a joyous grin, now signals spring as surely as cherry blossoms.
But let's put my seething envy for all the people who got to see Beyoncé live at Coachella aside and get back to bamboo.
Bamboo is potentially the most renewable resource for fabrics, even more so than hemp. What does put hemp ahead in the race for title to the future's most sustainable fabric is that rendering bamboo into cloth is still often requires the use of lots and lots of chemicals. Again, though, that means the news about bamboo "it bags" is good!
1. Bamboo bags are made with the Earth's most easily renewable, least-water consuming crop.
2. And, even better, unlike bamboo cloth, bamboo bags take no (or at least) very few chemicals to transform into a chic piece of arm candy.
I've linked to a few, beautiful bamboo and other fair trade, 70s-inspired options on my Pinterest page (see below).
Do you own a bamboo bag or a cute basket that can be used for shopping or paired as an accessory? When you think about it, straw baskets and bamboo bags and patched, cloth textile bags are actually the original Birkin bags! What do you think of this 70s-era trend? Do you think you'll buy one for summer?
My sandals are (old) BCBG ones. Similar here.
My wrap skirt is available here.
My Free People sweater is sold out but a similar one is available here.
My bamboo bag is a reproduction of a classic Japanese picnic basket! It's available here.
FYI Cult Gaia, who originally made the bamboo bags such desirable Eco It Objects just made their first (stupendously gorgeous) clothing collection out of deadstock! AND they're committed to treating workers fairly! Check them out!
Every spring, from the same mysterious source through which the green fuse drives the flower maybe , I feel the need to refresh my wardrobe with a simple white blouse. I know I've probably been brainwashed!! However, I no longer feel guilty indulging the urge, as there are endless beautiful pre-owned or vintage options like my thrifted Ulla Johnson blouse in the pic above.
Another item that makes me think of spring is a trench coat. I don't feel a similar urge to refresh my closet, though, because I found The One a few years back at Think Closet. A boutique in New York City stocked with independent Korean designers. My oxfords are thrifted from Monk's Thrift on 1st Avenue. I'm thrilled I held onto them. One of my best, tried and true cleaning-out-your-closet rules is this: if something is really good quality and still fits, NEVER get rid of it. Fashion is cyclical but slow. Eventually, patience pays off! I wore these oxfords all the time about eight years ago, and now they feel relevant again.
The only truly new item in this picture are my Levi's. Suckered by marketing, I bought them at a low moment this winter. I had to stay home, snowed in with a sick baby most of the winter and could rarely make it out to the gym. These "wedgie icon" jeans promised to deliver a perky tush at a time when I was feeling less than perky in general.
My take: I looked around online, and I feel like other women in the big butt tribe also felt as if these particular Levi's pushed their behinds more flat than up. However I did like the similar, flattening support in the front. I still have a bad tendency to stand like I'm pregnant with my tummy out. These exert a gentle pressure on my tummy and remind me to stand tall. I like them a lot. I'll wear them a lot, but they're not my favorite jeans.
Before I wrote the review (above), though, I looked into Levis' sustainable practices and I was very pleasantly surprised. I rarely buy jeans new. Like pretty, white blouses, there are infinite options available pre-owned and vintage. Plus, growing the cotton to craft one pair of jeans can require TEN YEARS of drinking water. (Three for tees!) Good on You, which is both a website and an app, rated Levis as overall "good", noting:
Levi’s have made strong commitments to sustainable denim production, including significantly reducing their water use. By 2020, the Levi’s brand aims to make 80 percent of its products using Water<Less™ technique. Levi’s have set a 25% reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 for its direct emissions and consumed electricity. They are also pioneer members of the Better Cotton Initiative.
Levi's are making continued headway in many areas, including reducing hazardous chemical use and encouraging customers to think about their own water use in caring for their Levi's as well as thinking of their Levi's as a longterm investment. These are my first pair of jeans, but I know I've had my Levi's cutoffs for ten years plus, and they're still just as cute now as they were ten years ago! (It probably helps that I couldn't fit into them due to two pregnancies for four of these ten years, but still!) I felt really optimistic after learning such a big company is making such a big effort to change their manufacturing and distributing practices!
Do you own any Levi's? Which number works for you? I know the 501s are pretty iconic... I'd love to find a vintage pair next!
Wedgie Icon Jeans are available here.
Another secondhand Ulla Johnson blouse is available here.
On our way to the flea market last year! We seem to have skipped right over spring this year and gone from the bitterest cold straight to 70 degree weather, so I thought it would be nice to ruminate on the perfect spring (last year's!), the perfect (thrifted!) spring outfit, and the Clover Flea Market-- one of my favorite spring events in Philadelphia.
It was already held in Chestnut Hill this spring, but here are some upcoming dates in and around the city:
Spring 2018 Schedule:
A Slow Fashion Diary