Friday, September 9, 2016

50 & Fab....Embellishing Thrifted Clothing for that 'Expensive' Look...

What makes some people just ooze 'expensive', and others not so much?
I always think it has a lot to do with personal grooming and basic hygiene. If your hair is soft and clean, your hands likewise, and you look like you've made a bit of an effort, you're already half way there.
Of course, whether you believe it or not, the saying 'clothes maketh the man' does carry a grain of truth. This does not necessarily mean 'expensive clothes maketh the man (or woman) look expensive'. It simply means that first impressions really do count. As do second, third and forty-third!
So how to manage to look expensive on a budget that's kindly referred to as 'shoestring'?
You can make your own clothing, and of course, if you are talented in that area, that is an obvious solution. You are then free to whip up as many designer look-a-likes or one-off originals as you like. But gosh....fabric is expensive these days and even a decent reel of thread can set you back $20. Not exactly the bargain basement solution it once was!
As an alternative, buying clothing from charity shops, garage sales and online from sites like eBay and Etsy, can be a real thrill in the making. I've had my wins and losses over the years in all those arenas, and in the process, I've learned what to look for to ensure that my bargains don't make it straight back to the charity bin.
1. First off, as I mentioned here and here, know what suits you, maybe follow the fashion blogs that reflect the personal style you'd like to develop, and subscribe to some of the department store and online fashion specialist retailers or look-book type sites, like Net-a-Porter or Polyvore. Why? Well, because dressing successfully d'Occasion (French for second hand!), means making the best effort you possibly can with those thrifty bargains. That said, you need to also adapt the trends to suit yourself. Don't wear stilettos if they cripple you, don't wear orange or khaki or fluorescent garments if they make you look sallow or ill, and don't wear prints unless they suit you. Know thyself, over all else. Instead, and you've probably heard it before, DO use a seasonal colour or idea that is on trend to keep your look current. This is the key.
But how do you do this? You've probably heard that bags, belts, and jewellery can all add that certain something that makes someone looked pulled together and polished. The problem I've found with this idea, is that cheapeth go ye to follow this rule, and cheapeth ye shall look. In other words, stocking up on $3 necklaces and $20 bags, is not necessarily the solution either. You're just going to look like you spent all your loose change on cheap necklaces and plastic handbags. Now I have nothing against this idea for the 12-25 age group. But I always think that once we get past about that age, we need to be a little more choosy. Certainly in the context of this post, that is what we are aiming for.
Instead, I want to show you some ideas for embellishing or accessorising existing items in your wardrobe, or those bargains you've snaffled at your local garage sale or charity shop, to make them look 'the goods'.
2. One solution is to seek out vintage accessories. Cute mid-century handbags in unusual shapes, colours or materials, fabulous glass beads, headturning little fascinators...all wonderful if you are the type who can carry that look off. And who's to say you aren't? Again, Google the vintage look, as I discussed here, and fine tune it, so you feel comfortable with it! If you're going to travel that path, then for a 50's look, twist your hair into a retro friendly style, grab the oversized pearl earrings and the bright red lipstick and really make a go of it. I know...I hear some of you. "I'm too old for that", "I'll just look silly", "People will stare at me". Yes. Yes. But you're only here in this life once. Are you really going to spend all your time just existing? Throw caution to the wind. Maybe ease your way into the look. Get used to a brighter lip colour first, and wear it on your nails too. Then introduce some vintage look accessories with beads, bags and earrings.
3. Get brave and start wearing little hair accessories or hats if you're the type to carry that look off. I have a selection of little rhinestone and floral hair accessories, and wear them often. Hats are way overdue for a comeback too, in my opinion. Look at how important little hats were back in the early part of the twentieth century. And the great thing about a hat was, that you could invest in quality basics for your wardrobe that would last years, and then update with the right little cloche, beret, fedora, or fascinator, and a trim to match on your Investment Jacket. So glamorous too!
4.  Make sure your shoes fit the look too. I absolutely believe that the right shoe can make or break an outfit. Ballet flats, kitten heels or sky high stilettos all make the most of the Rockabilly look. A Mary-Jane court shoe with a small heel is key to the Downton Abbey Flapper look. Boho demands strappy sandals for Summer or knee high boots for Winter. And if you're going for the Avant Garde Arty look, well shoes can be the piece de resistance in your wardrobe arsenal. From bright colours, to unusual styles, nothing is off limits. I'm a sucker for a fabulous shoe. In fact, a disproportionate percentage of my own wardrobe budget, is spent on shoes. Loafers, ballerina flats, brogues and sandals are my favourites, and I have them in many colours, and styles, and I love nothing more than a quirky shoe ;0)
These Dolce & Gabbana lounge slippers are on my wish list at the moment. How adorable are they?
 - Slippers - Dolce&Gabbana - Winter 2016
5. Alternatively, and for the braver fashionista in all of us, develop your own style. Look at labels like Dolce &Gabbana, (my personal, completely over-the-top 'if I had a million dollars to spend on a wardrobe' favourite), or locally here in Australia, the fashion retro label, Kitten D'Amour, where my daughters fashion heart lies. Of course, insert your own personal favourite there.
I cannot in my wildest dreams, imagine a scenario in this lifetime, where I could afford a D&G original. I can, however, analyse what it is about their garments that I find so breathtaking, and do my best to imitate those elements.
For me, it's the lavish embellishments, the use of ideas borrowed from the Old Masters or ancient architecture, dabs of pop culture, jewels and beading, and the almost storybook or child-like look of some of the jackets and accessories, that I find so appealing. This, I know, is in stark contrast to my very staid wardrobe of neutrals, but that's okay. On days like today, when the Spring sunshine is streaming in through my windows, and I'm in the mood for a bit of fun, it means I can use my D&G inspired accessories, to be more youthful and playful with my wardrobe.
Here's how different trims, can completely alter the look of a very ordinary Linen blend jacket, sourced from my local charity shop for just $9.50.
I liked the unusual Nehru style neckline, the flecked colour and the flattering cut of this jacket, and I've decided it's well worth a weekend of upcycling it to make it the fun focus of my wardrobe this Spring and Summer.

I have many trims on hand due to my sewing commitment for dance costumes with my daughters school. There's always a bit o' this and a swatch o' that left over from costuming.
First off, I decided whether I might trim the bottom of the jacket, into a more rounded shape to echo the one I'd seen here.
I folded it under to get the effect, and started laying down different trims to help me decide which way I'd go.
I tried this metallic gold Moroccan style tassel. I quite like this and it's a sophisticated look, but doesn't quite have the 'fun' element I'm seeking.
A dig around yielded this piece of silk that I intended turning into a scarf last Summer. The hot pink and lime green pompom trim was meant for the ends of the scarf. I momentarily considered using that, and wearing the scarf sans pompoms, with it. But I felt this was a little limiting, colour-wise.

I quite liked the idea of using this vintage inspired quilting fabric either as a flat trim...

...or gathered into a lavish frill, as seen below. Worn with different accessories like these fabulous beads, another thrifting find at $15...

...or this gorgeous vividly hued rhinestone necklace, that my husband purchased for me at the Kensington Palace gift shop in London when we visited there in 2008...

...or even with my favourite 'tiara' gifted by a friend, and seen here...

..this showed the most promise in terms of personalization, and versatility.
But then I remembered this box of neon coloured flat backed jewels that I'd just purchased this week on sale for $7 for a couple of hundred of them. I didn't have a plan for them at the time, but they caught my eye, and who could pass up a bargain like that!
These are perfect for what I had in mind. I am now in a fever, stitching these in a lavish, over-the-top, Dolce & Gabbana inspired fashion, along the edges of my jacket.
This was my first idea, but I thought it looked a bit kindergarten-ish for some reason I can't explain...

I decided to stick with the orginal shape of the jacket, with squared off edges, as it seemed to echo the geometric shapes in the jewels....

...and layered the jewels heavily in rows, to make a real statement....

I think this 'felt' right too, as the shape of my jacket echoes the style of the Indian Nehru jackets, often heavily embellished with metallic embroidery and jewels. Research of 'Nehru Jackets' confirmed that I am on the right track. So you need to think about the lines of your garment too, and perhaps take that into consideration in embellishing. A more traditional shaped jacket, may have dictated an entirely different approach.
As the rest of my wardrobe is almost exclusively neutral, I can see myself getting a great deal of wear out of my D&G inspired jewelled Nehru jacket. I can still add other accessories, and I've already spotted some neon pink sandals that I think will complement it perfectly. Some fun oversized corsages for the lapel, or my hair, or scarves in similar neon colours, or perhaps vivid jewelled earrings and bangles, or a brightly coloured tote bag, all spring to mind. Certainly my orange and yellow beads and Kensington Palace rhinestone necklace are already strong contenders.
Now neon jewels may not be YOUR thing. So to get your imagination going, some other embellishments I considered were:
*Embroidered appliques which are available on eBay for under $2
*Sequinned appliques, also available on eBay or from specialist dance trim suppliers
*Rhinestone appliques
*Ribbons and lace
*Chanel style chain
*Multiple simple, brightly coloured rows of machine or hand stitching.
Any of these ideas would still have elevated my $9.50 thrift store bargain to something unique, and designer worthy, giving me a statement look that defies the amount of money I'd actually spent.
Go looking with an open mind and a good imagination, and I bet you too, can find something to upcycle at your local charity store.
In my next post in this series, I'll be showing you how my other random purchase of a silky polka dot blouse for just $4.50... going to become another D&G inspired blouse like this one....!..
Todays feature from my Five Star Frou-Frou Neverending Linkup is...
..Fiona at Saw It, Pinned It, Did It. She's sharing how she created her own School holiday fun, with Henna Tattoos! Thanks Fiona! ya...
Mimi xxx


  1. Hello Mimi, thanks for sharing about embellishing thrifted clothing and making it look expensive. I have a friend who buys some of her clothing at thrift stores and then she does pretty embroidery on the tops. It takes talent and you have to love sewing and being creative.
    Have a wonderful end of the week and weekend.

    1. Thanks Julie. Yes, those little touches make all the difference. Mimi xxx

  2. I love these ideas, I'm a big fan of picking up bargains at charity shops so these ideas will come in handy.

  3. Thank you for sharing my Henna post, Mimi xx
    Love your bejewelled outfit, I think you will look amazing (as always)!!
    Fiona xx

  4. Hello my dear! I enjoyed reading several of your posts
    (I had to catch up!) and they were all so interesting -
    great job & thank you for sharing!
    I hope this finds you well and having good weather.
    Best wishes, the 'other' Mimi

    1. I'm glad you dropped in Mimi. It's always lovely to see you. Mimi xxx

  5. My daughter and I love thrift shopping but she is so much better at putting together darling outfits than I am. I've started using her as my wardrobe consultant, and since she doesn't want her mother dressing like a teenager any more than her mother wants to do it, it seems to be working so far!
    Blessings, Leigh

    1. Leigh, yes the young ones know their stuff! Mimi xxx


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