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CONTRIBUTION · 12th February 2010
Carrie Chapple
Do you want more for less? Why not explore some of our local second-hand and discount stores, garage sales and church rummage sale? You can frequently buy scarves, purses, belts and other accessories under five dollars and a three-piece women’s suit for less than twenty with an entire accessorized ensemble, including shoes, costing under forty dollars! Not only will you be able to create a unique look for a fraction of the price but it is environmentally friendly to recycle what are popularly known as “gently used” clothes.

Don’t like used? It is possible to purchase brand new clothes this way as people often donate unwanted gifts (wrong size, colour or style for the recipient) and manufacturers donate “end of line” clothes. I once bought a lovely Irene Hill suit and a pair of Italian leather pumps for one-tenth of the original selling prices! As well, it is worth remembering that something is new only when you buy it. After only one wear, the item is considered used.

Many local thrift stores are run by charitable organizations and, in addition to getting great buys, you also help support good causes. Raid these second-hand treasure troves for old velvet, satin or brocade curtains, silk scarves and men’s ties which can be made into striking and unusual garments. Old garments made from good fabrics can acquire new lives if re-sewn or re-dyed to coordinate with the rest of your wardrobe.

End of season sales and the clearance racks in department stores are also worth investigating. Remember that men’s shirts are less expensive than women’s blouses. You can change the buttons to more ornamental ones (think Chanel) or belt them for a more figure-flattering appearance. Sew some velvet or satin onto the collar, cuffs and pocket top for a classic look. Can’t sew and can’t afford to pay someone else? Try bartering. Offer to babysit, clean, cook, garden, run errands, walk pets or other chores in exchange for sewing. You both will benefit.

Maternity shops are a great place for those versatile long sweaters and they frequently have sales. For those of you who are petite, try the children’s section. Children’s clothes are very stylish.

Buy pants to fit your hips rather than your waist if you really want to get your money’s worth. Hip measurements remain more constant and simple (and reversible) tucks or elasticized inserts can extend the life of your favourite pair of pants by years.

Even old hats can gain chic with the addition of feathers, scarves, sequins or jewellery purchased from ‘bargain bins”. A note of caution; used shoes are a poor investment unless they have very minimal wear as your savings will soon disappear in the cost of replacing soles and heels.

What else can you do to have a presentable wardrobe? Buy solid-coloured skirts, pants and jackets in complementary colours, such as black, tan, and cream or black, grey and dark green. Then you can mix and match. Buy blouses in brighter complementary prints or you choose plain blouses with brightly coloured scarves and jewellery. The key to a distinctive and affordable look is a colour-coordinated wardrobe with lots of accessories.

Need some finishing touches? Although the thrift stores and garage sales may yield some interesting costume jewellery, often for under five dollars, the really good stuff can be purchased in pawn shops or from estate sales for a fraction of the original purchase price.

Happy scavenging!

(original, copyrighted, no reprint w/o permssion from the author)

picture of Marge Simpson in used Chanel suit