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Stop Buying Cheap Crap and Change the World

Perfect Little Black Sweater Dress Refashion
An Eileen Fisher Inspired Sweater Refashion

I don’t frequently hop on my eco fashion soapbox on this blog.  I want to change the way the world thinks about fashion, but I don’t want to alienate/guilt/shame people into it.  Instead, I show you a better, more creative, and inspired way to approach looking fabulous.  I try to make it nice & positive.   🙂

"A spoonful of sugar" and all that jazz!
“A spoonful of sugar” and all that jazz!

But seriously…

Stop buying cheap crap.  Stop buying it, and the sweatshop-fueled fast fashion powers that be will crumble.  Demand better quality from your clothes (even if it means buying *gasp* less) and watch fabrics and construction methods improve and become more durable.  Stop buying it and enjoy knowing that your style and your conscience aren’t one-use disposable commodities.

In a recent thrifting venture, I found this dress that looked pretty cute on the hanger.  Then, I took a closer look:

Holey Moley!
You can’t hide from me, teeny holes!
Holey Sh*t. :/
There were plenty more, but I don’t want to bore you with an endless series of holes. :/

This thing was riddled with holes on all the seams where cheap crappy fabric was pulling away from cheap crappy thread.  🙁

I bought this dress because it was only $1…and because I knew it would be thrown in the garbage as soon as a worker there noticed how damaged it was.

Did you know that most thrift stores do that?  When you donate something damaged, it usually doesn’t pass the sorting process.  It goes riiiiight into the dumpster.  Did you know that textile waste accounts for 5% of our landfills?

This bullish*t makes me angry, folks.  I used to date this guy whose sister would brag about how little she paid for her clothes (Uh…dude…I never pay more than $1…but whatevs!).  One day she joked, “This top is actually pretty well-made.  I hope the kid in China who made it got an extra bowl of rice that day!”  (our relationship lasted about as long as her crappily constructed top).This type of mentality is not okay.      It just isn’t.  You can look awesome, be thrifty, AND not sell your soul in the process! 

jon stewart colbert bravo

I washed my new dress by hand in cold water and restitched every single seam.


I noticed a little bit of hand-stitching on one of the seams where the original owner tried to fix the dress, then gave up.


Now my dress no longer looks like the victim of a slasher flick!  🙂


I’m going to be extremely careful with this dress to try to get as many wears out of it as I possibly can.


I wore my new frock to the Anastasia & Friends gallery to check out some awesome violins & guitars!

Well hello there fella! 🙂
Sort of creepy, but very cool!
Eye see you! 🙂

While out & about, I even ran into some friends!

Recognize my model from the ReFashion Show??? :)
Recognize my model from the ReFashion Show??? 🙂

I’m not trying to scold you guys or be a jerk here.  Just think about the impact your style choices are making on the world around you.   Mmmmkay?  🙂


Perfect Little Black Sweater Dress Refashion
An Eileen Fisher Inspired Sweater Refashion

90 thoughts on “Stop Buying Cheap Crap and Change the World”

  1. Pingback: razor
  2. I have been completely inspired by your blog and creativeness and LOVE that approach you take to show people what to do instead of always only talking about what NOT to do. It is easy to say things, you live it with your life, showing us all how we can too. My thinking has changed from, “oh, I need something new from the store,” to “hmm, what can I do to make these MANY pieces of clothes I have that I NEVER wear actually wearable.” The thrift stores near me do not have $1 finds, I have to sort through many things to find the sale tag and still pay $3 or $4, which isn’t bad, but I have so much here at home to work with still. The only problem now is finding the time! I don’t think I have actually bought any piece of clothing from a store since I found your blog in April. I look at what they have and think, huh, I can make something better. Keep up the good work!

  3. I love your rant and mostly agree with you. I have the fortune of knowing (and have worked at) a non-profit thrift store that never throws away clothing donations. They sell the damaged clothing for salvage that is made into insulation and other recycled products. Not only do I buy from a good business, I can donate my clothing and know that it will be sold for a good cause wither way.

    I urge everyone to find thrift stores that sell or donate their unsold clothing to salvage. Thanks for your great demonstration of responsible shopping!

  4. I spent my free time reading your entire blog for 4 days… I have a lot of free time. I have re done many of my clothes in times past and am now inspired to do this again. Only.. without a machine 🙁

    Im highly against not buying American made anymore… for reasons you state here, but also because its simply not helping the state of our economic situation in America by farming out jobs. (I urge others to support there country the same way!)

    Thanks for an amazing blog!

  5. I just found out about an online service that allows you to borrow clothes! It’s called Gwynnie Bee and they have clothes for sizes 10-28. You just subscribe, shop around, “rent” the clothes you like, and send them back with the pre-paid packaging at any time to get more. Seems like an interesting new way to have an ever-changing wardrobe! The first 30 days are free, so I might give it a go : )
    Here’s the link:

  6. Hello All!

    Great post! The major thrift store in my area will take all the clothes that won’t sell and all the clothes that cannot be sold and package it up to send to other countries for donation or sale at a drastically low rate.I used to work at this store in the production work and even though I despised my job, it always made me feel really good to know that these materials would not go to waste.

  7. I love, love, love your post. I’ve recently started following your blog. I love everything you said and everything you stand for. I think I’ve become even a bigger fan after this entry. Keep doing what you’re doing because you’re an inspiration to many of us.

  8. I’m usually too damn lazy to comment, but I wanted to say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!! for saying what needs to be said. Exactly on point.

  9. I really needed to hear this actually. My husband is an entrepreneur and so we are basically on a no-money budget (hah!). I try to not spend money on my clothes at all (I just get on facebook and beg my friends for hand-me-downs… works like a charm, I have a full closet), but occasionally when I need something specific I take my saved up birthday money and go right to Old Navy. But it’s cheap and thin stuff. So, this was good for me to hear. I’m going to make a concerted effort next time to make a more long-term choice! Thank you for bringing this side of fashion to my attention!
    Also, just interesting: I recently had a friend that was a bit of a shop-a-aholic (spending thousands every month) and she made a covenant with God to not buy anything fashion-related at all for a year. Kinda cool to think about going on a “fashion diet” every once in a while!

  10. Soapbox it up, chick. I’m sure a majority of your readers (like myself) are here because they’re sick of what is becoming of this country and are trying to find the best ways to become self-reliant and resourceful. John (my boyfriend) and I are working on starting our own safe, healthy, natural, and organic garden so we can have fresh food at home every day. I’m glad to see people doing something to counteract the selfishness of this country. :-X

  11. I am a thrifter also. I have found some incredible high end items at Salvation Army. Eileen Fisher jacket and shell(6.99), St John skirts(3.99), beautiful suede Lord and Taylor skirt(2.50) and even a genuine Chanel scarf and Hermes scarf(3.99 each – the Hermes scarf is amazing almost a piece of art). I cannot believe what people donate and have found many items with tags attached. I just use it as a way to recycle stuff and save lots of money while wearing on trend items. On Fridays it is 5 for $5 day and have also gotten some nice items for $1. Always amazed at what people give away. We have so much in this country. I don’t have to refashion much since most items are useable and affordable as is. I look at the catalogs/magazines to see style trends and if I like it can almost always duplicate via the “Salvo”.

  12. I I ust my two cents, I am an advisory board member for a Goodwill Store. They make great efforts to recycle all kinds of items. There are many salvage buyers who buy things in bulk (hats, cotton, single shoes, clothing, linens), our store even has a buyer for broken Christmas lights. Your independent thrift shop can’t do this, but many Goodwill Stores are keeping tons of material out of out landfills.

  13. Thank you for the post! It is so wonderful to see so many people who support and share the same ideals. Unfortunately the only people who read this blog are those who think like this, and for the many of us who are here cheering you on there are many more people who don’t think this way or just don’t even have a clue. I am glad you are doing what you can to spread awareness and inspiring so many of us 🙂
    I work at a specialty retail store, and many of our brands are made in Canada or the USA, so they are better made, but more expensive. However we do have some goods from overseas. One day I heard some young girls talking about the price point, and my co-worker was explaining where we get most of our product vs the cheaper goods, and one exclaimed “But I love mass production! It makes everything cheaper!” I died a little inside.
    I cringe at thinking of my consuming habits through my teen years and early 20’s. I have taken a personal pact to buy only: secondhand clothing, fabric to make my own, even better, secondhand fabric (did you know old tablecloths make lovely lace/crochet style tops?) or locally handmade fashions. I am lucky to live in a community where there is support for local artisans and many craft fairs to find goods.
    I am definitely going to read that book that people have mentioned a few times in the comments already.

  14. Great blog! Regarding sewing machines, I see them for $10 to $20 in thrift stores all the time. I would stick to an older basic machine from a thrift store. You can also check locally owned fabric or quilt stores since they may have regular customers who have upgraded and want to sell the older machine-some even do consignments!

  15. I wish I could thrift for clothes but living in a small town and being a larger woman my choices are slim to none at thrift stores. I am also on a limited income so money is an issue. I try and buy just a few items and wear them to death so even though it’s a $12-20 top I take good care of it and make it last as long as it can. It will go from things to wear out side the house to “house only” clothes that get wear till they are too holey to go on and then cut them up for rags. I buy at Khol’s for the most part and do worry about how and where the clothes are made but not really sure what else I can do with my situation as it is.

    • I hate that you have a hard time finding stuff that you can work with. :/ Pretty plus size clothing is hard to find, even in regular stores (It’s gotten better over the years, but it still has a ways to go). If you don’t mind my asking, where do you live? I live in South Carolina and find TONS of plus-size stuff. Fatty yummy food is a HUGE part of our culture here, and we have more large people per capita than places up north (those poor northerners have never even tasted grits, and this makes me sad). If you live up north, I would suggest hitting up thrift stores down south if you ever travel here.

      I’ve gotten a couple of really awesome refashion submissions from a couple of curvy ladies that I just need to get around to posting, because they’ve really done awesome work. I WISH WISH WISH that at plus-size lady would start a refashion blog. It would be an instant hit. Seriously. Someone needs to get on this.

      I LOVE that you mentioned taking good care of everything you have, even if it’s cheap. That’s awesome. Yep…Cold water, and throw it over your shower rod to dry! I think mending and taking care of what you have are just as important to the eco-fashion movement and ethically sourcing what you have.

  16. Thank you for this post. Unfortunately I feel like the only people who share your ideals and will stand up for this issues are the ones who read your blog. For the many of us who cheer for this movement, there are thousands who are bragging to their friends about their new forever XXI tops as we speak. We need an entire attitude shift, and I am glad you are raising awareness.
    I am saddened at how wasteful I was through my teens and early twenties. I have now taken a personal pact to only purchase: Fabric (to make my own clothes), secondhand fashions (or even better, secondhand fabrics, did you know tablecloths make beautiful lace/crochet style tops?), and locally handmade. I am lucky to live in an area that has a blossoming community of handmade artisans and craft fairs. These garments are definitely more expensive, but it goes along with buying LESS. Have only $50 a month for clothing expense? Instead of using that up on a cheap garment, compound it, and get one new AWESOME item every three months instead.

  17. Just wanted to say that I love what you did with the dress! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looking through the racks at the thrift store and have found something with a simple hole in it. Perhaps more people need to learn how to sew instead of just tossing this stuff???? We’ve become a disposable society in so many ways, it makes me very sad.

    That said, I will say that since I’ve started shopping regularly at thrift stores, I have a much more diverse wardrobe with brand names that I otherwise couldn’t afford. I’m constantly amazed at the number of things I’ve found with tags still attached. And how many things I’ve bought that were new or like new because they were mis-sized. Perhaps we need to start holding the clothing industry accountable for some of this crap that they are passing off as well made clothing.

  18. Thank you for this great post! Buying things made in sweat shops is condoning the ill treatment of those who work there. Price is not everything. I really wish that more people realized that.

  19. Excellent post! It’s likely that most of the people who follow you are already on your side about this issue, hence all the positive comments and stories.

    I’ll add mine too!

    I just completed an entire spring/summer wardrobe based on thrift store finds. Jeans, tops, sweaters, even shoes (they are canvas and I washed them to within an inch of their lives…they look new now!) I refashioned, dyed and repurposed every single thing. I don’t need anything else because I have more than I need now. I was choosy about which items I bought because I only wanted good quality so they didn’t fall apart after many washings.

    I even learned to crochet and I made myself some earrings, bracelets, necklaces and even a pair of slippers from a ball of yarn my mom had lying around.

    Thanks for your post!

  20. Absolutely…YES to everything you talk about in this post! Last year, I sold/donated most of my possessions in preparation for moving out of the country and was DISGUSTED with how much I had accumulated over the years, including clothes and shoes that I had never worn–bought because “it was a good deal”. That’s when I read Overdressed and started following your blog. I am forever changed!

    One of the things I’d like to note is that this is not just a “Thrift vs. Buy New” issue. Couldn’t we save the world by buying 2nd hand, refashioning, AND buying well-made clothing (of sustainable fabrics and from suppliers with ethical labor practices)? I know…I might as well be asking for a pet elephant to appear out of fabric scraps. But, like you mention, if shoppers demand it, it will be done. Thrifters, refashioners, seamstresses, and quality-connoisseurs all have the same goal. It just needs to become a mainstream message, not a niche one.

    Jillian, you are a hero getting this message out to regular people. Please, feel free to get up on your soapbox (refashioned from shoulder-pads, I’m sure 🙂 more often!

  21. I think what you said and do can be very inspiring. what you do to clothes is amazing! I just hope that I can “refashion” like you and stop buying cheap clothes.
    thanks for being outspoken 🙂

  22. Hey Jillian, I just had an idea from what you said in this post regarding thrift stores throwing out clothing that has something wrong with it. Have you thought about going to your local thrift stores and asking them to save the clothing that they would throw in the trash for you to pick up and refashion? I used to work for a company in Northern MI that got all of Goodwill’s wool sweaters that had holes or stains or had shrunk and wouldn’t sell. They basically paid pennies on the pound and cut around the stains/holes, felted them and made unique hand-made mittens, hats, scarves, vests, jackets, purses (you name it). They were able to hire a lot of people from their community, some of which were able to work from home for them (me included!) and saved literally tons of clothing from the landfill. Thanks so much for this post. And I absolutely love the dress. Super cute!

  23. And again, don’t forget eBay. If you are looking for something in particular, or you like a particular brand that consistently fits you well, you can search for exactly what you need. You’ll be helping to nurture a second-hand market for quality items, helping sellers earn a living, *and* helping the thrifts (where many sellers get their items) and in turn the charities they support.

  24. For years I actually made my own clothes in order to have unique and well made items for far less than retail. Then the price of patterns and fabric made that prohibitive. When a pattern costs more than the item could be purchased ready made, I gave up sewing. BUT I discovered thrifting and second hand shops. I LOVE vintage styles and have kept my closet fresh with regular trips to 6 local thrift stores. Each has its own unique flavor. I’ve been jealous of the $1.00 price tags you talk about but never spend more than $10 for anything and now feel lucky that I have so many choices. When I do breakdown and purchase something retail, I am almost always disappointed that it never lasts as long as my “old” stuff.

  25. Thanks for posting this, I really enjoy seeing your refashions, but it’s good to occasionally bring a little more focus to the ethical side. I’m another of those who finds thrift stores to be impractical, as a working mum I don’t have the time to spend sorting through the racks in a thrift store for pieces which are going to work for me. But that’s not really an excuse for supporting cheap fashion.
    Cheap fashion relies on high turnover of clothing to make a profit (how much can they make on a $5 t-shirt, if you know anything about the price of fabric and the time involved in making you know that their margins are very low). In order to make it a profitable industry they need to keep everyone buying new clothes, so they make disposable clothes which will be out of fashion in a month or two and convince us we need to keep buying.
    You don’t have to thrift shop, but you can look for quality pieces (buy good brands, check fabric content, be prepared to pay a bit more), which you intend to wear for years, and then STOP SHOPPING, as already commented, focus on cost per wear rather than outright cost, and you can make a difference. Buy stuff which you love and intend to treasure, not because it seems like such a good bargain.

  26. I read Elizabeth Cline’s book in November, and decided that I would buy no new clothing at all in 2013, except for any needed undies or footwear (I have very hard to fit feet). So far, I’ve purchased absolutely nothing, and it doesn’t even seem like a sacrifice. If I do need something new, I will either sew it myself (I’ve been sewing for 45 years), or buy it from a thrift shop. My mother used to work for a New York design house before she got married, and she taught me what quality is in clothing; things have sure gone downhill since I was a girl.

  27. I was thrifting BEFORE Macklemore made it cool – but I hope the popularity of that song makes people wake up and realize that you can get ridiculously nice items at your local Salvation Army or thrift shop! I picked up a Chanel cardigan for $4 a few weeks ago!!! I find it’s easier if you go with a mission, a certain top or color, style, whatever and go from there. Not paying out the nose + reusing barely worn or easily salvageable items = happier Earth.

  28. As a denizen of the almighty United States of America, we need to take care not to point out our often zealous attitudes towards another culture. While I don’t agree with child “slave” labor (and that’ girl’s comment is just audacious), I also realize that a burgeoning middle class — like the one that China is now experiencing — will take care of those societal issues on their own. In other words, an evolution of humanitarian ideals (more money in the pockets of the common people instead of the bourgeois class) will in turn create laws that protect the rights of their new-found humanitarian ideals.(no more child slave labor). It’s a common misconception that boycotting will result in change to another country — when, in reality, what it does is cause starvation.

    I’m not suggesting going out and buying all the goods made from China (or Mexico, as Mexico is the “new” China), because, well, the quality is crappy. I don’t ever shop at Walmart (for anything, much less clothing) and I frequent the farmer’s markets and thrift stores, for a reason. Because recycling and reusing is a global issue, not just one country’s issue, and boycotting because the quality is crappy WILL result in something being done.

  29. I agree, Jillian! Thank you for your inspiration. One IMPORTANT piece of information – my Salvation Army sells all of the bad clothes to rags dealers and it is recycled. The Salvation Army gets money and the clothes are not throw in the garbage! In fact, when I have worn clothes or clothes from which I removed the buttons, zippers, etc, I contribute those in separate bags marked “Rags” so they do not have to sort! LOOK for charities that do this!!!

    • That’s great news about the Salvation Army, MJ. I don’t have a Salvation Army thrift store near me, but I’ll have to make a drive when I go “treasure hunting”. 🙂

  30. I’ll add my voice to the chorus of “I’m glad you saved the dress.” I’m an avid thrifter, though no expert on “vintage” clothing per se–and I can still tell, sometimes, when something was made just by the quality of the seams and the fabric! I picked up a gabardine skirt a few months ago (Lord & Taylor) that’s about two inches too long to be really flattering on me, but I can’t bear to raise the hem because the skirt is so beautifully made–fully lined, wide satin hem tape, the works. I’m a decent seamstress, but I can’t replicate that yet, so the skirt is going to stay a little too long for me, and I’ll love it anyway.

  31. This is an awesome discussion! I appreciate Jillian’s post as well as the ones challenging it. All really good stuff to think about. I’ve become a thrift shopper & refashioner in the past couple of years, and it’s been an important way for us to make ends meet as well as a way to reduce our impact. I hate contributing to consumer culture and the demand for more, more, more fashions, new things every year, bulging closets. Here’s what I worry about, tho. When I go to thrift stores, I naturally look for labels that I consider better quality, better made, like Anne Taylor, Gap, Sweat Pea, Garnet Hill, etc. But if I buy that stuff and wear it, am I not contributing to the overall perception that that clothing is more desirable? Am I not, in my own way, contributing to the demand for that stuff and to the consumer culture? Because I don’t walk around wearing a sign that says, “I got this at a thrift store and you can too.” Instead, I walk around advertising, essentially, for those better brands. Wouldn’t it be better to buy something locally designed, made from organically grown or raised fibers, as someone said above? But I couldn’t afford something like that. That’s what I worry about. Dumb? Thoughts? Regardless, I am so glad that so many people are refashioning, and posts like this one really highlight the reasons why we should shop thrift, learn to refashion, and share the message with others.

    • I think that by wearing those nicer brands, you *are* raising the bar, quality wise, for others. But you’re also helping to create a market for used garments in those brands. Thrift shops aren’t the only option; eBay does a great trade in those labels, as do local consignment shops. And that means that folks can spend a little more to buy those brands, knowing they can resell them or consign them (instead of donating or tossing), which effectively reduces the price for the woman who buys them new.

      And you don’t need to have a ton of clothes; at second-hand prices you can put together a good mix-and-match wardrobe of quality, classic pieces, you don’t need.

      The next step would be to tell others where you got your clothes when they admire them. I am open about where I get my quality pieces, because I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to “keep up” with me by spending a lot.

  32. BRAVO, Jillian!

    Your post addresses two problems with fast fashion – the ecological impact and the ethical issue of “wage slave labor”. There’s another thing that fast fashion impacts – our own labor economy. In order to remain competitive with other countries who pay their workers 10 cents an hour, companies are either forced to outsource their labor to these countries or offer LOWER wages to the American workers. If the American worker is not willing to take the pay cut, then they’re forced out of a job because the company can’t stay in business. Now that the wages have been lowered in America, it becomes harder to find a job that pays a wage that will allow one to raise one’s standard of living. If you want to see how fast fashion is contributing to the lowering of the standards of our economy, look for the documentary “Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags” to see how fast fashion practically destroyed the New York garment district.

    You also touched upon a problem with how fast fashion is impacting thrift stores. Individuals are donating the schmatta to thrift stores, and since the stuff is pilling, ripping, shrinking and fading because it’s cheaply made, it’s not good enough for the store to sell so it ends up in the trash.

    Repurposing garments, buying second-hand, and buying from local artisans not only helps our environment and supports good causes, but it sends a statement – the big one finger salute – to the conglomerates who are willing to manufacture and sell goods made by “wage slave labor”.

  33. I shared this post on my Facebook (along with a small speech about the importance of conserving clothing materials) and I’m reading Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline and that’s honestly the first time I had ever thought about the impact of my clothing on the environment, so I’m completely fired up about it now. NPR had a story about it last night, too so it might be on their website if anyone wants to check it out!

  34. I learned early on in my life that to buy quality was way better than cheap. If you consider the cost per wear and get double the wear out of a more expensive garment, in the long run you’ve paid less for what you wear daily. Now if you can get that quality at second hand prices, that’s even better! I am definitely a thrift shopper, but often have to buy new at specialty shops just to find sleeves and pants long enough for my height.

  35. Some of the discarded clothing is actually recycled into shop rags and such. Ever wonder what happens to the clothing dropped off in the bins in the parking lots? Search “rag shops recycled clothing” on the web for an interesting learning experience. Especially in regards to sorting and re-selling vintage clothing.

  36. Really love this particular refashion. I wonder if the seams were splitting because the former owner gained weight after buying it and was so overweight she was straining it at the seams before donating it. Just a thought.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • I don’t think so. The splits were at places that would make no sense for that (several were at total non stress points), and the elastic was perfectly fine.

  37. Well said! Some think shopping second hand is about being cheap but it’s not. It’s about being a smart conscious shopper. And I want to thank you for your time and efforts. Your blog has helped me to do all the refashions I wanted and knew I could do but didn’t know where to start. I appreciate you passing on your knowledge and know how, and have since passed on your blog to my friends! 🙂 Keep up the good work making a much needed change one refashion at a time!

  38. Have you ever seen the British documentary Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts? It’s about the fashion clothing trade …. very sobering. We always try to buy Australian made or at least organic for the principles behind each product, but Australia is selling out to cheaper productions in nearly everything. “Think global while acting local” – love David Suzuki’s concept. Don’t give up hope and get depressed about it … just try to keep making good choices.

  39. Thank you for this post! I hope you are not just preaching to the choir on this blog and reach others that are part of this consumer culture.With stores like Dots, Discovery, and Wal-Mart they are selling disposible clothes. Most women have way to many clothes, and bulging closets to prove it. Hence the never ending supply at thrift shops. I’m sorry, there is something wrong with being able to buy a brand new shirt at Wal-Mart for $5. (and a $1 hamburger at McDonalds- I digress) You get what you pay for…crap. And some poor (literally poor) soul is paying the price for your instant gratification for a piece of new fashion. I shop thrift and if necessary I shop higher end stores for good quality classic pieces. If you don’t, or can’t buy thrift, then save your pennies for a quality piece that will last. Mother Earth will thank you, and maybe…just maybe, working conditions will change in third world countries.

  40. Wow Jillian – you really started something with this post – and good for you! I’m right there with you – shopping at consignment stores and thrift stores is my passion because it’s a treasure hunt for me. However, I live in Florida, which seems to be a GOLD MINE for finding great deals on used clothing. I can sympathize with others though who say they don’t have much available in the way of thrift and consignment stores, and that is really tough. All I can say is that if we can each do what we can do to help our planet, then good for us. Little steps, right? Awareness is the first step! Great job!

  41. Thank you! I never knew (or thought about?) what a thrift store would do with holey garments. Definitely better to upcycle than contribute to landfills! Hey if (when?) your newly refurbished dress does start t ravel out again, it’s really pretty fabric, and might make a nice scarf. 🙂

  42. I am fortunate enough to not be poor, and so I get excited about buying new clothes (which is not very often) from a particular designer in Asheville (Spiritex) where the clothes are sewn locally, often from organic cotton. But I really appreciate your perspective here, and think that if we all became more mindful of how our consumption has an impact on the world, we could collectively change the world in inspiring ways. It’s not just about clothes, it’s about food, and packaging, and transportation, and just about everything you buy. So, thanks for your passion. It’s just reminding me of mine. 🙂 p.s. I subscribe to your blog to share your awesomeness with my independent and super-crafty eleven-year-old unschooled daughter, who is already doing things I don’t even touch, like cheesemaking and sewing.

  43. So interesting to read this because I have been complaining about the increasingly cheap, poor quality fabrics used in clothing in the past few years. Even some of the more costly retail items end up with holes in them after wearing them once – even before laundering! We all need to boycott the manufacturers who utilize cheap labor to produce inferior products. By upcycling, I can get better quality goods at prices I can afford AND help keep at least some textiles from going into landfills.

  44. I agree. I’ll take a few beautifully made pieces of clothing over a fast fashion binge any day. I’m also a huge fan of recycling old sweaters: a few bucks at a thrift shop and a bit of time spent unravelling will get you tons of yarn to make new things with.
    Love the blog 🙂

  45. I wish more people would share in that sentiment… I know I’m definitely more aware of quality. I used to work in the JRs dept of a big ol’ fancy department store with brands big and small. It amazed me to see people shell out money for one time use items, that would pill, split, fade, and literally fall apart at the seams. There were times we would have to send items right out of the box directly to alterations (we had an alteration genius!) to fix a zipper, button, seam, etc. This also allowed me to see quality across the brands. The older ladies I worked with could tell you boat loads about the quality based on what it was and where it was made and pretty much predict the fate of a certain line… lol It’s hard though- brands that you could trust 10 years ago are not the same quality today. I’ve had a woven button up collared shirt from a popular “outdoorsy” brand that I probably bought close to15 years ago. It has NOT faded, it is just now starting to show wear on the hems of the sleeves. Okay maybe it’s not the forefront of fashion, but the classic quality is still there and that shirt is my woobie… lol I still occasionally shop at the same store but have not been able to repeat the same quality with similar items. When this shirt dies- it will be part of a quilt. 🙂

  46. Exactly! I love thrifting so much because it’s a form of recycling. I would rather purchase something second-hand and make it my own than support the production of new clothes produced under terrible working conditions. But I also support local designers in my area who create their garments ethically. Not enough people think about where their clothes are coming from, it’s another corrupt aspect of the consumer world – right along with the food & cosmetic industry Thank you for the post! Hopefully people will start thinking about the quality of their clothes!

  47. i have been a hardcore thrifter for the last few years, and rarely buy new–as in, practically never. Yesterday I happened to be in the mall to return some ridiculously expensive makeup, and as I was walking the halls, seeing window after window of adorable clothes, all I could think was, “I am so glad that I buy all my clothes from the thrift store–I get all these clothes for pennies on the dollar of what the original owner will pay for them!” I honestly cannot think of why someone WOULDN’T shop goodwill. There is nothing that a washing machine & sewing machine can’t make right.

  48. What is the best way to learn to sew clothing? And what are the most inexpensive types of sewing machines?

  49. The unfortunate reality is that many people, myself included, do not live in an area where thrift stores sell their wares for 50cents or $1.00. I live in a relatively secluded area where a dress at a thrift store (If I manage to find one that is the right size and is at least a little on trend with my style) costs around $15. Sometimes as high as $20. It’s tough to go this route and “settle” for the thrift store dress when you can go online and easily find a dress that you love for the same price, or less, in many cases.
    Some pieces at the thrift stores near me are cheaper, but are usually the outdated dresses and clothes that tend to be rejected. And while I love to refashion clothes (I did it with all my clothes last summer), I am only moderately skillful with a sewing machine and the idea of ruining a thrift store piece that cost $15 is pretty discouraging.
    I certainly don’t mean to put a damper on your message of demanding better quality for our clothes; it is a great message that I support, but the sad fact is that, for many, this is not an easy task.

    • ^ This.

      Combined with what Jillian H said, I am a plus sized girl and the plus size section of my local thrift stores is extremely meager.

    • Do you have any smaller thrift stores in your area? I find that the “name brand” thrift stores tend to be more expensive, but small thrift stores (like church-run stores) are a lot more cheaper.

      Also, one of my favourite thrifted dresses was $25 and has lasted about 7 years without any signs of wear and tear – I couldn’t buy a dress new for that price and have it last that long.

      I guess it’s about choosing second hand as often as possible. While most of my wardrobe is thrifted, I do have ASOS splurges every now and then (but am often disappointed by the fit and quality – you think I’d have learned by now)

  50. What is the most inexpensive way to learn to sew and best place to get an inexpensive sewing machine? What sewing machines are good? Bad?
    I’d love to be able to tailor my clothes and do what you do with thirty finds.
    I have no clue how to sew or what machine is good or how much to spend on a sewing machine

      • Actually, at least in the bay area, there’s quite a good chance of finding a used sewing machine at a thrift store, too. At the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Berkley / Oakland, I saw as many as half a dozen sewing machines, in good shape, with hard cases. I wouldn’t suggest going straight to Amazon, when we’re already trying to make an impact by buying used clothes. 😉

        • Eh…I’m going to disagree with you on this one. A lot of the sewing machines you find in thrift stores are there because they have issues that need to be repaired (from my experience)…and repairs are expensive. Also, newer machines are easier to thread than most vintage ones. BUT…if you can find someone to come with you who is willing to test your machine out and give it a clean bill of health, go for it!

          • At the thrift shops, it’s worth your while to speak to the staff and ask if they have a volunteer who checks out things like sewing machines. Some of my local thrift shops do, and any machine they put out would have been tested to be in good working condition. Older machines are built better and more sturdy than newer machines, so it can be worth your while. If the shop doesn’t test them, then of course you are taking a chance.

          • I bought my machine through Amazon. I’m not ashamed. I’m one person and I do what I can to be good to the environment, but sometimes I need to branch out a bit and “be bad” once in awhile.

    • I bought my Brother CS6000i when it was on sale for about $100. I am brand new to sewing, but the more I make mistakes the more I become confident with myself and my abilities. The more I do the more I realize it’s pretty gosh darn easy. As was said below, Google and YouTube are my fave when reading just isn’t good enough! 🙂

  51. I’m right there with you! People will comment on my stuff saying “Oh I can get that same thing for $5 at walmart!”. I just want to say, “Yeah you do that and see me for a good one in two months when that one falls apart!”. Grr!!!

  52. That patterns is actually really cute its sad that it was made so poorly. I’m glad you saved it from its certain demise. Sometimes when I thrift I find very nicely made clothes but they are usually very old and out of style. At least the clothes that I’m buying at thrift stores don’t cost very much and I’m supporting local instead of the clothes conglomerates and sweatshops. By the way you should listen to Ryan Macklemore’s song “Thrift Shop” (disclaimer: there is quite a bit of swearing) but it is become really popular and maybe so will thrift shopping!

      • I jam to this song too! I am not sure if you have read or heard of this book but I think you will enjoy it! “Overdressed: The Shocking High Cost of Cheap Fashion” by Elizabeth Cline! I read about it in a magazine and requested that my public library buy it…it was very eye opening!

          • Really that’s great and I’m glad you have not only read the book but have also “starred” in it too. I’ve have always been the “eco nerd” of the family trying to save the world one recyled post it note at a time, but until I read that book I never thought about my clothes. I mean its not like I’m spending and hoarding clothes every weekend but still, it opened my eyes to how our clothes impact everything. After reading that book I searched out amazing blogers like yourself to help inspire me do even more! Because of that book I I took the time to make more educated decisions, as recently I needed some new boots and I searched and found a compnay that still hand makes them in America with real leather, and with online cash back and coupons I scored them at over 1/2 off! I should also add that I have always been a rummage selling, thrift store kinda girl but I had never thought of re-fashions till I stumbled onto your blog. I am now happy to report that I am working on my first re-fashion and I can’t wait to get it done and to send you some pictures. Thanks for inspiring me to make changes to the way I think and feel towards fashion!

    • I’ve lived in 4 different states over the past 10 years and I’ve found the quality of secondhand shops, both Goodwill and consignment, varies dramatically by location. Columbia does seem to have some of the nicer ones.

      (BTW, Jillian, I was at USC from 2002-2006 and I sometimes spot former classmates in your photos! I think you even know my brother-in-law, Tim M. — the one who plays 50 different instruments and is currently in Moscow.)

  53. I have been frequenting thrift stores of late and have [very cheaply] scored an entire spring/summer wardrobe. Some of these items still had tags on them and clearly hadn’t been worn and are really nice items of clothing; while I won’t claim to refashion, I do have a sewing machine and I will make alterations [for example, I scored a new Tahari skirt in a size 10 for less than a dollar that I am going to take in so I can wear this spring…it’s an amazing print!]. Your blog is most inspirational and this particular post is very thought provoking. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  54. you can’t really have it both ways though.. you’re against super cheap, not well made, probably target or some other budget brand… but then you’re also against couture expensively made, lush, handstitched clothes as evidenced by your previous entries making your own designs and making jabs at how expensive the dresses you used to inspire your creations were. runway dior – not made in china, but also very unlikely to be found at goodwill. affordable to almost everyone target brand – made in china. which one is it? not trying to be snarky, just genuinely curious.

    • I definitely make jabs at expensive clothes, but that’s because I’m poor. I’ve found a thrifty way to work around that and still be ecofabulous.

      There’s a healthy middle ground for people who want to have nicely-made things, but have no money. Buy used. If you can afford something beyond Goodwill (and crave higher-end stuff), find a nice consignment place. Have clothes swaps. Take care of what you own. Wash everything in cold water on the most delicate cycle you can.

      The biggest thing that bothers me with fast fashion is that someone would purchase something with the express intention of only wearing it one time.

      I don’t think you’re being snarky at all. This is a challenging issue for women today.

    • There is a book “Overdressed: the Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion”. It is how I found Jillian in the first place. If you are curious, I recommend you find it and give it a read! It gives all the different ways that you can be sustainable (including refashioning and buying well-made middle of the road priced garments).

      (And great post Jillian!)

    • Unfortunately the quality of clothing from pretty much any store, regardless of price, has PLUMMETED over the past decade or two. Even some designer pieces have issues. The mall stores that used to have noticeably nicer items than Target or Wal-Mart have followed the same race to the bottom, using huge coupons and tons of sales to disguise the fact that their high list prices no longer reflect higher quality. It’s the same idea of convincing customers that clothing should actually be disposable, like paper towels or tampons, so the companies can make a ton of money selling more pieces (a new shirt every day! A new trend every week!) even if the prices are lower. Which would be fine, except you can’t actually do that in our world with exploiting workers and causing all sorts of environmental problems. I second the recommendation for “Overdressed”, which does a great job explaining this in more detail. Also “Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture”, by Ellen Ruppel Shell, which looks at similar issues across a bunch of different industries.

  55. I hear you, the amount of money people spend on clothes every year is nuts! I buy everything from a thrift store, and I believe that an item that’s been owned, possibly worn, then donated, and I can buy it and wear it again or refashion it, will last me longer than something bought at TJ Maxx, Marshalls, or Macy’s, not even mentioning Target here! And that girls comment about a child getting an extra bowl of rice is just mean, and she is just lucky she was born in the US, because she could’ve been that child!

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