Design is made up of elements such as line, shape, color, negative space, the rule of thirds... These things we naturally recognize as "good design" and they are pleasing to our eyes. A quick google search will turn up a lot of information on all of these elements and they can be used when decorating a home, planting a garden, taking a photograph or even getting dressed.
But today, I want to talk about one lesson in design I learned from my favorite professor, Jane.
"If you can't hide it, feature it."
You might already do this, and not know it. I did it when I rented an apartment with pink tile in the bathroom. Instead of trying everything to play down the pink, I embraced it, full force, and chose towels and accessories that highlighted the pink and gave the impression that pink tile was the only thing I ever wanted in a bathroom. It made me feel like I had the power to control the environment where I lived.
I do it when I choose bold glasses to wear because I can't wear contacts. I do it when I encouraged my friend to carry an alternative (heirloom handkerchief and family bible) to fake flowers in her wedding when she didn't have the budget for fresh ones. I do it when I notice my less-desirable personality traits surfacing and try to find ways to take advantage of the best parts of them.
Sometimes when I sew, stitching is necessary for structure or support in a place I would rather not put it. The typical solution is to choose matching thread to help the seam visually melt away, which many times I do. Sometimes though, I choose a contrasting thread color and make that seam a feature of the design. Same with zippers. Or buttons.
Many times that thing I wanted so much to hide ends up being my favorite part of the project.
What is something in your life people might "notice" that you would rather they didn't? Instead of playing it down, can you feature it in a way that makes it the star instead of the elephant in the room?
You may have noticed if you read my blog normally, I have started a personal campaign to make fewer purchases. I am trying to buy better quality items that last. Adjsuting them to meet my needs is a much better use of money than buying lots of cheap junk that needs constant replacement. This conscious consumption benefits not only my wallet, but also the environment and stands to oppose "fast fashion" which exploits many workers in under developed nations.
That being said, buying better quality (champagne taste!) means shelling out more dough up front. That can be difficult on a beer budget. Some of my clients have come up with a great solution, they buy their clothes used.
Yes, yes, we all know that Good Will has diamonds in the rough, but shopping there is time consuming with a "hit and miss" experience that can be frustrating, especially when you need something specific. Enter modern technology. These clients use online consignment. Online consignment allows you to filter by size, color, garment type, budget, etc.
A recent client purchased a skirt (which retails for about $110) for about $16. It fit her well, but not as perfectly as she would've liked, so I did my thing- which was $38- and she got her flawlessly fitted skirt, at her desired length for about half of what she would've paid for it new and not fitting exactly as she preferred. Oh and this skirt will last. The zipper won't break, and the fabric won't pill because it is a very high quality garment, in a classic silhouette, made in New York City. Think about what $54 get you at the mall- a (fleetingly) trendy skirt, made (in a factory of questionable safety?) in Bangladesh, with flimsy fabric and findings (I'll have to replace that zipper for you next year anyway!)
This isn't to say that those same fleeting & flimsy pieces aren't on online consignment sites (they are, and in abundance), it is just that there is generally a much larger selection of high quality pieces to choose from as well.
I don't have a single online consignment site to recommend, (so far I've only used Thredup), each has benefits and drawbacks. It's importatnt to know the shipping and return policies for each of them as well, so read that fine print and spend some time reading the FAQ. Here are some sites that were recommended to me:
In addition to buying clothes you can also sell (* or donate) clothes and clear out your closet while getting some cash as well. If you have experience with buying or selling with an online consignment site, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below! I recently signed up for Thredup.com and made a purchase (which I am waiting for). If you use the link below , you get $10 of credit, and I do too. No pressure to sign up, I just thought I'd offer.
Finally, if you live in the State College area, you can shop LOCALLY and try on the pieces before you bring them home. Some local resale shops include:
Clothes Mentor (Misses clothing, shoes and accessories)
Plato's Closet (Junior's and Young women's clothing, shoes and accessories)
St. Vincent DePaul
and for kids:
Kid 2 Kid
Rugrat's Resale (semi-annual sale)
Just Kids Resale (semi-annual sale)
I am often heard preaching the virtues of buying less, owning less, buying better quality and fixing what can be fixed. However, I struggle with this myself. A born and bred bargain hunter, I loooove shopping. I love the thrill of the hunt.
Just yesterday, armed with a $25 gift card to a national mall retailer, I walked in and found rack after rack of super cute, trend forward clothing! Sales galore! I could get a great spring sweater, a few long sleeve t-shirts, and a trendy top and only pay $5 after I used my gift card!!! WOW!! right?!
I tried on dozens of items and spend a lot of time considering color, style, size, season, and the clothes that are already part of my wardrobe. Then I put it all back.
I went into the store today to buy something, anything. Because I had a gift card. Had I bought something, it simply would have been one more piece of stuff that made me feel good as I walked out of the store "successful" and drove home. I'd wear it a time or two and be quite pleased, but then, it would get shuffled to the back of my closet or the bottom of my drawer and forgotton about. I would find it when I switched my clothes for the season, put it away and by next year, it wouldn't be quite as interesting, I'd need something new.
So I left , unsuccessful, determined to own less crap and more things of value. Things made in a way that uphold the beliefs I have about cheap labor and safe working conditions. Things that stand the test of time both in style and quality. I love trendy fashion, but I am determined to try to find more creative ways to be on trend than just buying a new top for $14.99 that falls apart the 2nd time I wash it. Perhaps this is success after all?
Wish me luck on my journey from a love of fast fashion to embracing slow style.
I'm Denise Meyer, apparel designer in State College, PA, saving the world one clothing problem at a time!