Spring Clean Your Closet with Goodwill’s Help

too-much-give-to-goodwillImage source

Spring is finally here – and that means Spring cleaning! I always head to my closet first and foremost to do a major purge this time of year. It’s cathartic and frees up my mind to get rid of lots of old junk that has accumulated – and that I no longer wear and enjoy. And what do I do with everything I pull out of that overstuffed madness? I head to Goodwill and donate it all – since I know it creates jobs and helps my community: one of the best ways to create a local impact by investing back into it. (more…)

Book Review: New Dress a Day by Marisa Lynch

New Dress a Day: The Ultimate DIY Guide to Creating Fashion Dos from Thrift-Store Don’ts is the book based on Marisa Lynch’s popular New Dress a Day blog.  In Summer 2009 Marisa lost her job, and in the interim of job-hunting and being bummed out, she happened to catch a screening of the movie Julie and Julia.  She left the theater inspired to do exactly what Julie Powell did: create a blog, and post a new recipe on it every day, for 365 days.  But her “recipes” would be not cooking but sewing projects: “dressipes” that she could whip up daily and show other people how to emulate.  And her choice of materials were thrifted items: the only things she allowed herself to purchase for the entire year.

By November 2010 her blog was receiving huge traffic, media requests poured in, and Marisa was suddenly a name all over upcyling, eco-friendly, fashion, and style blogs.  This book contains many of her most talked-about projects, as well as projects, tips, and ideas she’s never shared before, all punctuated with her unique sense of fun.

As you can tell, Marisa is a great model: photogenic, funny, and quirky.  The downside to this is that many shots of her finished creations are taken from unusual angles, cropped, or in poses so it’s hard to really get a sense of how the final project looks once done.  Some of the photos could be better quality.

The design of the book echoes the design of her blog: homsepun, cute, and stitchery-inspired.  She offers a HUGE variety of tips and tricks about refashioning garments, from small fixes and ideas to entirely overhauling the garments from the seams up.  Some ideas are not geared for the longevity of the garment (like using duct tape to hold a hem up); they’re more just as ideas for what you could do.

The book starts off with a lesson in the basics: sewing machine parts, stitch types, safety, and choosing the right needles.  Essential to any beginner to start with, or any expert who wants a refresher.  The majority of this book focuses on sewing, and it’s definitely geared towards people who are at least slightly comfortable with sewing (even if just by hand!) and are looking to learn a little more.  (There are some no-sew projects in the book, though.)  The projects Marisa shares are more jumping-off points for what you could do with garments you have or thrift; a compendium of ideas that could be applicable in many refashioning projects depending on what you do.  Unlike her blog, however, the steps in many projects are not fully or carefully photographed, so unless you already are familiar with the techniques being used, you might have some difficulty following along.

She includes sections on Accessories, Leftovers, and Trimmings, but judging by the number and results of the projects in those sections, it’s clear that her skillset lies more in the sewing and upcycling of garments into…well, better garments, rather than into small pieces and accessories.  Some of the finished garments may not be to one’s personal taste or look particularly modern (there is only so much you can do with polyester, after all!), but you can always take the techniques and ideas and apply them elsewhere.

The book is also chock-full of little stories, sayings, and vignettes from Marisa’s life that add to the feeling that she is truly sitting beside you, chatting with you as you work.  References to current and recent pop culture abound, which make for fun and current reading, but which could date this book quickly.  Flea-market shopping ideas, how-tos on how to fix mistakes, where to shop, and a project ideas section and mood board page make this potentially a useful resource for your future shopping outings and project planning.

Last but not least, seeing the author in her many ensembles and how she’s been styled can also give you some great ideas for how to style similar pieces in your own closet.

Rating:  (3 out of 4)

Overall: Amusing, entertaining, and full of ideas.  A little tough to follow in places unless you’re an intermediate sewist; project techniques sometimes limited to that specific cut/style of the piece.  But Marisa’s can-do attitude is infectious, and you’ll find yourself smiling by the last page…even if you use this book only as a technique reference in the future.

Have any of you guys checked out this book, or read Marisa’a blog?  What do you think?

FTC Disclaimer: I received one copy of the book New Dress a Day for review purposes.  I have not received any other compensation whatsoever.  The review and opinions above are my own.  To read more about my Disclosure Policy, click here.

Introducing Smashion: Buy and Sell Your Clothes for No Fees! (Better Watch Out, Ebay!)

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a number of gently-used clothing, shoes, and accessories in need of a good home.  And if you’ve tried to sell them online before, pretty much the only option was Ebay.  But was it really worth the hassle? You’re hit with a listing fee, a Gallery fee, a Reserve Price fee, a final price fee if your item does sell, a Buy It Now fee…and if your item doesn’t sell, you don’t get your money back.  (Sure you can relist it for free, but if it still doesn’t sell??  You’re outta luck, my friend.:-(  And if your item does finally sell, usually what it ends up selling for isn’t really worth all that listing hassle and fee upon fee upon fee.  There’s a reason many people call it FEEBAY!

I have tried many times to sell clothing from my closet (that I’ve hardly worn, mind you!) on Ebay with frustrating results.  Sometimes I ended up paying Ebay more money than I actually make from the sale!!

That’s why I was so excited to hear about Smashion, a no-fees online online fashion marketplace and community that connects buyers and sellers with a passion for budget fashion.

Yes – NO FEES!  At allSell for free, buy for free.  A virtual free-for-all, if you will.;-)  Launched in October of 2009, Smashion enables users to buy or sell lightly-worn or NWT (new with tag) apparel and accessories in the Marketplace, and also acts as a social networking platform for users to express their unique style and converse with each other on fashion topics.

Got something to sell?  Whether it is a piece of jewelry you’ve designed, a pair of new shoes that have been sitting idly in your closet, or that dress you wore only a couple of times (but still looks great), you can sell it on Smashion.  They charge no listing or transaction fees, nor do they have any hidden fees. 

But Smashion isn’t just limited to buying and selling.  It’s also a social networking and sharing platform, where you can:

* Get inspired and inspire others in the Gallery, where you can upload pictures of your own unique looks or the styles you’ve captured on the street.

* Talk with other users in the Forums on anything that’s fashion-related, from the latest trends and your favorite designers to a fashion crisis you’re facing. Start by introducing yourself and learn why the Smashion Forums are unique.

 * Read up on recent fashion news or opinions on the Smashion blog.

* Find your friends on Smashion or invite your friends to join in on the fun.

Smashion was originally founded in response to the growing trend of wearing second-hand clothing and the lack of a community-based, fashion-focused online marketplace.   They showcase everyone, from closet recyclers and wardrobe refreshers to vintage treasure hunters and budget-conscious fashionistas, providing a service for the community that is fee-free.  Since launching they also have included independent designers who are tired of high fees on other sites, and business owners who are looking to sell excess inventory in their Marketplace, so there is always something for everyone.

And if you like finding buried treasure, how about Diane von Furstenberg, Tommy Hilfiger, Vera Wang, Sam Edelman, Anthropologie, Escada, and Michael Kors?  Just click around and go hunting…

Click on through using my invite link below, and see what it’s all about…

Edit 12/7: By the way, they also are currently having a Holiday User Referral program going on where you could win $100 cash for inviting your friends to join.  Check out this page for more details!


FTC Disclosure: Smashion is now a sponsor of Chic Steals with a paid advertisement in my left sidebar.  However, I was not paid for or compensated for this post in any way.  To read my full disclosure policy, see here.

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Goodwill Outlet Store AKA "The Bins"

I visited a Goodwill Outlet store for the first time ever last week.  I had first read about these fabulous stores on CheapJap and was intrigued, to say the least.

When it comes to the life cycle of a donated piece of clothing, the thrift store is not the last stop on the line.  (Goodwill is one of many charities that works tirelessly to keep articles of clothing out of the landfills – and happens to be my favorite charity when it comes to donating my used clothing!)  Items of clothing that are donated to charities such as Goodwill are first sorted through; those that have minimal tears/stains/rips etc. go out on the selling floor, and those that are deemed less-than-worthy are sold to recycling companies such as Trans-America.  Such companies will recycle the garments into rags for industrial usage, or insulation, auto sound dampening, or carpet padding (source) – at the rate of about 260 tons annually.  Other articles of clothing are sold to developing countries at about 25-50 cents per pound.  In all, about 2.5 billion pounds of clothing a year is processed by such companies and sold abroad.  Imagine: that t-shirt made in a factory in China…could end up in a rural province not far from its origin someday.

However, each Goodwill chapter is at liberty to determine its own policies, so there’s no guarantee the clothing you donate will see those eventual end uses.  After a certain time at the regular Goodwill retail store, many items have not been sold, and it is then that they arrive at the Goodwill Outlet Store.  (There is a great photo essay here about how a garment travels through the Goodwill system of sorting and management, if you are particularly interested.)

The Goodwill Outlet Store is the last stop along the line in the life cycle of your average garment – if it fails to sell here, it is compacted by the baler and sold to the rag trade.  The idea of rescuing perfectly-usable items that would otherwise be thoughtlessly discarded appeals to me greatly, so I’ve been wanting to stop by and see how I could help (and how creative I could get with the results!)  Why the heck don’t they have a Project Runway episode with the designers scavenging their raw material from here???  I think that would be fabulous!

I love going to Goodwill (the Salvation Army “boutique shops” near me are ridiculously overpriced and have few pieces to pick through, Buffalo Exchange is fabulous but quite pricey, and I dislike going to “vintage stores” since the prices are usually enough to scare me out the door as soon as I glance at a tag).  But Goodwill is consistently a source of great pieces…the problem is that you just have to look.  (I’m not one for combing vintage stores for a great find; I usually find it insanely tedious.  But the fabled DOLLAR A POUND for clothing was way too good a lure to pass up.  I mean, even at fabric stores here in Portland I have never found fabric for a dollar a yard, so even if I found some cool sheets or something that I could use as raw materials I would be saving money.  [Okay, you New Yorkers – I know $1/yd of fabric is nothing new to you…but here in Portland it’s a bit revolutionary – rarely seen even from the jobbers that pass thru here from time to time.])  Now that Lil Tot is in school more and I am still technically unemployed, I have a lot more free time, and so I decided to spend one early afternoon braving The Bins.  Perhaps I would even find something with a designer label on it – the Holy Grail of shopping vintage.

CheapJap offers some great tips for visiting one of these places, and for sorting through everything (except I could only find one of my rubber gloves before leaving the house – I’m not sure where the left one went), so I spent about 2 hours sorting one-handed through more than 30 dumpster-sized bins in this gigantic warehouse.  People were looking at me strangely (for the single glove, I suppose), but when I saw that the workers there were wearing face masks, I didn’t feel so ridiculous.  There were some dirty clothes in there, man.  I was also surprised at how many families were there – parents and their numerous children were also combing through everything, spreading out and moving from bin to bin en masse.  The people with their carts the fullest were likely those who were trying to re-sell the clothes…one woman I talked to had a shop on Etsy where she made her living (re-)selling vintage pieces.

There were TVs too!

As I was going through everything, my head was just spinning with possibilities.  There were so many fabrics, so many ways I could give new life to these clothes – so many possible alterations…

Of course, most knit fabrics (i.e., t-shirts) were pretty much there for a reason: stained, hideously pilled, or worn.  There wasn’t much reuse potential there, I found.

But polyester garments had, on the whole, fared pretty well in The Bins; leather pieces had a lovely, beaten-up quality to them (though there were some in close-to-pristine condition); cotton items ran the gamut, tho most were crumpled (but could probably be restored with a good washing and pressing).  I focused mostly on wovens or synthetic fabrics, in large sizes so I had a lot of fabric to work with.  There were of course items in excellent, near-perfect salable condition with nary a stain in sight, as well as the odd designer label peeking out here and there.

I spotted: Banana Republic, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, Volcom, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Bebe, for instance.

There was a large amount of Jones New York, Talbots, Metro7, Isaac Mizrahi, Liz Claiborne, Worthington, Levi’s, and Old Navy…which I think says a lot about the things people get rid of and that which is in excessive supply in the marketplace.  Private label companies for mass merchandisers…are you listening???

I piled up my shopping cart (and I mean – PILED up, so mountainous I could barely navigate turning it), and then at the end, dumped it all out and went meticulously through it, chanting to myself “$1 a pound, $1 a pound!” I eliminated many of the gigantic leather jackets I found since they were quite heavy, as well as the denim.  Light poly, chiffon, and lace stuff got a pass since it would work out to pretty much nothing at the register.

Okay, Carly…I think that’s enough.  Greedy girl!!

Despite my best efforts, when the lady at the register rolled my cart onto the scale, she read out “48 pounds.”  I almost died.  FORTY-EIGHT POUNDS OF CLOTHES!!  Say it to yourself.  Forty-eight pounds of clothing.  It’s unreal.

I was trying to save these clothes from ending up in a landfill – the ultimate result of excessive consumption – and as a result, I am excessively consuming them in bringing them home in the first place.  Ironic.

Here’s what I bought:

*2 leather jackets
*1 pair of shoes
*1 pair of jeans
*1 bikini top
*1 pair of rabbit ears
*1 nightgown
*2 blazers
*1 lace negligee
*5 tops
*5 pillowcases
*2 t-shirts
*2 pairs of pants
*3 dresses
*1 fitted sheet
*1 trenchcoat
*7 button-down shirts
*1 pile of fabric remnants
*1 kid’s pajama bottoms

And what cost did all this work out to?

Leave your best guess in the comments;-).  (It wasn’t $1 a pound, I can tell you that much!)

Edit 4/12: Great guesses, guys!  But…no one got it right.  Here is the proof of the pudding:

$25…for 48 POUNDS OF CLOTHING (+ a pair of shoes).

Isn’t that just PHENOMENAL???  Apparently, the more you buy at the Goodwill Outlet the more you save.  It’s $1/pound until 25 pounds, above that $0.95/pound, and then above 40 lbs. it’s 89 cents/pound.  I really worked for it tho! (See my dirty glove?:-)

Though I now have all this great raw material to work with….it’s now a question of when I’m going to get around to it.  I really need two of me to deal with this!;-)  But from here on out it’s a sewing and DIY extravaganza…and I can’t wait to share the results!

Have any of you ever been to a Goodwill Outlet store?