crafts · outfits · refashions · Sewing

In my rainbow skirt: how to see the potential in thrifted clothes

One of the most frequent comments I get on my thrifting habit is “I’d love to thrift, but I only ever find really ugly clothes at my local stores.”  Well… it’s true that I do have a few stores that I like, but if you’re going to do any refashioning you have to be able to see the potential of an item.  Look beyond dowdy hemlines or ugly trim.  Sometimes a simple change is all you need to make something fabulous again!  Case in point: this vintage Doncaster skirt.

Sorry for the terrible before photo, but I was struck with the refashioning urge in the middle of the night, so I pulled this out of my basket.  The length was terrible, and it really didn’t work with the fullness around the hips – it makes me look much larger than I am!  But I knew that Doncaster is a really nice, expensive brand (they’ve been around for about a million years,) and the fabric of this skirt was gorgeous.  As it turns out, all that was required was a new hemline – after chopping 6 inches and hemming, the pleats around the waistline started to hang gracefully rather than like a sack.  I’m wearing it today, and I love the bright colors!

It’s some sort of rayon suiting, very drapey and soft.  I believe this skirt to be from the 80s based on the color scheme, but it’s hard to tell for certain.  It’s definitely not a modern size – the label reads size 8, and this is smaller than a modern 8.  I usually wear an 8 in clothes from that time period.

Shortening vintage is controversial – some people really don’t think you should.  There are some garments I won’t touch, mostly really nice gowns from the 50s – but you notice that I never wear those!  I like this length.  I didn’t have to adjust any other measurements.

When I shop I go by color and pattern – I will always buy plaids and polka dots, and anything brightly colored draws me like a moth to a porch light.  Think about what colors and textures you wear, and when faced with a thrift store full of clothes, focus on finding those pieces that match what you already have.  You don’t need to look at every item (though I usually look at every single dress, just in case.)

I love my new skirt – and it took maybe an hour to fix.  Give it a try!




11 thoughts on “In my rainbow skirt: how to see the potential in thrifted clothes

  1. What an improvement! It’s hard to teach people to see potential in thrifted clothing, it takes practice and a good eye, which you definitely have! Being able to sew definitely helps – you know when to bother and when it’s just too much work. (Hemming – yes! Altering a blazer – no!)
    Lovely skirt and way to see good value in castoff clothes!

  2. I can’t believe the difference a new hem makes. I want to give this a go as soon as I find some time.New clothes cheaply what a winner .

  3. Awesome refashion. At first I was thinking…why is shortening controversial? People tailor to fit all the time. What if you’re just short? But then I realized I would probably have a problem with someone shortening a beautiful 1940s swing dress to make a micro-mini.

    Then again…if it makes us wear the clothes, isn’t that better than them lying around in someone’s attic and dry rotting?? yes! I’ve got 2 pieces myself that I plan on refashioning and one is going to be controversial. So be it. 😉

  4. Nice series of posts — until about 3 years ago, I used no imagination when shopping at the thrift store, beyond simple fit alterations. It’s amazing the wealth of fabric and possibilities in the standard neighborhood thrift store!

  5. You hit one a key thing to look for – quality items. That makes refashioning thrifted clothes much more worthwhile, imo. I’m not going to bother with Wal-Mart or Target brands, for example. By the time they hit a thrift store, the clothes have been worn enough that they don’t have much life left in them (I’ll wear them new, of course). Higher-end brands have quality fabrics & stitching, so they’ll last for decades. Those items are worth my time to refashion.

    However, it *can* be hard to find quality at thrift stores. It will depend on where you live & where you shop, plus how much patience you have to hunt. The time of year can even affect thrifting — around Halloween, you can find more truly vintage items & anything in black, & at the end of year/January, you’ll find higher quantity bec. people donate for tax reasons.

  6. I love the plaid, so bright and cheery but still winter feeling.

    I love how you wear skirts and boots even during the winter. Any tips for staying warm in the frigid temps we have been having lately? I always tend towards skirts in the summer and pants in the winter because of the tempturatures, but would like to expand a little.

    1. Sure! I absolutely think it’s possible to wear skirts in the winter and be warm. I wear a lot of boots with thick socks, which helps a lot. Sometimes I will wear leggings instead of tights, which are warmer, and I’ll even layer two pairs of tights sometimes. There are also fleece lined tights – not cheap, but really great in the cold weather. I also usually wear at least one, and sometimes two extra layers – cardigans, scarves etc. I don’t have a commute where I have to be outside for a long time walking anymore, but back when I did I would buy one of those really long puffer coats and wear it – I don’t like them, but it was worth it to be warm when I lived in Indiana! I hope that helps. I don’t find that I get really cold, and I’m pretty cold natured.

  7. I too am an avid thrift shopper, and I’d say that easily 95 percent of my whole wardrobe is bought from thriftshops. I have refashioned many things, and yet I am still fascinated in how others do with it. 🙂 I am not sure how I found your blog, but I love it !

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