You might remember our post from a few weeks ago on a fabulous blog find – New Dress a Day. LA-based, Marisa, wanting to get out of a creative slump designed an excellent DIY experiment: Using only $1 per day for a whole year, could she craft a new piece of clothing every day from a thrift store find with great potential? The answer is a resounding YES. With 136 days to go, Marisa has already proved that brick-and-mortar stores ain’t got nothin’ on a girl armed with a strict budget and a sewing machine.
We talked to Marisa about how to find great potential pieces in your local thrift store, if she’s ruined against shopping forever and the one tool she can’t live without….
1.) Let’s start with how you pick your projects! Going into a vintage or thrift store can be overwhelming for those of us without a keen eye for a piece’s potential – what do you look for?
Color, patterns, fabric, amazing hardware like buttons or beading – those are things that I love. For those needing a little more assistance, go with what strikes your fancy. You may hate red, but love purple, so look for pieces in those shades first. We’re all different – that’s what makes clothes and fashion so exciting. Everyone won’t love what I’m doing everyday, but I’m happy. At the end of the day, we should all be wearing what makes us feel good.
2. I noticed that you usually post a photo of the inspiration for a piece alongside the garment. I’m curious what comes first? Does the existing shape of the garment remind you of something you liked, or do you seek the inspiration first and then create something to match?
So, I find the garment first and usually don’t even know what I’m going to do with it until I get it home. While I play around with it, seeing how it looks shorter or without sleeves, etc., that’s usually when the trigger goes off. Day 225 fir example, was inspired by a western look at first but then the more I started putting it together I began feeling it was reminiscent to something Sharon Tate would have worn.
3. For someone who might want to try to do what you do – what tools, besides a sewing machine, have you found essential?
An AWESOME pair of scissors. I took my mom’s Singer ones that she used back in the 70s and they’re literally amazing. Especially for beginners if you just want to start out by making something shorter and an easy trim is all you need, a great pair of scissors is key and they’ll last forever. (You can always get them re-sharpened.) I never have any issues and they cut through everything!
4. How did you learn to sew?
Seventh grade – Home Ec. Does that even exist anymore?
5. How did you conceive of the idea for New Dress a Day?
Last summer I got laid off from my job and after a screening of Julie and Julia I knew I needed to do something to get out of the creative funk I was in. I was jealous that Julie Powell found something that made her that happy on a daily basis and I needed to find my inspiration too. That’s where it began…the spark was lit and then it just manifested into this.
6. What have you learned from the project, now just a little more than halfway through your journey?
For something that I started out doing for myself and seeing how other people have become inspired, I’m completely blown away. Also, I’ve learned that I can actually survive and function on way less sleep than I thought too!
7. What are some of your favorite vintage and thrift stores for great finds?
This is kind of tricky, because all my faves are the ones here in LA. Here’s a list!
- Jet Rag
- Council Thrift Store
- Out of the Closet
- Melrose Trading Post (weekly flea market on Melrose/Fairfax)
8. For those readers who don’t live in the LA area, where would you recommend shopping locally to find good deals? That is to say, have you found that there are certain hallmarks for a great vintage or thrift store that someone can use as a checklist in checking out the ones in their own neighborhoods?
Absolutely shop locally!!! I don’t know if there are certain hallmarks – you just need to keep your eyes peeled everywhere. You never know who is donating or going through their closets. Goodwill is always great too and they’re all over the place.
9. Do you think you can ever look at shopping in a brick-and-mortar store the same way again? What do you think the drastic changes will be when you do take the plunge and shop off the rack once more?
You know, my mom just asked me something similar…she asked if I was excited to go shopping at a brick-and-mortar shop again and honestly, I’m having so much fun doing what I’m doing that it doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I’m SHOCKED that I’m saying that, too! I thought that would be the most difficult part of this project and it’s actually been the easiest.
10. What do you estimate your savings have been not buying new clothes?
Ooh, I’ve always been a bargain shopper, hitting sales and scouring the clearance racks, so it’s not like I was spending tens of thousands of dollars beforehand. The idea of spending like $500 on a dress is a pretty crazy idea, but the idea of spending $500 on a few things is not as crazy. I’ve definitely saved a good amount this year…enough for a vacation I’d say.
11. What advice would you give to someone who would like to try your idea too?
Don’t be afraid!! Just take baby steps. When trying this out for yourself, find super cheap things so it’s not as difficult to actually tear off a collar or cut off sleeves. It’ll become easier and easier each time!