dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
Our style here in the Land of the Destitute and Obscure is what I like to call eclectic-vintage bohemian. What does that mean, you may ask. Good question. It means that we get innovative, wait patiently, watch ebay, craigslist and garage sale listings with an eagle eye and even get lucky. As for the rest of our eclectic-vintage bohemian philosophy, even with a tight budget, we follow these loose guidelines to achieve the look:
Buy or Accept it Used:We rely heavily on hand-me-downs for the small people’s clothing options, and since they come from a variety of sources, we don’t worry much about matching.
If the long-sleeved onesie is polka-dot and the pants are flowered, at least they’re both pink, and if a yellow hat is all we’ve got, then that’s what we wear. When you’re the size of the average retriever puppy and your skin is that soft and rosy, you can get away with just about anything.
Handmade Goes With Everything…If it was made with love, it goes with everything, whether it’s a purple cardigan from Grandma or a headband sent from overseas, show your gratitude (and patriotism) and wear it with confidence.
Since I am currently limited in my crocheting and knitting abilities to the two-dimensional, I pair my funky knitted scarves with thin, thrift store silky ones and then I’m both warm and colorful. Then I decorate my couch with blankets made from hand-me-down yarn.
Accessorize with Confidence and Freedom: Whatever you feel your accessory must be, either an Afghan necklace made from silver coins (one of my favorites) or an inflatable butterfly, let your personality shine. Don’t let the circumstances dictate the level of accessorizing either. I may only be going to the park, but sometimes I need to wear a velvet top hat.
Even though you may only be sitting down to breakfast, there may be times when a morning tutu and striped beanie need to accompany syrup and pancakes.
Or perhaps, you may need to don a string of ducks and do your best bellydancing—pigtails optional.
Inspire Others: Encourage your friends to break out of those fashion constraints—fairies, apparently, sometimes need to wear sunglasses, too.
Wear the Unusual Every Day: I have jeans with embroidered butterflies, and skirts paneled with old saris. When I wear them with a simple top, they are a little less overwhelming than some of the combination my eldest puts together, but the outfit remains interesting. I don’t save a whole lot of my clothing for ‘special occasions.’ I don’t really have those; we don’t go out to fancy parties, and every day is worthy of being special. All the outfits above (with the exception of the fairy dresses, plastic shoes and ducks) go out—to school, the park, the store.
We splurge every now and then—the big girl gets new rain boots at Target, and I go bonkers on ebay, collecting cute, little used leather crib shoes on my watch list. I manage to buy a few, too. The truth is, I don’t need any more clothing, with the possible exception of bras that fit properly. I can go ‘shopping’ in my own closet and find things I forgot I owned, and pair them with items that desperately need an update. We manage here to keep our style unique with what we’ve got, because there is no price or monetary limit on creativity.
Just for fun, let’s take a poll. Which one of The Divine Miss M’s outfits was your favorite? Check out the captions for the photo numbers that match.
We all know how lovely Anne Hathaway looked at the Oscars, and if you went and saw the movie, you know how desperately wonderful she looked (and sounded) as the ill-fated young woman forced into sexual slavery in Les Miserables. What you probably didn’t hear much about in her acceptance speech(unless you watched the Oscars), was the hope that sexual trafficking would soon become a thing of fiction. The clip is a bit wonky, and taken from a camera filming from the TV, but check out minute 2:15 when she’s done thanking the immediate world.
And moving onward, to the far more frivolous fare of fashion—didn’t you just love those Les Mis costumes?! Here’s how the genius Paco Delgado put together each costume and where he looked for inspiration.
Without looking like a hooker of the 1800’s, you too, can pull together a look that says ‘maybe-a-bit-down-and-out, but-still-positively-French.’ Here’s how:
Find a top. Go simple on this one. A basic tank on hot days, perhaps a thermal shirt (I like to cut the necklines out of mine) for added warmth in cold weather.
Invest in a jacket. This here is the pricier, more time-consuming element. Hunt down the gem on ebay, a thrift-store, estate sale, or get lucky, like I did. I bought my faux military jacket at Urban Outfitters about 10 years ago, (for about $30) thinking it was a flash-in-the-pan trend, but not caring because I wanted to look like Jimi Hendrix. And what do you know, the military trend is still going, even after My Bloody Valentine, et. all started playing county faire circuit (just kidding, MBV is still roaming around small clubs in Europe). One great way to get a military-styled jacket, especially with all those nifty ‘musket ball’ buttons, is to special order it through a Civil War re-enactment costume specialist. Union or Confederate– your choice– no judgment.
Ready, set, accessorize!
For early summer weather (which we seem to be having here) merely throw on those flip-flops, or any other understated hippie sandal. Note that copiously strappy or gladiator style might be a bit much—understated is the key here—your skirt should and jacket should be the showy pieces. If you like wrapping a thin little scarf around your neck, do so, and that would look chic. If you need to go for warmth, I recommend boots (like these, if you’re going fancy and you can afford it– $250+ sheesh, that’s pricey footwear! But I do dream of these occasionally, when the nights are cold and lonely…) or a peasant-y combination of clogs and leg warmers, especially if you get your leg warmers from Sock Dreams. Accessorize your upper limbs with arm warmers or fingerless gloves from them, too. Full gloves are warmer, sure, but a bit too 20th century for this look. To top it off—I love the pun here, forgive me if you don’t go for that kind of humor—a top hat, of course! I bought mine on ebay, searching with the word ‘Steampunk’. Needless to say, I could get lost in the word ‘Steampunk’ for about 3 days. Originally, however, the hat was inspired by my book group’s reading of Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy wrote it, btw). I couldn’t help myself—I wanted to be Anna (romantic misfortunes notwithstanding) with a velvet top hat.
Now, go out with your friends and family and be assured that you look fantastic. Next, do something about putting an end to sexual slavery and make the story of Fantine both fictional and strictly fashionable.
I am a HUGE fan of the Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie/ Free People triumvirate, and follow all the latest releases like a strung-out fashion junkie. It is probably an addiction of the type that could never be satisfied, regardless of the size of my closet or my bank account. And so, like any good addict who needs her fix, I get creative. It’s much better for my wallet and my sense of ingenuity; money can make us lazy and boring, I feel.
Here are a couple of ideas on how to get this stuff (or something just like it) into your wardrobe without being lazy, boring or loaded.
What we have here is a lovely, fuzzy pink-striped sweater with a great neckline and form-fit. The exact colors and neckline are not so important; we want the same general theme, not the exact same thing. That’s being too narrow-minded for a girl with a budget.
This is an actual unique vintage number. Free People has a category called ‘Vintage Loves’ in which someone else does the hunting for you (a job, I must confess that I covet with a hearty fraction of my soul) and then charges you in the neighborhood of a $200 to take it off their talented hands.
The key elements to this maxi-skirt are three-fold: that it be long and fairly full (A-line or circle skirt; not tight) that it be velvet or velour (a lovely polyester imitation of velvet that only adds to its vintage-ness) and that the coloring be dark. The color is not critical, but if it were bright, it would verge on something else entirely—which might also be okay.
Here’s a similar skirt I culled from the same thrift store and paid way less than $200 for. It, too, is velvet-y and black, but with a wider variety of colors. It goes great with black military-style boots as well as ballet flats and pairs nicely with a long, fitted cardigan in winter and nothing but a tank top in spring.
So, sally forth intrepid shopper, armed with your cash (most thrift stores don’t take plastic) and your new thrifty know-how and see what you can come up with. If I have a readership, especially an adventurous one, let me know what you’ve dug up. I’m always inspired by inspiration.