I AM (the) MOANA (of thrift shopping)!

In the same way that Moana comes from voyagers, I come from dumpster divers. My Great Granny Florence would go “shopping” at the dumpsters in Alexandria, VA and bring home any and every item that was in reasonable and recognizable condition. My first jewelry box was a mini wooden wardrobe-style contraption (like, 11 inches tall) that she rescued from one such dumpster. It made.my.life. and I still have it.  The things she didn’t gift or use for herself, she cleaned, laundered, and donated to the Goodwill. Amazing, right?!

Florence was a thrifty caretaker which might have come from raising six children by herself during WWII and having to stretch every resource as far as she possibly could.  It also could have just been her nature.  It’s surprising – or maybe not? – that her daughter (my dad’s mom) was the exact opposite, indulging in the finest clothes, etc. Well, I always loved the excitement and passion that I saw on Great Granny’s face when she showed us the treasures that she found and imagined the ways that they would be used in their next life.  As I grew up, learned about the world, and was responsible for buying my own clothes, I quickly realized that thrift shopping was made for me: I can thrift clothes that are higher quality than those I could afford new, and I get a warm gushy feeling inside from saving someone else’s well-loved items from going into a landfill. And when I want to update my wardrobe? I can take the high quality, well-loved pieces back to a Goodwill for their next journey!

I went shopping last week for the first time in a li’l while and it was a smashing success! I hit up the fancy Goodwill (in Westport, CT) with the goal of tackling the pants situation. Pants and I have a thing. But y’all it paid off! $60 later and this was my haul.

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Yes, I took individual photos of each item. And yes, I learned adobe photoshop so that I could make this collage. #goals #motivation #marketableskills #someoneplzhireme Clockwise from top left: Jeanne Pierre cotton brick red sweater (obsessed with the texture); Ann Taylor Loft black and white geometric sweater shirt; Abercrombie&Fitch pink crop sweater with moose detail (moose’s have my heart); Levi’s distressed, cropped denim; Talbot’s cropped blue pants; plaid sweater with pink stripe from unknown brand.

The Levi’s were $25 which is more than I’ve spent on a single item of clothing in a really long time.* But they made me feel SO GOOD that I decided to go for it. I can’t explain it. I haven’t worn an outfit this deliberately shapeless in a long time but something about The Pants feels absolutely magical. I love the rise, I love the wash, and there’s a certain other je ne sais quois that puts some extra pep in my step.

Denim and sweater from Westport Goodwill, thrifted teal, Talbot’s peacoat from Charlottesville Goodwill, white headscarf from http://www.sleepandsparkle.com, shoes by Naturalizer via Nordstrom’s semi-annual sale.

The Talbot’s pants were $11.99. I saw the shade of blue and immediately recognized them as being the match to a Talbot’s skirt I thrifted about 5 years ago in Charlottesville. It was the first skirt I bought in my adult life that fit my curves in all the right places so I was thrilled to see a matching pair of pants!

The bears and I had a post-nap dance party. Everything piece of this outfit brings me intense joy.
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My dear friend Hannah and me in the Grand Central Terminal after a restaurant week double date with our favorite people. I’m wearing my new fave Talbot’s pants.  (Hannah’s style has always been #goals for me!)

Moral of the story? Go in with a goal. Y’all I tried on 75% of the pants that were in the Goodwill. And 99.99% of those fit like a joke. But I was so excited about the two pairs I bought that I wore them the same day I bought them and without laundering them. *gasp* And those baggy Levi’s and that red sweater? I wore them 3 days in a row without a second thought! If the clothes don’t make me want to dance (I had a good 45 minute post-shopping-nap dance party) then they don’t come home with me.

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The headscarves are, of course, from http://www.sleepandsparkle.com. I hope that people pass my scarves down for generations the way that I pass on my favorite clothes and accessories!

*Note: All of my shoes – except for a pair of steel toe cowboy boots that I bought at a thrift store in Laramie, Wyoming – come from retail stores. I wear a women’s 12.5 which I can’t reliably thrift.

One Year of curious sparkle dirt

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Flashback to January 2017. I knew I wanted to start a blog and I knew that my first post was going to be about “Hidden Figures.” What I didn’t know was EVERYTHING ELSE.

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I hadn’t been diagnosed with narcolepsy but I knew my grad school situation was untenable. I couldn’t hold down a 9-5 job 5 days/week so I took up substitute teaching and hoped that plus a record of my writing would be “good enough” for a future employer if I ever sorted out my health issues.

I had no idea that I would share my mental health history with the entire internet, post style files for all to see, and publicly embrace my maker personality and love of fashion in the form of a freakin’ accessories brand. OH! And go to Capitol Hill. This time last year I was at rock bottom. I thought things couldn’t get any worse so why not just put all of me out there? Because if one person read my blog, got a sleep study, and found an answer sooner than I did, it would all be worth it. (Sleep posts here.) I could never have guessed in a million years that 2017 would be the best year of my life. (Aside from that year I met my husband!)

Thank you for coming along for the ride! And for putting up with these gratitude recap posts every month because every month last year was a major milestone for me and I’m still processing!

Love,

The Narcolepsy Princess

Thrift tip: Forget the numbers

Hi friends! I’m jumping in here with another tall tip / thrift tip.

Don’t look at number sizes at the thrift store. Have an idea of your body’s shape and scout out clothes that match what you know about yourself.

I would have passed by my all time favorite thrifting finds – a Talbot’s pea coat, Express jean jacket, and badass steel toe cowboy boots – if I had been hung up on numbers. My pea coat is a PETITE! You guys I’m 6 FEET TALL. But when I saw the coat on the rack I knew the darts looked like they were in the right place for me and the length looked like it would hit just above my knees – PERFECT!

Bonus: my peacoat doubles as the perfect travel blanket!

On the other hand my jean jacket is an XL. I have thrifted clothes in every size from XXS to XXL.

Rocking my thrifted Express jean jacket (from Goodwill) with a thrifted dress from the German thrift store, Humana, in Cologne, Germany.

Women’s sizing has changed a LOT in the last 20-30 years: a size 10 in 2000 might be closer to a size 2-4 now, or vice versa.  And that’s fine!

Your body is fabulous EXACTLY the way that it is. Don’t fall prey to the nonsense that is spouted by the fashion industry. Know yourself, know your style, and rock the hell out of it!

On Scissors: Round 2

A friend asked me a few months ago how I choose the right length when shortening a full skirt.  I wrote a bit about this in a post for Tall Tips Tuesday –Thrift Long and Alter 🖖🏼 – but I don’t think I went into enough detail, just some hand-waving math proof shenanigans #imamathmajor.  Since this is one of the key moves in my repertoire, I thought it would be worth it to break it down.

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curious sparkle dirt’s Keys to Altering Success

  1. When thrifting clothes with the intent to alter, choosing a garment with the right fabric is so important.  It doesn’t matter how deft you are with a pair of scissors, if the fabric isn’t weighty enough, the best alter will fail.  What does this mean?  The next time you’re in your closet, grab onto some garments and feel the weight of the fabric.  Is the fabric very light and airy?  Or is the fabric heavier with a bit of weight to it?  A long skirt or dress made of a lightweight fabric might only work because the length gives the dress the weight it needs to lay the way it does.  This is especially true of pleated skirts/dresses and skirts/dresses made from the type of cotton used in button-down shirts.  Shortening such a garment might result in looking like a cupcake.  Which is fine, if that’s what you’re going for!
    Real life: I learned Tip 1 when I ruined a thrifted, Pendleton lightweight, wool, pleated skirt a few years back.  You might ruin a thing or two before you get the hang of it – that’s okay! Just start with thrifted garments.
  2. Now that you have a qualifying garment, you need something to copy for the length.
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    You can make a pattern yourself, but I vote for using your favorite skirt/dress that’s waiting eagerly in your closet to be of service.  I have a dress from Old Navy Tall that fits PERFECTLY and that I use as my “measuring stick”.

3.  How you approach this next step depends on your crafting style.   We’re going to cut the garment.  A rule of thumb that I use is that if the skirt has lots of gathers, I’m more perfectionist and I’ll get out the pins and my sewing guage. If the skirt can lay flat, I’ll wing it – but only because I’ve done this 1000 times now.

I cut this red dress without pinning, but then was an overachiever and pinned so that I could hop on my Singer Featherweight, Zeby, and sew up the raw edge.  I also cut the sleeves on this dress, but did not sew them.

A Few Notes:

  • Make sure you think about your body and how clothes lay on your booty.  I cut and pinned the dress so that the back would be an inch longer than the front.  I have a booty and if I cut the front and back to be the same length, the back will sit way shorter than the front.
  • Good scissors are important.  If you don’t have good scissors, don’t let this keep you from altering, but get a pair of nice scissors as soon as you can and reserve them only for fabric.  I use these Fiskars scissors and they’re a lifesaver.  My husband knows to never use them on anything but fabric because it will dull them, rendering them useless to me.  Why are sharp scissors so important?  Because if your scissors are dull then they will mangle your fabric, and you ultimately may have to cut off more than you wanted to, by the time you’re done correcting your mistakes.
  • Do I hem or not? It depends on the fabric. Will it run like a sprinter? If not than the next question I ask is: what color thread is currently on my sewing machine? If it’s compatible, I’ll run a quick hem. If not, I’ll say eff it and call it good enough. A girl’s only got a finite number of spoons and had better spend them carefully. #spoonie!

A few of my favorite transformations!