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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thrift score

How to look like you’re coming off the catwalk and onto the street, without spending all your student loans on new clothes.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 31, 2006 at 4:00 AM

The ability to have your own style and create a look that turns heads is often costly and unattainable for students on a tight budget. Fortunately for the cash-strapped clothes horse, fashion is on your side. Because fashion history usually repeats itself, there is little need to buy a brand-new closet every season. Flipping through the August issue of Vogue, we see that Mod, a style first made popular in the 1960s, is all the rage for the fall season. Designers have left the soft, feminine country-style of the summer for more angles and A-lines. Those authentic Mod rags kicking around used clothing stores are suddenly au courant.

On top of its bounty of retail shopping options, Halifax is rich with local clothing designers and a variety of second-hand boutiques, such as the recently opened Lost & Found (2383 Agricola) in the north end. Run by Sherry Lynn Jollymore and Jay Melanson, Lost & Found features their own designs and stylish used clothing. The vintage and recycled clothing is often handpicked by these two and certain considerations are made to determine the quality of the garment. “I look for high quality fabric and classic cuts of clothing,” says Jollymore. “Details are also important. For example, how the garment is sewn, buttons and proper reinforcement determine the garment’s survival.”

Junk and Foibles (1533 Barrington), Allie’s (1272 Barrington), Elsie’s (1530 Queen), The Clothes Horse (upstairs from Elsie’s), Second Hand Rose (5212 Morris), 50 Hats (1086 Queen), re clothing (1312 Queen), 7th Avenue Boutique (1819 Granville) and Dressed in Time (5670 Spring Garden) also carry quality used clothing at affordable prices in the downtown core. For the truly clothes-minded person, willing to travel and/or hunt for that special find, Halifax has more preloved shopping options. Salvation Army thrift stores, Value Village outlets and Frenchy’s—an addictive Nova Scotian chain —carry lots of used clothing but the turnover rate is so rapid, these stores are often far less organized than a specialty boutique.

Asked if she has any special skills in “thrifting,” Jollymore replies, “You need a lot of patience. It takes a fair amount of time to look through these stores.” If a dressing room is unavailable, she recommends carrying a tape measure to better ensure proper fit of any garment you might be considering. Hand sanitizer is a good idea if you are truly adventurous and frequent flea markets, garage sales or scavenge through local trash.

When shopping on a budget it’s best to know specifically what you are looking for to avoid spending precious funds on clothing you may never wear. Impulse buys could become regrets when you do find that one item you had been looking for to complete your ideal wardrobe. “I think you have to learn what cuts or styles suit you. That helps a lot,” says Jollymore. “As well, knowing what holes you have in your wardrobe, so when you’re shopping you’re buying pieces you need instead of pieces you like.”

Current fashion magazines are often luxury items for those who have limited access to the money tree. Fortunately, fashion-based television programs and websites make recent fashion trends available at zero cost. For Jollymore, “good style is good style,” although she considers herself more concerned with wearing the clothes she likes than the newest designer creation. She does admit to watching a lot of fashion television shows and cruising websites like hintmag.com and style.com. “Both sites have sections devoted to all the latest runway shows,” she says. For e-shopping, starsandinfinitedarkness.com and mightyflirt.com feature works of independent designers, vintage pieces and even kids’ wear.

For the budget-conscious man with an eye for fashion, Melanson points out that Halifax is very limited in what it has to offer. He recommends Junk and Foibles and Elsie’s for their selection in men’s clothing. “Unfortunately, men don’t have many options in Halifax. Men have to be real creative here, or travel to New York or Montreal,” he says.

When deciding what to buy, the fashionable must also be realistic. Jollymore recommends avoiding the purchase of “items that kind-of fit. If shoes pinch your toes, don’t buy them. If the garment you are trying on needs to be taken in here or there, unless you are going to leave the store and fix it right away, don’t buy it,” she says.

Basic sewing skills can often strengthen a garment’s purchasing potential. NSCAD’s Continuing Education department offers a variety of classes along with more adventurous courses in millinery, tailoring and personal dress-form making. This past summer the school offered a course specifically geared toward refitting and repurposing clothing that didn’t quite fit or just needed a more current look.

As for the internet being a good sewing tool, Jollymore says, “They have surprisingly good sewing tips at diynetwork.com and costume.org. I find them endlessly useful for ‘how-tos.’” For those with sewing skills, current fashion patterns are available from McCall’s Vogue and other patterning companies. These companies often have known designers such as DKNY and Anna Sui, creating a variety of patterns based off recent fashion lines. Fabricville (The Village at Bayers Road) offers a membership for $15 a year, which further discounts prices on patterns and fashion fabrics. They also have a huge selection of bargain bin fabrics, which you must sort through but often there are an interesting variety of textiles.

Looking good can cost you a lot of money (if you have it) or can take a considerable amount of time to find affordable “must have” items. No one said it would be easy, but the time needed to create a strong, stylish wardrobe will pay off when you stop traffic walking down Barrington Street. Image may not be everything, but it’s pretty darn close!

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