Archives For June 2012

Mirror Mirror

June 30, 2012 — 29 Comments

Does this outfit look a little familiar? The shirt is from here, but that’s not what I’m referring to. Let’s break this down piece by piece: I’m wearing a pleated skirt, some gladiator sandals, a high-necked shirt, and a skinny belt. And it all came from the thrift store. Hmmm. On paper, that’s the exact same description I’d use to describe this outfit from not two posts ago.

Pleats, sandals, hair down, it’s all the same!…But is it? Everything I wore in that post was light, fresh, and cheery. In this outfit, the basic elements are the same, except it’s, well, dark. White is black, gold is silver, and cotton is lace. Even my seafoam nails have been traded in for a dark violet shade. Ladies and gentlemen, this can only mean one thing: I’ve tapped into an alternate universe and channelled my evil doppelgänger.

Well, maybe not. But I am going to assume that if I did have an evil twin and my own comic book (or soap opera), she’d look just like this. If TV has taught us anything, we can safely assume that somewhere out there, we each have a look-a-like, wandering around town, undoubtedly doing very bad things. In mythic doppelgänger lore, the evil twin ususally gets himself a goatee. Wikipedia told me that this originated from an episode of Star Trek in which Spock and Kirk encounter their evil mirror counterparts. Mirror-Spock rocks a badass goatee to compliment his most-excellent eyebrows. Modern-day geeks like myself witnessed this phenomenon at work through the introduction of Evil Troy and Evil Aaaabed on Community. Since I lack the ability to grow facial hair, I’m adding another item to the footnotes on doppelgänger lore:  I declare that evil twin girls get bangs instead of goatees. Makes sense, right?

Doppelgängers have permeated every corner of pop culture, and they show up in just about every show I love. How I Met Your Mother? Doppelgängers. Buffy The Vampire Slayer? Doppelgängers. Passions? Doppelgängers. Haha! Just kidding (about the love, not the doppelgängers). Man, that show was bananas.

Anyways, because I am a gigantor Buffy nerd, I have to grant Buffy particular doppelgänger dues. (Plus I’m doing the Buffy ReWatch! You should too!) There are all sorts of allusions to evil manifestations and dark timelines in Buffy. In particular, the episodes “The Wish” and “Doppelgängland” introduce us to alternate, evil vampy versions of our favourite characters. So, if this isn’t my evil twin coming out, it’s definitely what I’d look like as a souless vampire. Except maybe with more leather. Plus, If I did go vamp, I wouldn’t have to worry about that pastier-than-average skin I’ve inherited. Score!

This is the point in the post when I realize that I’ve just referenced Star Trek, Community, and Buffy in a single post, thus outing me as a 20-something woman with the mind of teenaged sci-fi dork. Oddly enough, I’m totally OK with that – on to the next one!

To close this double-dipping off, let’s tip our hats to Larry David. Who can forget that episode of Seinfeld when Elaine meets the doppelgänger versions of Jerry, George, and Kramer? Except in typical Seinfeldian fashion, this plot device is more of a trope than a cliché, as it’s revealed that Bizarro Jerry and his friends are actually far better, more ethical people than the original gang. Bizarro Kramer brings groceries!

So, let’s flesh this out a bit: if Original Julie loves cats and cheese, Bizarro Julie would love dogs and…whatever the opposite of cheese is. That right there is enough to banish Bizarro Julie (along with the Black Swan, Bizarro Jerry, and Vampire Willow) to the Dark Timeline forever. Silver pleats and purple nails are fun in their own right, but the opposite of cheese? That, my friends, is truly evil.

…It had to be done. Cue maniacal laugh!

The Wedding Guest

June 26, 2012 — 18 Comments

You know how many bad rom-coms have a title like this post? And how many of them are on the W Network all summer long? A billion. That’s how many. While my life hasn’t had a lot of Dermot Mulroney in it lately, I did just recover from a weekend chocked full of wedding-y stuff. Thus, I lack the motivation and enzymes for a proper post. Instead, I’m sifting through my summer 2011 photo archives, and sharing a few thrifted wedding guest outfits. And, as a bonus, Matt’s gonna show up a few times in these photos. Believe it our not, I used to only take pictures at weddings, with Matt, around real people, as opposed to the gratuitous solo outfit photos I now take in back alley ways, with only my confused neighbors as witnesses. Oh, the good ol’ days.

First up, I wore this Nicole Miller dress to the wedding of our friends Tim and Esther last summer:

This little metallic number was instrumental in my conversion to the thrifting life. I bought it three years ago at Talize for $7, or something. It fits perfectly, it’s a brand I love, and it’s unique. It’s even got little fake rocky jewels sewn along the bottom hem. It’s everything I love about thrifting, and I’m sure I’ll wear it again.

For this next wedding look, I knew that I didn’t need to fuss with anything too stuffy, but that I should stick to something easy and true to myself. When my friend Michelle married her man Jared, it was one of the most creative, comfortable, and colourful weddings I’d ever attended, and the perfect chance to rock one of my favourite thrifts: this Ralph Lauren skirt (previously worn here). We were trucking it all over Toronto that day, and I felt free as can be.

One of the more amazing things about Michelle and Jared’s day was their use of reusable and second-hand materials, so a thrifted outfit only made sense. You can check out all the clever ways they second-hand-styled their big day on Michelle’s blog.

This next look is a thrifter “splurge”. Translation? It’s consigned. I spent $35 on this  chiffon Nine West dress for my sister-in-law’s wedding last summer. It was $35 well spent. I loved the colours, the light, airy shape and the bold patterns. And they gave me big sideways hair that day, which is always a bonus.

And, finally, we return to summer 2012. I wore the Kitsch dress below just a few days ago, to the nuptials of our friends Rob and Carly. It was hot that day,  so I needed something light and fresh (although I ruined any chance at comfort by opting for torturous spanks underneath, and very nearly pulled a Jess Day in the washroom).

I thrifted this dress somewhere around Christmas, and hadn’t yet worn it anywhere. It was a touch too frilly for my day-to-day, so I was pleased to finally have a reason to wear it. Ditto for my leather ballet flats.

So there you have it: a nice little album of some thrifting wedding fashion. I’ll now return my attentions to  My Best Friend’s Wedding, as I need to reserve the rest of my energy for curiously pondering Julia Robert’s choice to wear sunglasses on her face, and on her head, simultaneously. I’m not knocking it – chick is working it like a boss.

Seafoam Memories

June 18, 2012 — 40 Comments

When I was in Grade 7, I recieved my first and only “real” detention. Oh sure, I’d received plenty of lunchtime detentions for neglecting my math homework, but the real detentions – the Black Book Detentions – were handed out only when one did something really bad. The very name “Black Book” brought to mind a musty, multi-volume book, covered in cob webs and kept in a secret candlelit chamber. What egregious crime landed my name among the scrawls of my fellow delinquents? I cheated on my Memory Work.

Every week, students were tasked with committing a particular verse of the Bible to memory. I usually fared very well in these, but this week, I was hung up on the very first verse of the passage (I had already written out the rest!). In a rash and foolish move, I tried (unsuccessfully) to sneak a peak at the completed selection inside my desk. My teacher caught me. I was mortified, and choked back tears for the duration of the afternoon. I still remember the big ol’ zero he wrote at the top of the page – it had a sad face inside it.

My memory failed to work that day, and I so failed my memory work. However, I won’t go ahead and say I’ve got a bad memory. I’ve actually got a very good one, in certain contexts. But that’s the frustrating part: I couldn’t recall that verse when I needed to, I can never remember where I leave my keys, what bills to pay, and when the garbage has to go out, but when it comes to recalling the lyrics of 90s pop songs, the filmography of long-gone child stars, and the jingles of local furniture stores, I’ve got an encyclopedia up there. That’s likely why my blog so often ends up at back at nostalgia and reminiscing. These useless facts gotsa go somewhere!

And that, coincidentally, is where we come back to what I’ve got on today.

This skirt is a recently acquired thrift from my favourite Salvation Army. It’s pleated, it’s minty, and it’s pretty darn trendy considering it’s another 70’s find. The colour is insanely popular these days. I mean sheesh, It’s all over my blog! As soon as I put on this skirt, I went uber matchy-matchy and painted my fingers and toes in that colour, too. But while my memory may not have retained all of Psalm 29, it did dig up something random that puts this outfit – and that very trendy colour – in perspective. Before my seafoam manicure was dry, I remembered a Mastercard commercial from nearly 14 years ago. It was a foggy memory – about seafoam and bridesmaids.  I’ll I needed to Google was “seafoam mastercard” and there it was.

If you don’t feel like watching the clip, the premise is simple: It paints a little vignette of a pretty, sad little bridesmaid, forced to wear a most-ghastly shade of seafoam from head to toe, simply to appease a stereotypical bride. But then the two women share a lovely, moving embrace while the voiceover says “a friend wearing seafoam for: priceless”.

It’s quite funny, isn’t it? Something that was deemed a particular kind of torture (Seafoam nails! Horror!) is the same thing I willingly delight it not 15 years later. And look at her dress – it’s lacy, asymmetrical, and all kinds of pretty by today’s standards. I actually kind of love it. My memory might fail me on occasion, but I do appreciate when it provides little gems like this, simply because it keeps me humble.  It reminds me that it’s all been done before: everything that’s considered old and dated one year might be considered new and trendy the next. It’s a reminder of the fickleness of fashion. I’m obviously still privy to being swayed by colour trends and fads, but that shouldn’t be the defining factor in how I dress my blog, or by body. If I like the seafoam, I should be rock it whether it’s on trend or not. Remind me of that in a few years.

A closing word of advice: Trends aside, you can wear just about anything so long as it’s paired with a plain white tee, because that’s one thing that will never be out of style. That’s pretty easy to remember, eh?

Contest Winner!

June 14, 2012 — 4 Comments

Well that was fun! First off, I have to express my gratitude to all of you who entered my custom portrait contest. Your creativity and enthusiasm has ensured that this contest won’t be the last of its kind. The variety of personalities, styles, and stories that came through were a delight to read. In fact, I’m going to publish all the entries and photos I recieved over the next few weeks, because all of you deserve generous accolades for your own first-hand tales of second-hand style.

And so, without further adieu, I present to you the winner of the Thrifty Custom Portrait Contest. Drum roll please!

Congratulations, Tara! I selected Tara for several reasons. Firstly, how adorable is that dress? She looks demure, yet sophisticated; classic yet quirky. A winning combination all around. The real highlight of Tara’s entry is the accompanying explantion she sent with her photo:

 Hi Julie,

Good morning from Vietnam. This is my submission to the custom portrait contest. My name is Truc Nguyen, but you can call me Tara. I have just started my blog since…yesterday, although I have thrifted for many years. This dress is one of my favorite finds during my thrifting adventures. In Vietnam, we don’t have nice thrift stores, with shelves and mirrors and fitting rooms. You have to go to the wet markets and literally dig into the mountain of clothes on the ground to find your luck. Imagine doing that in the heat of 30 Celsius degrees plus. And fitting them onto what you’re wearing, and using your best imagination to decide if it looks good on you. Anyway, I bought this dress from one of those markets. I like it because everything about it is cute. It has two cute pockets, a cute collar, and came at a cute price, only 50,000 VND (2.5 USD). The hem was originally longer, I shortened it a bit and it looked just fine.

I love this story. Who’d have thought I’d have a reader all the way in Vietnam? Tara cemented the universality of thrifting. It’s a world-wide lifestyle, and she wears it so well! I also commend her for sifting through mountains of clothes in sweaty temperatures and busy crowds. She’s patient, resourceful, and imaginative! Tara proves that persistence pays off – not only does she have a lovely dress, she’ll soon have custom portrait too.

To Tara: Thank your for your inspiring entry. Laura is working on your portrait as we speak!

To my fellow readers: Make sure you follow Tara’s adventures in the wet markets of Vietnam and beyond on her blog. Thanks again for entering!

Foolish Games

June 11, 2012 — 19 Comments

I almost left this dress behind. Sure, I love the length and the print, but it’s very reminiscent of the Betsey Johnson dress I recently blogged, and the price sat just a little higher than most of the dresses I thrift. I was about to return the dress to the second-hand universe when I looked at the label. I’ll admit a high-end or vintage label can usually be the deciding stay-or-go factor if I’m on the fence. This label, however, wasn’t high-end at all. Oh, it’s vintage – probably late 80s. And I did recognize label, just not from anything in VOGUE. I recognized the label from my childhood. Observe:

What the heck right?! They just made Battleship into a movie, and this label would have me believe that at some point in the mid-eighties, they made UNO, everyone’s favourite card game, into a clothing line. Huh? It’s not like the label was just named UNO, either. The logo, the colour, the shape, it’s pure 80s UNO! This bizarre little dress came home with me, simply because I wanted to Google it (the purse and the necklace I’m wearing came home with me too because…I didn’t want the dress to be lonely).

Many times, the Googlematron tells me everything I need to know about vintage labels. This was not one of those times. It told me about UNO the bike wear company, UNO the California boutique, and UNO the Spanish for the word “one” (okay I knew that already), but did it tell me about an obscure 1980s clothing line that stole it’s brand identity from a card game invented in 1972 Ohio? Nope.

However, as is typical with all my WST endevours, I’m turning this dead-end into a post. In my search for answers, I spent a great deal of time collecting useless info on UNO, and it led me deep, deep into the web of 80s and 90s nostalgia blogs, retro board game dealers, and over-priced Etsy merchandise made from up-cycled UNO cards. I started looking for a label, I ended with a strong desire to compile a list of my favourite 80s and 90s kids games. And so, while I can tell you no more about this dress, I’m going to tell you about Guess Who and Trouble.

First, with the game that started this mess, UNO: I don’t have a lot to say about UNO, other than I never really liked it because we never had our own copy. I’d play it only at friends’ houses, knowing full well I was on their turf. Although I’d eventually seek revenge by inviting them over to my house for a round of Rummikub. Creepy face tile FTW!

UNO, as fun as it was, just didn’t hold my attention. I was more entranced by games that were made out of a lot of rainbox plastic crap. Point in case: Hungry Hippos! This game was so easy, and required little to no skill. Although its simplicity eventually became a problem. One summer evening, we grew tired of the game, so my sister dared her friend to pee in it. So she did. What? Don’t judge! Kids are weird! They pee on command!

Let’s also talk about the great amounts of stress these retro games induce. So many timers! So many buzzers! Nobody actually liked Operation. It was flippin’ scary. I remember playing this in the waiting room of the doctors office. Creeped me right out. Dumb move on the doctor’s part too, as I imagine he had to field many more unnecessary questions about how to avoid wrenches in your ankle and butterflies in your stomach.

In another category, we have the games that unintentionally taught kids about blighted hopes and dreams. Let’s single out Mouse Trap. What kid didn’t spend years pining for this plastic circus? Only to realize it takes 52 minutes to set up, and the pay-off isn’t worth it, even a little? Thanks, Mouse Trap, for peeing all over my child-like expectations. Looks like “pee” is this week’s theme. Who’d have thought? Let’s put in another nice picture of me to remind you guys I’m actually pretty classy.

Alright. On with the games. Perhaps no game was more psychologically damaging for my young mind than Girl Talk. That game was awful. I had to eat ketchup sandwiches, lie about the boys I liked, and when I messed up, I had to stick a ZIT ON MY FACE! That’s messed up guys. I probably spent years thinking my actual teenage acne was the result of my failures in life. Way to go, Girl Talk. I hope you get peed on.

I must confess this list is a little deceiving. While I played my fair share of board games, I actually spent most of my childhood on the computer, mastering pixely adventure games and Pizza Worm. I could easily add them to this list, but Commander Keen and Jezz Ball deserve an entry all their own. Maybe next time I’ll thrift a dress with an “MS DOS” label, because after “UNO”, you just never know.

As for my present day gaming habits, I’ve moved on from the computer now, too. Draw Something, anyone?

PS: Do my photos look extra special today? That’s because they were taken by Jentine. She rocks my socks and sandals right off.

Happy Monday you kings and vagabonds! I’m posting a friendly reminder about my on-going contest to win a custom portrait for your blog, (or anywhere else, really). As a further further kick in the pants to get your entry in, here are a few quick sample portraits from Laura:

My husband makes his first appearance on the blog! Granted, it’s in storybook-sketch form, but it still counts. Remember that outfit I’m wearing?

I’d say we all look pretty darn cute as watercoloured characters. If you’d like to win your own portrait, the rules are simple:

1) Tell me about your best thrifted find in 200 words or less. Where did you find it? Why do you love it? What did it cost you?

2) Attach a picture of yourself in that find.

3) Email all of it to

4) I’ll choose my favourite entry, and you’ll win a custom sketch by Laura based on your photo! You’ll get the high-resolution file to use as you please.

5) Submit your entry before June 11, 2012!

I’ve already received some great entries, but I want more! MORE! Spam my inbox with so much thrifty goodness I have to get a forklift to sift through it. That’s a mixed metaphor but I’m OK with it.

Here are a few more favourites from Laura to close out the entry.

Can’t wait to see more from you all of you!

Full Circle

June 1, 2012 — 12 Comments

I think I’ll officially feel like a grown-up when I care as much about my house as I do my closet. Don’t get me wrong, I love flipping through Style at Home, and I’m a Sarah Richardson devotee, but if I find myself with extra cash in my pocket, it usually goes towards a sparkly dress before it does an ottoman. But every so often, the home decor bug sneaks up out of nowhere, and I go all Tasmanian Devil in reverse. Way back in January, I blogged about this phenomenon at work. A few days ago, I caught the bug again. As it was with my vanity project, I was spurred on by one really great piece, and everything unfolded from there. This time, my catalyst was this super-awesome Dr. Evil chair:

My mom bequeathed this chair unto me as a thank you for a recent string of favours. (some say it with flowers, Mom says it with home furnishing). I LOVE this chair. But it looked downright silly next to my sagging Kijiji couches. Our living space is much like a bowling aisle – saggy couches with TV on one side, desks & computers on the other side, with a wide expanse of space in between. Next to our computer stations sat two Bermuda chairs (also from Mom) They are very nice, but they always looked a little lonely and lost in the back corner of our living space. In front of them sat a large coffee table gathering dust and unopened mail. These Bermudas matched the aesthetic of the circle chair perfectly. So, off to the corner it went!

That’s when things got real. These three nice chairs still looked lost and lonely, and they deserved better. So, I channeled my inner Nate Berkus, and attacked this corner with everything I had. I pulled the rug from our kitchen, the lamp from our TV space, the coffee table books from our shelves, the clock from our dinning room, and it just took off from there. The biggest “aha” moment arrived upon the realization that I could actually pull the large coffee table apart, and use it as two separate end tables to frame the space.

If you ever feel lost when trying to pull a room together, stick to matching basic shapes and textures. I basically echoed the circle-shape through the space for most elements, and the square for the rest.

Check out those neat iron circles on the ledge: They’re a gift from my mom-in-law, an old floor grate she recovered. In fact, everything in this space is either thrifted or gifted.

The artwork on the right is a wedding gift from my friend and mentor Petra, and within it you can see almost every motif for this space at work – circles, squares, clean black edges, even the lines from the floor grates and candle lantern.

As I added more elements to the space, more visual connections arose. The glow of the candle lantern picks up the flecks of gold in that wicked retro clock (thrifted gift), that clock faces a wall of other clocks (gifted), and the gold lamp (thrifted) lights all of it up.

Oh, and all these clocks tie back to the circle chair. Full circle. (How many more times will I say circle in this post? Circle circle circle!). Even the little mirror tucked behind the candle lantern plays a part – the pattern reminds me of the button placement on the Bermuda chairs, and it has some flecks of gold, too.

When I originally posted pictures of my mom’s thrifty home decor, I mentioned that she never sets out looking to fill a particular space all at once. Rather, she “buys little bits and pieces all the time, until, voila! A vingette comes together.” That’s exactly what happened in this corner. I already had everything to make this space come alive, it just needed one element to bring it all together.

One final tip: Coffee table books are one of the easiest ways to add character to your living space. They immediately tell people about your passions. This table is great because it showcases many of my favourite reads. Some of them came from my parents’ used book store, and others have been collected over time. Show them off! They communicate a lot more about your personality than a Kindle display would.

There is only one foreseeable danger to my new corner: One I was finished with this space, I made myself a rye n’ ginger and enjoyed it in my Dr. Evil chair. My cat settled in for some snuggling, and I suddenly had a strong desire to take over the world and get myself a pint-sized henchman. Just promise you’ll intervene if I start losing my hair.