Archives For August 2012

Mod Frocks and Old Cloth

August 13, 2012 — 39 Comments

I was quite delighted to stumble upon this lovely vintage dress at the Salvation Army last week. As I stood in line, I recieved a comment that I found rather humourous. I went something like this: “Cute dress! Looks like it came from ModCloth.”

I found this statement fairly ironic for many reasons. If you read the occasional fashion blog like I do, you’re no stranger to ModCloth. They sponsor a bajillion bloggers, and every other day I come across an outfit post c/o of the retailer. They have successfully turned that “Zooey Dooschenel going to a picnic on a unicycle” look into a national brand. For those of you less familiar with the retailer, I’ll provide some background: ModCloth was founded in 2002 by a woman named Susan Gregg Koger. She, like myself, had a strong penchant for thrifting, and launched ModCloth as online vintage retailer, where she resold her best thrifted and vintage finds. A few years into the venture (around 2006), ModCloth changed its MO and started primarily selling vintage inspired clothing. While they still sell a small amount of real vintage, the majority of their inventory is now made up of brand new garments, sometimes manufactured in China, and sometimes manufactured in the USA. Point is, vintage inspired is very different from actual vintage. That’s what is so funny about that comment: The dress I’m wearing existed long before ModCloth ever did, so ModCloth is the one playing copycat in this scenario. That girl was saying my old dress looks like it came from a retailer that makes their money off of making new dresses that look like old dresses. Whoa. That’s a head-spinner.

To be clear, I’ve got nothing against ModCloth. They’ve tapped into a very popular aesthetic – letting girls everywhere look “thrifty” and “retro”.  They sell some incredibly cute stuff, and I’m honest enough to admit that if they sent a box of free stuff to my door, I’d probably wear it. But from where I stand, if you want that look, it’s a heckuvalot cheaper, and much more authentic to actually go to a thrift store. All the retro shifts, indie a-lines, and mod frocks that pepper ModCloth’s home page have been sitting in your local neighbourhood thrift store for decades.

My own personal aesthetic is very close to a typical ModCloth girl, but I’ve never ordered anything from ModCloth, and don’t have any plans to. If you can get it at ModCloth, you can get it at the thrift store. To back up my statement, I compiled a few old blog outfits and compared them to some pieces from ModCloth.

First up: Nothing quite says “I’m adorable, but ironic about it” like a graphic animal print. Foxes, owls, bugs, birds, whatever – ModCloth has a whole zoo available if you’re looking for that (and I’m always looking for that).  Their “I’ve Bird About You” dress is very cute, but so is this navy butterfly dress from Valu Village. Theirs is $79.99, and mine was $12. Hmmm.

ModCloth rocks a lot of stripes. I would say the same of myself. But lets remember that ladies everywhere have been rocking stripes since Downton Abbey days, so many’a striped frock has already found its way to to the thrift store. While I find this $84.99 dress a charming collection of hues and lines, I’m still much more charmed by the look-a-like I found at the Salvation Army, purchased for $1.

It’s really as simple as this: Old-looking stuff is in. So instead of buying new clothing designed to look old, why not buy some actual old stuff? That right there sums up the above look. While I could’ve gotten something similar by pairing this and this from ModCloth, I ended up with the same results by pairing this vintage top with my sailor shorts from Talize. Total look under $20.

I’m sure you’ll all catching my drift by now: If you’re aiming for some fun, quirky, or retro pieces clothing to spice up your closet, nothing beats the satisfaction that comes from finding an authentic gem at the thrift store. My green 60s shift dress one of my favourite thrifts ever, and while I like ModCloth’s version, I wouldn’t feel as proud wearing theirs as I do mine.

I do realize that not everyone has the patience for thrifting, and if it’s not your bag, ModCloth is still an OK place to spend your money. Sure, big chains are tapped into the retro knock-off trend too, but at least ModCloth makes an effort to manufacture some of their designs in the USA, and employ independent designers. They charge a little more than the big chains, but that’s because they exercise slightly more savoury manufacturing practices compared to sweatshop giants like Forever 21 (although we’ll see if they hang on to that as they continue to expand).

But I’m not here to tell you where to shop, as you can all shop wherever you please! I’m just here to bring ModCloth back to its roots. I do hope I didn’t anger too many ModCloth enthusiasts: I think Susan Gregg Koger is a remarkable business woman, and she’s crafted a business model that works. In fact, I hope she would still appreciate a post like this, as she of all people understands the power of thrift. So, Susan, if you ever find yourself in Hamilton, call me up! We’ll go thrifting.


August 8, 2012 — 23 Comments

Last week, something very strange happened. It was as if the thrift-world decided to exact revenge for my recent relapse into chain store shopping, and zap me of all my thrift powers. I first noticed my bad fortune at a routine stop at the thrift store on the way home from work.

The conditions were perfect for thrifting: I wasn’t rushed, I was buzzed about the weekend, and I hadn’t yet hit that EOD wall when I’m so hungry I start daydreaming about dancing hotdogs from old movie theatre commercials. So, I breezed through the racks, taking the change room by storm, and turning it into a carnival tent of polyester and cotton…And I came home with nothing. I shrugged it off. The reality of a thrift-only wardrobe is you’re bound to leave empty handed once and a while. Not one to lick my wounds, the very next day I was right back at it. This time, I went to one of the larger thrift stores Hamilton because I wanted to give myself the best possible odds for success. I breezed, I stormed, and again, I came home with nothing. One strike out is expected. Two is strange.

You see, what I was really looking for at the thrift store was something to wear for a night out with Jentine. That girl sets the bar high when it comes to thrift shopping, so I wanted to bring my A-game. But that wasn’t meant to be. Fortunately, my double-dud turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was forced to return to my closet, at which point seemed to house only paper bags and potato sacks. But as the day inched closer to the evening, I had to make something work. So, I did what I always do, and channeled my wannabe-mentor and overall-hero, Mr. Tim Gunn. (By the way, Internet, you haven’t created a montage of Tim Gunn saying “make it work” yet. What gives?)

Since I don’t know a lick about sewing, my tool box was very small. I pulled out a maxi dress that my mom thrifted at a Sally Anne sale last year, and cut that thing right up. I’ve always loved the print and colour of the dress, but I hated the cleavagey top, halter straps, and not-made-for-tall-girls length. So, I cut off the top, pulled out the straps for a belt, made a cheaply constructed waste band using Tacky Glue (high-tech), and behold! A maxi skirt of comfy proportions! The skirt is now much longer than the original dress, and it’s way more versatile in terms of what I can pair it with – tees, tube tops, tank tops, whatever. And, luckily enough, it worked well with my latest Salvation Army accessory – that $4 black n’ blue necklace.

Point is, I’m grateful that the thrift universe stripped me of my powers for a few short days. It forced me to look closer at my closet, instead of buying more clothing than I actually need. Sometimes things don’t happen the way you want them to, but you’ve just got to roll with it. Like when the swanky Hamilton restaurant we started at closed their kitchen, thus prompting us to roll our way into a dive bar that served only cheapest of fried foods. Sometimes improvising gets you a maxi skirt, and sometimes it gets you eight cheese sticks and some quesadillas. That right there is a combo of champions.

When I started writing WST back in October, I certainly didn’t think this blog would turn into my own personal (and public) confessional, but wouldn’t you know it – it has. For some reason, I find it very easy to own up to my many sins by confessing them to hundreds of strangers (that means I have something else in common with Usher, in addition to our killer dance moves, of course). So far on WST, I’ve confessed to both cheating on my memory work and cheating in a colouring contest. But both of those crimes were easy to share, as they were committed by a younger Julie. This time, I’m taking it one step further, and confessing a very recent transgression. It starts with this outfit:


You’ll see I added a palette to this post. That’s because I originally intended to spit out some nonsense about how I pulled all colours for this outfit from that thrifted necklace I’m wearing, and blah-blah-blah I’m making it work with my new thrifted skirt, and blah-blah-blah lime green is a hard colour. Honestly, I intended to distract you with circles and bright colours so you wouldn’t notice I said nothing about that blue tee I’m wearing.

“Why’s that?” you say. “Why, Julie, wouldn’t you say anything about that blue tee? Surely it’s just another basic find from the t-shirt rack at The Salvation Army? Right? RIGHT?”

Wrong. This tee came from – *dramatic pause* –  Zellers, which is Canada’s version of WalMart, and recently bought out by Target. It’s not thrifted. It’s brand-spankin’ new. And therefore, it broke all the rules I set out here. I’m so ashamed!

For those of you new to the blog, I swore off shopping at malls and big chain stores for a whole year. I skipped right past the half-year mark a few months ago, and on all accounts, the transition has been easy. I don’t miss the mall at all. I’m more satisfied with my closet than I’ve ever been, and I’m saving more moola too. So what gives? Why did I let some boring ol’ blue t-shirt tarnish my perfect record?

No good reason, really. Zellers is on its way to being shuttered for good, and it’s a depressing barrage of clearance signs and flickering neon lights. I had some time to kill before a meeting nearby, so I lingered amongst the poorly organized “everything must go” merchandise. I found nothing, but before I could turn and go, I remembered that I still needed something to wear for a Blue Jays game the next day. So, I shut off my internal monologue, grabbed this four dollar tee, and checked out. And the guilt has plagued me ever since. I’ve even taken to wearing this tee every other day in vain attempts to justify my moment of weakness.

Instagrammed proof of my transgression. You could follow these moments as they happen, you know. Username: julievanhuizen)

The tee, at least, served its function. I wore it (with a thrifted red bandana – does that help?) as the Toronto Blue Jays handily defeated the Tigers (fun fact: baseball is awesome. You just get to drink beer and eat hot dogs and everyone cheers and it’s so exciting!). But back to the confession: Friends: I cheated. I’m sorry about it. I know I may have let you down, but I do think we can work past this, and begin to trust each other again. I’ve come clean, and I’m ready to move on. There are thrift store to pillage and treasure to unearth. So, let’s get to it.

Phew! A weight has been lifted. That feels good! Now it’s time to open up the floor: anything you want to confess, dear readers? Any mild mistakes gnawing away at your guilty conscience? Tell Aunty Julie all about it. I promise I won’t judge, but I might turn your stories into a platinum R&B record. Just bein’ honest.