Monday, January 23, 2012

Recycled Couture

I love a bargain - especially if it's something to wear. I remember when I was working, I would think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars on wool suits, silk blouses, and expensive high heels.  I rationalized the expenditures by reminding myself that good, well made clothes of quality will last for many the Dalton wool and cashmere three piece suit that I finally gave to charity after 10 years.

Several years ago...I don't know if it coincides with retirement...I got cheap.  I don't mean trashy cheap, but fiscally conservative.  I started perusing the second hand stores.  I started off with the high class ones where they only took in designer labels and gently used name brand apparel.  After the first taste of a Talbot's sweater purchased for $5.99, it became clear that bargains were out there everywhere.  My scope of stores began to branch out to other less classy establishments where an INC skirt could be found amongst the strapless Lycra tube tops and denim mom jeans, if you just took the time to look for it.  ECO Thrift became an weekly obsession.

I needed a red top to wear to a Superbowl party one year, and after finding the perfect little sweater in a thrift store, I was so distracted by my brilliance at only paying $.99 for it, I sorta squeezed through a red light on my way home.  As luck would have it, the intersection was equipped with a nice camera. Needless to say, that after my "day in court", I had to do community service for 20 hours.  I chose "merchandising" in a Goodwill store. There you could get the "good stuff" as it came in, even if the real employees do treat you like a felon!

This sucker weighed at least 20 pounds!
As it goes with second-hand stores, you can't always find anything good on a particular shopping day. So I do wander back to the up-town consignment stores every once in a while.  On one occasion, I spotted this gown on the evening wear rack. It was a designer ball gown, custom made for some snotty rich woman in New York who reportedly spent over $4,000 for it in the 80's and wore it once. To say it was dated would be an understatement - it was made with the most beautiful golden silk satin, rusching at the waste, floor length and billowy.  But what  captured my attention was the exquisite lace on the ginormous bell-shaped sleeves and bodice.  It was studded with rhinestones and positively beautiful. All I wanted was that lace!

The shop's owner said they had the gown for over two years.  It had been marked down from $750 at least 3 or 4 times in an effort to sell it.  It was my lucky day, I guess, because with my 10% off discount, I walked out of the store a whole $27.00 poorer.

I felt like a criminal as I started ripping it apart to get the lace off those sleeves and bodice.  It was obviously hand made by a couture designer (I know this because I am an experienced seamstress).  The inner linings and support structure for the bodice and sleeves were meticulously sewn, and it took me over an hour to turn it into a giant pile of silk, tulle, interfacing, underlining and lace. To my joy, the billowy sleeves yielded almost a yard and half of lace.

After all that guilt for destroying some artist's handiwork and some pretty sore fingers, I was only able to make a scarf. I tried to work it into a small shell and I thought about appliqueing it onto a soft sweater, but the pieces were too irregular.

My "bargain" scarf is lovely and sparkly...and heavy! I guess it might be a bit much with those $2.99 Calvin Klein jeans I found in Goodwill, but I'm sure I'll find a place to wear it eventually. And when I do, I will chuckle to myself as I swoosh it casually over my shoulder in my best "you just wish you were me" snotty style.


  1. Well done... you never know when you'll find that hidden treasure. Thanks for sharing such a fun post.

    1. Thank you Kerryanne...I'm sorry it took me this long to find your comment. I love finding any kind of bargain and turning it into something! Have a great day!!! Laurel


Thanks for visiting my blog. I appreciate all those who share and leave their comments very much. Laurel

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