Let me introduce myself; my name is Alyce, and I’m a savvy recycler! I can’t wait to show everyone here how easy it is to be creative with thrift store diamonds in the rough! I wear a size 30 and I love creating new things from the old. For example, I’ll take a too-small, boring pair of size 26 jeans and upsize them to a totally flirty size 30, or a 2XL dress from the dollar bin at Goodwill and upsize it to a 4XL that looks exactly like something from Modcloth or Simply Be.
Being a very curvy 54 year old who has been in the above-XL clothing size for about 40 years, I understand the frustration, irritation, and angst most of us have experienced trying to buy clothes. Even sewing your own clothes can present challenges for larger women. Once I upsize this pattern, is the dress still going to look good on my body? How do I refine my fitting adjustments to my pattern before I cut into this $40 piece of fabric?
Sound familiar? Lots of head bobbing out there?
So what are the options for those of us who fun and flirty clothes that represent our individuality without breaking the bank? Are our options still limited? Maybe not. If you can take a size 20 pattern at the bust and graft it to a size 26 pattern at the hips to create a dress that fits, why can’t you do that with clothes off the rack?
That simple question was my jumping off point for my lifelong addiction to thrift stores: Salvation Army, Goodwill, Charity rummage sales and any other second hand store you can name. I haunt them all. It’s my personal playground of colors and textures. Give me a picture of a dress from Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Anthropologie, or even Lands End, and I can usually find all the components to make a size 30 version from thrift store finds. If you can sew a straight-ish seam, you can definitely convert a reject into a one-of-a-kind. Upsizing and upcycling at the same time. What could be better???
Still need convincing to try upcycling? Here are a few reasons why upcycling is a great option for us curvy women:
- Easily calculate the yardage you need: 90% percent of the clothing you buy secondhand has already been washed, so there’s no guesswork when you are measuring a garment, such as a pair of jeans. For example, I need 14.75” from inseam at the knee to the outside seam at the knee, and I’ve found a pair that measures 10.5”. I don’t have to figure for shrinkage since it’s been prewashed. I also don’t need to figure in the seam allowance because I’m going to reuse the original seam line when I add a strip of fabric to make them fit me. So, I can buy these jeans knowing that I just need an additional 4.25” of a second fabric to get to the size I need.
- Only pay for what you need: Like every other seamstress I know, I have a stash of yardage that is measured in the hundreds of yards. It’s tucked in every nook and cranny of my home. However, when I upcycle, I use three garments and make them into one, and then I don’t have left overs that I paid for and that get stored with the rest of the stash.
- See and feel the fabric in-person before buying: And my final reason is I can see how the fabric moves, feels and in general if it is a good material for me. Plain and simple we all have colors and fabrics we have to steer away from. But why not experiment with a three dollar dress from the clearance isle in a fabric you’ve never worn before? What do you have to loose other than your time? If you find you can’t wear it then rip the seams and make something for a family member or a neighbor.
Curvy Strategies for Upcycling
Still have questions about upcycling from thrift quests? Well here are a few tips that might help:
- Find Inspiration from RTW: Use pictures of garments from retailers such as Anthropologie and Modcloth to guide your thrifting and help select pieces with the most potential to be re-purposed.
- Combine multiple garments: Thrift stores don’t usually have anything my size–or anything above size 20 most days–but here’s the thing: you can combine two or more thrifted items into a single garment, much in the way that you might frankenpattern a sewing pattern.
- Target certain garment types: I am always on the look out for good quality men’s blazers. They are the most versatile garment for upsizing and upcycling. If they are lined, it’s even better. I can use the arms to expand a jacket, the front as a highlight fabric on a two-piece pants set, and the back to make a matching purse for all three pieces. The other garment types that I am always looking for are clearance prom dresses/wedding dresses. The sky’s the limit with them! I converted a single XL prom dress a few years ago to a size 26 maxi dress AND a size 30 knee length tunic.
- Plan your visit: Find out if your local thrift stores have regularly delivery schedules. If they do have regular deliveries, try to plan your visits for the morning after to get the best selection. Additionally, if you can go when kids are in school or during naptime, you’ll have a calmer shopping environment for evaluating potential purchases.
I’m sure you can tell I love doing this. Sharing my “hobby” has been one of the most exciting periods of the past 15 years. The exchange of ideas is never ending and so rewarding. I hope you’ll join me in a future post when we’ll make a pair of designer jeans out of thrift store dollar bin finds.