Shopping for American-made, vintage and do-it-yourself clothes

  • Article by: AIMEE BLANCHETTE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 24, 2013 - 4:09 PM

Socially conscious shoppers talk about filling their closets without going to the mall. For many, that means forgoing fast-fashion for everything from American-made to secondhand clothes.

Kaia Roberts, 29, has an eclectic taste for used clothing. She can't even remember the last time she purchased something new from a retail shop. Roberts says she enjoys the thrill of the hunt in finding pre-loved pieces and it's fun to take advantage of things that otherwise would've ended up in the garbage. July 10, 2013. ] JOELKOYAMA•joel koyama@startribune.com

All-American

Greg Martin, 44, Minneapolis

Job: Owner of Urban Bean Coffee in Minneapolis.

Describe your style: Blue-collar casual or preppy rugged.

Wearing: Gitman Bros. shirt from BlackBlue; Baldwin denim jeans; vintage wingtip shoes from a store in New York.

Why buy American? “It’s nice to know that people aren’t being exploited and are getting paid a fair wage. It’s also about helping small businesses and the economy. I like the idea that my purchases are maybe helping to keep some people in America employed — regardless of where they came from.”

Isn’t it expensive? “It costs a lot of money to have a wardrobe of all U.S.A. clothes. Shirts are $125 to $225. Jeans are $250. Still, you’re better off having a few nice pieces than a billion pieces of junk.”

Is there anything in your closet that’s not American-made? Boxer briefs and socks from Banana Republic Outlet. Also, 30 pieces of workout clothes from Lululemon, because I have yet to find American-made yoga pants that I like.”

 

Secondhand

Kaia Roberts, 29, Minneapolis

Job: Tantric hatha yoga student, small-business owner.

Describe your style: Eclectic, built with high-quality pieces and natural fibers.

Wearing: Sleeveless shirt-dress by BCX, jeans by [BLANKNYC], shoes by Michael Antonio, glass necklace from France. All sourced at B. Resale, Elite Repeat and T.J. Maxx for under $50 total.

What does “socially conscious style” mean to you? “I make deliberate choices about shopping small businesses and about buying natural and sustainable fibers. It’s important to support artisans or labels that focus on the craft of clothing and style, so that those techniques won’t be lost under a sea of fast fashion. Being mindful takes some of the impulse out of shopping, but to me that’s a good thing.”

Why do you shop used? “Budget benefits aside, shopping used allows me to find unique, well-made pieces from labels I may not otherwise have access to. I can reduce waste by giving new life to lovely things while supporting the businesses in my community. What’s not to love?”

Do you have any tips for buying used clothes? “Know what colors, patterns, textures you like and also what shapes suit you. It helps to shop often, as the stock at resale and consignment stores is always changing.”

Vintage

Kristine Huson, 42, South St. Paul

Job: Marketing and communications manager at Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

Describe your style: Vintage dresses with modern flair added via accessories and shoes.

Wearing: Vintage dress from Lula’s Vintage Wear, Nine West shoes from Herberger’s, vintage ’80s belt and earrings from Macy’s.

What’s your favorite piece? “I have a huge weakness for vintage coats. I have one signature coat that’s a real show stopper. People stop and ask me about it all the time. It’s steel gray faux fur. I joke that I skinned a Muppet.”

What does “socially conscious style” mean to you? “Supporting locally owned businesses, giving clothing a longer life before it winds up in a landfill, supporting companies that facilitate good working conditions for their workers and supporting companies that champion causes.”

Do you have tips for shopping vintage? “Combine vintage with modern so you don’t look like you’re in a costume. Ignore sizes (the sizes are different now) and just try things on. If buying online, measure yourself. Know which eras work best for your body type — look to vintage style icons as a clue. Dip your toe into vintage by buying a coat, jacket, purse or tie.”

 

Handmade

Mary Beth Newman, 46, Minneapolis

Job: Sales associate.

Describe your style: Late ’50s/early ’60s; dresses, skirts with a sweater set. “I never wear shorts.”

Wearing: Hand-sewn dress made with fabric by Echino for Kokka, a Japanese import fabric available at Crafty Planet; thrift store sweater, shoes from Miz Mooz.

Why do you make your own clothes? “It’s hard to find clothes I really love for a reasonable price and in my size. There are great clothes for the smaller women in this country, but not much variety when you’re an ‘ample woman’ like myself. So years ago I dusted off my sewing machine, found fabric that I loved and started making skirts. I found a great dress pattern a few years back and have made 20 of the dresses in various fabrics.”

Do you give much thought to where clothes come from? “Most clothing commercially available stylistically bores me, and is disposable and poorly sewn. I’m waiting for the day when people start valuing quality again. Sewing my own clothing gives me ultimate quality control.”

Can anyone learn to sew? “Absolutely! Classes are available all over town. Or you can ask a friend to show you the basics. Handcrafts are definitely back to stay.”

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    Forget fast fashion. A growing number of socially conscious shoppers want stylish, durable clothes – from U.S.-made to vintage to making their own.

  • Greg Martin tries to buy American.

  • Kris Huson in her home on July 12, 2013. ] JOELKOYAMA‚Ä¢joel koyama@startribune July 12, 2013. ] JOELKOYAMA‚Ä¢joel koyama@startribune

  • Mary Newman in her home on July 12, 2013. ] JOELKOYAMA‚Ä¢joel koyama@startribune

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