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How to Personalize Thrift or Consignment Store Apparel and Footwear

Updated on March 20, 2013

There are many myths surrounding thrift or consignment store apparel and footwear. Some people think that the clothes are worn out with holes. Some say that all of them are faded and can never be worn in style for school or work. Some say that the clothing is outdated, with passe styles.

Mostly, those myths are untrue. There are actually secondhand stores that only accept clothing or shoes in good condition. But even with those facts, quite a few people would laugh at you for buying them and denounce you as cheap. Oh, and quite a few items fit some of the myths above.

Besides being influenced by a song about a love for someone who bought a hat from a thrift shop, there are many reasons why shopping at one can be a good thing. It provides you things you wouldn't see anywhere else, but that's just the part of it. Ditto for doing the environment a favor or for ethical folks shunning sweatshop labor-made items.

The big reason why is because it's ideal for people on a budget. Frugal lifestyle advocates swear by buying apparel in that manner as opposed to at retailers. (Oh, some of them, like The Salvation Army and Goodwill, are charity-based, so you'll both save money and help someone in need.)

Well, here are some ideas to liven it up. (Make sure you save some of them alone - perhaps they are just as fashionable on their own or appropriate enough for dress codes at school or work. Oh, and prewash them to remove any sizing or grime before crafting.)

Redo Footwear

Shoes are some of the things people buy from a recycled clothing store. But here's the trouble - few of them look nice but they are the wrong size or a few of them are the right size but they are scuffed. It's always a good idea to spend time looking for ones that are both comfy and good-looking.

Well, even if the shoes fit the said characteristics, you'd probably want to embellish quite a few to add more personalization. Why not brush them with glue, liberally coat them with glitter, and seal them with a few coats of acrylic spray?

Another good way to upcycle recycled shoes is to add gems. Stick-on gems are good, but if you have to wear them for even a few times, you may want to glue them because the adhesives on the backs aren't usually secure enough. Flatback crystals, acrylic included, provide you with the bling that saves many a wallet grief. (Kids' shoes can be embellished with the plastic gems for lead-free lifestyles or the low-lead glass ones if durability is an issue.)

For extra durability in the heat, glass hotfix rhinestones are among the best ones to dress up thrift store shoes. If the shoe is covered in fabric, feel free to use your heat set applicator tool to apply them. Otherwise, glue them with gem glue.

Also Works Great with Cheaper Rhinestones!

Check This Out!

This crafter covered her flats with fabric and added fabric flowers! Gosh do they look great without the sticker shock!
This crafter covered her flats with fabric and added fabric flowers! Gosh do they look great without the sticker shock! | Source

Dye to Make them Like New

It's often said by few snobs that thrift store duds are faded. Not all of them are - as I mentioned before, some stores only accept good condition ones.

But if you want to liven them up further, you can dye your items to refresh them. Just follow the dyeing instructions on the dye pack. Shoestring Magazine has some tips on that. If you do just that, a black shirt that turned a bit grey over time becomes black again without spending lots of money.

Hot Darn! An Ombre Studded Shirt for LESS!

Use Iron-On/Heat-Set Materials

Sometimes, even gently used clothing in the best condition possible needs the slightest updating or is missing a few studs or stones.

Well, heat-set materials, such as iron-on appliques, can turn something boring to extraordinary. Even the ones found in discount stores can doll a vintage shirt up. Using a hotfix tool with loose hotfix studs or rhinestones lets you control where to put them.

You can buy sheets of transfer paper and print images of your photos or scanned kids' artwork and iron it.

Well, if you are trying to save ink for your printer when you have blank transfer sheets, you can draw on them with non-washable crayons. (Fabric crayons are good choices, but they come in limited colors.)

Make Homemade Party Costumes

Going to the Halloween party? Looking for something to wear to a Regency Era-themed charity gala? Finding clothes at the thrift store and upcycling them to make your own disguises saves you a ton of money. (Sure, there are some people who would go to the party store and buy commercially-made ones, but that's another story.)

With some threads and needles (and embellishments), secondhand duds can be made into something else that stands out at a costume party. A pair of slacks can be trimmed into knee breeches for a pirate outfit or an 18th-century masquerade ensemble. A formal gown can be the basis of a princess costume. The only limit to selecting secondhand garb for your own costumes is your imagination.

(Note: if you are making costumes for Halloween, either look for flame-resistant material or soak the clothing pieces in a flame-resistant solution.

Here's How to get that Regency Era Look Without the Regency Class Price!

I know, I know - there are many more ways to update thrift or consignment store apparel and footwear. But those ideas above are some of the ways you can make them look boutique-worthy, even on a shoestring budget. Besides, not everybody is OK with wearing something pricy that somebody else wears! It's your clothes, and you'll be fine with them!

This also works with garage sale clothing too.


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    • talfonso profile image

      talfonso 5 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

      Thank you all for commenting! Oh, and innerspin, I think it's the brand of dye that might had caused the shirt to dye orange. Maybe try another brand you can comfortably fit your budget and comment me back on how you do.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      Good, creative suggestions here, also for items hiding at the back of your wardrobe at home. I tried to dye a grey shirt black, for some weird reason it ended up orange. Haven't worked that one out yet!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      You have some great ideas here, talfonso! Voted up and sharing.