Stylewatch: Reinventing op shop discards

Meet Eva Winger. She’s one of those people who dives into everything she does with heart. From her costume hire business (sadly decimated during COVID-19) to her current passion project, her blog Style My Thrift, Eva’s enthusiasm combined with her skills has naturally bred success.

Style My Thrift launched only a few months ago and Eva has been featured across the world in fashion journals that share our love for her talents. It’s easy to see why Eva attracted instant attention when you look at her ingenuity! She buys second-hand clothing and transforms them into chic pieces for her blog. Sounds simple enough, but when you see the original garments, you have to appreciate her vision.

Upcycling may not even be the appropriate word – total reimagining takes place when Eva’s creative mind tackles a vintage piece and the outcomes are delightful.

The timing for buying second-hand and smart shopping like this couldn’t be more right. We are living in a time when every decision holds greater weight, both for our hip pocket and the planet. Upcycling is a positive thing to do.

We had a chat with Eva to learn more about upcycling and how she came to be an internet sensation.

How do you choose pieces to upcycle?
I never have an upcycling or refashioning idea before I go thrifting for textiles. In other words, I am not looking for textiles to fit an idea. I always buy the thrifted textiles first and then see which item ‘talks’ to me at home. Sometimes I will buy an item that sits for a couple of years; sometimes I might get to work right away. The dowdy tunic style dress below answered the important questions I ask myself when looking at thrift store pieces. If I did not follow some set criteria, I would buy way too much! Fabric is almost always my litmus test of whether or not I will pony-up the money.

Upcycled drop-waist party dress
Questions I asked myself before committing to my drop-waist party dress upcycle:

Are the print and colour attractive?
I loved the colour! I thought maybe it might be dated though, but that’s what made the print charming.

Is the fabric quality weight or texture?
This fabric was a cross between a lightweight canvas and denim. I was worried the fabric might not bend or fall nicely for my creation, but the structure actually worked to my advantage. The plus? It was lined!

Is the fabric in good shape?
Although this was a vintage piece, it was in pristine shape.

Is there a good amount of fabric to use?
Yes, this one is very oversized.

All four questions answered yes – it was a great purchase for $2.99!

August is my birthday month, so I was thinking party. On to the shoes and I decided to tie strips of tulle in the same colours as the dress to create an even more festive look.

Upcycled Zara taffeta blue plaid to midi dress
Questions I asked myself before committing:

Are the print and colour attractive?
I really loved the big plaid and the predominantly blue colour. Not sure I would have bought it if it weren’t for the next question.

Is the fabric quality weight or texture?
I LOVE TAFFETA! And the fact that this Zara dress was a casual plaid is why I fell in love with the dress.

Is the fabric in good shape?
The dress was made in the last couple of years, so it was in great shape.

Is there a good amount of fabric to use?

Yes. This dress was at least two sizes too big for me, but it was also cut in a more boxy fashion on purpose – it was the style.

All four questions answered YES—it was a great purchase for $6.99.

The plaid is what triggered thoughts of Vivienne Westwood and Galliano. I remember their lines of the late 1990s and Westwood and Galliano’s Plaid collections. I was thinking of the highly ruffled looks on the runway. My idea was to shorten the sleeves and use any excess fabric I had to make two layers of ruffles plus two layers of white tulle ruffles – so it would create a three-dimensional look. I used this technique on the sleeves and hemline. The styling was retro. I have very long hair, so wearing it up is my go-to. I wear this particular style often.

1980 dress to high-low ruffle skirt
Questions I asked myself before committing:

Are the print and colour attractive?
Mint green paisley on white background. Sublimely gorgeous! This project was looking at the forest (the fabric) and ignoring the dowdy, dated design (the trees). I was obsessed with the print.

Is the fabric quality weight or texture?
SILK! Gorgeous fine silk! YES!

Is the fabric in good shape?
Perfect shape for being in the ‘last chance’ bin at the thrift store – but not surprised no-one bought it.

Is there a good amount of fabric to use?
Maybe not copious amounts, but enough for something.

All four questions answered YES—it was a great purchase for $0.50!

I thought I was going to make a dress, but every idea I had was limited by my misunderstanding as to how much fabric there really was.

I called the ‘before’ dress a Franken-Dress! The shoulder pads were ridiculous.

I love femininity and I am a costume designer with my own local costume rental business for children. I focus on creating historic fashions.

I adore the Victorian era. So, when I saw the way the fabric draped as a dress, the idea of a high-low skirt came into my mind. This was a nod to my love of the bustle of the Victorian era and was one of the rare times I wore my hair down because I also love Belle Epoque and when women started wearing their long tresses down in photos.

Denim shirt into wrap blouse with puff sleeves
Questions I ask myself before committing:

Are the print and colour attractive?
What attracted me was the diagonal burgundy flower embroidery on the denim.

Is the fabric quality weight or texture?
Definitely denim, not a light chambray.

Is the fabric in good shape?
Perfect shape for being in the ‘last chance’ bin. Not one problem with it.

Is there a good amount of fabric to use?
Plenty to turn into a pretty, feminine blouse.

All four questions answered YES – it was a great purchase for $0.50.

This was a rare occasion when I knew I wanted to make a blouse. But what kind? I wanted to retain the embroidery. This was a pure challenge to turn something ‘ugly’ into something ultra feminine and romantic and boho.

I figured on a wrap blouse early on because of the angle the embroidery went down the blouse – like it was done on purpose for me! I used some vintage patterns to cobble a wrap blouse and created high gathered sleeves at the shoulder instead of the former boxy look. Per my love of vintage style, the finished look conjures up images of 1930s (with the wide-legged pant) or 1940s.

Sleeveless dress to puff-sleeved blouse
Questions I ask myself before committing:

Are the print and colour attractive?
I was hesitant to buy the dress because I thought the colours would be hard to style. But I was intrigued by the crochet, and was challenged to see how I could style it.

Is the fabric quality weight or texture?
Yes, lightweight crochet. Wonderfully interesting.

Is the fabric in good shape?
Yes, perfect.

Is there a good amount of fabric to use?
Way too long for me, so enough to cut off the bottom to make sleeves

All four questions answered YES – a great purchase for $6.99.

I bought this Missoni-styled crochet dress to wear as a dress. I wore it once while visiting my family in Europe. But the look was super frumpy since I am short, the dress needed to be cinched up with a belt making me look shorter! With no waist. This dress was on the way to the donations bag until I had the idea of a puff-sleeve top. I was obsessing over the puff-style blouses I started seeing on Pinterest. I thought this project was going to be hard, but it was one of the easier ones. I just cut sleeves out of the skirt and added stiff tulle underneath. I lined the crochet fabric to give more structure to the sleeves, otherwise they would just flop, because crochet is heavier than a cotton fabric.

Maxi dress to ruffle-hem sundress
Questions I asked myself before committing:

Are the print and colour attractive?
Great Ikat green print.

Is the fabric quality weight or texture?
A lightweight cotton Merona dress from Target.

Is the fabric in good shape?
Yes.

Is there a good amount of fabric to use?
Yes.

All four questions answered YES – a great purchase for $6.99.

I wore the dress as is for a while as an easy breezy boho-style summer house dress. I just grew tired of it. The idea was just to shorten and turn it into a ruffle-hem dress with mini ruffles on the spaghetti straps. This upcycle was for a sustainable clothing line that wanted me to create a tutorial for a simple dress.

Do you upcycle? Do Eva’s creations inspire you to get creative rather than throw unloved items in the donations bag?

This article first appeared on smartcasualclassic.com.

Rebecca O’Hearn has had a long career as a fashion and beauty editor at Yours, Woman’s Day and FHM magazines and has styled some of Australia’s most famous faces. Her mission now is to help women of all ages feel confident that their wardrobe and beauty choices are the best they can be. Her website is packed with fashion, beauty and styling tips.

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Written by Rebecca O’Hearn

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