DIY, style

i love free shit. Samples. Love em. Gifts.  Loooove them. Surprises.  Love them, too. 

I have always expected to pay my own way, knowing even before I knew that I’d marry a woman that marrying anyone who’d ‘take care of me’ wasn’t my style. 

But I’m a frugal girl. Raised my a discerning father who taught me to save. So, when I first discovered clothing swaps I was in heaven. 

I’ve since attended and hosted many a swap. People often ask how I seem to have an endless wardrobe… Part of the trick is creativity and being willing to look in unusual places… Like the bin (yes, a literal bin) FULL of gorgeous, gently used clothes from a colleague’s friend. Can you really get something for nothing? Yes. Here is what good vibes and social-Eco consciousness can get you: 

Even if I just wear this blinked out halter once ( Hellooo bachelorette party) before passing it on, it can be a ton of fun to wear something unexpected that you’d never pick out yourself. 

I love a retro bow blouse with a chain pattern  and the peplum top below is a classic. 

 This pink skirt goes with so many things in my closet and although it will require some opaque black tights to make it more wearable – I just happen to have some.   
Truly excited about my new finds! Especially the numerous Victoria’s Secret bras (not pictured here)! 

When something in your closet no longer rings your bell, ring some friends and set up a swap. No snobs allowed. 

Xo Al 

Be your own stylist

DIY, style

Pic pulled from a magazine featuring a dress that is remarkably similar to a vintage piece that my grandmother made by hand.

It started with a picture I pulled from a magazine. Or maybe it started back when I’d raid my mom’s closet. Or, probably,  it started with the fact that today is a snow day. When else am I home during the day, with beautiful winter light streaming through the window, no chores to be done, and a -26 with windchill happening outside?

The other day my co-worker turned to me and said, “I want your closet.” This is sweet and flattering, but loving your clothes is not so far out of reach. Admittedly, dating and marrying a woman with an extensive collection of her own has expanded my wardrobe options, but I’ve always loved clothes and collected them lovingly. So, on this beautiful snow day I saw the magazine picture of Zoey Deschanel wearing a sweet polka-dot dress and knew exactly what I had in my closet that would replicate it.  Today’s challenge: be my own stylist.

On a limited budget ($100-$150 a season if I’m being honest), how can you maximize your wardrobe potential?

Granny's dress and the inspiration page.

Granny’s dress and the inspiration page.

1) Look at magazines for inspiration. Part of what keeps you in a rut is forgetting what you have and thinking of ways to wear those pieces in new ways. It looks like I have many more things than I do, because I rarely combine items the same way twice.

1B) Never throw anything out. Just because it’s out of style now doesn’t mean it won’t come back. Also, ‘out’ of style… according to who? If you love it, keep it; if you need a break… take it, but don’t pitch a piece you love just because its moment is over. Put it on hold, especially if you love the way it fits.

2) Know where to find it: not new clothes, the ones you already have. Keep your closet organized! When things are clean, ready to wear and easy to find, you are more likely to wear them. My hanger system is annoying, but I know where to find my stuff.

Some great bargain pieces in blush and with embellishments from Dex and Material Girl.

Some great bargain pieces in blush and with embellishments from Dex and Material Girl.

3) Know where to find it… if you don’t have it yet. Some stores will fit you, some won’t. Trying things on, shop around. Go into places you haven’t tried before. Some places will fit like a glove. I tend to have few problems with tops and dresses, but pants from places like Zara, Club Monaco and … most places actually, are tricky for me. I’m lucky that I’m not corporate, because Second Denim’s yoga jeans in 5 washes and cuts are my absolute favourite (they are super long-legged, really stretchy, have the high-rise and sky-rise fit, and never gape at the back).

4) Make friends with accessories and don’t spend a fortune. If you’re into

Clockwise from top left: White Feather Designs' geometric silver and gold,  Kensington Market graphic beads, E-bay $10 gold collar, 2 long pendants from YYZ Imports, H&M silver fringe, black and gold statement piece from a garage sale, Joe Fresh $5 sale baubles/rinestone necklace

Clockwise from top left: White Feather Designs’ geometric silver and gold, Kensington Market graphic beads, E-bay $10 gold collar, 2 long pendants from YYZ Imports, H&M silver fringe, black and gold statement piece from a garage sale, Joe Fresh $5 sale baubles/rinestone necklace

classic jewelry (your favourite studs, one necklace)…lucky you. But I’ve found that an array of versatile costume jewelry keeps me feeling excited about new combinations.

5) Don’t try to solve your other issues with a new purchase. Moods, insecurities, … can’t *usually be solved by buying something. Unless you’re celebrating.

6) Buy things that you find challenging (formal dresses, swim suits) when you don’t  need them. Purchasing them under pressure is rarely a good way to find a great item. I regularly look for dresses to wear to events and occasions, so that I have a few on stand-by. When I see a great deal, or when it fits well and I don’t have to wear it that weekend, I can take my time and usually get things at a way better price.

7) Borrow/trade with friends, casually, or host a full-on Clothing Swap

Knit floral-edge jacket from a play that I choreographed. The costumers gifted me this piece after the show wrapped.

Knit floral-edge jacket from a play that I choreographed. The costumers gifted me this piece after the show wrapped.

party. These are a ton of fun and I never go home empty-handed. Some of my favourite pieces are from swaps.

8) Don’t discredit things from unlikely places or that don’t immediately catch your eye. My mother and grandmother’s closets have been great sources (with permission) for handbags, jewellery and vintage pieces. Winners is a veritable treasure trove. Same goes for the H&M sale racks. I am the girl who picks up stuff other people pass by because it seems impossible to wear, or ugly. I dare you to try on things you think won’t work and surprise yourself.

9) Keep track of what you like. Pin-it, tear it out of a magazine, keep a file on your phone. Stick some images that inspire you on the inside of your closet door.

What are your tricks for keeping it interesting in your wardrobe and preventing major splurges?

Most days I pick my outfit by sitting down to drink my morning coffee with as my homepage. I scan the pages until I see something like what I own, and once one piece is decided I build from there. Rarely does the outfit end up looking like the original, but that’s the starting point.

With this in my, I played stylist and using one piece from the closet to start, I laid out outfits built around one inspiration piece at a time. Now I know what I’m wearing for the next week and a half. If the outfits feel too summery, I add thick tights or leggings, plus tall boots, a cardigan or blazer.

Ready, set, snow.

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Joe Fresh sale button-up, costume jewelry and high-waisted dark denim.

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Cozy fine-knit sweater and lightweight striped blazer (both Zara), skinny black jean and statement necklace (from a garage sale of jewelry previously worn one time by television hosts), Club Monaco steel ring and hand-crafted ring from a hippie beach shop.

IMG_8763 IMG_8765 IMG_8771 Three outfits for wearing with thick leggings and tall boots or booties. Left to right (clothing swap Mexx sweater, Winners dress, Anthropologie necklace from ebay/ clothing swap Rachel Roy dress and H&M necklace/ woolly vest from Winners, vintage jacket with floral border, summery tunic from Winners, layered for cold weather and Anthropologie necklace).

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Lots of texture and complimentary finishes help to keep these mix-and-match pieces feeling more cohesive.

Winter brights keep me feeling happy, and chartreuse is one of my favourites. Layered to keep cozy and worn with unexpected colour combos. Vero Moda soft blazer and tunic cut from a previous theatre costume, necklace from The Bay (on sale).

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Clothing swap pink dress, two necklaces for $1 each + belt swiped from a different dress.

Cozy-up a summer dress with leggings, fuzzy shrug sweater with bat-wing sleeves. Earrings (vintage) free from a co-worker, geometric necklace from, long pendant from

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Casual bright blue long sweater with Winners tunic and vintage jewelry. Good for a Friday where I’ll be on my feet and needing to move around.

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More of a splurge: wear-anywhere Anthropologie dress with ebay choker necklace and nubby long sweater, add an extra faux-sheepskin layer for drafty rooms.

Have fun in your closet!