The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

New Dress A Day: 365 Upcycled Outfits for $365

new dress a day 365 days 365 outfits 365 dollars
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Ever since Julie and Julia charmed our aprons off, it seems like just about everyone and their mother has pledged to do something every day for a year and blog about it daily. For the most part, our reaction is…yawn. It’s a noble effort to undertake something new and stick with it each and every for 365 days, but it takes more than a gimmick to grab readers, and New Dress A Day had us at “hello.”

Last November, Marisa, the mastermind behind this unique catalog of upcycled fashion porn, was feeling creatively stifled, or “clogged” as she called it, and wanted to put a spark back into her creative side, “which had been lost through losing my job and turning 30.” This LA-based fashionista knew what she needed to do, and vowed to “spend [an] entire year without doing an ounce of traditional shopping.”

Now about 2/3 of the way through her project — today marks Day 255 — Marisa has only spent one dollar per outfit per day ($255 so far, $365 for the entire year) by scouring thrift stores, flea markets, and vintage shops in search of pieces with character and potential to become attractive, relevant outfits. Armed only with her sewing machine and her love of style, Marisa’s upcycled outfits are pretty remarkable, which is why we love her blog and were psyched to find out how she feels as she approaches her finish line.

TO SEW OR NOT TO SEW

Without a doubt, Marisa says this “has been the best experience of my life, the most gratifying experience I could ever imagine.” She derives joy from positive reader feedback, and when asked how she finds the will to actually create a new outfit every day while balancing a social life and a demanding editorial job, she said determination is key, “and I don’t let myself off the hook. I started this, and I’m going to finish it.”

Marisa originally learned how to sew in Home Ec, but has no formal design training. Although she cinches like a pro, Marisa is self-taught (on her mother’s sewing machine), and understands how daunting her upcycled fashion undertaking may seem to beginners.

“I try to do stuff where I don’t make people reading it feel overwhelmed,” she says. “An easy tip to change something up is to cut off sleeves. I love cutting off sleeves!” Marisa’s advice is simple: “Start with something you don’t spend a lot of money on…every time it gets easier. If you don’t have a sewing machine, try with a needle and thread…or even duct tape. People with different skill levels can get the same result with different methods.”

Although Marisa thought not hitting the mall would be majorly difficult, she’s been “completely okay with not shopping.” In fact, she’s been so happy with her experience that she wants to continue upcycling outfits after her designated year is complete. She’s spending $365 on clothes for the entire year and literally getting a new dress or other piece of clothing every day. She’s got ample extra bucks in her pocket since she “doesn’t buy an $80 dress for an event,” and all the money she’s saved even helped her buy a new (green and chic!) hybrid car.

SEW STYLISH

Looking at Marisa’s pieces — a gorgeous mod dress made from a long, ripped, out-of-style piece (Day 70); a totally on-trend maxi dress made from what could only be called ‘the muumuu from the black lagoon’ (Day 184) — it’s hard to believe that Marisa creates these dresses daily, but she says she’s got a system.

“I do it at the end of the day, but it’s really the best part of my day,” Marisa says. She comes home from work, sits on the couch, blogs in PJs, and works on her outfits. “I don’t sleep as long as I used to,” she laughs. Of course, sticking to her project isn’t easy, but because she loves it, “it’s not a chore.” A true weekend warrior, Marisa completes pieces on the night before the work week begins. She takes two large thrifting trips a month in order to make sure she has “time to have fun,” which she also humorously documents on her blog (including going to Yankees games, which, as lifelong Red Sox fans, we forgave her for because she’s so cool and fashionable).

As for stylistic inspiration, Marisa “loves touching the pages of magazines like Lucky, Elle, Vogue,” and is admittedly “obsessed with Turner classics and old movies.” She asks herself constantly how can she make “these fashions work for now on a really tight budget. I love clothes from all different decades… I feel connected to the seventies and the boho chic style, that throwback of tweed and plaid.”

WHEN ALL IS SEWN AND DONE

After everything she’s learned this year, going from self-taught seamstress to self-made upcycled fashion designer, Marisa won’t go back to her old methods of shopping entirely, but she will re-enter the consumer market with a new perspective. So what about the 365 pieces of clothing filling her closet in November? Marisa plans to get involved with a charity to donate or auction off her pieces when she’s finished. Of course, she won’t be giving everything away: she plans to keep the pieces that truly “shocked” her by proving just how different she could make a single piece look.

As a pro thrifter, Marisa’s advice on how to find awesome pieces is to remember that she she shops with a unique vision in mind. “I’m not looking for the perfect pieces; I’m looking for the ones people are tossing because they have holes or are ripped… I’m looking for different things than the traditional thrifter. I’m trying to find things people wouldn’t regularly want.” And then she makes magic happen.

That’s the beauty of New Dress A Day: everything old is new again as Marisa breathes life into unloved, unwanted articles of clothing that have not been loved in years. The personification of the Shoestring trifecta — green, thrifty, oh-so-chic — New Dress A Day is a refreshing blend of DIY, style, and bargain blogging that we’ll sorely miss come November.

Story: Copyright 2010, Shoestring LLC. Images: Copyright & Courtesy of New Dress a Day.

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