People around the world open their closets, stare at the racks of clothes and proclaim, "I have nothing to wear!" The shirts are too boring, the pants don't fit and the shoes pinch. But once at the department store, sticker shock can creep in and the "perfect" outfit ends up costing less than the perfect amount.
This routine has become a non-issue for Marisa Lynch, a blogger and author in Hollywood. In 2009, Lynch got laid off from her job right around the time she was turning 30. She was in a funk creatively and needed a jump-start. After seeing the Meryl Streep film "Julie & Julia," she was inspired to do ... something. Looking at her passions, Lynch realized she had always been a fan of refashioning, the concept of turning something into something else. So she decided she was going to try to only purchase used clothing found at thrift stores, flea markets or garage sales, and refashion them into items she would actually want to wear. To make things even harder, she gave herself a self-imposed budget of a single dollar a day.
"I love vintage clothing, and the idea of giving a garment a second life is such an important concept," Lynch says. "Not purchasing brand new clothing and not adding to the carbon footprint is a huge part of what I'm proud to be doing."
She started a blog and with seam ripper in hand and sewing machine nearby, she dubbed her project "New Dress a Day." Now, more than three years later, Lynch continues to create her own clothes and even has a book out, titled "New Dress a Day: The Ultimate DIY Guide to Creating Fashion Dos from Thrift-Store Don'ts."
"It's something that I've fallen in love with doing and it makes me ecstatic when I get complimented on a piece that people think is designer but only cost $1," Lynch says.
Lynch has tackled about every piece of clothing imaginable: puffy shirts, floor-length sweater dresses, something resembling a muumuu with sailboats on it and everything in between. The items she purchases often have a signature look: bold colors or patterns, some sort of eye-catching bling, ribbon or lace detail or a luxurious-feeling fabric. While the original piece of clothing often starts as an eyesore, Lynch uses these details to craft her new outfit. The actual ripping and sewing take some time and effort, and she estimates that each outfit can take anywhere between 15 minutes and a few hours.
While the time spent on refashioning might seem excessive for some, keep these statistics in mind. In 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household had an income of $63,685 and spent $1,740 on clothing, about three percent of the total income. Of most big-ticket items that we spend money on, clothing is low on the priority list, following the likes of housing costs, food, transportation, health care and even entertainment. Three percent of income might seem low, but those dollars can add up in the long term. Lynch believes in her project and lifestyle of refashioning.
"I think that once people see how easy and fun and budget-friendly it is to reinvent clothes that have been hanging in their closets for years, it will be something that will hopefully just become second nature."