Hey, Look! I did it!
I made a Halloween costume from secondhand plush toys. Ta Da!
Savers invited me to create a Halloween costume from items I found at my local Savers thrift store. I wanted to create something that might make people smile. We all need an excuse to smile nowadays. Amiright? I pitched the idea of creating a Nick Cave-inspired costume using secondhand stuffed toys. I half thought that they’d hate the idea, but they totally dug it. Woo Hoo!
As I said, I took inspiration from the artist, Nick Cave. I love his work! Years ago I created a costume that was an homage to his sound suits. This time I was inspired by his recent show at MASS MoCA and his costumes made from stuffed toys.
There isn’t much in the way of instructions to share. I was allowed to pick out $75 dollars worth of plush toys from Savers. I hand sewed them all together into this shape. Once I got going it was a welcome therapeutic distraction. It was good for me to ignore chores and screens and focus on a creative project.
It the end, I think it accomplished what I hoped. Watching my son jump around in this suit made us both smile. Happy Halloween Everyone! And thank you, Savers, for the creative challenge.
I got to play fashion stylist for the weekend and I loved it! Savers reached out to me to write a blog post using items purchased at Savers. The concept I pitched was of a young woman returning to college for her senior year. My friend, Maya, agreed to be my model. Savers gave us a wardrobe budget of $150.
We planned the outfits in advance.
jeans and a t-shirt for attending classes
an outfit for her work-study job at the library
everyday pieces for late night study sessions
a chic ensemble for art openings or an evening out
a pant suit for presentations and interviews
I found these vintage Lee jeans in the men’s section. I cropped them and washed them to accentuate the fringe. The slides were actually slingbacks but I cut off the straps and turned them into mules. Remember to check the men’s section for plain white t-shirts. These thick cotton boy-cut t-shirts are a nice alternative to the tissue tees that have been popular for too long. The red bag is actually new but the shot needed a pop of color so I included it. It’s a Jelly Retro Basket from Lisa Says Gah. I’m obsessed with it.
The perfect pair of vintage jeans is not easy to find. Be patient. The inventory at Savers turns over quickly. If you don’t find a pair on the first visit, go back again in a month. Trust me.
For a more studious look, pair a silk secretary blouse with a classic wool skirt. We added a vintage watch for a bit of analog bling and a quality trench coat for chilly Fall days. Personally, I am keeping my eyes peeled for a classic belted trench coat so I can pull off this look by Reese Blutstein. Follow Reese on Instagram for great style inspiration.
Turtlenecks and high-waisted pleated pants are a comfortable choice for late night study sessions. Layering is key for transitional seasons and drafty old buildings.
This thin turtleneck sweater dress can be dressed up with simple accessories making it a smart choice for an art opening or an evening out. Funny story — we couldn’t find a handbag that spoke to us so we opted for this basket from the home goods section instead. It’s a fun alternative to a traditional bag. The cowhide slides help make the outfit feel unique and memorable. Judging by Maya’s reaction, I think these slides were her favorite find of the day.
Sculpture: Arcangle, 1984, granite and Carrara marble by Gary Haven Smith located at the University of New Hampshire Dimond Library
We opted for minimalist jewelry. The jewelry selection at Savers is insane. You can achieve just about any jewelry trend with the options they have. I know that sounds very sales-y but it’s true.
We scored a quality Ann Taylor pin stripe suit that fit Maya like a glove. For this shoot, we paired it with a vintage camisole but for an actual interview or presentation I would recommend a classic button down or silk shell top. Death by Elocution has great inspiration for updated classics like that.
Again we opted for slides over pumps. Block heels are easier to walk in and they offer a nice juxtaposition to a traditional suit.
How’d we do? Let us know in the comments.
BEHIND THE SCENES: Maya lives 3 hours away from me. It was a challenge to find the time to shop and shoot together. She arrived on Saturday night at 7 pm. Savers closes at 10 pm. We rushed over and treated the experience like a reality tv show. We split up and loaded up our carts with options. She tried everything on and quickly determined the best pieces. We dove back into the racks to find more pieces. When we went to cash out we discovered that everything we had still only added up to $130. We had to go back in and spend another $20!
The next morning we planned the outfits. There were a few pieces that on second inspection didn’t work well for our shoot. I blame it on us having to rush. I decided to swap out the items that didn’t work with items from my personal wardrobe that I actually did buy at Savers, just not on this trip. We swapped out ankle boots for the slides. We swapped out a big blazer for my vintage Lee jeans, and we swapped out elastic waist pants for the wool skirt.
That was fun! I want to do it all again. I hope the takeaway is that you can get quality pieces secondhand. It’s better on your wallet and on the environment. Next time you feel like your wardrobe needs a refresh — think secondhand first! xo jam
If you follow me on Instagram then you know that for months I’ve been working on decorating an Airbnb in Portsmouth, NH. This is literally a dream job for me. Now — before you get too excited, remember that this is a decorating job in the real world, not in Hollywood. We had very real budget constraints. And that is why (I think) I was contacted. The owner wanted to reuse, upcycle, and restore as much as possible. Partly to save money and partly for the charm of vintage and upcycled things.
Below are the before photos. The house was built in 1910-ish. The previous owners were Betty and Joe. Back in the day, Joe worked at the Shipyard and Betty was the Little Harbour School librarian. Betty loved pinks and purple. The history of the house influenced our design plan. We wanted it to feel comfortable — like you are visiting family.
Before / Foyer
Before/ Living Room
Before / Dining Room
Before / Kitchen
Before / Twin Bedroom
Before / Master Bedroom
Before / Queen Bedroom
The design plan I pitched for the house was Olde New England meets Midcentury Modern with pops of color and upcycled pieces.
Below is a view of the foyer from the living room. I wanted it to be colorful and welcoming. The room is a good size so I’d like it to double as a play room. Parents can be in the living room and easily watch kids playing in the foyer. We plan to put baskets of toys under the daybed. The daybed is made of two church benches that I got on Craigslist for $25 a piece. I locked the benches together with hook-and-eye latches. I sewed the cushion myself using toile fabric. The striped pillows are one of the many items the owner already had. I got the octagon table on Craigslist for like $20 and painted it green. I’m obsessed with green lately. The round rug is one of the many high points of this project that resulted from the owner and I putting our heads together. I wanted a round rug but couldn’t find one that I liked or could afford. She wanted something easy to clean. She ended up ordering a 6-foot round industrial felt rug from Route One Carpet & Decorating — for $64! It’s soft, easy to clean, and more fun than a traditional rug.
Throughout the house, it was our goal to work with neutrals like gray, white, black, and natural wood and then use pop colors and patterns to make everything feel more fun.
The owner wanted a pull-out couch so we went with the most comfortable gray couch option at Crate & Barrel in Kittery, Maine. The mustard chairs are from Etsy. We thought it was a good idea to have vinyl chairs because they would be easy to clean. Flor had a big sale at the time that we started this project. We took advantage of that and bought these checkerboard carpet squares. The art shelves feature collected art by the owner. The coffee table is from Weekender House.
The owner wanted a big dining room table with room for everyone. I think the table can easily seat 8 people, or 10 if you squished in a couple more chairs.
The breakfast nook in the kitchen is the perfect spot to drink coffee and plan your day. The table is one of my favorite scores of this project. It was $7 on Craigslist. It is a restaurant quality table, very study. The four bentwood Thonet chairs were also from Craigslist. They cost $95 for all four. The stainless steel prep table, purchased on Amazon, offers a nice clean work surface.
I sewed the majority of the curtains throughout the house. For the stairway landing, I made curtains using vintage linens. For the bedrooms, I used mattress ticking fabric, and for the dining room, we decided on 3/4 curtains in a crisp white gauzy fabric.
This tiny bedroom might be my favorite. The hanging drawers and octagon mirror were things the owner already had on hand but was not using. The side table is one of two small tables I purchased from Portland Flea-for-All . The portrait is of the owner’s Aunt Rita. I think this room should be called the Rita Room. Don’t you?
We selected more soothing accent colors for the second floor. We wanted it to feel like a place to relax. We opted to paint a soothing sage green headboard for the master bedroom. We incorporated handmade quilts from the owner’s mom’s collection. The green lamp is from Etsy. The matching nightstands were made locally from salvaged wood by Back Burner Designs in Somersworth, NH.
The lamp below is a lamp I bought at Savers for $14.99. I think it is a real George Nelson lamp. I’ve had it in a container for years waiting for the right opportunity to use it. The chair below was given to me by a friend. I couldn’t afford to have it reupholstered so instead I worked with Back Burner Designs to build the seat and back using pallet wood. You can see the before picture on my Instagram account. The seat cushion is made from a goose feather pillow the owner already had. I recovered it with new (on sale) fabric. I got the Danish stool on Craigslist for $15.
There is a console table set up in the master bedroom. You can check your email on the computer or watch a movie from bed. The table was made from a metal frame the owner already had. Wood was cut to fit the top. The white bench is something the owner already owned. I recovered the top in the same toile fabric I used on the foyer daybed.
I imagined the room below was for that Aunt who needs time to get away from family for a little bit to just read a book. Once again we opted to paint the headboard. The owner did this herself. Isn’t it adorable? I think of this as the “Aunt Room”.
There is a whole other bedroom with two twin beds that I didn’t feature and many details I haven’t included but that is certainly enough info for one blog post.
The detail I do need to include is that the owners did all the hard work and for some reason picked (lucky) me to work with them on decorating this gem of a house. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity.
The other detail that I must share is that the BEST thing about this Airbnb rental is the LOCATION. It is literally steps from the Portsmouth Farmer’s Market (hence the cloth shopping bags hanging in the foyer). It is in the loveliest neighborhood on the planet. Is it a nice short walk to downtown Portsmouth. If your family or your gaggle of bridesmaids are looking for a getaway — check out the Lilac Guest House in Portsmouth, NH and tell them JAM sent ya!