Cheap Thrills: St. Paul’s White Elephant Sale

Yeah. I don’t know exactly what a “White Elephant Sale” is either.

Brown Leather Messenger Bag Thrifted Purse: $0.50

But, I do know that you don’t need more than a dollar to reap all its benefits. This time last year I visited St. Paul’s in Allentown, Pennsylvania in hopes of a few tables of knick-knacks, maybe some quirky mugs and a grandpa sweater or two. However, as I stepped onto the hardwood floors of the church’s spacious auditorium I realized I wasn’t messing with amateur yard-salers. Members of the congregation set up almost twenty rows of tables stacked with clothes, jewelry, home decor and purses. Oh, the purses-all for a quarter.

Naturally, I scoured every inch of every table (even the children’s section-don’t judge- I found an adorable denim dress for fifty cents (pictured below)).  Being one of the few shoppers there ineligible for AARP membership, I had my pick of the loot as my tastes differed greatly from theirs (i.e. I wasn’t running for the Christmas decorations section). Anyway, I spent only a couple bucks and came home with pieces I’ve been wearing almost non-stop throughout the year such as these:

Acid Wash Denim DressThrifted Dress: $0.50

Navy Quilted Chain Link PurseThrifted Purse: $0.25

The annual sale is going on tomorrow from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm at Third and Susquehanna streets in Allentown.


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Green Genius: Vivienne Westwood Red Label SS2012

Vivienne Westwood’s debut of her Red Label SS2012 collection appealed to two issues very close to my heart: climate change and shockingly unmanageable hair.

Vivienne WestwoodImage via Vivienne Westwood.

The former of these two issues was brought to the attention of the audience at the Red Label SS2012 show through an announcement made by Westwood publicly endorsing the the launch of a new fundraiser by the environmental organization Cool Earth. Westwood urged her guests to participate in the organization’s efforts to save various endangered rainforests by 2020. The campaign officially begins next month. Westwood has been actively involved with Cool Earth in the past. She even helped start the production of Cool Earth Coffee which claims to save five trees in the Peruvian Amazon with each tub sold.

Now, as for that unmanageable hair.

Westwood Red Label SS2012Images via Vogue

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Green Genius: Recycling Zychal

Next time you’re staring out your apartment window at the poor souls caught in a nasty autumn downpour, don’t pity the thin, 5-foot-2-inch brunette running down Broad Street with inked up arms outstretched to the asphalt. That charcoal gray umbrella she’s chasing, wind torn and resembling a squashed mechanical spider, is the Holy Grail to 26-year-old designer Taryn Zychal. I was lucky enough to chat with this fine lady (and her three adorable pugs) last spring.

Recycling ZychalImage via Recycling Zychal

 “I want people to know me as the person who takes broken umbrellas,” chuckles Zychal.

Zychal doesn’t just collect your poorly made rain gear. Think of her as the Dr. Frankenstein of dead umbrellas-only instead of reviving them into a hideous monster bent on community destruction she spins them into quirky eco-chic accessories poised to help save the earth and available exclusively on her website. Her main accessory is “The Hood”, a surprisingly glamorous modernization of old lady babushkas fastened by unique Fabric Row buttons or sweet little bows. Her design beckons a sort of old-school elegance and begs to be accompanied by an enormous pair of Jackie O. shades. She plans on expanding her accessory line from “The Hood” to ties, bow ties, aprons, and fanny packs. Pet supplies, such as dog raincoats and cat toys, are also available. All the goods range from $3 to $30 and are made using local and sustainable materials. Customers can choose from any one of the approximately 1,400 umbrella skins hung like banners on a clothesline through Zychal’s living room or popping out of her curb-rescued dresser drawers.

Zychal was born with an innate need to upcycle, a growing trend in the green community which involves transforming unwanted items into something fresh. Growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Zychal and her mother scoured the trashed leftovers from wealthy neighbors’ yard sales. Everything in Zychal’s eclectic apartment, except for a modest green futon and her mattress, has been saved from landfills and revived for the better.

“You learn by fixing it and then you also appreciate it more because you made it your own,” says Zychal of the merits of trash picking.

Recycling Zychal BurberryImage via Recycling Zychal

However, one day an unwanted item crossed Zychal’s path that she didn’t know how to make her own. It was a lime green umbrella adorned with white whales swimming around the fabric’s perimeter. Umbrellas soon became a baffling object to Zychal.

“I started collecting broken umbrellas and I just couldn’t understand why I was so drawn to them,” says Zychal as her three pugs let out contented grunts from their perch on her lap and shoulders.

Recycling Zychal Dog RaincoatImage via Recycling Zychal

 Inspiration struck one day as Zychal noticed her favorite magazine, ReadyMade, was holding a contest to find the best upcycled umbrella in the nation. The whale umbrella found its purpose on the back of Zychal’s black pug, Jake, as a raincoat and a runner up in the contest. From there, a designer was born.

Zychal remains eternally grateful to the force that delivered her resources in the first place, those blustery winds of Mother Nature, and shows it through her attitude toward fashion.

“The fashion industry should definitely have their foot ahead of everybody [in the environmental movement] because there is so much waste,” says Zychal.


Zychal has a crazy selection of rad rejected umbrellas looking for reincarnation at her Etsy store.

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Cheap Thrills: Philadelphia College Day 2011

Rocky most aptly demonstrates my reaction to all the crazy good freebies available to anyone with a college student ID throughout the city tomorrow, September 24th, for Philly College Day.

Rocky Running Up Art Museum Stairs Black and White

Image via CBS Philly

After three years living in Philly, I think it might just be time I undergo my unofficial rite of passage and scramble up the art museum steps, panting like a dog and dressed like the Michelin Man in seven layers of sweats, do a celebratory jig and then casually stroll into the museum to gape at the Rembrandt exhibit. FOR FREE.

And then, having been overwhelmed with artistic enlightenment and inspiration, I will create a masterpiece of my own – by handing over an old tee shirt to Moore College of Art and Design students (at 20th St. and the Parkway) who will screenprint an original design on it for me. FOR FREE.

After exhausting my creative juices I will replenish at 1734 Chestnut St. with a Scoop DeVille dusty road sundae for 40 percent off the normal price. Then, when I realize that I have a mixture of malt powder and hot fudge splattered on my shirt and that, perhaps, bibs for adults aren’t as ludicrous as they sound, I will purchase a replacement blouse from the eco-friendly wonder woman, Sarah Van Aken, at SAVA on 17th and Sansom Streets.  However, as all SAVA brand items will be 20 percent off, I might have to buy a dress as well…

SAVA Philadelphia

Images via SAVA

All that will really be left to do is people watch in Rittenhouse, get my Whole Foods goodie bag coupon from the Campus Philly Tent in the park and brainstorm justifications for getting another dessert (for 10% off, mind you) at Franklin Fountain.

Franklin Fountain Philadelphia Logo

Images via Franklin Fountain

Now, this is merely a suggestion for what to do in Philly tomorrow. If you’re looking for a day, say, a bit less centered on high calorie sweets, check out the complete list of museums, restaurants, retailers and attractions offering free or discounted goods to students tomorrow here.

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Pocket Change: Sixteen Dollars and Forty Seven Cents

To be in a fitting room full of jeans is to be on the brink of a mental breakdown.

Red BlazerYard Sale Blazer: $2.50, Salvation Army Leopard Button Down: $0.99, Goodwill BDG Jeans: $5.00, Target Heels: $7.98

After the first stack of denim, try on one more pair that grants you a muffin top or pancake butt or any other breakfast related flaw in fit and you’re ready to shun the whole “pants” trend for a wardrobe consisting exclusively of maxi’s (not really a bad thing though).

It’s hard enough finding a flattering pair, let alone a pair that won’t suck up all the cash I might have otherwise stashed in its pockets. Which is what makes these dark wash BDG’s all the sweeter. Considering that Bethlehem’s Goodwill is always jammed with racks of jeans and, as we all know, thrifting for a certain size is as nonsensical as wearing heels to walk a mile (I’m guilty of both…), I’m usually discouraged to look for jeans there. Luckily, I didn’t really have to look for these skinnies – they were the first pair to greet me on the end of the denim rack. In my size and price range, these jeans have planted a bit of a guilt complex in me for never giving those secondhand blue’s a fair chance before.

If you also question your sanity while shopping for jeans, I highly suggest you take a look at the one’s at your local thrift store. They’ve already got that lived in and loved feel that those artificially distressed pairs (the creation of which often leads to illness or death of laborers)  just can’t duplicate.

Red Blazer Close Up

Honestly, is there anyone in the universe who enjoys jean shopping?


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Pocket Change: Twenty Eight Dollars and Ninety Nine Cents

When I was in sixth grade, dusty blue oxfords and navy plaid kilts were the bane of my existence.

Studded CollarHand-me-down Oxford: $0.00, J.Crew Jeans: $19.99, Thrifted from The Attic Loafers: $9.00

Now, they are the life blood of my wardrobe – partially because there is a stockpile of them in my basement from my Catholic school days and partially because nothing can put me in studying mode quite like a sharp collar and ballerina bun. And, as most of my time at my desk is spent in a volley between Texts From Last Night and Chictopia, I’ve been striving more and more lately to dress like a scholar in hopes that the work ethic will soon follow.

I added a nearly lethal dose of studs (the shoes, the necklace, the bracelet) which provoked a couple comments from the lovely peanut gallery that is Broad Street. My necklace is from the antique shop Founders Crossing in Bedford, PA. I’m not sure how old the piece is, but I bet the lady who rocked it got her fair share of hoots and hollers too.

Studded Collar Necklace

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Pocket Change: Seven Dollars

Missy’s #1 Thrifting Rule: Size does not matter.

Floral Tucker for Target Dress

Missy’s #2 Thrifting Rule: Size does not matter, ESPECIALLY when in reference to a Tucker dress.

Well, a Tucker for Target dress. But really, a Tucker for Target for Goodwill dress. For $5.00. Regardless, I found this frock having an identity crisis in the pajama section of the Goodwill in Bethlehem, PA and, as I was feeling particularly altruistic that day, I decided I should show it some love.

Now, I thought there wasn’t a lot of love left in me to give to printed fabrics (I have a steady and essentially exclusive relationship going with polka dots, gingham and leopard). However, those sherbert-soaked flowers made me drool and the vibrant magenta reminded me a bit of the view of sunset from my apartment. So, I ignored the little “M” embroidered on its tag. I ignored my mother’s incredulous (but endearing, as always <3) laughter at the thought that I should buy something that is obviously too big. I ignored the garment’s natural silhouette, which is suspiciously similar to a moo-moo on me. And I threw a (hand-me-down) belt on it.

After quite a few wearings, I think the dress understands that it is, in fact, a dress again. But, I’ve totally confused my black ribbon into thinking it’s a necklace with this little D.I.Y.

Gold Chain Necklace

I simply strung the ribbon through the ends of this gold chain choker to make it a little less ’80s.

Oh, and here is what sundown from my window looks like. This one is a little more cotton candy than sherbert, but it’s still gorgeous.

Cotton Candy Sunset

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