The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: New Clothes from Old

"sewing window" by jGregor, on Flickr

"sewing window" by jGregor, on Flickr

Transitional weather can be a real drag on one’s style, especially when money’s tight. Faced with a chilly night and a quick wardrobe decision, I pulled out my trusty dressmaker shears and did a little operation on a long black dress. A few slashes and voila! A short black jersey dress complete with a scarf to drape around one’s neck. Add textured tights and problem solved. 

Luckily for you, dear reader, you need no sewing skills whatsoever to make new clothes from old. We’re seeing all sorts of “Depression Era” skills making a comeback (like canning), but to do really serious dressmaking you need a sewing machine and a dressform. Looking at that kind of financial commitment may be too much, not to mention classes for you absolute beginners! Though I highly recommend learning some basic skills like how to replace a button, fix a hem and mend a tear, I understand if you balk at even that level of commitment. 

So here you are, two easy ways to do a little fall wardrobe cleaning, and a third more complex for those of you vintage mavens like me. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The Features, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Recession Bean Soup

"Spilling the Beans" by Roger Smith, on Flickr 

"Spilling the Beans" by Roger Smith, on Flickr

When it comes to budgeting, I bargain with myself. A lot. As in, “if you really want those shoes, buy them, but then you have to eat bean soup for a week.” 

UGH. Bean soup?

As a child I hated beans. But somewhere along the line I had a cracking good bean soup that changed my mind. Once I had to tighten the belt I decided to try to recreate it myself. So, for all of you budget bargainers out there (I know I am not the only one!) here it is, my Recession Bean Soup recipe.

First off, we all know legumes (somehow it sounds more classy to say legumes instead of beans… be sure to snootily – or sexily – elongate the ‘oo’ when you say it) are crazy good for you. Protein, fiber, and magic. But, there’s a certain squeamish factor about, um, their effect on your digestive system. But don’t worry. If you use dried beans, simply rinse and rinse and rinse until the water no longer foams, and you will not offend anyone in your presence after consuming.

Now, to the recipe.

Continue reading

Adventures, Fun & Games, Thrifty District

Thrifty District: Reduced-Price Relaxation

Photo courtesy of
‘you need time for you’
courtesy of ‘dMap Travel Guide’

You can go ahead an insert the obligatory comments about the horrible economy plus how stressful everyone’s jobs are at the moment, and therefore make the obvious case for the increased need for stress-reducing treatments. Duh. You know my intro already. But let’s be realistic in our cost benefit analysis – is $120 for a massage going to make you feel better or worse about your financial situation? Right, you’re rolling your eyes, that’s what I thought.

But just because you can’t afford it doesn’t mean you don’t still need it. So I’m here to help you, friend, find a cheaper ticket to stress-less-ville. I’ve got a few cost-saving tips if you want to go to a professional spa, and then a few quick ideas and links if you’re up for a do it yourself spa session. Continue reading

Arlington, Downtown, Life in the Capital, The Features

Thrifty District: Cheap, but Chic


"French Flappers, Parisian Cafe 1920's" by Vintage Lulu on Flickr

In one of my many other lives, I’m a theater costume designer. However, I’m not really a costumer (someone who actually makes clothes), though I sew on occasion, I’m always disappointing my friends by not making them exquisite clothes from scratch. But what I can do is shop with them! Costume designers have to realize a director’s expansive and expensive vision on a sometimes depressingly tight budget in a small amount of time. So in our continuing series on the Thrifty District and how to maximize your fast-depleting funds, I thought I’d give you a little taste of my favorite shops to get cheap yet chic fashion.

Let’s start with the basic rules (getting them out of the way fast so we can have fun with shops!):

Know Yourself and Support Yourself
No, this isn’t some New Age mantra. It means don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit. If it’s too tight or too loose just don’t do it. Don’t get distracted by sizes, they don’t mean anything anyway. If you knew your actual dressmaker size you’d freak out the number is so high – even you superskinny misses! Continue reading