Monday, August 11, 2014

Dressing Ruby on A Dime

Ruby may have been the best dressed baby on the universe.
It didn't hurt that she was one of the first girls in a family full of boys.
We clued in pretty quickly that it *might* be more fun to shop for her than it had been for all the fricks and fracks. 

And then there were those curls. The the rolls. And the eyes. And baby jowls.
Hold on....some things you have to see to believe...

(I'm realizing in this moment that Ruby rocked gingham before I even had my own. I clearly stole my look from her!)

(This obvs has nothing to do with being well dressed, but she rocked a swim diaper like daaang.)

We weren't even close to "fancy" all the time, but 90% of what she wore was brand new and most of it was name brand. I was always a sale shopper, but I remember buying this Ralph Lauren sweater at TJ Maxx for $30, and I think the skirt was Mini Boden.

Alas, those were different times and life has tossed us around in the pan a bit since then. It's important for us to steward our resources well and that has meant some adjustments. Beyond the practical points, we're in a community now that does not value fashion or appearance. (Can't tell you how freeing and lovely this is.)

Still, sister's growing like a rose and we're always on the hunt for inexpensive pieces that will wear well (my kids play hard) and keep her looking like a sweet, little lovey-girl, even though she's in a size 10-12 now and finding age-appropriate stuff in that size makes me want to rage a little.

Right now, 90% of what she wears is second-hand.

I had no idea what I was missing out on back when I didn't have to think it through. This summer, I scored at a few thrift stores in a major way (Land's End bathing suit for $2? Yes, please!) and though I don't thrift regularly, I always take the time to breeze through the clothing aisles when I do. I almost always find something great for one of us.

I also do quite a bit of shopping at consignment stores, both local shops and Once Upon A Child.

The trick to stellar thrifting and consigning is to buy things on sale. Yes, on sale at a thrift store. I almost never pay full price for anything, because even $5 for a dress at Goodwill feels like too much when I know I could wait until a sale day and get it for half price.

I'm by no means a slave to brands, but I have to admit there are a few that I'm still drawn to because they're so stinking cute. When I find them, I scoop them up. And when I don't find them, adorby Target or even Wal-Mart duds can be found second-hand.

I also scour clearance racks when I do make it to a retail store.

I used to sell her things back to a consignment store, but I'm finding it infinitely more fun to just bless another family with it when we're done. Who doesn't love getting great hand-me-downs? And when you know you don't have a ton invested, it's even easier to give it all away.

A recent article in Huffington Post claims that the average family spends almost $700 on back-to-school shopping, most of which is apparel.

Well. I don't think it has to be this way.

 I rounded up her back-to-school clothes to illustrate my point. You'll probably be blown away by the technical qualities and styling of these shots. Prepare yourselves...

Gap bootcut sweat pants - $3, local consignment store
Gymboree leggings - $3.50, local consignment store
Old Navy flare jeans - $3, local consignment store
Crazy 8 flare jeans - $6.50, Crazy 8
Arizona flowered skinnies - $4, local consignment store
Old Navy cargo skirt - $2, Goodwill (and it's not a micro mini!!!)
Total: $22

Candie's flowered T - $1.25, Once Upon A Child
Old Navy orange flowered T - $2, local consignment store
Mossimo Supply Co. purple T - $1.25, local consignment store
Poof Girl 3/4 striped T - $5, Marshalls
Old Navy long sleeved Horse T - $1.50, Goodwill
Old Navy faces faces T - $1.25, local consignment store
Aqua Gap peplum T -  $1.50, Goodwill
Osh Kosh striped tunic T - $3.50, local consignment store
Total:  $17.25

(I hit the mother lode earlier in the Spring, and saved them back for this year. So happy I did!)
Old Navy mint/grey - $1.97, Old Navy
Old Navy sailor dog vest - $3.99, Old Navy
Faded Glory purple fox - $4, Wal Mart
Poof Girl cardi - $11, Marshalls
Old Navy navy cardi - $2.97, Old Navy
Total:  $24

I'm a little speechless over paying $11 for the cardi. It must have been early in the month. haha. All I can say is, HEART ELBOW PATCHES.

Lastly, dresses.
Ruby River is a HUGE dress and skirt girl.

It's not always super practical, but it sure is adorable.

Crewcuts (Crewscuts!!!!) - $3.50, Once Upon A Child

(Note: Our Once Upon A Child doesn't know what Crewcuts is. If this was Gap, it would have been double. DO NOT TELL THEM or I will kick you. In love.)

Land's End - $6, local consignment store

Morgan  & Milo - $3.50, Once Upon A Child
(Check this out!!! It retails for $48. Plus tax and shipping.)

Naartjie - $4, local consignment shop

H&M - $1, local thrift store
(Peter Pan collar and it buttons up the back. SWOON!)

I bought 24 pieces for a total of $81!!!
Do I have you convinced yet to take those kiddos to Goodwill for their back-to-school shopping?? :)

Truth is, it's not for everyone. Not everyone has the time to sniff out these deals and track it all down and, quite frankly, plenty of people can afford to buy brand new. There is nothing wrong with that and I still enjoy buying a few things new. Above that, sometimes it makes sense to buy brand new, so things can be passed down a few times.

I wish I could tell you I'm die hard about sourcing all of my purchases and making sure everything I bring home was made under optimal ethical conditions. Honestly, I don't. But the more I learn about the importance of buying with integrity, the deeper it sinks in and the more I care.

I grabbed Ruby 2 new dresses this summer, on clearance, from one of my favorite online retailers, Tea Collection, for around $15 each. I have loved their look and their global awareness for years (I partnered with them for this post years ago, back on the farm.)

Their stuff is cute, comfy, and ethically made.
It's colorful and quirky enough to make me love it forever, and they have fantastic sales.

I bought their stuff with my own paper money, and this isn't a sponsored post at all. But I did reach out to them to become an FPFG affiliate and voila, they agreed it was a good match. So, if you buy with the links I use, they pay me a small portion for advertising for them. It's magical!

Check out all their goodies at

I'm also cheering on my pal Hayley Morgan and her new venture, Wildly Co.
Her and her hubs have started a brand new collection of perfectly mixable and matchable, comfy-cute options for kiddos. Her style is as impeccable as her heart is good. They are actively involved in every stage of creation, and ensure their collection is make ethically and responsibly. You can check out the line and read more about the story, support their Kickstarer campaign to get the business rolling, and order right here.

President Rocket T
I'm obsessed with this Wildly Co. t!
It has "Silas" written all over it. :)

Dots T 
 And this design was inspired by the raddest metal door in Ethiopia. (Hayley and I were travel-mates!)
Here are my favorite short people heading to their first day of school. Calvin was so excited about his outfit. (ha!) It cost a total of $5 from Once Upon A Child, save the Target kicks. Ruby's dress was also OUAC and her studded, leopard shoes were $10 Target clearance last Spring. Silas got a free Kinder T from his teacher for the first day. And brand new "light up shoes".

Regardless of what they wear or where we find it, I'm passionate about ingraining in them the desire and heart to walk in their mission every single day.

My kids' mission field happens to be our neighborhood public school, where flashy duds are pointless when so many friends are struggling. (More about our school journey here.)

As for the Mama, my mind is swirling lately with big questions and answers that never land neatly in my palm. And isn't that one of the best parts of living?

We learn and grow and sometimes we back it up or fall entirely off the track.

But each of us has a mission, and we have got to keep walking in it.

So, press on, FPFG family! What we have here is some kind of fresh start.
I can't wait to see what happens next.


  1. I love this post! I have to tell you about my recent (thrilling) experience. My mom and I are very close, but most of the time I think there's no possible way that we are actually related. My theory on clothing little people (and big ones too) is very similar to yours, which has consternated my mother for years. She'll often comment that she likes my son's outfit, only to turn her nose up when I tell her I got it at a thrift shop.

    Anyway, I she recently showed up at my house with a shopping bag of clothes for my son (not uncommon), but as she started unpacking them, I realized they were not new! Apparently, she had wandered into a kids' clothing store before she realized it was a consignment shop. Once she was in, she couldn't believe the prices and went nuts buying cute stuff! While most people would say this is NBD, I'm claiming it as a huge victory towards her understanding our lifestyle.

  2. We scooped up a pair of twinkle toes for $5 (almost new!) from a church friend. We "shopped" the school's clothing closet for some free uniform pieces. AND.... a friend is sending us three free leotards for gymnastics! Yippee! Free shopping happens to be my favorite. :)

  3. I would totally wear that yellow Peter Pan collared shirt! SO cute, wish it was made in my size. And I wore that cute jacket (is that what it is??) to church yesterday. I love that I found it with you at one of your local favorites :)

  4. second hand stores and consignment shopping rock...dont forget store reward codes. You purchase small items on sale and that amount goes in points on the card. Example Famous footwear.$20 for 1 pair w / bogo fhalf off sale. Adidas slides $27. 27 plus 10 w/ reward points of $15. is 2 pair of shoes 37-15=$22 bucks

  5. I don't have kids yet, but I know they will be wearing second hand duds when they come along. I am an avid thrift shopper and know how much you can save on clothes! 90% of my wardrobe is bought second hand and I suspect my future kids wardrobes will be the same.


  6. Shannan we do this here and its awesome that your school PTA should consider. Free clothing exchange. Clothes are donated and families take what they need. 15 years ive been doing it with my friend Anna. Community donates and even some local stores. We do it the weekend before school starts.

    1. Yep, we have had lots of conversation about how to keep our school's kiddos in clothes - especially shoes and pants! Love your idea.

  7. Excellent! What great scores! I love thrifting too- it's the thrill of the hunt I say!

  8. Love the great deals at second hand stores.....we'd go bankrupt shopping for 3 girls and 2 guys.....guys can't find things as well as they could years ago, which means they work to help pay for their new clothes. One gracious gift that comes with them being at the end point of any new growth - they keep wearing what they have until it's worn out! Thanks for sharing - good words - hope the kiddos had a blast on their first day :)

  9. Great finds! In the past few years I have realized the amount of money to be saved in shopping at thrift stores and at resales. I, too, usually only buy from thrift stores when they have sales. I have found the cutest things and can buy higher end brands that hold up better for less than I would spend at discount stores on cheaply made clothed.

    1. YES!!!! It's so true that the name brand stuff usually does hold up so much better and longer.

  10. Ooooo I love thrift shopping!! I love that Ruby will be well dressed but offering Goodwill at the same time!!

  11. Good job, Mom! I am on a weight loss journey right now so I have started checking the racks for myself and buying ahead. I refuse to pay a thousand dollars for a new wardrobe and if they do not fit when I get to that size I will gift them to my pastor's wife daughter who is always in need.

  12. Great post. Working hard this year to get back to our previous thrift shopping ways - didn't have the time this past year for several reasons. With 5 school-age kiddos, it takes a lot of time to find everything that they need. I love the thrill of finding some great things inexpensively and my kids (well, all but one!) do too!

  13. My adult kids trade hand me down clothes back and forth. They have it all.figured out. Extended family extends it. They all look really nice and I am so proud that they do this. Love all Ruby' s clothes. They all look brand new. Great post for back to school.

  14. I zoom past posts in my Feedly about back-to-school, clothing or otherwise, but it is a tribute to your writing and my love for it, that I read this whole post! And I love all of Ruby's clothes - you are a bargain ninja! But let's face it, you could write about the contents of your junk drawer and I would read it (hey, what IS in your junk drawer??) Thanks for always making me think!

    1. You deserve a gold crown or a sash or something. (That was a lonnnng post!)
      And ironically enough, I have been plagued for the past several days by my junk cabinet. That's right, an entire cabinet, filled with snacks, baking stuff, straws, nuts, paper goods, many rolls of tape, glitter glue, yarn. You know, the ushe. :0

  15. P.S. Judging from the response you got to your Box Tops appeal (I even sent some from VA), maybe people would mail clothing to your school?

  16. I looove this post hon!!
    I've always mixed second hand with all three of my kids clothes- the denim is softer and the cottons well worn- just what every kid wants!
    Our eldest, now 16, will only buy her clothes from Kirribilli Markets in Sydney- she won't buy anything over $5 and she has a wardrobe to die for!! She's all London cool on a budget in Sydney!
    Blessed are those individual dressers who's mother's shopped for them second hand in their childhood!
    They so GET IT!
    Melissa xx

  17. I can relate to this post so very well !! I like to hit the local consignment stores, yard sales and church rummage sales for myself and my kids. I love to get good deals on nice clothing....and yes, I love to shop the Goodwill 50% off sales. Just bought a pair of Banana Republic jeans for myself for $2 and they fit like a dream ! I am fortunate that my neighbor hands down her sons clothes to my son which I then pass on to several friends and I pass my daughters outgrown clothes to my niece. It is great to know that there are so many people looking for good deals!

  18. girl, apparently i need to hit the thrift store with you.
    i never have luck in the clothing area.
    knick knacks, doilies, kitchen goodies... yes, yes i do.
    i've scored big time.
    but clothes. boooo!
    nothing good.
    but... don't laugh... i've scored some mucho amazing hand me downs from my mother in law and sister in law.
    they dress well... and i'm blessed to be the size, sorta between the two.
    i fit both of their threads.
    woot woot!
    anyway... your kids are so friggin' cute.
    i'm dying at silas in that kindergarten tee!
    he looks so proud!
    three more weeks 'til my baby starts kindergarten!

  19. I heart thrifting so much. These are some of my fave posts of yours :) And what's funny is that I feel like I get more compliments on my outfits now that I mainly shop Goodwill than I did before wearing higher-end stuff. Also - can I have all of Ruby's sweaters in adult sizes?? That fox cardigan...OMG the cuteness!!

  20. And garage sales! The BEST! A little more iffy than thrift stores/consignment stores, but when you find a gem, it's so worth it! I have found Zutano, Tea Collection, and Baby Gap pieces for $1 and under. Such a thrill! Love shopping second hand - it's come full circle for me. My mom shopped at garage sales for us out of necessity, and I hated it. While we don't necessarily have to shop at yard sales, now I can't imagine doing it any other way. It does seem like such a good use of our resources.

    1. Also, that Crewcuts dress! Hilarious! Such a great find. I have thought that too when I find something cool secondhand at an unusually low they know what they have here?

    2. I am a RARE garage saler. It's a time/benefit ratio problem. You never know what's there until you take the time to stop, and I want to at least KNOW there's stuff I need (hence, thrift stores). I'm sure I'm totally missing out!

  21. Well done Shanny! I would personally love to have her wardrobe. I wish I could find those kinds of deals for me! I have to tell you that I didn't even realize until I read your post that I didn't even take Em back to school shopping, or but her anything for back to school! We barely even bought school supplies because she was happy to reuse so much of what she had from last year. I'm very thankful for a low maintenance girl (this time around!) although I'm always trying to keep my eyes open for Emma approved bargains. It's so hard shopping for a 13 year old girl who is modest and old beyond her years!

    1. Gah! Love that Emma. Though I still don't recall her securing my permission to become a teenager...
      Low maintenance kids are the BOMB!
      Silas always has Calvin's hand-me-downs - all he needed was shoes and a back-pack.
      But Ruby girl is outgrowing everything each season!
      You should tell me what size E is and I can scout around for her when I'm out.
      Methinks it's time for us to meet up again, now that all my pups are in school. :)

  22. The kids look, as my teens would say "tots adorbs" on their first day! I am a huge fan of consignment stores, thrift shops and hand-me-downs. Tell me you may have some things my son (the only boy and super-duper hard on clothes) and you will find me on your porch, that night, waiting. But hey I made you zucchini bread, and that's worth something, right?
    I am still sorry I missed the shindig, I so wanted to meet you and your peeps. I hope God has plans for that to be another time.

  23. Ummmm.... Will buy what she outgrows. ;) Amen.

  24. Oh how I miss dressing my kiddies for the first day of school!!
    I'll just have to sneak over and dress my grandkids!

  25. It's true - we were MFEO. All shopping done at thrift and goodwill :)

  26. Goodwill, OUAC and yard sales are becoming my new best friends. Once upon a time I only bought new clothes for my kiddos too. Our life and my perspective has changed and I'm thankful for it. In the past year I have lost 44 pounds and found myself in desperate need of clothes. Weekly trips to Goodwill has stocked my closet (all great brand names!). It is now painful to pay retail for anything! Btw, my 1st grader has the same back to school "light ups" as Silas. :)