The Mass Distribution of Fashion – You Can Make it Unique!

The national distribution of fast fashion in the U.S. by H&M and Forever 21 (and in the U.K. by TopShop, H&M and Primark), as well as stand-alone retailer Target and now JC Penney (who is on a mission to get into the mix by introducing fast-fashion retailer Mango to the U.S.) has fashionistas with endless choices at affordable prices. This is good news indeed. You can have that runway look and uber cute trend with fresh new inventory coming in every three to four weeks. However, it leaves fashionistas looking for that one great look, looking like five other people down the block! Just about every city across the U.S. has the same stores. The blessing and the malediction!

Well it’s not just fast fashion we’re talking about, its every other retailers out there from Ann Taylor Loft to Hollister. Throw in any mall-based retailer, department store or big-box giant and you got cookie-cutter, template based apparel at your finger tips! A fashionista living in Tempe, Arizona is getting the same exact inventory as someone in Atlanta, Newark, Pittsburg or chattanooga, Tennessee. The web has also increased a diva’s chances of running into someone with the same, exact item. 80% of the population has internet connectivity and majority of the apparel manufacturers have an on-line presence, so what isn’t readily available in someone’s state can be bought with a mouse-click. Yeah, even if you live in Johnsonville, South Carolina you still have access to that Zac Posen for Target collection.

Surely, as we all know this has strengthen the used and vintage markets. In a quest to differentiate one look from the masses or to be able to wear a unique item without having to go the designer route (which very few consumers can do and keep their bank accounts in the black) the vintage / used thrift market (or charity shops as they call them in the UK) have exploded. Now I understand the rational behind it all, believe me I do. You can find unique clothing from another era that includes perhaps scoring a vintage designer piece at a very reasonable price and the best part about it – you clearly won’t see anybody else rocking your look! Let me do a sidebar here for a moment. I use to purchase vintage garments myself many years ago before it was popular….. but NOW I just can’t bring myself to purchase clothing that someone else has worn and I don’t know the “history” of that garment. Did this item belong to a dead person? What kind of person owned this item, especially if it’s a true vintage piece. Just bad karma to me to possess the clothing and shoes of another person you don’t know anything about, including what I deem as personal items like jewelry. Hey, but that’s my own hang-up. I’m sure am not the only person who feels like that, so those that do, we hit the mall – knowing the outcome.

So if you purchase the same silk, indigno blue shirtdress you thought was so perfect at Banana Republic, only to see the lady who works in accounting rocking the same dress, how do you make it your own?

We can all take a cue from the Uniform Project. If you are not familiar with this website it’s a grassroots, fundraising efforts by a very ingenious and creative young woman to provide students in India with uniforms and educational supplies who come from impoverished families. She takes a basic tunic dress and re-mixes it for 1 year with vests, camis, half tops and skirts, accessories, tights and funky vintage shoes. I was completely blown away with all of the looks she was able to create in a calendar year through 4 seasons with one dress – now that’s raw talent! She takes redefining a garment to a whole new level and puts all those fashion mag stylist to shame!  Not overlooking or minimizing the wonderful cause she was committed to, this website is a great resource for learning how to really personalize and rework a mass produced garment.

If you sew or are handy with a needle & thread. You can always customize your piece with notions such as buttons, ribbons, tassels, crests, etc. or add / rework extra fabric to your store bought piece. Anyone who visits this blog knows I do this on occasion. I really love to rework my clothing and should do it more often. It really makes your garment unique when you add your own personal details to it with a little d.i.y. project. I strongly encourage anyone who doesn’t know how to sew – to learn because it is a valuable skill that is being lost with each passing generation.  It can also save you a ton of money if you don’t have to pay an alteration shop to do the work for you, which can get pretty expensive depending on what you want done.

Layering is also a great way to reinvent or restyle a mass produced item so that it more uniquely your own. You do however, have to take into account your body type, weight and height. I personal don’t do this because I’m very short and I don’t like the idea of adding extra layers of clothing because it can overwhelm me quickly and then it looks like the outfit is wearing me and not the other way around. Layering is tricky, my suggestion is to not pile clothings on just to pile them on. Have a really keen eye and stay focused on the look you are trying to achieve. Layering if done right, can add so much personality and style and make your outfit look like no other!

Fast fashion and the way that clothing is currently manufactured and distributed is not going to change, expect to see more retailer get into the game. Those who shop the malls like me but still want to retain some form of uniqueness in a sea of duplication, can incorporate some of the creative options I mentioned above. Using creative techniques to personalize your fashionable goods can also work for shoes and other accessories as well. is a great place to purchase unique items that you can use to enhance your shoes and as well as purchasing hand-made statement pieces like jewelry and belts to make that off-the-rack piece look like one-of-a-kind!

Article written by Budget Chic © All Rights Reserved 2010. Written permission to republish in any form is required from author.

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19 Responses to The Mass Distribution of Fashion – You Can Make it Unique!

  1. Sing says:

    Great read. I’m one of the ones who will shop thrift/vintage and mix it with those massed produced items for a unique look as well as layer.

  2. Regina says:

    Normally whenever I write I am limited in what I am able to say mostly because I just can not bring myself to shop off the rack. I mean I have shopped at places like Marshalls & T J Max for gifts & kitchen items but never Ross, and I know you love Ross for less.
    I also did some research not all Ross stores have the same merchandiser; therefore you are able to find the amazing items at your particular store. I’m jealous but happy for you.
    At any rate my girlfriends and I are so proud of what you have been doing with each of your amazing finds; we applaud you.
    For someone like me it takes away the stigma or shame of buying rack items. Honestly you are able to see an item for what it can be versus what it is. I appreciate this article above all, as I am now shopping in places I never had to prior to my divorce.
    Always waiting to see what you will do next….

    • Profile photo of Budget Chic Budget Chic says:

      @ Regina – Thank you for the encouragement. It is very much appreciate. This is what I say to those who are expecting “something different” from me after visiting this blog. My philosophy is – I don’t have to impress nobody. Not one living soul. I’m at a point in my life where I’m totally confident with mine. It is what it is – I shop discount. That’s what my blog is about. I support, encourage and started this blog for women who have the same budgetary constraints that I have. Now I tell folks who are balling out of control, you can hit up “Seas of Shoes” Blog and feel right at home over there. If you have the economic means to shop at boutiques for designer items, this blog really is not for you. I have to tell several readers that, even though they kept coming back here, why I don’t know.

      I tell folks who come to my blog expecting designer gear to pop up every other post that there is something for everybody on the web in terms of fashion, style and budget. Google away.

      Now we all know people who feel like they have to shop at places that carry name brands and designer items or they can’t shop at all, even if they know good and well they really can’t afford it! That’s there call, not here to judge but I’m will tell anybody how I get down. I’m all about saving money – bottomline. This country is still in a recession whether it is spoken or not and there are thousands of people out of work or had their income slash by half, everybody I know is looking for a steal or a deal.

      Fashionable clothing is a non-essential thing. In the large scheme of things, fashion is frivolous concept and really does not merit a whole lot of thought or consideration. There are far more important things in this world to be concerned with – fashion and labels sure ain’t one of them. I personally refuse to be a bottom feeder for designer labels. You can buy very nice, quality clothing at Sears, NY & Co., Target, JCP, Ross etc and if you know exactly how to take care of it – those items will last a long time. I plan to do an article on how to take care of cheap chic (fast fashion) clothing to help those individuals who shop at your standard mall retailers – how to make their clothing last long-term!! :-D

  3. Regina says:

    Budgetnista said-
    “It really makes your garment unique when you add your own personal details to it with a little d.i.y. project. I strongly encourage anyone who doesn’t know how to sew – to learn because it is a valuable skill that is being lost with each passing generation”.
    I fully agree, I attempted sewing as a young child and greatly regret not following through. To this day I alter curtains, table clothes & napkins & many of the crafts I sell. However I never thought to carry my mending over into my clothing. I am so inspired as I have been wanting to embellish & mimic many of the runway items I see. Thank you once again for a great article.

  4. Regina says:

    @Budgetnista hoping nothing I said was offence to you or anyone else.
    My reality is my own and it is something I have had to come to terms with and I have.
    No clothing as I have mentioned was never my thing, like yourself & many others I am open to learning new ways of twisting anything that can be alerted to make it better or my own.
    To be honest with you, clothes are just clothes it is my home & family where my loyalties lie. Sorry as it seem, I was misunderstood. I actually do whish you well.
    Sorry if anyone has ever questioned you concerning high end fashion considering the name of your blog is Budgetnista. I can not imagine anyone who care to spend mounds of money on clothing would stop off to your blog or any blog with such a title.
    I would hope anyone who visits your blog as I have would be here to learn & practice what is being offered. Again we all have different realities & learning how to budget & still be able to shop occasionally has been tricky for me your blog helped ease that pain.

  5. Just Us Too says:

    Good info. You’ve always amazed me how you can take a cheap item and make it look so much more than what it’s worth.

    As far as vintage or thrift shopping, I use to feel somewhat like you until I worked part-time for Hechts (Macy’s now). Let’s just say, the item you purchase from a retail store is not necessarily “new” and has a history too. Not only do several ppl try on a particular item on the rack, several ppl purchase items they have no intentions of truly “purchasing”. These are items they “purchase” for that special occasion or not so special occasion and then they return it and it’s placed back on the rack. I almost got fired once, because I told a lady she could not return some panties (I honestly didn’t think the store accepted returns on items such as this). The lady told me she does it all the time; the manager was called and I had to apologize to the lady (she stated she was offended because I picked up the panties and handled them as if she had some STD or something…I used my index and thumb and held away from me…hmmph, I didn’t know what she had and wasn’t trying to find out (had the nerve to tell me she used a panti liner). My advice to everyone is to wash/dry clean everything you purchase from any clothing store (vintage or retailer). I did not do this with clothing I purchased from a dept. store retailer until working the PT job.

    • Profile photo of Budget Chic Budget Chic says:

      @ Just Us Too – yep, I know what you mean. I have even seen young gay men come into the women’s department and have the nerve to go back to the dressing room and try on women’s jeans. If you want to buy it that’s your business, but why are trying to bust up in the women’s fitting room and try it on, I certainly do not want to try on a pair of jeans that anybody has tried on much less a friggin man! That’s just as nasty as the woman bringing back the panties.

      This is the reason why I always look at what I’m buying. I always try to pick out the one that looks like it hasn’t been tried on, if I see that the item has been thrown back on the hanger, unbuttoned, wrinkled, stained or the tag is not attached in the same place as the other items. That’s the one I don’t buy!

    • Profile photo of Budget Chic Budget Chic says:

      @ Regina – I’m not offended in anyway. I’m glad you are up to becoming a frugal~nista. Sometimes life brings us changes and we have to roll with it and make it work! If others are making you feel uncomfortable about your new choices, you may have to consider changing your environment to a more supportive one for you and your family. IMO fashion means nothing, its the person and personality behind the clothes that makes it work! A person can spend thousands of dollars on designer gear but if they don’t have a clue on how to style it or hey, their personality sucks, they still come out looking fugly! This website highlights that in the funniest way!

  6. Regina says:

    @Sing, great idea.
    Thank you for the thought.

  7. Kim Brown says:

    Great article and I would never be hard on your for your creations girl!!! I’m just happy you and getting back into it! Can’t wait..and I’m here for ya for whatever little bit I can offer!

  8. lenyajones says:

    Great post! Love the new look of the blog

  9. missgeorgiastate says:

    I love your post and I agree about making fashion your own. I don’t like to look like everyone else,so I try to mix and match prints, colors, and textures. I also shop a lot of vintage and online small boutiques. I do sometimes splurge and buy “designer”, but I would never look down on anyone because there are bigger issues in the world rather than what someone is wearing.

    I mean don’t get me wrong, I love my labels but I also love my kmart, target, and old navy too (and goodwill!). I am an equal opportunity gal (and I love sales, discount codes, and coupons). If I can find something I truly love, I will save and buy it or find a suitable alternative. I love your blog because of your style and because of your shopping tips and bargains. I have been following you since you were on stylediary. I love how you can make something unexpected look fabulous. I love your style and it is very inspiring!

    • Profile photo of Budget Chic Budget Chic says:

      @ missgeorgiastate – thank you so much sweetie! I also appreciate your support over the years. Thank you for hanging in there with me :-)

  10. anon. reader. says:

    i can’t wait for your article on how to take care of mass produced/cheaper clothing! I really want to know how to keep from stores such as forever21 in mint condition after 1-2 years of wear. :) thanks for sharing!!

  11. LOVE THAT ART OF LAYERING IMAGE! You better believe I’m gonna give it a whirl!

  12. chomy says:

    such great insight. to me style has nothing to do with money or affordability. i actually don’t think it is such a bad thing to have the same thing that 5 other girls also have,i love the challenge of making something look different than i found it. you can use it as inspiration to personalize your look. a lot of people think you have to pay money for exclusivity and you show everyday through your outfit posts that it isn’t so. to me i love the idea of being able to transform something that is ‘FAST’ and accessible into something that stands out. It takes imagination and creativity to pull anything off. Fashion is Fashion, Style is what you make it…..and you Lady are one Stylish lady!!!

    stay fabulous!

    • Profile photo of Budget Chic Budget Chic says:

      @ chomy – thank you! I agree, its all in what you make it. I know it’s a good possibility that am going to see someone else wearing something I recently purchased, thought about purchasing or whatever — but I know I have the option to get creative with it and personalize it to fit my own style and many people do.

      The ways things are in the manufacturing industry and how clothing is now distributed on a national level; you have to be able to “flip it” and give it a little bit of your own personality.

  13. MJ says:

    Great article! A lot of my clothes are hand-me-downs from a relative of my in-laws, and I have fun re-working some of the items- I got a brand new pair of Loft cargo pants that had a tiny bleach stain. After a long process I won’t go into, I turned them from olive green and stained into a rich brown (minus the stain. It was fun and I learned something too…

  14. deb says:

    I love your site and your spunk! I also,am short at 5’4″, am on a budget, and love fashion. My fashion motto, similar to yours, is style comes from within and is not necessarily a label. I do however, shop thrift & consignment with an eye out for designer as i feel many of them offer quality, resale value and fit better than non. But I am going to think outside of the box as per your advice and check out some of the places you suggest. I appreciate you and your blog! Thanks for having this for us! kind regards, deb

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