From "Rags to Riches"

Yesterday was National Thrift Shop Day and discovering that made me giddy and nostalgic.


It takes me back to when I was in high school working in retail. Money was tight, but my little creative soul loved being around the "in style" clothes. To keep up with the trends, but also save a couple bucks I took inspiration from my job and headed to the local Thrift Store or Goodwill. I loved browsing through all the fun pieces to make outfits for various events, especially all the self-portraits I took. As a photographer who now captures high school seniors, I always love to see how they dress and accessorize for their sessions.

When one is stressing about finding the perfect outfit for portraits, thrifting is a good place to begin. One of the most important things when you go thrift shopping is to have a plan. It's best to have an outfit or vibe in mind that you’re going for and then you just gather pieces to fit that inspiration. If you need help with inspiration, you can Google pictures of your favorite 'trendy' stores to see what the models are wearing or go on Pinterest to search for certain aesthetics that suits your style.


However, there are things to avoid when thrifting and piecing an outfit together. Stay away from over the top bold patterns and bold colors. While you may love hot pink it may not compliment your skin tone or what is around you when your picture is taken (such as a red brick wall). If you ARE a person that loves patterns such as stripes, make sure the lines are going vertical instead of horizontal, that way they make you look long and lean. You also want to wear clothes that accentuate things that you love about yourself! Maybe you have a six pack, and you want to own a crop top moment. Maybe you really love your shoulders, so finding a little strapless something would make you feel gorgeous. Or maybe, you have amazing calves so a skirt or dress would be best. Find pieces that encompass whatever you’re feeling and showcases who you are and what makes you beautiful!


With my model Erynn we pieced together a back to school outfit that was fun and eye catching. The pattern is bold, but not to overwhelming since it was paired with a jean skirt and simple boots. The belt matched the orange of the shirt and brought attention to her small waist. We rolled the sleeves but they could even be cut off for a different vibe as well. We put a black tank under the shirt but a rocker graphic T would be great as well. All of the items we found at the thrift store came out to be under $30! The skirt was a well known brand and the shoes could be great fall/winter rain boot as well. For pictures this could be a good look for a lifestyle or edgy Senior session. IF the background would be as pictured, light and muted. I would also probably suggest the shirt be untied, Erynn have her hair up in a messy bun, and find some dark blue or black skinny jeans to wear to make it more "picture ready".


If you’re looking for clothes to wear for a family or lifestyle session you want to think 'simple' and 'easy'. It's best to stick with neutral colors that have little adornment. It’s not necessary to have your family all be in the same colors but you do want there to be cohesion. Your outfits could all follow a color scheme (like pastels), have like textures (leather or linen), or have pops of color in accessories (bows, beanies, shoes, etc.). Whatever your vibe, you all want to be seen as ONE well-dressed person!


Browsing through the dresses Erynn found this fabulous white dress that we paired with white heeled boots. This would be a great family session outfit for early fall. White and Black are always good colors to start with when picking out an outfit for portraits. The delicate eyelet at the bottom of the dress makes it youthful and a little more "dressed up". If she was to have her family join her I would suggest the white be the constant color. Maybe Dad wear a jean shirt and khaki pants. Mom a maroon full length dress with white or silver earrings. Sister or brother wear a light forest green shirt or dress with white bow or white shoes. Again, all different but all "matching". Especially with this background, the whole family would stick out and look lovely.


For the last look to use for our session I had a vision of shooting at a playground and was wanting a more edgy look. We found a spaghetti strap tank we made into a crop top and some amazing graffiti cut up jeans that fit the look I was going for. The portraits turned out just how I wanted and it was giving me pure 90s / 2000s vibes from my childhood! Now, not every person can pull of this look in portraits but, finding simplistic pieces can make any picture look amazing! Sometimes it's all about the location. So, trust your photographer and have fun!


All this to say, when thrifting for any kind of portrait session, it is key you find something that is unique and fits who you are! You want to stand out but feel comfortable in front of the camera. Also, thrifting is a commitment. It takes time to browse through all the T-shirts, pants, skirts, blouses, shoes, belts, hats...etc. Thrifting is kind of an art form itself and you want to enjoy the hunt! You have to be flexible, and, in the end, you could find a really cool outfit that saves you some money! Especially since you more than likely have to spend more than a few bucks on the portraits. But it’s well worth the investment in both things so you can enjoy and share the pictures for years to come!

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