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South Carolina woman makes clothes from castoffs

By Meg Kinnard
Associated Press
ReFashionista
Chuck Burton - AP
Jillian Owens shows some of her thrift store dresses at her home in Columbia. Since 2010, the 32-year-old S.C. resident has been delving into thrift store racks around the area, taking what some may see as ugly pieces and whipping them into hip, trendy fashions.

COLUMBIA For Jillian Owens, some of her passion for fashion was motivated by a desire for new garments without the creation of more waste. And, she says openly on her blog, “I was also quite broke and couldn’t afford new clothes.”

Since 2010, Owens has been delving into thrift store racks around her Columbia home, taking what some may see as outdated castoffs and whipping them into hip, trendy fashions. She says she’s made hundreds of creations, donating many to charity and at times opening up her closet to friends for their perusal.

Describing herself as a creative child, Owens says she always enjoyed drawing and crafts but didn’t start sewing until receiving a sewing machine as a gift six years ago. Interested in making some of her own clothes, Owens says she got discouraged by high prices at fabric stores, as well as the lack of patterns to fit her petite frame.

“It would be cheaper to buy something new rather than sew it yourself,” Owens, 32, said recently. “I noticed that there were a lot of things that really weren’t that bad. I mean, they were still bad, but they could be reworked.”

On her blog, www.refashionista.net, Owens shows a step-by-step tutorial on each of her creations, giving readers a window into her process. Before and after photos depict how she changed a black funereal frock into a mod cocktail dress, or how a pair of stretchy, lifeless gaucho pants became a slinky, one-sleeved number.

Her ethos on refashioning pieces is two-pronged: Remaking discarded pieces into something new saves money, Owens says, and it also helps her stay true to her desire not to purchase or support what she calls mass-produced, “disposable” clothing that ends up in a landfill.

“What I found is a really inexpensive way to dress really nicely in something that’s well-made, that’s custom fitted to me,” said Owens, who works at the nonprofit United Way of the Midlands. “And I’m not hurting the environment. I’m not supporting companies that engage in labor practices that I don’t believe in.”

In recent weeks, Owens’ work has blossomed in terms of national notoriety. A piece on BuzzFeed led to mentions on fashion blogs all over the world. On Friday, Owens appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” A book is in the works, as are classes at a local library in Columbia, in conjunction with another “refashioning” blogger in Columbia.

“People want to refashion. They get excited about it, but they’ll think that sewing is hard, or it’s not for them,” Owens said. “The big thing I’m trying to do is to keep sewing simple and accessible to them. If you do screw up, that’s OK. It’s all a learning process. You’re just buying a dollar item. If you screw up, you’re out a dollar.”

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