The Weird Off: Zara vs. Goodwill

Lately, the two of us have been in a “weird off” of sorts when it comes to choosing outfits for shoots. Our taste in fashion has definitely gotten funkier, so we can’t always find what we’re looking for at stores that mostly focus on basics, like H&M or Express.

We each chose statement tops and eccentric footwear on our trip to Nashville this past weekend, where in between watching the eclipse in the band of totality (life-changing) and eating at the Cheesecake Factory (SO good), we noticed that one of us was all decked out in Zara (H) and the other in Goodwill (S).

The realization that these are the two places we most commonly turn to for quirky clothes made us ask the question of who is weirder: Zara or Goodwill?

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The outfit I’m wearing is almost entirely from Goodwill, which is quite a change for me because I’m usually the one in the all-Zara outfit. But, Hannah has lured me into her thrifting ways, and now I’m completely addicted to hunting for the strangest pieces I can find hidden in the overcrowded racks of secondhand clothing stores.

Goodwill is the place where people donate anything and everything, and as a result, you can find literally anything in there (I once found a Christian Dior shirt that I will not shut up about). You do have to hunt for those pieces, though, because most of them will not jump out at you from the moment you walk in the store.

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You need to filter through every single piece on every single rack sometimes to find that one piece that takes your breath away. But rest assured, when you do find that one silk top with the puffy sleeves that tie back to the days of the Revolutionary War (like this one), it will give you chills because you know you will likely not ever meet another person who owns that shirt. As someone who loves to stand out, I can’t beat that.

-S

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I think if there’s one thing we can rely on when it comes to being fashion forward, it’s the element of surprise. From fishnet socks to statement earrings (like Sabrina’s here), this year has been one for the books when it comes to odd fashion trends.

First, let me say that I have always been–and always will be–the thrifting queen. Until recently, I only ever used to shop at secondhand stores like Goodwill whenever I was looking looking for unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. Yet in the months since we started Ensemble of Elan, I’ve become more and more enamored by online brands that are known for their out-of-the-box, statement pieces.

IMG_7170The one place I can always find the on-trend, Pinterest-worthy pieces is none other than Zara. Every time I visit their site, I fall in love with everything from their funky flare pants and open back button downs (and then get my heart broken when all of the clothes in my cart go out of stock, because they’re so popular)! I snagged this off-the-shoulder top and polka-dot mini skort during one of Zara’s amazing sales for under $30.

Thrift stores will always have a special place in my heart for finding unique vintage pieces, but there is also something about Zara that makes my heart flutter.

-H

Goodwill and Zara are odd in each of their own magnificent ways, and honestly, we cannot choose whom to award the title of “The Best Place to Find Weird Fashion.”

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

 

Hannah’s Wearing:

| Zara Off-the-Shoulder Top (similar) | Zara Mini Skirt (similar) | Amazon Fuzzy Mules (similar) | Target Cherry Blossom Handbag | Target Layered Necklace| Rue21 Sunglasses (similar) |

 

Sabrina’s Wearing:

| Goodwill Top (similar) | Goodwill Mini Skirt (similar) | Target Platform Oxfords (similar) | Target Statement Earrings (similar) | Banana Republic Circle Purse (similar) | Daisy Chain Geometric Sunglasses (similar) |

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Dress With Purpose

To us, dress with purpose means to present yourself to the world with intention.

Intention to freely express your true self.

To empower yourself and inspire those around you.

And to shine a light on the issues that are near to your heart.

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For me, one of the biggest issues I want to work towards resolving is the disastrous effect that fast fashion has had on the environment and garment workers in developing countries.

When you buy a brand-new shirt for $4, do you ever think about how little the person who made that shirt is being paid? Or the effect of those harsh chemicals on the land and water sources of the countries where it is being produced? As someone who’s working to develop a fashion brand, I know you cannot do what is right and also sell clothing for less than the price of a sandwich.

-S

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I used to not care about where my clothing came from, and I never thought twice about what it did to the environment around me or to other families, but now that my eyes have been opened to the heartache it can bestow on others, I can never go back. The more I learned about fast fashion, the more I realized how deeply it collided with my values.

But I still love fashion, and I can’t give it up. I knew there had to be a way to continue buying clothing on a regular basis without sacrificing my principles.

-H

We feel passionately about conserving the environment because, well, it’s the only home we’ve got. We were worried about taking a strong stance on this issue because we do buy clothing from H&M and Forever 21 and feature it on our blog, so on the surface, some people could say we’re part of the problem.

We’ve considered abstaining from purchasing anything from fast fashion retailers and only buying from companies that use ethical and sustainable practices, but we thought about it, and it would simply not be feasible for us.

Each of us only have about $100 a month (or less) to buy clothing, so we wouldn’t be able to buy even a single pair of jeans from Reformation or one pair of flats from Nisolo. It goes without saying that we definitely would not be able to run a fashion blog if we stuck to only those types of stores! We greatly admire those brands, and we think they’re doing amazing, game-changing things for the world of fashion, but they’re catering to a demographic that is a little more affluent than those of us who are still in school full-time.

We cannot wait until the day we can be like Emma Watson and have the money to fill our closets with only ethically, sustainably-produced clothing, but we’re not there yet. Call us hypocrites if you want, but there are more of us out there who are in the same boat than you might think.

DSC_1805 2This is exactly why we purchase clothing from Goodwill and transform those unappealing, outdated pieces into new ones that are fresh and stylish.

Millions of clothing items (that have a lot of potential!) are already in existence, so it’s incredibly wasteful to continue producing new clothing at our current rate while allowing those pieces to sit on a shelf or be turned into rags. It’s overwhelming to think about completely overhauling your buying habits to make your wardrobe 100% sustainable, and we think that’s why a lot of women avoid it. It’s difficult, it’s expensive, and at the end of the day, there aren’t nearly as many options to choose from.

This is precisely the reason we’re working to launch a brand that brings those unwanted pieces back into the mainstream by altering small details of them to make them fashionable again. We want other women like us to have the option to buy negative-waste clothing that falls into the same pricing category as Zara or the higher end of H&M.

Our brand, Awaken Atelier, which launches within the next few months, will feature pieces from thrift stores that have been updated to reflect modern trends like raw hems on jeans, embroidery on jackets, and low-backs on one piece swimsuits. Just know it’s okay if you haven’t boycotted Forever 21 completely. Make small changes in your life to make it more sustainable, like shopping at Goodwill when you’re looking for your summer wardrobe (or shopping at Awaken Atelier when it opens!). As you start to make more money, transition towards brands like Reformation when you’re shopping for an evening dress or a new pair of jeans. But don’t get discouraged if you can’t do everything you want to do when it comes to sustainability.

Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something- do your something.

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Sabrina’s Outfit Details:

Top: Goodwill- Refashioned by Awaken Atelier

Jeans: H&M

Jacket: Goodwill- Refashioned by Awaken Atelier

Shoes: Steve Madden

Earrings: H&M

Hannah’s Outfit Details:

Jeans: Target

Top: Goodwill- Refashioned by Awaken Atelier

Jacket: TJ Maxx

Shoes: Forever 21

Necklace: Rue 21

Glasses: EyeGlasses Direct

Baby Steps to Runway Strides

Photos by H+L Creations with contributing photographer, Sabrina Runge.

_MG_2857Models honestly do not get enough credit for what they do.

Most people do not realize the level of difficulty and oftentimes discomfort (anyone remember Kate Upton posing for that SI swimsuit issue in the literal Arctic?!) that comes with posing for a breathtaking photo.

We’ve learned there is a certain technique for everything in modeling, from walking in a way that looks natural to arranging your body to get the most flattering angle, and these are not skills you can pick up in a day.

We’ve been doing this for months and we’re just now getting to the point where we are starting look and feel comfortable in front of the camera.

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And for me, also behind the camera. Starting this blog was a particular challenge because unlike Hannah, I did not have much experience photographing other people.

My friends and I loved to do impromptu photoshoots in high school, but back then I enjoyed being in front of the camera a lot more than being behind it.

Hannah’s guidance has helped me come a long way with my photography skills, and now I know what lighting to look for, what camera angles to capture, and the exact ground/subject/sky ratio I need to achieve to create a visually appealing photo.

When I was seventeen and modeling in front of the camera, I really only had two faces: serious and smiling.It was not until I started watching YouTube videos and looking at modeling tutorials on Pinterest that I really began to learn how to model for photos.

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I honestly felt silly at first when I tried out the techniques, like taking long strides while on the balls of my feet and constantly changing my facial expressions and hand placement while the camera was clicking.

But, I’m glad I went through the phase of feeling ridiculous because now I actually kind of feel like I know what I’m doing.

I say ‘kind of’ because does anyone ever truly feel like they know exactly what they’re doing? (No.)

-S

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve always been more comfortable behind the camera. It feels safe, and it’s something I’ve always loved to do. When I was young, I would jump in front of the camera every now and then, but I mostly preferred taking photos of other people.

Soon after Sabrina and I became friends, we decided to start a fashion blog, so I was suddenly thrust headfirst into the world of modeling. I thought I would have a bit of an upper hand because I’ve been photographing other models for years, but I’ve learned it’s a completely different world in front of the camera.

When all eyes are on me, it’s as if my brain shuts off, my hands get clammy, and I forget all the modeling tips I’ve ever learned.

But once I get past the first few shots and get my blood pumping, the shots start to turn out how I picture them in my head.

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There is a certain energy in modeling, with each click of the camera comes a different pose, a different look; it’s a rhythm.

Find your rhythm in whatever you do.

Perseverance is key when it comes to doing anything you set your mind to.

If you want to perfect your craft, you have to work diligently at it. It won’t just happen overnight.

-H

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Throughout this experience, we have personally realized the truth behind the saying,

“To be good at something, you first must be willing to be bad at it.”

No one starts off being an expert at anything.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and if you are not willing to make a fool of yourself at first, you will never get to the point where you are actually skilled at whatever it is you are trying to do.

So, don’t forgo learning how to make a flawless creme brûlée or attempting a class five rock climb because you do not have the skills to do those things at this very moment.

You will get there soon enough.

The awkward, amateur phase does not last forever, and once you get past it, you will be incredibly proud that you did not quit halfway through.

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“A river cuts through a rock not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

 

Sabrina’s Outfit Details
Dress: E. Leigh’s
Boots: Zara
Watch: Plato’s Closet
Sunglasses: Rue 21
Clutch: Gift to Hannah
Hannah’s Outfit Details
Dress: Goodwill
Sweater: H&M
Boots: Zara
Sunglasses: Rue 21
Clutch: Gift from friend in Europe
Earrings: Dollar Jewelry Galore