Turning Goodwill Treasures into Fabulous Fashions

Added by on August 28th, 2012 @ 1:08 pm

I am excited to have Jenne Rayburn guest post for us today. Jenne is a Boston-based jewelry designer who incorporates vintage textiles, findings and components into her designs. She also repurposes Goodwill finds and shares with us some inspiration on how to turn everyday Goodwill finds into unique fashion statements.

Summer Series: Turning Goodwill Treasures into Fabulous Fashions

Treasure hunting is a key part of my design business; even more important, however, is the constant influx of ideas and inspiration. For that reason I have always been drawn to Goodwill, where you can find a mix of the vintage and contemporary, tailored and outrageous, and if you are so inclined, you can mix it all up to create something totally new.

Growing up, my friends and I shopped at a small Goodwill Store in Moscow, Idaho. Although small, the selection was an amazing mix of collegiate sportswear, rugged farm cloths and tasteful fashions from the well-traveled academic crowd. We loved Hawaiian shirts, embroidered denim, vintage jewelry and anything made out of leather. I can remember proudly walking the living room runway for my parents, only to have Mom ask, “Why did you buy that?” I still have a few of those pieces in my closet and remember exactly why I bought them – the desire to look and feel authentic, bold and unique.

Today I shop at Goodwill for the same reasons I always have, but my approach has evolved significantly. Having a clear plan before I shop is now key. When I shop for the business, my plan includes a general color pallet, specific fabric design ideas (geometric or floral, for example) and depending on the project, specific fabrics such as wool or cotton. A plan is equally important when I am shopping for myself, because it ensures that my purchases will enhance my existing wardrobe, and make me look and feel beautiful. This might seem obvious, but we all know the allure of finding a great deal even when the fit is not right. Take time to identify and feel confident about which colors best compliment your eyes, hair and complexion; which shapes and cuts of clothing flatter your figure; and which styles draw attention to your best features. If your plan includes this self-knowledge, you will never make a bad purchase!

Usually, when I head to Goodwill I am looking for something to transform. Finding things to alter and change is very exciting and an important part of experimenting with new ideas in my work. It is also serendipitous. I never know what I might find, and sometimes, overwhelmed with choices, it can be difficult to decide which project has the most potential. When in doubt, I always fall back on these foolproof ideas:

A white cotton shirt can be transformed into almost anything. From adding decorative trims or contrasting fabrics, to screen printing and tie-dye, a white cotton shirt can be tailored, tucked, gathered and hemmed into endless fashion statements. For example, here is a men’s white 100% cotton tuxedo shirt. I cut off the sleeves, took in the sides, stitched down the tuxedo collar tabs, added elastic to the back to give definition to the waist, and finished it with a wide belt.

A wool sweater, when felted, makes wonderfully soft and durable fashion accessories such as vests, ties, hats and handbags. I find that Merino wool is the best for felting, however other wools work too. In this example I used a sweater to create a small felted handbag. The body of the sweater creates the bag sides. For the bottom I used plastic canvas for support between two layers of wool, and I used the sweater arms, including the decorative sleeves, for the handles. Once the bag is sewn, I felt it in the washing machine, on hot with a small ivory soap bar.

A belt is an often-overlooked statement accessory that is easy to create and can have a big impact on the tailoring and focus of an outfit. I always keep an eye out for solid brass buckles and snap on leather belt straps. To test if a buckle is brass or steel, I always carry a magnet with me.

Ken Christian
Senior Director, Communications
Goodwill Administrative Office

Updated 1 year ago by Kimberly Curry

DIY & Goodwill NNE

Giving new life to Goodwill finds extends the life of the item and makes for a sustainable choice. Not only will you be saving money, but you will be saving our planet by diverting products from landfills.

Sustainability & Goodwill NNE

Sustainability starts with a shirt. Goodwill calls it shirt economics. Shirt donations create jobs, and shirt sales sustain the working community.

Personal Growth & Goodwill NNE


Jenne Rayburn is a Boston-based jewelry designer / textile artist who also studied interior design and architecture. Her work explores the convergence of architecture, design, technique and identity. A graduate of the University of Washington where she studied metalsmithing and fiber arts, and of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she received the M.S. degree in Design, Jenne is known for her designs combining vintage textiles, findings and components. Perpetual curiosity and a passion for design and experimentation resulted in her first jewelry collection made from etched copper and brilliantly colored enamel. Since then, Jenne has created six unique collections of jewelry and fashion accessories that combine careful workmanship with unique materials and designs. It is her hope that the wearers of her pieces will find joy in a delightful artistic statement, and also something that enhances their individuality and confidence.