When Robin Wallace began her blog, “Thrifty. Vintage. Chic,” the Weehawken-based fashionista and single mom had no idea that just a few months later she would be struck with a life-altering brain injury that would leave the new site sitting dormant for several months.
As Wallace recovered, she found that most days, just “getting up and getting dressed” was the barometer of success.
“This is who I am in my everyday life.” – Robin Wallace
With a lifetime motto of making something out of nothing, Wallace has transformed her career from laid-off print and broadcast journalist to a New York stylist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, connecting humanity through fashion.
Cents and sensibility of style
The creation of Wallace’s blog, and her complementary venture “@ Your Service,” which offers three different packages for personal styling and shopping, have kept her busy.
“My style evolved from figuring out how to turn nothing into something,” said Wallace. “It grew into an attitude. People say ‘You’re so Mad Men,’ but I didn’t need Mad Men to dress like this.”
Although Wallace did participate in a photo contest for the highly rated AMC TV show, topping off her $5 outfit with one of her great grandmother’s hats, her style is beyond a contest entry.
“This is who I am in my everyday life,” said the 30-year-old Wallace.
Wallace’s home, which boasts a newspaper from 1876 as a design piece, is a step back into time, right down to the teapot on her stove.
Even her young son gets in on the old-school fun, joining her for thrift shop adventures on her video blog and sporting one of his own favorite pieces of wardrobe: His fedora.
Always drawn to history, Wallace volunteered in a nursing home, and as a child she would hang on every word of her grandparents’ stories.
Wallace said she was (and is) particularly drawn to the early 1900s era and the age of the Great Depression, because it was a time when people had an appreciation of things.
“People didn’t things for granted,” said Wallace. “They knew what it meant to be needy.”
It’s a sentiment that Wallace knows firsthand.
One of four girls
As one of four girls in her family growing up in Glenmoore, Pa., Wallace’s naturally thrifty spirit was fostered from a young age.
Shopping was a treasure hunt as she perused thrift shops for pieces to fill in the gaps of her hand-me-down wardrobe.
These days, she lives out her love for “all things old” as a living history reenactor, regular swing dancer at various events in Pennsylvania, and as a frequent guest at a speakeasy in New York City.
Passing it on
According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, 11.4 percent of Americans shop in factory outlet malls, 19.6 percent in apparel stores and 21.3 percent in major department stores. But shoppers are catching up on their time spent in secondhand stores as well - according to the firm’s latest numbers, about 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store this year and 12 to 15 percent will peruse consignment/resale shops.
For Wallace that’s translated into an increased number of visitors to her blog, more “likes” of her Facebook page, and a steady stream of viewers on her YouTube channel.
“It seems to be growing,” said Wallace. “What nice is that at least 50 percent are people I don’t know.”
For her personal styling and shopping service, Wallace said she shows her clients how to be thrifty and chic, whatever their style choice.
“You don’t always have to go out and buy clothes to make what you have work,” she said. “My whole concept is using what I have.”
Wallace has also begun passing on the deals in her Etsy.com store, with a philanthropic twist – all above cost proceeds of her vintage duds go to give professional clothing to women in homeless and domestic violence shelters.
To the limit
For all of her thrifty, vintage, and chic efforts, last fall Wallace was named a Style Icon by Goodwill NY/NJ. And in January she appeared on The Nate Berkus Show as part of a design competition.
The challenge was to furnish a 9 x 9 room against another “thrift queen” to see who could design the room for the least amount of money in a two-hour time frame, between two locations, and under the $300 spending limit.
Since her appearance, Wallace, along with her design challenge opponent, has also been given the opportunity to contribute as a guest blogger on TheNateShow.com.
For more information, visit www.thriftyvintagechic.com.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.