Dress Outside the Box

outfitFashion inspiration can strike at any place and time: You spot someone on the bus whose tuxedo-stripe jeans you want to cop; you love the way your barista layers her lace tank tops; a Monet at the National Gallery of Art reminds you that pastels are always chic. In the same vein, wearable pieces lurk in unlikely places — the kids’ department, the hardware store, military surplus spots, even Staples. All you need to rock them is an open mind and, in a few cases, simple crafting skills. After all, as Coco Chanel said, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only … fashion has to do with ideas.” Here are a few brilliant ones.

The Jacket
Think Army/Navy surplus stores are all fatigues, camo and ammo bags? Nope — they’re also full of adaptable, military-cool pieces, such as this khaki-green button-down ($30, Ranger Surplus, 8008 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda; 301-656-2302). Add a touch of femininity to the otherwise masculine shirt by embellishing it with something shiny. Our bling on this baby? Brass round-head fasteners from an office-supply store ($7 for 100). We bent the prongs in a V-formation and then hot-glued them in a straight line just above the pockets. From afar, no one will ever guess their original, cubicle-drone purpose.

The Shirt and Jeans
Department stores such as Macy’s and Marshalls obviously sell women’s clothing. What’s less apparent, however, is that rifling unfamiliar sections can yield good buys — shrunken shirts in the little boys’ department, longer tees on the maternity racks. To wit: We found this pretty lace top in the girls’ department ($13) and these jeans in the men’s section ($20, both from T.J. Maxx).

shoezThe Shoes
Is Safeway the new runway? When you make gold rosettes from coffee filters ($1.80 for 100), it can be. To embellish bright blue heels (snagged at a friend’s clothing swap), we used pleated, basket-style java strainers as a cheap and quick alternative to fabric. To make your own pump bling, spray-paint both sides of two coffee filters gold (or a color of your choice) and let dry. Then, trim an inch off the outer edge of each filter and discard. Gather the remaining circle, and, working with the natural pleating of the filter, fan it out. Crinkle the edges to give it a taffeta-like texture, and hot-glue the center of your rosette to the vamp of your shoes.

necklazThe Necklace
The screw and rope aisle at Home Depot should be renamed the jewelry section. This necklace was made with neon-yellow nylon cord ($3 for 50 feet) and brass hex nuts ($6 for 100). To DIY, cut three 3-foot strands of cord and tie them in a knot 5 inches from one end. Begin braiding your cord, slipping a hex nut onto the outer-most strand as you go. When your necklace has reached your desired length, knot it to secure the braid and trim the ends to 5 inches. Bonus: You’ll have plenty of materials left over to make one for a friend or create a very glam collar for Mr. Whiskers.

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