Mod Frocks and Old Cloth

I was quite delighted to stumble upon this lovely vintage dress at the Salvation Army last week. As I stood in line, I recieved a comment that I found rather humourous. I went something like this: “Cute dress! Looks like it came from ModCloth.”

I found this statement fairly ironic for many reasons. If you read the occasional fashion blog like I do, you’re no stranger to ModCloth. They sponsor a bajillion bloggers, and every other day I come across an outfit post c/o of the retailer. They have successfully turned that “Zooey Dooschenel going to a picnic on a unicycle” look into a national brand. For those of you less familiar with the retailer, I’ll provide some background: ModCloth was founded in 2002 by a woman named Susan Gregg Koger. She, like myself, had a strong penchant for thrifting, and launched ModCloth as online vintage retailer, where she resold her best thrifted and vintage finds. A few years into the venture (around 2006), ModCloth changed its MO and started primarily selling vintage inspired clothing. While they still sell a small amount of real vintage, the majority of their inventory is now made up of brand new garments, sometimes manufactured in China, and sometimes manufactured in the USA. Point is, vintage inspired is very different from actual vintage. That’s what is so funny about that comment: The dress I’m wearing existed long before ModCloth ever did, so ModCloth is the one playing copycat in this scenario. That girl was saying my old dress looks like it came from a retailer that makes their money off of making new dresses that look like old dresses. Whoa. That’s a head-spinner.

To be clear, I’ve got nothing against ModCloth. They’ve tapped into a very popular aesthetic – letting girls everywhere look “thrifty” and “retro”.  They sell some incredibly cute stuff, and I’m honest enough to admit that if they sent a box of free stuff to my door, I’d probably wear it. But from where I stand, if you want that look, it’s a heckuvalot cheaper, and much more authentic to actually go to a thrift store. All the retro shifts, indie a-lines, and mod frocks that pepper ModCloth’s home page have been sitting in your local neighbourhood thrift store for decades.

My own personal aesthetic is very close to a typical ModCloth girl, but I’ve never ordered anything from ModCloth, and don’t have any plans to. If you can get it at ModCloth, you can get it at the thrift store. To back up my statement, I compiled a few old blog outfits and compared them to some pieces from ModCloth.

First up: Nothing quite says “I’m adorable, but ironic about it” like a graphic animal print. Foxes, owls, bugs, birds, whatever – ModCloth has a whole zoo available if you’re looking for that (and I’m always looking for that).  Their “I’ve Bird About You” dress is very cute, but so is this navy butterfly dress from Valu Village. Theirs is $79.99, and mine was $12. Hmmm.

ModCloth rocks a lot of stripes. I would say the same of myself. But lets remember that ladies everywhere have been rocking stripes since Downton Abbey days, so many’a striped frock has already found its way to to the thrift store. While I find this $84.99 dress a charming collection of hues and lines, I’m still much more charmed by the look-a-like I found at the Salvation Army, purchased for $1.

It’s really as simple as this: Old-looking stuff is in. So instead of buying new clothing designed to look old, why not buy some actual old stuff? That right there sums up the above look. While I could’ve gotten something similar by pairing this and this from ModCloth, I ended up with the same results by pairing this vintage top with my sailor shorts from Talize. Total look under $20.

I’m sure you’ll all catching my drift by now: If you’re aiming for some fun, quirky, or retro pieces clothing to spice up your closet, nothing beats the satisfaction that comes from finding an authentic gem at the thrift store. My green 60s shift dress one of my favourite thrifts ever, and while I like ModCloth’s version, I wouldn’t feel as proud wearing theirs as I do mine.

I do realize that not everyone has the patience for thrifting, and if it’s not your bag, ModCloth is still an OK place to spend your money. Sure, big chains are tapped into the retro knock-off trend too, but at least ModCloth makes an effort to manufacture some of their designs in the USA, and employ independent designers. They charge a little more than the big chains, but that’s because they exercise slightly more savoury manufacturing practices compared to sweatshop giants like Forever 21 (although we’ll see if they hang on to that as they continue to expand).

But I’m not here to tell you where to shop, as you can all shop wherever you please! I’m just here to bring ModCloth back to its roots. I do hope I didn’t anger too many ModCloth enthusiasts: I think Susan Gregg Koger is a remarkable business woman, and she’s crafted a business model that works. In fact, I hope she would still appreciate a post like this, as she of all people understands the power of thrift. So, Susan, if you ever find yourself in Hamilton, call me up! We’ll go thrifting.

39 thoughts on “Mod Frocks and Old Cloth

    1. Hey, this picture above red/black dress was taken just down the street from the dental office I work at!!

      Did you happen to attend HDCH?

      1. Hi Laurel! I’m going to take a while guess and assume that question was for me! You got it: We live in the Durand region, and love walking around the neighbourgood. I spotted that building and thought it was perfect for an outfit post. I didn’t attend HDCH, though – I actually grew up in Georgetown, and ended up in Hamilton for university (right down the street from HD). Love having another local reader!

  1. Great post! All your dresses are just as cute. I never but anything from Modcloth because their things are too expensive. I don’t shop at F21 because their things are so cheap.

  2. This dress is too cute!

    Your post is SO. TRUE. I think it is so funny that girl said that too you. I would have probably went on my thrifting rant. I only have one thing from Modcloth, and that is belt that was gifted to me way before Modcloth blew up and became super expensive. While a lot of their stuff is super cute, I just can’t afford that right now, and even if I could I probably still wouldn’t buy it, because hitting “purchase” on the computer is not as fun as going thrifting, which I need to stop writing a version of my thrifting rant, so I can get going – I have a thrifting date with my mom!


  3. I know many girls who have been looking through Modcloth and I can see the resemblance to things I’d wear, but honestly never pay for. Also, part of the thrill of vintage clothing is that it’s had a life that probably started before your own. Also, most certainly anything from before the mid 1960s has been made so well, that a lot of the fabric utilized nowadays simply cannot hold up to the same standard. Furthermore, a huge reason I thrift, is to have one-of-a-kind pieces and also to use clothing that is great shape and should be used thoroughly. It’s a sustainable practice, within a certain budget, and just plain fun to thrift!

    Melanie M.

  4. This dress was an amazing find- it fits you so well! I love this post! It is funny what ModCloth started at and has evolved too, but I guess that’s business. I think Susan Gregg Koger IS an amazing business woman and I wish I had her smarts now- let alone in college when she started this. However, you know I’m a thrift store loving lady and I use ModCloth primarily for inspiration. I love a lot of there stuff and have bought a few things but it’s out of my normal budget, especially for things I tire of quickly. Your similar outfits are really amazing and enough to convince anyone leery of thrift shopping!

  5. I love this post!! You’re a freakin thrift shopping pro – all the outfits are fabulous! And I love the point you made: why buy clothes to look old when you can buy actual vintage for a lot less?! It was amazing to see the comparisons to Modcloth – I like their stuff, but seeing how you put together authentic vintage outfits is so inspiring! :)

  6. I always thought that your posts are very inspiring. I love how you mix and match. You really are very pretty and could pull-off any attire! :)

  7. Seriously. I love your posts and as an avid thrifter I feel like I couldn’t have said any of this better myself. You’ve articulated perfectly the mised feelings I have toward Modcloth. In general, I just really love thrifting too. Ha.

  8. I love that you compared outfits here! A picture really does say a thousand words, and seeing the similarities in style and reading the difference in price?? Yikes! I love a good thrift score, you feel so accomplished finding gold among the racks, though the odds of finding something vintage and truly great is awfully slim at salvation army. I don’t seem to read many Canadian bloggers who wear a lot of mod cloth, perhaps it’s because shipping to this country when you have to deal with Canada customs is SUCH a pain!


    1. Yep – I’m a visual learner so I figured I must have some readers too who learn via picture! True about the shipper woes too – just another reason to thrift instead.

  9. I’m always so impressed by your ability to thrift and to find stuff that really works for your body and makes you look fantastic.

    I have some troubles thrifting, because I’m a little bigger than you, which for whatever reason makes most of the stuff I find that’s more in my size veer towards “jean dress embroidered with teddy bears that a kindergarten teacher wore in the 90s”… so ModCloth, while more expensive and definitely way less thrilling, is a good opportunity for those of us trying to cop the adorable vintage look in a larger size.

    I probably just need to find a better thrift store to haunt. lol!

    – Caitlin

  10. Tho I don’t like telling people where they should and shouldn’t shop – and never go on a rant on my soapbox (yeah riiiiight, i love bitching)
    ummm what was i saying? oh yes, I’m with you on ‘do what you want with your money’ but I’ve purchased from mod cloth once or twice (tho not in the last 2 years i guess) but was always disappointed in their quality for the price. and i think i only bought things on sale… i will admit i bought my mom a retro one piece bathing suit from there and it’s awesome. but i think it was from a reputable brand.

    Moving on… I really wish people wanted to be more individual. It makes me SO sad that everyone wants to look like everyone else. you know i even had a boyfriend who once told me straight out ‘i don’t understand why you don’t want to look like everyone else’ That question just is so mind boggling to me. Like you say, there are so many great vintage pieces out there (authentic, better quality, one of a kind) that it is a shame people take the lazy lemming route and just buying pieces most likely made in China with very cheap materials. It’s not just modcloth, there are so many of these stores.

  11. Julie,

    That means you went to Redeemer I think….my daughter went to HDCH. You should do an outfit post at Dr Nancy Baldan’s office…corner of Charlton and MacNab!!!

  12. My thing with Modcloth, which I love and have met many great people that work there, is that I just can’t afford their prices. It’s way out of my price range as much as I love their clothes :(

  13. In love with that dress. And I am SO with you on Modcloth vs. thrifting. I actually prefer all of your thrifted items way more than theirs – yours are more unique. I think a lot of people need to be shown how something can be worn, which is why they rely on Modcloth rather than thrifting. If a lot of people saw that dress in a thrift store, they probably wouldn’t see its potential and realize how special it was. But charge $70 for it and say you’re a kitschy blogger-approved store? Done.

    1. Too true! That’s one thing I’ve definitely honed since I started thrifting – I take a good long look at something before I dismiss it. I suppose people just can’t see through the thrift store mirror, so they fall back on the photoshopped models.

  14. Hey, I just wanted to add to what you already briefly touched on by pointing out that not only do you save money and get better-made clothes when you buy at a thrift store, you also help recycle, and don’t support sweatshops, or any of the other sketchy labor practices we can never be sure of when we buy from chain stores. So thrifting is triple-awesome!

    Love your blog and your great thoughtful and introspective posts!

    1. Thank you Kate! You’re so right – I love knowing exactly where my money is going when shopping at places like the Salvation Army. Makes a good deal even sweeter.

  15. Oh, you scored! This is why I keep thrifting — the gems out there waiting to be unearthed are so worth the searching. Congratulations on your amazing find! I’ll take real vintage anyday over a Modcloth knockoff.

  16. I love thrifting but I also buy clothes on ModCloth. Although I’ve only ever bought their dresses on clearance, I’ve got to admit some of their stuff is cute. For me it’s the hunt for a great piece at a good price.

  17. OMG…super cute clothes. They all look better than what mod cloth has. I’m just tired of things being made from China. Now i’m frustrated that I’ve been lied to that Mod Cloth sells clothes made in US.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s