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San Ramon Designer Makes Thrifty Fashionable

  • February 6, 2012

By Kelly Pollard

San Ramon native Kristen Michael has always loved clothes.

A shopaholic at heart, Michael, 24, didn't always have the budget to splurge on high fashion finds in boutiques she frequented. She'd look at the pricey digs and often tell herself, "I could make that."

Soon she started listening to herself. Among the racks of thrift and vintage stores, Michael started picking out low-priced clothing she'd never wear that boasted unique fabrics she could use elsewhere.

"I love the fabrics on vintage clothing," Michael says. "I love the patterns and textures. There are lots of silks and interesting things you don't see in a department store."

So Kristen dusted off her sewing machine and got to work. Outdated muumuus transformed into little dresses and razor-backed tank tops under her able fingers.

As she shopped and sewed, friends began buying her pieces. Then she decided to take her creations to the blogosphere to post her fashions. People began to find her through her blog and also buy her pieces.

After earning her B.A. in Liberal Studies from Cal Poly and struggling to find work, she focused more on her fashion hobby.

"I'm self-taught with the sewing. I've had no formal training, but I'm a perfectionist," Michael says. "I don't want the seams to unravel on a shirt I sell to somebody so I make sure it's high quality."

Kristen's fashions range from $35 to $50 and she recently began experimenting with jewelry, incorporating chains and different fabrics.

At her most fashion-focused, Kristen shopped up to four days a week at vintage shops in the Mission District in San Francisco, flea markets and local thrift stores like the Salvation Army and Goodwill, which she admits are a "hit or miss" as far as fashionable finds. For finishing touches, she hits Joanne's Fabrics for elastics, edging, lace and even curtain rope for embellishments.

Kristen is currently working in retail and earning her teaching credential at Cal State East Bay to teach multi-subject elementary and special needs, so she hasn't had as much time as she'd like to devote to her recycled fashions.

"I do think teaching will lend itself well to my fashion hobby. I can really focus on sewing over summer break and vacations," Michael said. "I'm hoping I can carry my creativity and passion into this new life as a teacher too. I think this will be a good fit for my life."

With summer approaching now and a break from school for a few months, Kristen is eager to jump back in to her projects, which she estimates take her about three hours from start to finis

"Fashion is such a great hobby," Michael said. "I'd much rather sew than watch television and I just love new clothes. It works for me."

To view more of Kristen's fashions, visit her blog at:

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