Recycled Fashion in New Paltz and Beyond

By Lisa Di Venuta

Thrift shoppers are as one-of-a-kind as the items they buy.  The New Paltz thrifting scene is certainly thriving, with a plethora of local shops and the fashion mecca that is New York City just two hours away.  I decided to check out how and why local fashionistas are thrifting.

SUNY New Paltz student Natalie Skoblow runs a fashion blog, Poor Little Thrift Girl: Fashion for the Frugal.  On it, Skoblow shows off her keen eye for recycled fashion.  In one post, she wears  a Calvin Klein leotard tucked into a leather mini-skirt, complete with faux-pearl earrings and a classic black satchel.  The entire outfit set her back just $16.

As the name of her blog suggests, Skoblow was first inspired to thrift for financial reasons.

“Growing up, my family was always on a budget,” said Skoblow.  “Thrifting was a way for me to enjoy fashion in an affordable way.  I love the concept of thrifting; how old clothing can be re-purposed.”

  • Blouse, $5, Buffalo Exchange. Shoes, $15, The Big Cheese.

Photos by Gabriela Jeronimo

Like many other fashion-forward college students, Skoblow’s finances prevent her from splurging on new items in retail stores–not that she minds. As a result of her budget, Skoblow developed a style that is completely her own, as well as a lifelong passion for secondhand shopping.

“There’s a thrill to thrifting,” said Skoblow. “You can go to H&M and find whatever you want relatively easy, but in a thrift store, you have to have patience.”

She pairs gold, peacock-shaped chandelier earrings from New Paltz’s Antique Barn with a silk, polka-dot blouse from Buffalo Exchange in New York City.  In another post, she shows off a floral top and a burnt-orange maxi skirt.  These trendy combinations are reminiscent of New York Fashion Week’s runway styles, yet the items cost less than $10.  Some were even free.

“My friends and I will have clothing swaps,” said Skoblow. “And trade clothes once we get sick of them.”

Skoblow began thrifting her sophomore year in high school, taking trips to Buffalo Exchange in Manhattan.  She describes her first time at this popular thrift and consignment store as “an eye opening moment.”  The clothes were funky, and the prices were low.  She has since developed a knack for finding gems like vintage, high-rise Levi’s shorts.

One tip?

“For basics, like jeans and plain white T-shirts, I will shop retail,” said Skoblow.  She saves thrifting for quirky items like a suede, fringe bag and a bright burgundy skirt.

One of Skoblow’s favorite local shops is called The Big Cheese in Rosendale, New York.  I took a trip to The Big Cheese with another local thrift shopper, Stephanie Tokle, to see what it had to offer.

The Big Cheese is not only a thrift store, but an artisan cheese shop.  Tokle explained to me that this store thrived in the summertime, when the shop owners could open the door and let the clothes spill out into the street for a sidewalk sale, and other customers sat around and ate cheese and crackers. On this cold February night, we had the place to ourselves.

Tokle and I walked through the store examining racks of vintage boots, wooden clogs, and handmade bags.  A rack of tops revealed brands such as Bergdorf Goodman, BCBG, and Emilio Pucci. We drooled over a Burberry trench coat, sadly out of our budget at $90.

It seemed as if most of the clothes were in perfect condition; their only reason for being in a thrift store is that they were “last season”.  Some items were handcrafted.  We sifted through woven jumpers from Israel and long dresses perfect for dancing at a music festival in the summer.  There were some cozy winter clothes; long over-sized coats made of wool and corduroy vests.

I tried on a long sleeve, silk snakeskin dress.  It was two sizes too big, and I was drowning in the material.  I glanced at one of the brown woven belts across the store, and used it to cinch the waist. Suddenly, the dress was transformed.

That is the trick to successful thrifting: patience and creativity.  You have to be able to envision what an item can become, instead of what it is.  In Skoblow’s case, she loves to make her own crop tops.

“I’ll go to the boys T-shirt section and I’ll buy an extra-large shirt, take a ruler, size it, cut it, and stud it!” said Skowblow.

There is no limit to the creativity offered by a thrift store.  “Don’t judge something off of a hanger,” said Skoblow.  “Always try it on.”

Whether or not you are on a budget, thrift stores can transform your wardrobe from basic to extraordinary.

Check out Natalie Skoblow’s thrifted style at