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Make it, don't buy it: DIY style goes high-fashion

During Milan Fashion Week Spring 2012, Dolce & Gabbana tickled the fashion world by sending models down the runway with playful earrings made out of gilded coins and bowtie pasta.

Three weeks later, DIY blogger Erica Chan, who runs the site HonestlyWTF, posted a guide to re-creating those same pasta earrings and soon her fans and followers were heading to the supermarket and the bead store to make them for themselves.

The pasta earrings can be considered dangly emblems of the resurgance of DIY, a trend in personal style that lets crafty fashionistas replicate high-end fashion labels at their kitchen tables. While a few years ago it might have been considered embarassing to admit to wearing a 'homemade' piece of clothing or accessory, the proclamation “I made this!” is part of the contemporary DIY movement's appeal.

For style bloggers like Chan, DIY isn’t just a hobby: it’s a movement. Young women, fed up with generations of generic, ready-made clothing and unaffordable high fashion have realized that they can re-invent the looks they see in Vogue for a fraction of the price. What’s more, the things they create for themselves are customized just for them.

“We're in an era where self-expression is preeminent,” says Bobbie Thomas, TODAY style editor. “As a culture, we sort of hit overload in the late ’90s and early 2000s, with 'fast fashion' stores dominating the scene and the Internet providing instant access to all things style and beauty. And it's of course wonderful for everyone to have these things, but naturally there's been a reaction — we're all craving items that feel personal or special."

Not your mother's DIY
Unlike previous iterations of DIY, which relied heavily on skills like sewing or knitting, the most current DIY projects can usually be made with glue, rather than needle and thread. These projects aren’t aimed at housewives with ample time and skills to devote, but rather for the woman who might have two hours on a Saturday afternoon to make a bracelet to wear out that night.

The ability to quickly and cheaply make something to go along with a pre-existing outfit or wardrobe, without having to run to the store, is part of the appeal. Traditional crafting and home projects aspire to a relatively uniform end-product: the perfect pie, the perfect sweater, the perfect shelving-unit. DIY, however, prizes innovation and imagination.

“Putting your own personal stamp on something you have created is truly empowering,” says Erica Domesek, who runs the blog PS I Made This. “Knowing you can create fun fashions and do not have to break the bank to achieve that elated sense of gratification is infectious.”

A 'modern gateway to personal style'
Erica started doing DIY three years ago, when a friend told her about a $600 necklace she was thinking of purchasing.

“I told her she was insane for spending that kind of cash, and to come over,” Domesek told TODAY.com. Domesek and her friends were able to successfully recreate the necklace in question, and soon started meeting weekly to work on other projects. Some time later, Domesek happened to wear one of her necklaces backstage at a fashion show, and a woman asked her the name of her jewelry line.“‘I dont have a line, I have a craft club,’” Domesek replied.

It was then that she decided to start a blog to share her projects and educate people on how to recreate high fashion looks at home. The blog, PS I Made This, was a fast instant success, and in 2010 Domesek released a book of the same name. When it comes to the DIY movement itself, Domesek is a zealot.“Finding ways to reuse, repurpose, and reinvent everyday objects not only helps the pocketbook but also allows people to express their individuality,” she told TODAY.com. “DIY is the modern gateway to personal style.”

The rapid spread of DIY can be largely traced to its very modern platform: blogging has taken what would otherwise be a solitary, isolated activity and amplified it by allowing people to share their projects, creating a vociferous community of crafters who comment and encourage each other’s projects.

“AMAZING!!! this is absolutely a fantastic DIY and I actually like yours better!” wrote one commenter on Chan’s D&G pasta earrings.

“Astonishing! I just have to try this!” wrote another.

DIY style stars
Individual style bloggers like Domesek and Chan amass a huge following of readers who tune in every day, not only to see the latest DIY projects, but to see what the bloggers themselves are wearing, reading, dog-earring in magazines, and thinking. Erica Domesek has amassed a staggering 20,000 followers on her Twitter account, and HonestlyWTF’s creators frequently post on personal travel experiences and general fashion. In this sense, DIY serves as another method of personal branding, and afficionados become fans not just of the projects, but of their creators themselves.

Though projects vary in difficulty and time length, the general process for the dissemination of a project tends to be fairly similar: DIY pioneers like Chan and Domesek see a trend, recreate it, and then post detailed how-to instructions on their blogs. Readers are then invited to recreate the looks, adding their own touches and flourishes. This bespoke, custom-made quality is one of the factors that makes DIY so appealing.

“People want things that are one of a kind, customized to exactly the way they want it,” says Grace Atwood of the blog Stripes and Sequins. “DIY allows you to customize everything.”

Atwood had been style blogging for almost a year before she turned to the world of DIY, after she received compliments on a striped tote bag she had made for her sister.

“People would ask me where they could buy my bags, but I told them to make them!” she told TODAY.com. “From then on out, my DIY posts easily became my most popular posts.”

Curing sticker shock
If the allure of owning a one-of-a-kind piece is one of the appeals of DIY fashion, the price ticket is certainly another. Fans of DIY have found a way to stay current with the trends in a down economy, without suffering from sticker shock.

Atwood certainly didn’t let a steep price tag stop her from attaining the necklace of her dreams. After lusting after a $595 “Bramley” necklace by New York-based jewelry company DANNIJO, Atwood was able to create a similar one for only $100 — one sixth of the cost of the original.

“DIY is a wonderful thing because it allows you to breathe new life into older pieces and save money so that you can splurge on other things,” she says.

Bobbie Thomas agrees that the price tag of the DIY process is often just as stylish as the end product.“The positive benefits of being resourceful are considered en vogue,” she says. “Upcycling is a new buzzword, and it’s considered chic to be frugal — with some eager to boast about their savings.”

Understandably, it’s the easiest and quickest projects that seem to be the most popular with fans and readers of DIY blogs.

“Our hex nut bracelet, inspired by a Giles & Brother necklace, has probably been replicated the most as it only requires hex nuts from the hardware store and some butcher's twine.” Chan tells TODAY.com. That’s only about an hour of work and .50 cents per hexnut: the Gilles & Brother necklace starts at $350. With a price difference like that, it’s no wonder DIY continues to grow and grow.

“Millions of people around the globe are embracing the DIY movement which is stronger than ever.” Domesek says. “The P.S.- I made this... ideology of ‘I see it. I like it. I make it’ has caught on.”

Interested in trying out your hand at a few DIY projects of your own? TODAY.com can show you how! Each day, we’ll highlight one DIY star, who will demonstrate a creative project in fashion, beauty and accessories. Starting Oct. 24, be sure to check out TODAY.com for DIY style tutorials:

Monday: Bobbie Thomas Tuesday: Erica Domesek of
Wednesday: Geneva Vanderzeil of Thursday: Kristen Turner of
Friday: Jenni Radosevich of

Have you made a fantastic DIY project of your own? Enter the TODAY DIY Style Week Challenge! Send in a photo of your DIY project. The winning submission will get a how-to post featured on TODAY.com and a beauty bag from Bobbie Thomas.

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