Dara Dudeck is 18 years old and runs a successful business turning thrifted jeans into stylish, high-waisted shorts for girls and women.
“I was at camp one summer, and there were so many girls wearing cut off Levis. I thought they looked cool, so I went to the thrift store and bought a few pairs,” Dara says.
“They sat in my closet forever until I finally started doing something with them.”
No pair of Dara’s shorts is quite the same. Aptly named Loved Shorts, each pair is creatively reinvented with bold fabric, studs, lace, and of course, a liberal amount of ripping and distressing. They aren’t your average cut-offs.
“They’re basically old man pants, being used in a new way,” Dara says.
Reclaiming mostly mens’ Wranglers and Levis, every piece of every pair of these shorts is second-hand. That includes all the decorative elements, so Dara finds herself spending more time in thrift shops than ever before.
“I have to admit, I didn’t really go to thrift stores at all before I started doing this,” Dara says.
“But I’ve started getting into it. Now I like going and trying to find other stuff too.”
Aside from working on Loved Shorts, Dara has two jobs, is the oldest of seven siblings and helps her mom run a natural foods business. She first began selling Loved Shorts at the St. Norbert Farmers’ Market from a small shelf added to the corner of her mom’s table.
“My mom didn’t think it would go over that well, but I was sold out by the end of the day.”
This past summer, Dara was running her own table and selling as many as 30 pairs in an afternoon. That’s a lot of love, and shorts – though some people have less love for her shorts than others.
“I’ve had a few older women come by and tell me that the shorts will fall apart,” Dara says.
“But, I sew each pair by hand, and I’ve never had anyone come back to tell me they’ve had a problem.”
Dara finds sewing by hand easier than using a machine, plus it allows her to work on sewing projects more casually.
“I don’t use any tools aside from a needle. That way I can bring a pair along wherever I go and just do it whenever.”
Though Dara has other aspirations aside from being a shorts seamstress, working with old Wranglers and Levis isn’t something she plans on giving up anytime soon.
“I’d like to do it as long as I can, but I probably won’t be able to do it forever,” Dara says.
“Right now it’s a trend, so as long as that keeps up, I’ll be doing it.”
Though fashion trends are constantly changing, there’s always potential to get creative with second-hand clothes and hone practical skills like sewing.
“I didn’t really get into doing this with sustainability in mind,” Dara says.
“But, I think it’s great to take stuff that would most likely just sit
there and put it to use in a totally different way.”