06/13/2014 04:28 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2014

DIY: Transform Your Thrift Store Finds

One of my favorite places to shop, believe it or not, is the local thrift store. With a little searching and a lot of patience, I can find hidden gems like a unique t-shirt or the occasional vintage dress, but the times when I find something that is wearable right off the rack are few and far between. So then you ask, why do I even bother with the thrift store? The answer is easy: DIY projects!

Oftentimes, with a little work and creativity, you can transform something outdated and ill-fitting into something trendy and stylish. With the rise of Pinterest, it is now easy to find a DIY project for just about anything you're looking to add to your wardrobe. Here's how to make some of my favorite thrift store DIY clothes and accessories:

High-Waisted Shorts

High-waisted shorts are probably the most well-known and most tried thrift store DIY project lately and it is definitely my favorite. High-waisted shorts are being worn by just about every girl on college campuses everywhere.

The great thing about these shorts is that they fabulously accompany any crop top you might own. The combination of these two is the perfect summer uniform for those hot, hazy days. Given the rise in popularity of these shorts, you can find them in just about any store, but oftentimes it can be hard to find a pair that fits you right, or a pair that is the right wash or color or even a pair that is in the right price range. A great way to combat all of these, the perfect solution is to make your own pair.

In order to do this, the first step is to find the right pair of "mom" jeans at your local thrift store. What makes a pair of jeans "mom" jeans? The crotch area is going to be much longer than it is in your regular pair of jeans. This will make for a great pair of high-waisted shorts because you can pull them up so the crotch then fits you normally.

In order to find the right pair, make sure you try them on at the store before you buy. Once you find the right pair, take them home, put them on again and mark the length you want. Now you're ready to start snipping.

The easiest way to make sure they're even is to fold the jeans in half and cut them both at once. Another tip is to cut them slightly longer than you would ideally want them, just in case you make a mistake. You can always go back and cut off more, but you can't go back and add material.

After you do this, you've got a very simple pair of high-waisted shorts. If that's not cutting it for you though, Pinterest offers tons of great tutorials that can show you how to distress, bleach, dye, stud or whatever else you want to do to your shorts to give them some character.

Grunge Tank

Thrift stores are stock full of men's t-shirts with funny, inappropriate and plain old weird sayings and logos on them, but the bagginess and unstructured style of these shirts leaves something to be desired for the female population. The 90's trend of graphic and logo tees is having a surge in popularity lately, but the ones you'll find at the thrift store need a little refurbishing in order to measure up to what's in stores.

Here's how to take a plain old graphic tee and make it chic. First, a guy's shirt is probably going to be too long, so start by figuring out your desired length and cut straight across. Try it on first in order to see where it is you want the shirt to sit on your body, then mark it and take it off to begin cutting.

Next, cut the sleeves. A cut off tank would look really cute. Try cutting lower in the armpit area for more of a grunge look. Finally, you need to work on the neckline. Decide whether you want a v-neck or a scoop neck and then cut accordingly. Once you're done with all that, you'll have a graphic tee you're proud to wear!

Colorblock Handbag

Colorblock purses or clutches can add a pop of color to your outfit, but as you know, purses can be pretty pricey. So head to your local thrift store and find a plain leather purse for a much smaller price and add the pop of color yourself!

To do this, you'll need to use sandpaper to sand down the area that you want to paint. Then, you'll want to get some rubbing alcohol and rub down that same area. Both of these steps will get off any finishes that the leather has so that you can have a surface that the paint will actually stick to.

Now, much like a room, tape off the area that you want to paint. The paint you'll want to use is acrylic paint, but you need to make sure that for whatever paint you plan on using, add equal parts water. The water will help the paint stick to the leather.

Finally, it is time to paint. This tutorial will help you with the proper painting technique and offers some other tips, too. Once you're done, you can rip off the tape and you'll have the perfect colorblock bag!

These thrift store DIY projects are just the thing you need to add to your closet. Don't let the thrift store scare you, because with a little bit of modification and craftiness, the clothes you find can be just as fashionable and true to your style as something you would find at the mall. Plus they'll be a fraction of the cost! So don't waste any time and head out to your local thrift store today.

By: Kristen Peuvion, University of Illinois