Thrift Stores. I buy about 80 % of my family’s clothing from thrift stores. Take into account I am including undergarments and shoes(I always buy these new) that’s almost everything. I’ve been shopping in thrift stores for years, growing up in New York there was a Salvation Army thrift store right across the street from my apartment. As a teenager I bought quite a lot there, but always went early in the morning, in partial disguise. I figured out early on, I could buy fabulous unique clothes for a fraction of the retail price. More often than not the quality was better than if I bought new. I almost never heard, “I have that shirt/skirt.!” By expanding your options(different eras, lines from stores you may not have access to, etc) your style is expanded. This is where my love of vintage style began. The styles, the fit, the quality of fabric and workmanship was almost always superior to anything modern. I’m a true New York bargain lover to start with, and with 25 years plus thrifting, I’ve become what all that know me call a “deal queen”. And while I’m aware ebay and etsy have tons of great vintage clothing, I don’t buy many vintage clothes online. Fit and finance are two biggest problems I have. Anything really great is out of my budget, if I can afford it, I can usually find something similar and not pay shipping, and be able actually feel it and try it on. I am 4’11” and have a wide chest area. I’ve had three children, and while I’m lucky I actually still have a waist, I have a little bit of a pooch. I just prefer to try things on. Now that I’m thinking about it if more online options had a return policy, I’d do a lot better. Note to sellers.
So here’s a few things I’ve learned. You may already know or practice some or all but hey if it helps one person. These would apply to yard sales, church sales etc. Anywhere that sells used clothing and goods.
TOP TEN THRIFTING TIPS
1. Go often. This is number one. Inventory comes in and is put out daily. Also if you are lucky enough to have several in your area, go to all of them.
2. Learn your shops.Learn the layout out of the store. This makes going often easier.You can zip around the store. Most of us don’t have as much time as we’d like to spend exploring. Knowing where and how your shop displays items will help. Some separate by size, some by color, some have “better” racks etc. Find out what specials they have on what days. My local shop has 50% off all merchandise on Mondays, on Tuesdays all clothing with certain color tags indicating they’ve been there over a week are 99 cents, and so on. This is not to say you should only shop on deal days. I know for a fact that a certain large chain of used goods shops “pulls” some of the better items off the floor, so that they won’t be sold for half the ticketed price. Not all shops do this, but going on a day with no specials, will be less crowded, picked over, and have more inventory. Remember number one, go often.
3. Be educated. Even though the majority of my family’s clothing purchases are second-hand, I’ve made it a point to learn as much about retail lines as possible. Knowing names, and which lines are made for certain stores will help in making your purchases. Learn to spot quality fabric and workmanship. You will learn which designers cuts you do best with, will stand up to wear etc. You will also learn not to pay too much for lower end lines that are inexpensive sold new. You will be able to tell if an item is actually from the 1940’s or is 1980’s does 1940’s. Syms’s clothing stores had a commercial on while I was growing up. The owner said “An educated consumer is our best customer”. The more you know, the better you’ll buy.
4. Don’t go shopping with anything in mind. Trust me if you look in your closet and think, “I need some pretty blouses for work” and then set out in search of them, you more than likely won’t find a thing. But there might be perfect for you suit on the other side of the store,or a ton of quality of clothes in your daughters size just donated. Along these same lines, the best finds are usually off season, just like retail. In the middle of July, summer clothes are at a premium, you might just find a gorgeous cashmere cardigan, or a great pair of vintage wool trousers.Also be open. Some of my most flattering clothes are items that didn’t exactly reach out and grab me.
5. Buy ahead provided you have storage space. Your daughter may wear a size 2t now, but she will eventually be a size 5. That vintage wool princess coat will eventually fit her. If you wait until she’s a size 5 to find a coat, the inventory then may not have anything you like. You may have a perfectly fine pair of white keds now, but they will wear out. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new pair sitting in the closet waiting it’s turn?
6. Be picky.Inspect clothes carefully, you don’t want to have to pay to mend clothes or worse get home and find a bleach stain or worse. Just because it’s only a dollar, doesn’t mean it’s a good buy. Even if an item has no flaws, be selective. Does it fit perfect?If not, is it worth the price of either your time or professional alterations? Is it comfortable? Will you wear it often? Do you really need another pair of black trousers? How often are you going to wear a sheer blouse? Does it work with what you already own? How will you put together great looks if your closet is stuffed.
7. If possible, get to know shop employees. They may be willing hold items for you or at least call you when a donation of your interest comes in. A girl at my shop, will hold all dresses, she thinks are vintage and my size for one day. In return, I bring her son goodies from my job that I get at cost. There may be something they saw in the back, hasn’t been put out yet, you might like.This is especially true of consignment shops. Yes the prices are a bit higher but you the inventory has been presorted of junk. Besides notifying you of merchandise, maybe you could workout a donation/discount deal. I go to a shop, donate all my son’s quality outgrown clothing, I get a discount fthe owner deems fair.
8. Here’s what I’ve found shopping yard/tag sales. The wealthier the neighborhood the more they expect you to pay for goods. Obviously this is not always true but I find it to be true most of the time. The attitude is like I payed 60 dollar for that coat, your getting a deal if I sell it to you for $15. Or that comforter came from Bloomingdales you should be happy to get it for $40. What then happens a lot, nobody buys much, they just donate it and it ends up in the thrift store. 🙂 If you really have to have an item try a little haggling first. Remind them they wanted to get rid of all this stuff. Not have to haul it all away, and have another sale or donate it and get nothing but a tax receipt.
Now in the more modest neighborhoods, people are much more likely to let things go rock bottom. The only exception is brand new items.
In all instances be nice, and ask the sellers if you’re looking for something in particular. Especially at estate sales. They may have know idea you’d love all those old full slips they were going to donate. Or that fur trimmed coat from the 50’s.
9. Never be too quick to judge a shop or sale. You may see what looks like a bunch of junk but way back in the corner there’s a lone vintage wicker purse for 50 cents. Do a quick but thorough walk through everywhere. One of my best buys was at a resale shop here in Atlanta that caters to teens. There are several around. I went in with my daugher, and found a brand new Chloe bag for $10! I can only imagine some wonderful grandmother bought this as a gift for her grandaughter who then decided it was too old lady for her. Score for me!
10. Tag team. Have friends and family who know you pick up things for you and you do the same. It may not be right for you, but it’s perfect for your sister. Buy it and she’ll do the same for you.
Hope these help and happy, bountiful thrifting wishes to all! With a little effort you’ll get the joy of responding to compliments on your attire with a “I got it for $2”.