How-To: Thrifting

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Thrift finds from Ann Taylor & Calvin Klein

Long ago, I realized I had a sort of love affair with fashion. I read all the blogs, kept up with the new sartorial-based social media, and vied for things I would never be able to afford, even if I won the lottery. However, I struggled with two big roadblocks for many fashion fiends: money and a distinct lack of personal style.

Right around 25, I realized I needed to quit messing around and really put an effort into my passion for fashion (ha, RHYMES!). Before I tackled the financial aspect of my coveted wardrobe, I decided I needed to discover what I wanted for myself when it came to dressing every day. This meant a lot of things: ditching bags upon boxes upon more bags of items that were essentially crap; trying on every item I owned for sure-fit confidence; and making a looooong list of what I really, really needed so as not to get distracted by what I wanted. Along the way, I encountered a lot of bad turns, including blahful or trainwreckish trends, shitty fabrics, and WAY too much spending on items that did not stay in my closet long enough to make it worth it. Eventually, though, I found a baseline for my own personal style… though it’ll be evolving until I have that revered “perfect” closet.

After finding the “me” in the barrage of the fashion business, I needed to find a way to cut costs so I could sustain my passion while still having the savings stash I needed when I came across a very high quality (and very expensive) lifelong staple during my style journey. Enter: thrifting.

I’ve always had a love for vintage and things of days past, but my new-found love for seeking the beautiful amongst the discards really began after I helped my friend S with her clothing boutique. She shared a few tricks of the trade with me that I then combined with my new personal style and tips from C, the thrifting queen.

After over a solid year of hitting the local consignments and thrifts, as well as the good ol’ staples like Goodwill, I feel like I’m in a solid place to finally share my best how-to’s of thrifting.

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1. Don’t think you’re too good for used merchandise.
We’ve all, poor or rich, been in a place and thought “I am too above this place. I should leave;” it’s a weird ego defense. The thing is, no one is too good to save money on beautiful clothes. If you think you are, you’re not only missing over some great pieces, you’re being… well, kind of a dick.

2. Used retail is very often lightly used, if used at all.
I have only come across a handful of items in the past year that really should not have been offered for sale. If you think about the scheme of time, that’s a truly small number. What’s more, I’ve more often than not come across brand new items that still have the ORIGINAL tag on them! Don’t think thrifts and consignments hold rag-tag material you’d never wear; this stuff is like woven gold!

3. Find the RIGHT stores with the RIGHT specials.
Obviously not all stores are created equal. Maybe there ARE some stores out there that essentially try to peddle garbage, but don’t let that stop you from second-hand shopping. Keep searching. Ask around. Use Google. Drive around new shopping centers. My thrift stores came to me through foot work and questioning comrades, and I could not be more thrilled with the places that have become my regular haunts as they often boast tag or bag sale days every week!

4. Make your lists and your budgets.
Before you go, make a list of what you need and how much you’re willing to spend. Very often, you will spend far less than the budget you set up for yourself, but you should still set a budget nonetheless. Before I got a new job this year, I made a list of workplace items I needed in order to keep the blinders on and get ONLY what I needed. The best part about thrifting is that I ended up finding FIVE of everything I needed for the cost of less than ONE!

5. Ensure you have a partner piece (or five) at home if you see something not originally on your list or within your budget.
Let’s be real: we all see that one item we don’t need, but would give a toe or three to have. When you are thrifting and see one of these items, you have a lot more freedom in your wallet area to dare to try it on. OF COURSE it will look awesome, so you’ll have to buy it. STOP! Before you get out of that dressing room, MAKE SURE you have, at the very least, ONE WHOLE (and comfortable) OUTFIT you can create with the new item using something you already own. Bonus if you have more than one item you can pair with it, especially if you can make it work-friendly!

5. Don’t solely seek name brands.
Don’t go into a store looking for only Banana Republic or Valentino (yes, Valentino can be found at consignment stores). You’ll very often miss beautiful, high-quality staples that you could potentially utilize for years, all in the name of being a label queen. I have go-to brands I do look for because I know they fit me perfectly, but I WILL stop at that Mossimo shirt while I’m poking through racks if it catches my eye!

6. That being said, quite the handful of name brands are higher quality, and if you are willing to dig, they are ABUNDANT.
I will be honest: brands like J.Crew, Calvin Klein, Anthro, and more really do spring for higher quality fabrics and hems. If you can find a pair of CK jeans for $2.99 like I have, GO FOR IT! They will last forever and ever, amen.

7. Take care of your garments.***
I cannot stress this enough. People very often make fun of me because I hand wash baskets of clothes until my hands are red and my arms are aching, but my favorite silk pieces and high-quality dresses still look brand new because of it! Follow the directions on your clothes. If there are none because someone has ripped out the care tag, look up phrases like “How to care for cashmere,” etc. Yes, this does take time, but you know what else it does? Saves you money, and saves the item of clothing that makes you feel truly confident, sexy, and beautiful whenever you slide it on. Spending a bit on a tailor or a local, green dry cleaner is worth it now and then for those items you can imagine keeping around for a decade. Invest in a good iron and steamer, too! It’s like your body: choose to take care of it now for the long haul, or replace it with cheap synthetics every year or three until you die. YOUR CHOICE!

8. Bask in the glory of your beautiful new clothes that cost you 90% less than original price.
Seriously. I just bought a pair of wide-leg elevenses by Anthropologie pants for $9. They still had the remnants of a tag on them, aka NOT WORN MUCH IF AT ALL!! I came home and did my research. Do you know how much they run? Between $118-$128 dollars.

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THE PLEATS! Aren’t they to die?

Do yourself (and your wallet) a favor and explore the world of thrifting!

Any readers have any tips I missed or simply to add? Comment below!

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