In the majority of my outfits, I'm wearing at least one thing from a thrift store or consignment shop. I get a lot of comments about my thrift-ability and am often asked how I find so much secondhand. Truth is, it takes some digging! It was a proud moment when a designer I was interviewing last week complimented my coat, an $8 Savers find. For my far-off friends that I can't bring Goodwill shopping with me, I've put together this secondhand "how-to" of ten recessionista-approved tricks I've discovered over the years. Now get out there and make Macklemore proud!
1. Know the difference - You might not know that a thrift store (like Goodwill or Savers) is different than a consignment shop. At thrift stores, clothes are donated, while at consignment shops, the person bringing in the goods gets a cut of what their items sell for. Some places, like Plato's closet, pay up front for people's stuff. Consignment shops usually have higher standards of clothing and can be a little more expensive.
2. Go frequently - Thrift stores can be pretty hit-or-miss, but they get new stock every day, so you have to go often to find the good stuff. Check-out places that are on your way home from work or near your weekly errands, and stop in to browse a few times a month.
3. Look for classics - A wool pencil skirt or tailored blazer from 1993 is going to have the same cut as one on the rack at Macy's right now. Look for things that are timeless and forget what the name on the label is.
4. Find the funk - On the flip side, pick up the things that are a little different, like this South American poncho. After all, you're shopping at a thrift store to find one-of-a-kind items. Then, try it on! That patchwork jacket may look amazing once you put it on, or those acid wash jeans might be as off-putting as they looked on the hanger. You'll never know what will be that gem everyone will talk about until you try!
5. Touch everything - Secondhand stores are often overstuffed, so fingering through everything on the rack is a must. Plus, if anything feels pilled or scratchy, you'll know to pass.
6. Make sure it fits - There have been a few times where I really liked something and couldn't resist the bargain, even though it didn't fit quite right. Bad choice. Sometimes, there's a reason someone donated an item. Plus chances are whatever you're buying has already been stretched or shrunk, so there isn't the same "It'll shrink it in the dryer," or "They'll loosen with wear," excuse you can use at the department store.
7. Sell where you shop - Consignment shops often have regular sellers, and inventory will depend on their ages, styles and even sizes. Check out the options in your town and frequent the one that has the most stuff for you. Then, consign your things! Sure, it's only a few dollars here and there, but that equates to a free sweater or pair of jeans where you're shopping anyway.
8. Want brands? Follow the money - If you want designer or name brand items, take a drive to that more affluent city or part of town. In Connecticut, thrift shops on the gold coast even have a separate section of high end items. No, you won't find Prada for $10, but it'll be a heck of a lot cheaper than at Bendel's and often in next-to-new condition. In the main section, there's a ton of pieces that still have original tags.
9. Be aware - Stores will often have half price or dollar items, noted by the tag's color or section. Ask when you go in about the best deals. That way, you can buy more!
10. Not so new - Sometimes you'll try something on only to discover a big tear or stain. If it's repairable and you still want it, ask for a discount. Secondhand stores don't typically mean to accept things that are damaged, so if you're handy with a needle and thread you can nab a bargain.
Photos by Mackenzie