Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How to Thrift Shop

I love to thrift shop! From fancy estate sales to thrift stores and garage sales, my heart goes pitter patter searching through racks and rooms for that special find. It comes second nature to me, but in case you're new to the thrifting game, here are a few things you should know:  

Photo courtesy of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Don’t be a snob.
Big deal you’re shopping gently worn clothing. If it’s good quality and you love it, forget any preconceived hang-ups. Buy it, take it home, wash it, wear it, love it. If it looks great on you, what’s the difference?

Do your research.
Research the thrift shops, consignment stores, antique malls, estate sale companies, auction houses and garage sales in your area. In the Toledo area, I enjoy shopping at the following stores, four of which are within 1.5 miles of each other on Reynolds Road:

Take advantage of discount days. 
Sign up for your local thrift stores’ e-newsletters or like them on Facebook to stay up to date on days to shop with discounts. Locally, Savers and Neighborhood Thrift have 30 to 50% off about once a month, which they promote via email and Facebook.   

Time it right.  
If you’re shopping at a store on a discount day or going to an estate sale or garage sale, get there early.  Find out if your favorite second hand shops stock on certain days and go then.  

Be patient and give yourself plenty of time.  
Sifting through rows and rows of stuff takes time. If you don’t mind this, then take your time. If you do, thrift shopping may not be for you. But if you’re still willing, look for colors and shapes that look good on you, check the label to see if it’s a brand you typically shop and try it on. 

Yes, try it on.
Sizes and cuts continually change, so if you find something you like but the size seems a bit off, try it on. Sometimes I'm a size 4, sometimes an 8. If it doesn't fit right, but you still like it, you can have it altered. See more about alterations below.

Shop with something in mind.  
I like to do this because if I don’t, I’ll end up with stuff I don’t need. I often go for work clothes that are more classic in style because they don't drastically change over the years, yet people may grow out of or get tired of older items in their closet. Seriously, there is almost no reason for me to shop for new professional clothing when I can find plenty of business and business casual attire from Loft, Ann Taylor, Talbots and more at Savers.

Other styles and trends are cyclical, meaning they come and go and then return again. For example, denim jackets are at times very popular and then not so much, so they're often found in thrift stores. You can also find great coats (see previous post); leather skirts; button down shirts in chambray, traditional plaids and interesting patterns; retro T-shirts...  I've found fantastic dresses for date nights and weddings and I've tried out trends that I weren't sure were "me," very inexpensively. My most recent on-trend find? A studded black vest for my inner biker/punk.

Also, be sure to check out the accessories, housewares, home decor, furnishings, books...  Take inspiration from Pinterest. Stay tuned for what to thrift shop for this spring in an upcoming post!

Scrutinize each item.
Examine items carefully for holes, tears, stains, too much wear, broken zippers, missing buttons… Some flaws can be repaired for a small cost. If you really like it, it may be well worth it. I find it really easy to drop items off at the tailor. But if you suspect you’ll never do it, don’t buy it. 

Don’t settle. 
Oh, it’s only $2.99, from Express and barely worn? You must buy it! No. Look at each item and ask yourself, “Is it useful or beautiful?” If not, move on! (I try to follow this helpful guideline when shopping at any store and cleaning out my closet.)

Consider altering it. 
If you find something that you almost love – maybe it’s the color, pattern or a particular detail that catches your eye – consider taking it to a tailor, or a friend who can sew, to make it just right. You may find a pair of pants that's a liiiittle too short. Take a look at the hem to see if there’s enough fabric to lengthen the legs. If that cute skirt is a bit too matronly, have it shortened. Or reinvent it completely!

I recommend investing in alterations only if the piece is made of quality fabric that will wash well. Simply tell your tailor what you want, ask questions and depend on his or her expertise. If altering a fantastic find makes it fit perfectly or more unique, then I won’t hesitate. My tailor knows me by name. Hers is Phyllis and she’s at My Shop on Rugby Drive, 3658 Rugby Dr.

Wash your new finds.  
Read the label for laundry instructions. I try to avoid “Dry Clean Only” duds unless I love it or I won’t need to wash it often. Washing can deteriorate clothing, so for my more fragile pieces I only wash when necessary. I send newly acquired, pre-owned pieces with a “Dry Clean Only” label to the dry cleaners. But for subsequent light cleanings, I use Dryel, an at home Dry Cleaning system. Sterilize shoes, jewelry and other items with rubbing alcohol.

Buy something, donate something. 
Make room in your closet and drawers for your new thrifted stuff by donating some of your own gently worn clothing that you don’t enjoy anymore. One item in, one item out.   

Thrifting is good for us and the earth!  
Proceeds of many thrift stores go to charitable organizations and causes and it’s a great way to reduce, reuse and recycle.    

Have fun!

Where are your favorite places to thrift shop? Have you acquired anything exceptional recently? 

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