Here’s the thing about thrift store shopping. One of the BIGGEST components to making an item of clothing appealing, is presentation. I mean, I was talking to a woman who owns a local store and she told me how she and her co worker used to take things off the sale rack that had been sitting in the store for months, put them in the window on the mannequins, and they’d sell…instantly. I have discovered this dynamic working at a second hand store. Often something can sit in the store for so long, but the minute it goes on Instagram, it’s got a waiting list for it. Thrift stores have absolutely ZERO presentation. There are often many amazing treasures hiding in the midst of, well, truly ugly things. Sometimes the “treasures” are even just things that look EXACTLY like that shirt you are thinking about spending $40 at Gap for…but it’s hard to spot because you’re so distracted by that really weird looking cat sweater sitting right next to it. I’ve been cleaning up at thrift stores lately, but I used to loathe thrift store shopping for clothes. I found it gross, frustrating, and very unproductive. Since I’ve had a bit of a turn around in my thrift store “luck” you could say, I thought I’d make a little guide to help you think through your next trip to the Goodwill…or maybe just encourage you to go in the first place!
- Vintage slips. I CANNOT stress this enough you guys…these things are SO versatile even if you DON’T wear funky clothes like I do! First of all, look at any runway photos (think like Ralph Lauren, Gucci…) and you will spot this style. They look very high fashion for a fraction of the price. They are layerable…over things, under things, they make amazing pieces that look a lot like a Free People Intimates piece. You can even put them under a dress (for more coverage obviously) and let the lace stick out the bottom to extend a dress or a skirt. Always check the “lingerie” section for these babies.
- Button down shirts. I was about to buy a few of these, had them in my cart online, and then I realized it…I could get this same thing for less than a quarter of the price at Goodwill. Stripes and gingham are big for spring, and these are plentiful at most thrift stores. Sure you may have to check a couple of times to get the right size, but I found BOTH of those items today for $4.50 a piece. So before you go buying these at J Crew (I get it, their stuff IS amazing so it is worth investing if you know you love their fits!), check your local thrifts shops!
- White tees. I know, you think I’m positively LOCO for suggesting this. Because, like, how can a white tee survive any length of time to make it into a thrift store? Let me tell you how. Go to the MEN’S section, and look at them. You’ll find men’s UNDERSHIRTS that have that oversized, kind of vintage-y feel that you pay like five times the amount to find at Zara. It’s most definitely worth a look.
- Dresses. I find that honestly, the dress section is usually the BEST section in the store. It’s the place you are most likely, it seems, to find GOOD vintage and interesting pieces, and things that you’d pay a lot more for if you were to find them online in a vintage shop. I get it, this is where presentation REALLY comes into play. Often times it’s really hard to spot a great item amongst the bad ones, so you have to pull things out and ask yourself a few key questions. Does it look like something you would see in a magazine/on the runway/in one of your favorite stores? Is it layerable? If you saw this in a cute shop, would you buy it? Honestly, bad presentation can also make things that aren’t that cute appear cuter than they actually are as well…because if something is the best item in the store, of COURSE it looks good! I try to picture things I see in the thrift store on bloggers I love or in a magazine spread, and if that image works, I go with the item. If not, I pass on it.
- Blazers. Thrift stores are usually LOADED with blazers of all kinds and this is a total JACKPOT for this style. I seriously suggest checking a few second hand stores before spending on this style because I’ve gotten the best blazers from there. One was from Anthropologie and the other vintage…so you see what I mean? It’s worth a scan on the racks!
One of the things I’ve learned is that if you are going for a LOOK more than for BRANDS, you’ll do better thrift store shopping in general. Now some of you may live in areas like San Francisco or Malibu where there are a wealth of higher end thrift shops…and that’s a totally different situation. I just know for me, being in an area where the thrift stores are really nice but aren’t “fed” by a lot of high end stores, it’s better to look for things that are vintage or that just have the look I’m going for, than to look for say, Free People items. Once I started looking for “a blue pinstriped button down” (as an example) instead of “designer brands”, I ended up finding SO much better stuff. Let me boil this down for you. If you go OFTEN and with a CREATIVE and OPEN mind, you’ll make out like a bandit most times. There will still be days when you walk away with nothing. But those days will get fewer and fewer!
I scored this vintage slip and this pinstripe top from Goodwill. And when I put them on, I completely felt like I could walk a Ralph Lauren runway. I am in LOVE with this outfit. It feels like menswear meets bohemian sophisticated glamour. The boots are from my amazing bootmaking friend Hillbilly Gypsy Boots and they’re the best ever. The vintage squash blossom is from Classic Rock Couture on Etsy. I put it over skinny jeans to make it a little more casual and since it’s not quite warm enough to go without. But when it does warm up, I’ll be rocking this over some tall boots too!
Okay you guys! Brave those thrift stores! You can DO IT!