I would estimate that about 85-90% of my wardrobe is thrifted. What started out as an outlet to dress creatively at age 15 became the perfect match for my frugal lifestyle. In this next installment of How to Fleurish, I will walk you through my guide to thrifting!
Before we dive in, let’s discuss the difference between consignment and thrift. Have you tried buying secondhand at a shop like Buffalo Exchange only to be discouraged by the price point? Me too. What I learned early on was the distinction between a consignment shop and a thrift store. The former is often stocked with gently-loved pieces that have either been sold to the shop or exchanged for credit. The buyers at such establishments will look through what you bring in and assess it for relevancy and value. If you are solely looking for brand name vintage or an unique acid-wash jumpsuit that’s so bad it’s good, this might be the way to go. If you’re a little more open and just want something that’s quirky and/or inexpensive, I would consult the thrift shops. These are typically donation based and the items will often have a set price based on category. Occasionally, you will encounter designer gems at thrift stores and they will cost a little more than the average item…but it’s a steal nonetheless.
With that in mind, let’s prepare to conquer the thrift store. Here’s what you will need: time, money, an open mind, and hand sanitizer…if you think people always wash the clothes before they donate them, think again.
Rule 1: Before you go, decide your game plan: are you looking for just outerwear or work clothes? Or is it a free-for-all? For me, it’s often the latter. If you’ve got the time, keep your options open.
Rule 2: Once you arrive, take note of what items are doubly discounted. The clothes are already inexpensive but many secondhand stores will offer special deals on certain days. Veterans of Goodwill know that each item is tagged in a different color and if you’re lucky, you will pick up one with a 50% off color for that week.
Rule 3: Don’t limit yourself to shopping in just the women’s section. One, you’d be surprised what gets placed in the “wrong” section. Two, I believe that if you like it, wear it. And this goes for people across the gender spectrum…if you identify as a woman, an item of clothing becomes womenswear when you put it on. It’s that simple.
Rule 4: Thoroughly look through each aisle. The clothes are often packed tightly on the racks, so there might be some gems hidden between the schoolteacher vests and the power suits (and if that’s what you came for, that’s cool too!). I once found a pair of red ACNE jeans at my regular, degular Value Village…they were a steal. Again, if you’ve got the time, take advantage of it.
Rule 5: Check what you’re buying for missing buttons, stains, and rips. Buttons are often the easiest to fix…unless you pick up something with 3 oblong-shaped wooden buttons when there should be 5, hence making it hard to replace. But when it comes to stains and rips, you definitely want to take note before you shell out $10.49 on that Liz Claiborne blazer. Speaking of, anyone else ever notice that thrift shops often have an abundance of Liz Claiborne pieces? I’ll never forget the postcard romper of hers that I had in high school, but I digress. If you have the skills to repair clothing, then imperfections might not be an issue for you.
Rule 6: Take note of what could work with minor alterations. Let’s say you come across a beautiful Vivienne Westwood blouse that is mispriced; as a vintage lover you might know its value better than the average shopper. Problem is, the sleeves are just a little too long for you. If you or someone you know is good at tailoring, this could be a good opportunity to flex those skills. Don’t pass this up.
Rule 7: Into DIY? Buying clothes second-hand is the perfect chance to make your clothes your own. Back in high school, when ripped jeans were all the rage, I couldn’t fathom spending too much on a pair of pre-ripped jeans (nor did I have the funds). So you know what I’d do? Scour the jeans section for the wash and fit that I was looking for, take them home and get to distressing with a cheese grater and scissors.
Rule 8: Unsure if you’ve fully heeded the lessons of rules 2-7? Revisit the steps as the apply. Make sure you really want you’ve picked up before checking out because most thrift stores have a no exchange/return policy.
Rule 9: Now that you have taken of stock of each item’s condition and potential, it’s time to head to the checkout counter. Be amazed at how the prices drop when you get that double discount. Walk out happily with the new clothes you acquired and all the money you saved.
Rule 10: Wash and sage the clothes. From a hygenic standpoint, you have no idea how often the previous owner of those jeans washed them and you do not want to risk getting scabies. It’s not always that deep, but still exercise caution.
The next part is optional. From a spiritual standpoint, our possessions carry our energy and you have no idea what the previous owner of said jeans was about. Remove their entity from them ASAP by performing the energy removal ritual that works for you; I burn either sage or palo santo. Make both this process and the clothes your own.
Rule 9: Rock your newly-found but gently-loved clothes in style! Are we thinking an all-thrifted look or a mix of old and new? Do you.
Rule 10: Repeat!
Thrifting requires patience but I believe in you. Follow these steps each time and remember that the spontaneity and unpredictability of what you may find makes the process all the more fun!