Brought to you in partnership with National Thrift Week
For many women, the idea of popping into a vintage store and coming out with an amazing, low-cost find is amazing. But once we arrive, the thrill of the hunt is often exchanged with panic and the possibility of surfacing with a wearable treasure in hands seems more like a miracle than simply an art. And yet, we all have that friend who possesses the “magic eye” for seeing the possibility in a seemingly abysmal crate of old scarves. How does she do it?
In an effort to demystify the “eye” for thrift, we tapped the experts—talented, relatable fashion stylists and bloggers—who’ve picked up a few tips over the years and keep these tricks up their sleeves for thrifty shopping. It seems patience and having a plan are two tell-tale themes to remember!
ALEX EVJEN//AVE STYLES
01. Have a plan before you go.
Even as a stylist (and one who loves to shop), thrifting can be an overwhelming because nothing is organized by color or year. At best, you will find clothing racks sorted by type, such as dresses, skirts, or tops. When I decide to venture out, I usually have something very specific in mind, which can make the process much more enjoyable, even thrilling! It's also helpful to have your shopping list because you can ask the store owner if they have the specific items you're looking for before you go.
02. Bring cash.
Too many times I have made the mistake of stopping by a thrift shop on a whim, finding something I love, and not being able to purchase it because the store is cash only. I've even had to go as far as leave the store, find an ATM, and then come back because I didn't want someone to take the item. Paying in cash also helps with price negotiations because you can honestly say, "All I have is ___." Store owners are often willing to sell less than the marked price just because they need room for more inventory.
03. Avoid the weekends.
Everyone goes thrifting on the weekends, and in most instances, the store is picked over by the time you get there. Many shops replenish their stores on Wednesdays and Thursdays when the traffic is slower. If you go on those days, you won't have to worry about enough elbow room and you can get first pick of what is available.
ANNA LIESEMEYER//IN HONOR OF DESIGN
01. Don't give up too quickly.
You may come across 10 unappealing items and write off the whole rack, but if you keep at it, you are bound to find the gem in the sea. Believe there is something grand awaiting you, and chances are you will find something spectacular!
02. Think outside of context.
It is easy to get stuck inside those thrift store walls and have difficulty visualizing how the pieces can work to your benefit. If you take a moment to think through the different ways you can wear a piece with what you already have in your closet, you are more likely to see it in a new light. That oversized sweater just might work perfectly with the distressed skinny jeans you recently bought.
03. Check all the size racks.
With as much traffic as thrift stores receive, often times sizes are mixed up on the racks. I have found some great pieces in the wrong size sections! So take a little time to scan the bigger or smaller sizes as well.
BRYNN WATKINS//BEING ELLIOTT
01. Know what you want before you go.
Knowing what you're looking for makes all the difference. Look at Pinterest and page through magazines you love to get a sense of what clothing items or accessories you are looking for. Print those pictures and take them with you as your "wish list" references.
02. Beeline to dresses and shoes.
Dresses are a fun, one-stop-shop—they're a whole outfit in themselves, so go for them first. Shoes are also an overlooked hot spot at the thrift shop. Be sure to hit these areas first to get a guaranteed bang for your buck. Check out those labels for quality brands and sturdy items.
03. Small-town thrift is the best.
If you ever find yourself in a small town, look for a thrift store. I have found trendy items are more readily available in small towns because the store is less picked over. And usually more reasonably priced than in the city!
MELANIE KLUGER//HEAD OVER HEELS WITH MELANIE
01. Be patient.
Vintage shopping is like finding a diamond in the rough. Go in with the mindset that it’s going to take time and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience.
02. Ignore sizes.
Sizing has drastically changed over time. If you are in a vintage store and see something you love, but the label says it isn’t your size, try it anyway! Also, don’t take it to heart if it doesn’t fit perfectly—it can always be altered or be a great gift for someone else. Skirts and pants are usually easier to tailor, while altering a sweater or blouse that has delicate material can be more challenging. Clothing items that have a lot of seams are usually a good bet if you're wondering whether or not to salvage!
03. Revel in the imperfections.
In my opinion, vintage clothes are more interesting when they have some wear (and love) to them. It means they have interesting stories, and I like the idea of wearing something that has already played a part in someone’s life. Of course, there is a fine line between minor wear-and-tear and falling apart. If a garment has body odor, is stretched out in places that you can’t easily alter, or is ripped in a crucial spot, keep looking!
This article was produced for National Bring Back Thrift Week, a movement to encourage thriftiness in America. National Thrift Week begins each year on January 17, in honor of the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, the “American apostle of thrift.” You can find out more about NBBTW on their website or Facebook page.
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