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Feb 20

“I’m gonna pop some tags, only got $20 in my pocket….”

“I wear your granddad’s clothes
I look incredible
I’m in this big ass coat
From that thrift shop down the road”

-‘Thrift Shop’ – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Video lyrics include profanity, not safe for work)

I’ll admit that, a few years ago, there were an AWFUL lot of polo shirts and jeans in my closet.  When I started working in a university theatre department, I decided that I needed to up my game to distinguish myself from the students we worked with.  Over the past few years I’ve developed a personal style that I like to call “art teacher chic” – a hybrid of classic, retro, and modern style.  And I’ve done it on the cheap – Goodwill, secondhand stores, and thrift shops are my new fashion BFF.

What are the tricks to thrifting?  Well, it’s not complicated.

1. Find a store – Thrift store databases like thethriftshopper.com help you find stores near you.  We generally know about Goodwill, Salvation Army, Morgan Memorial – but database sites like this also list the independent stores that may have a more interesting selection of vintage clothing.   My favorite vintage piece – a 1970’s men’s polyester shirt with spaceships and planets printed all over – came from a shop that is known for it’s vintage furniture, rather than it’s clothing.  Don’t be afraid to explore!

Also – it’s been my experience that resale stores in more affluent areas tend to have a higher percentage of brand-name clothes.  Head into the ritzy parts of town to get the most bang for your thrifting buck!

2. Know your body – What sort of clothes make you feel good?  What shapes flatter your figure?  There are plenty of fashion blogs out there that discuss how to dress for your shape.  This Real Simple article is a good overview. Do some research and figure out what looks great on you, and use that knowledge when you go shopping.  Easy peasy!

3. Bring a friend!  Not just any friend – one who knows you well, knows your shopping goals, and will be constructively critical when you step out of the dressing room.  Having a second pair of eyes to help you decide if that black pencil skirt is right for you is invaluable.

4. Bring cash – Leave the house with a set budget, and bring cash.  Many thrift stores don’t accept debit cards, credit cards, or even checks.

5. Look over the items carefully – Are there holes, tears, stains?  Is it something that is reparable?  Is it worth the cost of repair?  Some items are worth a little investment – and some aren’t.

7. Don’t be afraid to tailor – As modern folk, we forget the importance of tailoring. You can avoid binding and muffin top by buying something that fits your largest measurement (for me, it’s my hips) and getting the rest tailored to fit. I almost always have to take in my waistbands and get skirts hemmed. The cost is minimal ($10-$15 in my area), and if you’re investing in good, classic pieces, it’s worth it. Even basics like a good pair of jeans can be tailored.

8. Know your brands – It’s not uncommon to find high-end designer clothes in thrift shops.  Don’t buy that Wal-Mart t-shirt for $3 used when you could get it for $5 new – but DO invest in that classic Ann Taylor pencil skirt, which will last you a lifetime with proper care!

9. Bring a bag – Many thrift stores don’t have shopping baskets, and carrying all that stuff can be heavy.  Bring a reusable shopping bag to tote around your options.

10. Start big, end small – Thrift stores can be large, unorganized, and a little confusing.  If you see something that you think MIGHT work – pick it up.  It’s better to go into the dressing room with a lot of options and whittle down your choices to the best pieces, than to go in with just a few pieces and then try to go back and find that skirt you saw 20 minutes ago.

Having a great closet of clothes doesn’t have to cost a fortune – and thrifting is a great way to express your personal style.  Happy shopping!

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