I Wear Your Granddad's Clothes, I Look Incredible: Thifting in Gambier

Long before Macklemore’s hit track, “Thrift Shop,” my mom was scouring the local second-hand shops for the best deals. In a six person family, and one person with a full time job, shopping at Goodwill and the Salvation Army was a necessity, not a trend. In more recent years, it seems, getting a good price or finding a unique item is a hot topic among young people. Spending my own money on clothes, I am more often than not drawn to second hand shops and trades with friends.

With the Barn Owl selling clothes every week beside Wiggin Street, the Free Store and Rummage Sale, and the newly created Kenyon Thrift Page, Gambier is somewhat of a mecca of second-hand goods. Having been a lifelong thrifter, I’ve learned a thing or two about a shopping. Today, I’ll break it down for you, so you can make the most of your shopping experience.

Each of the items I will be showing you were purchased right here in Gambier. That’s right, folks. You don’t have to even leave the hill to upgrade your wardrobe! Here are a few tips on how to make the most out of thrift-shopping.



Jeans and skirts are what I most frequently thrift. In fact, almost all of my bottoms, with the exclusion of any leggings, have been bought second-hand.

Denim is a hugely popular thrift store item. You can often get name-brand jeans for incredibly low prices. If they look good and they’ve previously been owned, chances are they’ve very well made. I exclusively buy denim at thrift stores for this reason and the fact that jeans tend to be overpriced at department stores.

Look for a pair of jeans that fit well, and seem to be well made. If they already have a hole in them, chances are, they’re not the best or they’ve been a little too well loved. The fabric is very important. If the piece isn’t for special occasions, cotton and denim are two fabrics that will stand the test of time (leather also falls into this!).

Both of these skirts were gently used (one came with tags, which is a huge bonus!), although the overalls were repaired, they’re an item I knew I wouldn’t wear daily and could get away with the worn-in look.

Overalls, Levi’s, purchased via Kenyon Thrift

Skirt, American Rag, Kenyon Thrift

Skirt, Sonoma, The Barn Owl



While there are a million cool and funny tees at Goodwill, I recommend buying heavier items, like sweaters, secondhand. Dress shirts are also great. I double-check that the buttons haven’t been resewn on- this is a good sign it’s a little too worn to wear.

Both of these pieces were in great shape, and the sweater, which I have worn countless times since I purchased, has stood the test of time, truly.

Sweater, Brand Unknown,  Rummage Sale

Paisley Top, Body Central, The Barn Owl



Dresses are often a hard thing to thrift, I’ve found. If you need a special occasion dress, it can be difficult to find one secondhand under a time constraint, but if you find one you look great in, and you think you have a place or time to wear it, I suggest snagging it. However, if you only want it for aesthetics and have no reason for the purchase, leave it for someone else. I got this great dress via Kenyon Thrift, and because of the stretchy fabric and subdued color, I can dress it up or down. Versatility is key when thrifting.

Dress, Sparkle & Fade, Kenyon Thrift



This is my favorite thing to buy. I actually own three thrifted denim jackets which I wear as much as possible. When shopping for outerwear, it’s always important to keep in mind what you’ll be wearing underneath, and how you like to style your jacket. If you want to wear the jacket over things like sweaters, but it only fits over a t-shirt, it might not be a great fit. Also, if you like to button up, but the jacket doesn’t fit across your chest, I wouldn’t waste money on it. As far as jackets and coats, I would err on the side of bigger, within reason (you don’t want to be drowning in your clothes, but you also don’t want them to cut off your circulation.) In the case of this great find from The Barn Owl, I loved the worn-in feel and the customization the previous owner did.

White jacket, The Barn Owl


More than anything else, fit is incredibly important for shoe-shopping, as it’s not easy to get shoes to shrink or expand. If you need special occasion shoes, try getting them second-hand, because often people only wear a pair of heels a few times before donating them. I got these high heels for a great price, and they had only been worn once! I’ve worn them a few times since I got them, so I feel great about the purchase.

High Heels, Gomax, Kenyon Thrift



This can be a tricky category. While Goodwill often carries some great, cheap sunglasses, other accessories can be a little harder to decide on.  Bags, scarves, and jewelry can be unorganized or outdated. I found this great ring from the Barn Owl, which fits my fingers well and I’ve come to love dearly. This is a great example of finding unique items which you might not otherwise pick up anywhere else.

Ring, Brand Unknown?, The Barn Owl


Other Things

I think Goodwill is a great place to get cool, unique decorations and kitchenware. I got a great Mirror at the Rummage sale, and even got a free mug from the Barn Owl! Also, be sure to look around for all student emails about people getting rid of items. This is a good place to snag a rug or decor for your room.


Overall, I suggest going with good, lasting materials, and things which have been taken good care of by the previous owner. Happy Thrifting, Friends!


Image credits: Feature, 1, Reagan Neviska