In high school I beheld the title of Girl-Who-Gets-All-Her-Clothing-From-Thrift-Stores-Or-From-Her-Grandma’s-Closet. My style savvy peers cringed at such a title, but I was proud of my reign. It seemed that everyone around me was purchasing the latest Jeffrey Campbells or Nasty Gal boots, and as a high school babysitter earning a meek pay of $8.25 per hour, I decided that it wasn’t worth paying a lofty price of $200 for a pair of studded platforms that weren’t even that cute in the first place. Without further ado, I hopped in the car and headed to the Heaven of Hand-Me-Downs: Goodwill. Here are my tried-and-true tricks for making the best of your thrifting thumb.
Tip #1: Keep Your Eye on the Prize.
Often I find myself going into Goodwill in search of a pair of heels and end up browsing the entire dress collection instead. Not only is this a huge waste of time, but it also distracts me from finding the item I initially desired to find. Before entering the ominous realms of Thriftdom, make a list of 3 or 4 items you want to find (ex. high-waisted jeans, black sleeveless top, pointed ballet flats). Now that you have your list, make a beeline to the store’s shoe, skirt, or denim department and blind yourself from distractions around the store. That lacy white crop top in the corner? Forget about it. Once you let yourself dawdle, you’ll never end up finding what you really want.
Tip #2: Dress For the Event.
Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes in a Salvation Army knows that dressing rooms are scarce in the land of Thrift. You’re lucky if the store has more than two dressing rooms because, despite the 3-item limit, customers often drag in piles of clothes, leaving you waiting for what seems like years. Before you set foot into second-hand stores be sure to wear clothing that is easily removable to ensure a speedy-quick change. I wear lose-fitted dresses because they are so handy when it comes to making lightning-fast changes in the dressing room. Leggings and a fitted top make changing chop-chop because you don’t even have to change-simply pull on that sheer blouse or that denim button-up and you’re good to go.
Tip #3: It’s a Boy’s Life.
When you want to find a pair of high-waisted shorts, don’t gallop over to the Women’s shorts department. Rather, head on over to the men’s jeans. Men’s jeans are easily worn high-waisted (due to their baggy style) and can be cut to whatever length your heart desires. Other hidden jewels can be unearthed in the boy’s denim and the men’s jacket departments. Boy’s denim is often made with a high-waist, and men’s jean jackets can be made into denim vests with the snip of a pair of scissors. If you’re into the girly grunge look (a la Effy Stonem from UK television hit “Skins”), rake through the plethora of men’s t-shirts for a Nirvana tee and cut off the sleeves. Style as a dress with crochet-patterned tights and leather boots for a 90’s style grunge look Winona Ryder would die for.
Tip #4: No Pain No Gain.
If you expect to find something within twenty minutes of searching, you’re sorely mistaken. I spend two hours raking through the racks of old denim and blouses and I’m lucky if I come out with an item I actually like. To say that thrifting is speedy isn’t exactly true (if you’ve found a faster way to do it by all means tell me your secrets), but you WILL find a gem or two if you stick to it. Thrift stores are messy and unorganized, and sometimes discarded treasures are left in dressing rooms or stuffed into a forgotten corner.
Tip #5: Love It Or Leave It.
That dreaded decision. Yes, that one. The moment you have to choose- to buy the leather thigh-highs or not? They’re so bold and totally in right now. Okay they’re “cool” but will you really wear them? Don’t purchase anything you know will only be gathering dust in your closet. The knitted Christmas sweater is so “indie” but if it just turns into a chew toy for Fido it’s not worth it.
So there you have it- my top five tips for surviving second-hand stores. Now that you’ve become an expert, pull yourself up by the boot-straps and get going on thrifting. And when it comes to cleaning out your closet, remember that one collegiette’s trash is another collegiette’s treasure.