By Colleen King
Whether you are a studying, hanging with friends, or heading to an important job interview, looking your best while staying fashionable is always a priority. While you may not have the big bucks it takes to clean the racks at those big brand stores, secondhand shopping can offer up some surprisingly quality looks for any occasion. Thrifting can seem like sifting through a stranger’s closet to the un-initiated, but with these few hot tips it’ll feel more like you are panning for gold.
While you can find gems in any category if you look hard enough, there are a few awesome things you can almost bet finding at thrift stores. Best quality accessories are hats and belts. Many hats and belts are donated after NEVER being worn (and the same goes for workout clothes). Best quality for tops is professional separates (especially blazers). Dress for Success! Also, remember to always bring your smart phone with you to Google a label and find out where the brand is typically sold and its retail price.
WHEN TO SHOP
Ask the staff at your favorite thrift store what day of the week they switch inventory. At cheap prices, the coolest stuff gets snatched up pretty quickly. Good thrifters know their store schedule. ALSO, shop for off-season and change-of-season looks. When all the fall looks come out, buy summer stuff. The price point tends to be cheaper for all off-season items, and hey, it’s Louisiana — you never know how the weather may change.
Bring a friend! Some thrift stores don’t have the best lighting or mirrors, so bring a friend with you for a second dressing-room opinion. Another great idea is to take photos and post your possibilities to social media; chances are you’ll get some good feedback. It’s also super important to look up vintage sizes if you are shopping through the eras. And most importantly, don’t get down on yourself about sizing… remember all labels are different!
CLEANING AND REPAIRING
While stains are harder to get out, wrinkles, lint, and general scruffiness can be taken care of with little effort. If you thrift regularly, a handheld steamer is a great investment for dry-clean only pieces. And… POLISH SHOES, PEOPLE! The long-lost art of shoe polishing can revive a pair of tired boots to the max. Also, if you score a find that is a good price but slightly too big, get it professionally tailored. You’ll still end up with a gorgeous garment for a percentage of the cost.
Don’t EVER stick to the gender, age, or size categories. Always look for colors, patterns, and fabrics that you are drawn to first. If something doesn’t fit, sometimes the fix is as easy as a belt or minor alterations. This rule is best for tops and dresses, but works for some pants as well. Keep an open mind, and remember: the oversize-fitting style is in!
BUGDET TIME AND MONEY
Go in with an idea of what you are willing to spend. While most pro-thrifters encourage patience, we say — DON’T spend too much time at the store. Follow your instincts and budget yourself. Two hours can easily push you over-budget, even at the lowest prices. Be specific in your choices.
Beware items with beads and rhinestones. While these look great on the rack and you might find an item with little-to-no beads missing, there is a high likelihood that one of those little dazzlers will fall off quickly. Inspect carefully and approach with caution. Also, look for stains. Stains are the hardest things to fix about a garment, so keep your eyes peeled. If it’s on a thrift store rack, that stain will have likely set months ago.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Will I wear this in one week? Will I wear this in the next month? How much would I pay per diem to wear this? Will I wear it multiple times? Do I like this better than one item already in my closet? A good idea to keep your closet in tact is the old “out with the old, in with the new.” For every new item you bring home, get rid of an item that is currently in your closet.
FIND OUT WHERE THE MONEY GOES
Ask the staff at your favorite local thrift store where the money for your purchase will go. Many thrift stores donate all profits to feeding the homeless or other worthy causes. Find those stores that benefit charities, organizations, and causes that are important to you.
Inquire about student discounts, coupons, and sales days. Sign up for email lists and join Facebook groups from your favorite thrift stores. You won’t regret it!
Whether you are at a flea market or the local Goodwill, there is a way to find something that can enhance your look for pennies on the typical dollar. And Halloween is right around the corner. Thrifting is a great way to find costumes or items you’ll only wear once. Also, thrifting is a form of recycling, so it’s good for your wallet and for the environment. Now that you have these tips, you are ready to shop smart!