Friday, September 19, 2008


I have come to conclude that big thrift stores (Value Village, Salvation Army, Goodwill) are the best places in the world to shop. Here is why: with any other kind of clothing store, your options, your creativity, your decisions, are limited to what the store has decided is worth selling. At a thrift store, anything wearable is sellable. That means that there is no one trying to influence your decision. As long as you are brave, you can wear anything.

Also, it is cheap and cheap=good for students, my friends.

I am also, it should be generally declared, an expert at thrifting. So here are some good rules for thrifty people that I have conjured up in my long beautiful hours at the local Value Village:

1. Move fast. If you want to come up with good finds, you basically have to go through EVERYTHING. That means you have to enter the thrift store with fire in your eyes, scattering people as you come. Move three hangers at a time through every section of clothing in your size; you don't have to look at everything individually. You should be able to tell whether something is worth looking more closely at by the fabric. If the fabric is ugly, or cheap-looking, skip over it. If you have time at the end, before the thrift store closes or you have to go, you can browse idly through the vinyl, housewares, etc, but if you want to find good clothes you need to be able to see everything.
2. If you think something might be worth trying on but aren't sure if it is dorky YOU MUST TRY IT ON. If nothing else, consider it a purging of the last remnants of fashion dependency; you're used to people telling you what to wear even if you are the kind of person who ignores it, but at a thrift store, your own judgement isn't even affected by the desire to be fashion-contrary.
Note: Another nice thing about thrift stores is that, in browsing through a hundred ugly, odd, and dated clothing items, your mind gets all washed clean. You forget what everybody has decided is fashionable. All you can remember is what you like, because that's part of you.
3. However: if it is shabby, stained, or damaged in any way, you may not try it on. Because you're buying used, you run the risk of looking shabby if you don't commit to only buying perfect clothes. Also, unless you're adept with a needle and never procrastinate, don't buy something that you think you can alter. You will probably decide it isn't worth it.
4. Ignore the changeroom rules if at all possible. Collect as many items as possible, and take them all in at once. One thing that must be understood about thrifting is that, because of the diversity in sizings, 95% of what you take into the changeroom won't work. It will fit wrong. What you need to do is bring enough so that other 5% still gives you some nice options.
5. Limit what you buy. Because thrift stores are so cheap, it can be tempting to buy everything that fits. I usually only let myself buy one thing, though, because odds are, I'm blinded by the low price, nice fabric, etc, of some of my finds, into thinking they're nicer than they are. By only letting myself choose one, I force myself to be more objective.
6. Dresses are the easiest thing to thrift. Guys' clothes are the hardest. I only let boys come along with me on the rarest of occasions, and then I dedicate myself to finding awesomeness for them, because otherwise they get totally jaded with the whole experience. That's not really a rule. Oh, well.

Good thrifting fortune to you.


The Queen of Fifty Cents said...

Really good rules! I usually buy clothes at garage sales rather than thrift stores, so can't try them on. A tape measure is a handy thrifting tool. Sometimes I end up with stuff I can't use, but I rarely pay more than a dollar or two for anything. My expenditures for clothing so far this year is under $40 for me and my husband--and that includes cashmere sweaters and designer items. Love thrifting!

Tala Azar said...

i have had so many bad thrifting experiences. i ALWAYS buy things that i think i will like but never do at home. i haven't spent enough time thrifting to become an expert.

thanks for the rules. i follow #1, 2, and 4. but i buy things that don't fit perfectly, and that i'm not sure about, because they're cheap. must learn must learn...

Tala Azar said...

p.s. my favourite stores are super expensive vintage stores. i can never afford anything but i love everything in them. fortunately, i am only let loose in such stores when i am in other cities, and at such times spending money is fun and a way to build memories. *brainwashes self*

Lady_V said...

I lovelovelove(!!!!) vintage stores.

My latest vintage finds have been a pair sunglasses for 99 cents and a briefcase that I've been using as a school bag for 2 dollars.

Oberon said...

.....thrift stores.....i had to give it up.

Janie Gleason said...

@ Tala-- those very vintage stores you mention were the ones I was making jabs at in my first paragraph. The ones that call themselves 'indie' are even worse. I feel stifled by a heavy hand of WE ARE DECREEING WHAT YOU SHOULD WEAR.

Unless you're talking about the ones that are so vintage they're practically costume stores. Then they're cool.

@ Oberon- What?! Why!?