We’ve all got signature moves right? You can probably make chocolate chip cookies (I can’t make them to save my LIFE!) but… one of my signature moves is strategic wardrobe improvement by shopping for second hand clothing and Cheap Vintage Clothes at the Thrift Store, Thrift Shop, Resale Boutiques….whatever you like to call them. Dressing for less is possible for sure. Maybe try simply follow my seven easy steps? Seven habits of highly successful thrifters?
You betcha. (I can say “You betcha” now that I live in northern Wisconsin. Membership has it’s privileges.)
Last week the rain clouds had lifted and the sun was shining something fierce and I wanted something new to wear. Darn it, a girl needs something new now and again but with every last dime of my budget going into creating this new farm estate, there are little to no funds for Momma’s wardrobe. Have you ever bought toothbrushes, socks and underwear for six kids? I swear, that’s where all my clothing money goes every month!!!
I hopped in the truck and ran to the closest thrift shop, not knowing what I would find. I walked in to find the typical scene; sweet, little old ladies volunteering, people buying hideous used furniture, enough coffee mugs to throw a banquet and the used women’s clothing section… huge and intimidating. Cause that’s what thrift store shopping can be.
Misconceptions about thrift store shopping.
I think so many grown women shy away from thrift store shopping or cheap vintage clothing because they don’t want to end up looking like a flower child. Seriously. We’ve all seen the blogs and magazine articles featuring hideous resale moo-moo dresses turned into “an updated look.” But in the end it’s all dreadful. I’m NOT suggesting that we go into these shops and buy horrible, 1970’s clothing for the sake of being thrifty. Heck no. I’m talking about looking fabulous. Your best!
Can we just talk about the sweater a little more? I had Amélie take some close ups for you. It’s arresting.
So here are seven easy pointers that I use every time and maybe you can too.
1. KNOW YOUR STYLE
I’ve written briefly about this before but I can’t stress it enough. You can’t walk into these shops all willy-nilly like. You have to have some understanding of what you like, what you feel good in and for the love, what’s hanging in your closet already. Knowing your style is going to help you stay on track and seek out those true finds for your wardrobe.
Are you Sporty?
If you’re sporty then you’re going to keep an eye out for great jeans, designer work out apparel, t-shirts that are in pristine condition, tennis shoes that have never been worn, etc.
Are you Romantic?
My romantic friends are going to want to keep their eye’s peeled for things like Laura Ashley, certain Ralph Lauren pieces, quality patterned blouses and dresses, white lace camis, pastel scarves, crisp white blouses with lace detail or pearl buttons, flowing skirts and the like.
Are you Trendy?
Did you jump right on board with this years ripped jeans look? Did you rock your UG boots until they had holes in them? Trendy types don’t dismay. There are some SERIOUS shopaholics out there and recent and current trends DO show up at the thrift shops. My advice to you would be to travel a few towns over if you need to and find an affluent area to do your thrift store shopping. Trendy women with discressionary income buy the latest trends en masse and then bring them straight to the second hand clothing store to move on to the next impulse and this is where you benefit from their appetite for the latest things.
Are you Classic?
This one is my baby. I LOVE a classic style. #replikate. East coast nautical meets Chanel meets Princess Diana meets 1950’s timeless vintage (think Juliette Binoche in Chocolat type vintage). How’s that for a mouthful? Well, that’s me baby. So, when I personally shop second hand clothing I’m looking for things like structured blouses with darts for a feminine fit, quality leather accessories, Chanel style jackets, nautical touches, designer label or classic vintage purses and dramatic but tasteful jewelry. I do keep an eye out for labels like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Anne Klein, Talbots and Coach because I LOVE the way they fit. As a classic, I lean towards mostly solid colors, tons of navy blue and if I do find a print it’s got to be extremely feminine or not fussy at all… like stripes. And I love me some stripes.
Are you all about labels?
Don’t be ashamed. Some people just like labels. I personally like them because they usually mean a bit more quality and that’s really important to me but I know some of you like them as a status symbol and I say, whatever floats your boat. No judgement here. Again, like our trendy friends, I’d advise investing a little time getting to know the resale, thrift shops and second hand clothing shops in the closest affluent neighborhood. And then, while you’re shopping you are going to have to pic up each item and check the label because you’re not only shopping for your fashion personality but you are shopping for the label.
2. KNOW YOUR SIZE/CUT
I know that sounds pretty basic, but I see people wearing the most ILL FITTING clothes and it about kills me. KILLS ME!!!! Jacket cuffs should fall just past the wrist, pants should fit your rear end (no matter how big or small it is), buttons should not pucker open…. you get the picture. IT’S NOT A GOOD DEAL IF IT DOESN’T FIT WELL! I don’t care if you found the cutest “boyfriend jeans”. Try ’em on, look in the mirror, if they hang off your butt cause you don’t have one or they are so tight you can’t sit down or drink a glass of water then they they are NOT the cutest boyfriend jeans. Don’t buy an extra small if you’re a size twelve simply because it’s a great label. That’s not what we are talking about here. In fact, that defeats the purpose. And, on the other side of the spectrum, if something is SLIGHTLY too big AND you have a skilled seamstress, then buy all means buy it, but you’ll need to factor her tailoring fees into the price before you decide if it’s a good deal.
For example: I found a navy and white jacket at TJMaxx five years ago for ten dollars. It was a size 14 and I wear a 6 in jackets/blazers. I took it to my seamstress and we cut the sleeves to a feminine, flattering 3/4 length, took in all the excess fabric in the back and sides and now I have a gorgeous jacket, custom tailored to my figure. Total cost for the tailoring and jacket was $35 and I will wear it for the next ten years at least because of it’s custom fit and super classic style. On classic days I wear a champagne colored t-shirt underneath with gold hoop earrings and on bold days I wear a mustard yellow tank with huge yellow chandelier earrings. It’s works either way.
3. DRESS IN LAYERS
Another pretty basic idea, but trying things on at the thrift store is not always practical. I often wear leggings, a tank top and zipper hoodie to do my thrift shop shopping. When I dress like this to try things on I can go over in the corner of the store with my stash and try pants and skirts on right over the leggings, I can take off the hoody and try a blouse on over my tank… you get the picture. I also bring footie socks so that I can try on dress shoes if needed.
4. KNOW WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE
OK messy Bessy. It’s time to clean out your closet. Or at least tidy it up a bit. My closest takes a beating but I try to give it a tune up once a week. Straighten up those hangers, put the shoes back where they go… Because you’re a grown up. You need to have a real understanding about what’s hanging in there before you go out looking for those perfect pieces. Do you have a pair of trousers that need the perfect blouse? Is that favorite outfit missing the perfect purse? Think about that gaps in your wardrobe and when you go to the second hand clothing store, of course, have fun and look for fun, new and exciting pieces but also use it as a chance to be intentional about your current wardrobe, filling in the gaps to maximize the investment you’ve already made. Savvy?
5. DEMAND QUALITY IN YOUR SECOND HAND CLOTHES
No stains, no pilling, no nubbies. Worn out shoes should not be a temptation. You want to look GREAT! Not played out.
6. FIND THE BEST STORES AND VISIT THEM FREQUENTLY
This is isn’t about buying piles of stuff simply because it’s cheap. This is about strategically building a beautiful wardrobe. Seek out the best stores in your area and remember, they aren’t always strictly used clothing shops. Often you will find great clothing, shoes and purses at the nice used furniture stores as well; those that fashion themselves as a “resale boutique”.
If your Salvation army is rancid and disgusting then don’t go there. This needs to feel fun. Not like a punishment of frugality. Instead, find the hospital resale shop in your area or the cute vintage clothing store.
Talk to the store owner and find out when she gets new items. Establish a rapport with her. I’ve already done this at a shop here in town. I follow her on Instagram, I tag her when I photograph something I’ve purchased and she now knows my style and has let me know when the resalers that sell things I would like typically drop off new items. I scored these BRAND NEW Coach tennis shoes there for $14. I’m still skipping about that one.
Go often, but chances are, if you come home with armloads every time you’re doing it wrong!
Better… not more is a great life mantra.
7. FILL IN THE REST AT TJMaxx
Ok, this is my major strategy here…. I LOVE TJMaxx and that’s how I keep my look current and quality. If I find a beautiful Talbot’s sweater at the thrift store for $2.50 (like I did last week seen in the garden background photo) THEN I can comfortably invest in gorgeous Calvin Klein loafers for $32 from TJ Maxx. It’s a give and take, ebb and flow but with this strategy there is never a reason for me to go to the mall (TORTURE!) or to buy my clothing from the same store as I buy my toilet paper and food. Ahem. Cough cough.
Well, there you have it. Had I the patience to pose for proper photos you’d have some more interesting fodder here but over the last few weeks I’ve grabbed some selfie’s in case I never had time to get dressed again and strike a pose. Totally awkward for me so selfie’s will have to do. I hope you’ve got your car keys in hand ready to head over to the closest thrift shop to see what you can find. Maybe we will run into each other!