Thrift Store Fabulous

Jun 20, 2018 | Beauty and Style | 10 comments

We’ve all got signature moves right? You can probably make chocolate chip cookies (I can’t make them 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. 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 its 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.


This year’s Easter ensemble. In the spirit of Coco, Diana and Kate. Found this suit at a local resale shop. Adolfo from Sax 5th Avenue. Ten bucks. Perfect fit. With opera length pearls gathered at garage sales over the years and Nine West snakeskin pumps from another resale shop I found six years ago. $10.   Still unpacking moving boxes there in the background but wanting to feel pretty for Easter!  And no judging on these photos yo!   Selfies in dirty, de-silvered mirrors are what they are:)   You should see this jacket with skinny jeans and heals… I don’t care if it would be more trendy to wear big designer tennis shoes… I still love that old Liz Hurely look of a jacket with skinny jeans and pumps darn it!


Ralph Lauren rocking the nautical look. $18. Local thrift. Fun costume bling and Eitienne Aigner shoes from TJ Maxx. $32, years ago.  Everyone needs red shoes.   Just saying.

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!

Seriously, these are the worst photos ever on this blog but I love this story behind this little get up. I grabbed these shots just as dinner party guests were arriving. I had just found the apron and sweater at a local shop and the shoes are the Calvin Klein loafers mentioned at the end of this post. So…. at one point we almost threw in the towel for moving up here to Door County and we had found a home we LOVED in… get this… Versailles, Kentucky. Does is get much more “Parisienne Farmgirl” than “Versailles, Kentucky”???    Thank goodness we ended up finding this home or I’d be a proud resident of “Ver-say-lees” as they say with charm in the South.   When I found this sweater for $18 it had a hand- sewn designer tag on it from VERSAILLES KENTUCKY! Turns out the lady was a local designer. This sweater is GORGEOUS. I did a little research and found the camel colored version had sold at a clothing auction for $180. I paid $18. I found the adorable apron at the same shop. It might be my most favorite piece of clothing of ALL TIME.  I found the bracelet there too.  It TOTALLY MATCHES.   $6.


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:


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 year’s 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 discretionary 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 jewellery. 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 colours, 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.

I’ll confess. I struggled over this one. I didn’t NEED a new dress but it was so gorgeous. So Kate Middleton and so me. I KNEW I would wear this vintage pearl and green necklace with it the second I saw it. $39.99 Ralph Lauren, TJ MAxx. Pearls were a vintage gift from my Mom.


Clearance Calvin Klein dress $24.99 from TJ Maxx and a purse I bought TWENTY years ago, it was vintage then so it’s super vintage now. I found it at a little home accessories store, it features the Place de la Concorde in Paris and was $12. The darn Michael Kors hoops cost more than any of it at $34 and I wear them every day.

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 neighbourhood. And then, while you’re shopping you are going to have to pick up each item and check the label because you’re not only shopping for your fashion personality but you are shopping for the label.

A bold move for me. I never wear tennis shoes but to work out. Brand new Coach that have brought me a WHOLE LOTTA fun this summer. $14 at a local home accessories store.


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 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, by 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 its custom fit and super classic style. On classic days I wear a champagne coloured t-shirt underneath with gold hoop earrings and on bold days I wear a mustard yellow tank with huge yellow chandelier earrings. It works either way.


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.


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 of 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 favourite 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?


No stains, no pilling, no nubbies. Worn out shoes should not be a temptation. You want to look GREAT! Not played out.


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.


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 takes 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.

Dirty door, fabulous sweater. Talbots. Huge, fun, floral. $2.50 Local thrift.


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 selfies 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!

Happy shopping!

Thrift Shop


  1. Sandi

    Awesome post…thrifting I go!

  2. Bobbi Mouzon

    This post is dear to my heart!!!! Did I ever tell you about the Bob Mackie cocktail dress that I found in Goodwill a few years ago? Perfect condition, not a bead missing, and I got it for $25!!! I’ve seen it on Ebay and similar places now for $1250!!! I have been wearing 2nd hand clothing all my life, starting with hand me downs from a “rich” cousin…nothing like it!!!!

  3. Lisa

    I love my consignment/thrift shops! I’ve lost 35 lbs over the last several months and have re-vamped my wardrobe for next to nothing. I used Pinterest as my inspiration and I’m trying the “capsule wardrobe” idea. My best find so far was a navy blue linen double breasted Talbot’s blazer. It was a steal at $3. When I checked out the lady said “Oh, we’ve had this a while – how does .75 cents sound to you?” I happily paid her and put the difference in the donation jar!

  4. Jillbert

    I am a big time thrifter. My 17 yo daughter has been completely indoctrinated in thrift too! We’re having so much fun curating her wardrobe for when she leaves for college this fall. She’s aiming for a slightly preppy, ivy-league look and, dang, if we’re not finding it one quality piece at a time!

  5. Nita Hiltner

    When my kids were little, all our extra money went to them. Now that I am a grandma, all my extra money goes to them. Like tomorrow is a movie for them at a $60 cost. I used to be a clothes hog in college and was into clothes and hair. I was soooo stylish. But those days are gone, and I do my best in the cheap stores. It helps I live in a horse town and no one dresses up, but it would also help if I were the same size as in college, but that ain’t ever gonna happen. You look marvelous and have the best taste in the world. I wish I were you.

  6. Rose

    You look fabulous and classy Angela! Miss you girl! I love thrift shops 🙂

  7. Georgeann

    Girl….you are rockin the thrifty style! I really like the sweater you scored…bingo on the front row! I am a preschool teacher and I have found Fisher Price playsets for my classroom for next to nothing. Thank you for the reminder to look for clothes at thrift stores in my area. It’s like a glamped up garage sale…in air conditioning ❤️

  8. Suzan

    Was in Sister Bay this week and was so tempted to contact you for directions and super short Howdy, also, for an autograph of your book that I received for my May birthday. Friends encourage me to contact you, but you just seem so busy. Sorry I didn’t. Next year for sure. We rented a house on Parkview St. Right by Yacht Club. See you next year. Enjoyed the free concert by Radio Free Honduras, so might plan trip around them if they return. Just warning you!!!

  9. Suzan Cullinan

    I just returned from Sister bay and earlier this year, you said to contact you for directions to your house. Then for my May birthday, my mom bought me your cookbook. Friends said I should contact you and get the book signed, but I just couldn’t bother you. Now I regret not meeting you on this perfect family vacation I planned. Will definitely come back to same rental house near the Yacht Club on Parkview St . next year. Maybe at the time the free concert band – Radio Free Honduras plays if they return. Enjoyed listening to them from the front porch swing. Go Door County and Reed family!!

  10. Anne-Marie Cartier

    Love Love …I am envying that purse…crazy!!! and I’m not even a purse person. Now everything I own is from Thrift Stores. I have some beautiful pieces, designer and not designer but just adorable. All my gym gear …yep Thrift stores. So many items are new and you can tell they have never been worn. I know a lot of people won’t buy shoes at Thrift stores…I do…I love some of the older styles, kitten heels and expensive shoes from Italy, France, Spain…for 10 to 12$. …boots, sandals. I refuse to pay the outrageous prices, plus, the landfills are full of clothing that people just toss..that really upsets me. Thanks again Angela for putting this out there and making people aware of the great finds in Thrift stores, not just clothing but home décor, linens and kitchen items. Love your blog x


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