Anyone can pop into a second-hand store and buy an acrylic sweater and a pair of mom jeans. But it takes skill to dress well for less. I have a passion for cashmere but a budget for burlap, so I’ve gotten pretty good at hitting the resale shops. With these five tips, you can look like a million bucks after spending only ten.
Know brand names– Knowing what a brand “means” will make it easier to scan the racks. Some names are easy–Justice is for pre-teens, Lane Bryant is plus sizes–but some will be harder to place. Department stores often have several house brands,each of which may be fitted differently. After some practice, you’ll know that some brands just don’t fit you right, even in your size, and you won’t bother to take them to the fitting room.
Take the size on the tag with a grain of salt–A 12 from Talbots might fit the same as a 14 from Walmart or a 10 from Anne Taylor. Vintage sizing will be even more confusing as a 16 from the 1960s is likely to fit like a 10 or 12 today. In other words: try it on. Money and self esteem saving tip: Only buy clothes that fit you now, not that you think will fit by summer because you are really, really going to start working out soon.
Dress for success-You want to be dressed in a way that makes try-ons easy. If I’m buckling down for a full day of thrifting, I have a uniform– jeans, fitted black Tshirt, slip on shoes. If you show up in boots that lace to your knees, you’re going to be less likely to try things on. If you wear a dress, how are you going to try on that cute Anthropologie skirt? Having a shirt with it will give you a better sense of how it looks on you.
Be in the right mood– You cannot go into a thrift shop expecting to shop as if it were Macy’s. When I’m facing a day of serious thrifting, I get into my “thrift space.” I accept that it may take a while, I’m there for the experience as well as the outcome. I may need to touch everything to find anything. And that’s okay.
Shop often-I get more credit than I deserve for being “good at thrift shops.” There is certainly a measure of skill, but more than patience and a good eye, you need to go a lot. Some shops are constantly putting new things out on the floor, some still have the same stuff they had when your mom was a girl. You’ll quickly get a sense of which shops warrant frequent visits. While my most successful trips are usually the ones in which I take my time, I’ve made good scores on drop-ins, too. Use a thrift shop locator to know where all your local shops are. Then you can squeeze in some quickies.