I would just like to start out by saying that in my last column I neglected to mention that I think everybody should wear a swimsuit and unabashedly revel in the summer sunshine and water. You've got one body - rejoice in its shape, take care of it, show it love - enjoy the gorgeousness you were born with!
Now let's get down to the nitty-gritty of successful thrifting. How do you find treasures hidden in the horrible junk people get rid of? It does seem kind of impossible that stylish clothing and brand name items are awaiting discovery at your local Goodwill, Salvation Army or American Rescue Workers store.
Emily, my good luck secondhand store find charm and best thrifting buddy, will tell you that every time we hit Goodwill we usually find something awesome. On our most recent Goodwill crawl, I found a beautiful black blazer from B. Moss, two new pairs of tights, a sweater, a pair of gold sandals and three new bikini tops - all for less than $30.
People frequent their local secondhand stores for various purposes. Some are hoping to find items to resell on eBay. Others can't afford to shop at the mall. Still, others are looking for unique items to enhance their homes and closets. If you've never shopped in a thrift store because you thought it was beneath you, think again! There are some great reasons to shop secondhand.
Reasons to thrift:
No. 1. Well, it's thrifty. I once found two dresses, three bathing suit bottoms, a sweater vest and two pairs of tights for less than $20. (XO, that's the kiss and a hug I got from my bank account.)
No. 2. It's good for the environment. When you reuse existing items, you're decreasing demand and production. Fewer resources are used to make new stuff and you've rescued that adorable barely-worn pair of shoes from becoming part of a landfill.
No. 3. You are supporting nonprofit organizations that help people. Goodwill helps people find jobs. The Salvation Army feeds hungry people. OxFam aids development in third world countries. When you spend money in a thrift store, be assured that you are helping people in need.
Tips and tricks for secondhand store success:
Decide how much money you will allow yourself to spend. You will be more discerning if you only give yourself a $10 limit as opposed to getting carried away because everything is cheap.
Give yourself at least an hour and a half per thrift store and bring a friend. Finding useful items takes time and patience. Friends can help you decide if an item is worthy of purchase or not. You and your friend also can laugh it up over all the weird stuff you find.
Wear something that you can take on and off easily. I usually wear a dress made of stretchy material without zippers or buttons to slow me down with a pair of slip-on shoes. Another good choice would be a tight tank top and leggings so you can try stuff on right out in the aisle.
Be honest with yourself. Does it really look that good on you? Are you willing to alter it if it's too loose or long? Will you actually get around to altering it? Is it really worth the price? Will you really dry-clean it or does that defeat the purpose of buying a silk dress for $5? You're better off buying items in good working order that fit you and your habits in the first place.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Does the item have a tear, worn out spots or a stain? If so, it is probably not worth the time, effort or money to fix it.
The best months to shop in thrift stores usually are in December when people are making room for presents or trying to get tax deductions, January when people are unloading unwanted Christmas gifts and September when people are getting rid of what didn't sell at yard sales and are making room for back-to-school clothing. A lot of thrift stores run specials offering 50 to 75 percent off their already low prices. Ask your stores if they have any discount days or sales or if they offer discounts to students, military or seniors.
Keep a list of items that you need so that when you are in a thrift store, you aren't aimlessly picking through old CDs when what you really need is a black cardigan.
Avoid the classic thrift store fail. Only buy things you can use immediately. I have too often made the mistake of buying an item because it was a good price and then later donating it back to where I originally bought it because it wasn't really useful to me.
Speaking of donations, give back to the stores you shop in. You're going there anyway, so pack up your unwanted goods to make room for your new-to-you finds.
Make sure you wash whatever clothing you purchase because I can almost guarantee that it wasn't washed before it was put out on the floor (plus, other people have probably tried it on).
Don't be afraid to leave empty-handed. You will not find rare and beautiful clothing at yard sale prices every time. Concentrate instead on the joy of the hunt and be pleasantly surprised when you do hit the jackpot.
Wool sweaters: check for moth holes before buying and toss in the dryer with Dryel.
Quality brands: J. Crew, Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, L.L. Bean and designer labels.
Baby clothes: babies grow so quickly that most of their clothing is barely worn.
Maternity clothes: they are usually expensive new and your belly grows out of them in just a few months. Don't waste your money on new baby bump covers, you're going to get rid of your maternity clothes after you have your baby anyway.
New items with the tags still on: it's kind of a thrill to compare the price you're buying it for to the original price on the tag.
Where to shop:
A really helpful website to help you find local secondhand stores is thethriftshopper.com. This site also rates each store with stars and reviews, shows how far from your neck of the woods they are and lists store hours.
Some other options that are a couple of steps up from the thrift store are consignment and vintage stores. They carry really unique and beautiful clothing in excellent condition for a fraction of department store prices.
These stores will sometimes buy your unwanted items for resale. Call ahead to make an appointment as some of these stores are very picky in what they buy. I tried to sell some vintage and quality brand items to a local consignment store and was told that they couldn't possibly see me until next month. I called the vintage clothing store across the street and they asked me what I had for sale. When I described some of my items, they told me to come in immediately.
I walked away having sold 90 percent of what I brought in for $100, all of which would have been donated to a thrift store anyway.
I speak from experience:
I'm serious about the washing tip. My cousin-in-law once got scabies from some clothing she bought at a thrift store and wore without washing. Save yourself the trip to the doctor and wash those clothes!
Sometimes you will be able to find an item for less at its original store. The Goodwill in Shamokin Dam carries new items that are on clearance or discontinued at Target. They claim to buy them new and then sell them at half of the original price. Just last week I bought a pair of gold Merona sandals that Goodwill priced at $9. The original Target clearance tag was still attached and had the sandals priced at $4.48. I asked a Goodwill saleslady why they were priced at double the price from the original store and she gave me the explanation above. I bought them at $9 because they were great sandals, but then found them online for $4.48.
Happy thrifting, peeps! Don't forget to bring a friend. (You can't have Emily, she's mine.)
McKinney may be reached at diystyle@ sungazette.com.
Her column is published on the second Friday of each month as part of the Lifestyle section's "Fashion Friday" features.