"I wear your granddad's clothes
I look incredible
I'm in this big a** coat
From that thrift shop down the road."
Musician Macklemore (from Kent, WA, the state I live in) said it all - you can look incredible in thrift store clothes. Here's some tips to help:
Wear clothes you like a lot when you thrift shop.
Why? It's all too easy to find something and buy it simply because you like it better than the other items available. Compare it to what you're wearing and think about other clothes you love. Does this appeal as much? Yes, it helps if you are wearing clothes you can slip in and out of easily, but don't dress like a slob, you'll lower your standards.
Take anything with you that you need to match. i.e a pair of shoes, a dress etc. You may want to show the attendant that you are bringing the items in with you.
Are you browsing or do you have a strategy? I'll sometimes blow $20 for the fun of something new to play with, but I tell all my clients to shop with a strategy.
Identify what it is that you actually need and only shop for that. For example, if you've identified that a white shirt would help you create outfits, don't get distracted by party dresses when you have a dozen at home.
Know the brands that fit you well and that reflect your style. I keep an eye out for Lululemon and Michael Kors (yes, it's happened).] as well as London Fog trench coats. I know what size waist I am in Madewell jeans and Frame. It helps. The caveat? Don't buy it just because it is an expensive brand. If it doesn't fit and flatter, it doesn't matter how much of a bargain it is, if you don't love it, leave it.
Look for quality and longevity. I'm happy to pick up a $3 Bruce Springsteen tee that is faded, it's timeless and ideal for the dog park, but I avoid dubious branded jeans that are flimsy and thin - I know they'll only last a few months, if that. I look for sturdy construction, extra buttons sewn in, stitching that resists a tug, and check what the item is made out of. I find linen hard to iron or steam, but I love it when I find pure wool or cashmere.
Upkeep: Will it need dry cleaning? Hand washing?
Wear and tear - check for stains, especially under the arms, in my experience they are impossible to remove. Look for rips and tears that aren't part of the style, moth holes, loose threads, ripped pockets, soles and heel tips (though they can be replaced) on shoes. Try zippers several times.
Check it's not missing anything. I found a fabulous coat, but the belt was missing. I could have removed the loops, but it was also missing a button on its epaulet, sigh. Coats may also have missing hoods.
Trying on? Find a full length mirror - usually the ones outside the changing rooms are better. Does it crease or sag? Does the waistband gape? Does it wrinkle, keep needing to be adjusted, slips down, bunch up?
Does it fit? If you're petite, factor in the cost of hemming, check if it has material that can be let down if you're statuesque. If the blouse gapes a bit but fits on the shoulders, you may be able to add a dome or a button, but make sure there is room to do so. It's generally easier to take things in than let them out. Look out for my next email, which will go into alterations in more depth.
Can you move in it? Try doing a squat, bend over, move your arms around, pretend to give someone a hug, walk around, lunge and even try a little dance if you're not sure. Can you breath easily? Jeans stretch, but there is no point cutting off internal organs.
Does it go with other items you have? Theoretically, you should only be looking for specific items i.e. a yellow blouse, a pair of red shoes, but what if you come across something unexpected? If you truly love it, get it. You'll find a way to make it work (or call me). Otherwise, think to yourself: Could I wear this with at least three other pieces in my closet?
Is it in your spending plan? Plan what you want to spend in advance. I have a whole set of exercises I can go through with clients if they want to make sure they are spending in alignment with their values and their goals, but if you're a compulsive shopper, now's the time to imagine something else that you want and weigh this purchase against that. Better to save up for one pair of expensive shoes that feel like slippers on your feet and you can dance in all night than ten pairs of thrift store bargain footwear that will sit in your closet because they pinch your toes.
Another tip - ask yourself: Would I buy this for full price? Don't buy based on price. If you wouldn't have bought it new for full price, then don't take it to the counter simply because it's only $8.99.
I offer thrift store shopping expeditions in Seattle, ask me when the next one is. I can also arrange a personal trip for you and your friends. Thrift store shopping is a great way to budget, help the environment and it's fun. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more, or book a free call below.