Monday, January 09, 2006

Vintage and Thrift Clothing

"What do you think of vintage/thrift clothing? I don't like following trends, so I like to find classic, older clothing at thrift shops. (Don't worry, I stay away from the thrown together/hobo look!) Any tips?"
-Amy Barrett


The thrift store look is hard to do well. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that you can never guarantee what you will find at a thrift store. You have absolutely no control over what will be there, you just have to go and look. It's not like you can say: "Oh, Salvo, they usually have nice sweater sets, I'll bumble over there and find something for this party on Friday." Instead, you just have to show up and be prepared to browse for awhile to find something you really like. (Shoulder pad sweaters, anyone??)

Another reason that thrift store shopping is tricky is because all the items are used. This means they're old, and unless they're fairly classic pieces (and who gets rid of those??), you're going to come across a ton of junk before finding something you'd like to wear.

With the above disadvantages, it's easy to see why lots of women steer clear of the thrift stores. Most days, it's a lot of trouble, little selection, no guarantee of the correct size, and most of all a small guarantee of success.

Bearing these disadvantages in mind, then, why do we all love the thrift store? Why do we subject ourselves to this kind of futility in shopping?

Because, dear readers, we all love a good deal, of course! There is always a chance of finding something truly amazing and unique! Here are a few things I try to keep in mind when shopping at thrift stores:

Keep an open mind. Don't go into a thrift store expecting to find something in particular. Instead, think creatively. Go into the store expecting to have an adventure. Be willing to try on clothes that you might never give a second glance. You never know what will end up looking good! Most items are ridiculously cheap (less than $15), so even if you wind up hating something you bought, the loss is minimal.

Try on everything. I cannot emphasize this enough. Your odds of finding something you love are greatly decreased. If it looks like it might fit, if it's something you might be interested in wearing, grab it. Ignore the size tags!

Keep your standards high. If you're not happy with it, don't buy it! If it doesn't make you look and feel good, steer clear. Cheap does not equal stylish. Cheap equals cheap. Who cares if it's cheap if it looks terrible?

Wash it before you wear it. I risk sounding like a mom here, but you have no idea where your clothes have been before you found them. Most of the thrift stores I've visited smell weird. You don't want to smell like a thrift store!

Take a friend. I had a dear friend in college who was the queen of thrift stores. She always found the most interesting things. Even if you don't have a bargain queen friend in your phonebook, find someone who will enjoy the experience and who can be honest with you about your choices. A good girlfriend always tells her friend the truth about projected outfits!

Designer steals My sister lives in the city and tells me that consignment/thrift stores around her house have a lot of dseigner items. I saw a gorgeous pair of Prada shoes once. If you're interested in finding designer pieces, try to find a thrift store in a more affluent part of town. If you live in a rural area, find the biggest city near you and shop there. A general rule: the larger the store, the greater chance you have of finding clothes that will make you friends green with envy!