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The Art of Thrifting

Thrifting, much like shaving, war or manliness, is a delicate art form, and we’ve got it down to an imprecise science. Sure, we’ve written about thrifting extensively before, but a seasoned thrifter knows to constantly update her tactical manual; being in the thrifting trenches is a learning process. We’re constantly modifying and evolving our thrift store shopping strategy, and we’re adding several more cardinal tips to the handbook.

Tips for Thrifting Like a Pro

7 rules of thrift shopping infographic

Thou shall admit some things are better new: Even if a bin full of dollar lingerie and undies are on sale for 99 percent off, it’s one deal you don’t want to partake in. We’re Budget Fashionistas and love a bargain, but we gotta draw the line somewhere. We’ll pay the extra bucks for clean underwear. Trust Loreal. You’re worth it.

Thou shall go to a road less traveled: We’ve written about the importance of location before. Shop rich zip codes, college towns, etc. Here’s another insider tip: Think outside the popular neighborhoods. Sure, that hipster thrift store by NYU may have tons of great gems, but you’re also competing with thousands of youngsters with never-ending student loans hungry for that unique fashion find. When it’s survival of the (fashion) fittest, it may be best to go to a less-populated town. Think suburbia and retirement communities.

Thou shall not forget the tailor: Ah, our good friend the tailor, the behind-the-scenes craftsman (or woman) who magically makes that ill-fitting blazer fit like a glove! Bottom line: Don’t forget the tailor. Sure, that DKNY dress may cost you a mere subway ticket, but if it’s three sizes too big, factor in how much alterations will cost and ask yourself if it’s still worth it.

Thou shall DIY: Maybe your name is Jenni Radosevich, or you’re Edward Scissorhands’ long-lost twin sister in the sewing room. Either way, view the thrift store as a cheaper alternative to a fabric shop, and view each item not for what it is, but for what it could be. That oversized dress with an awesome print? Snip away to make an awesome blouse, or a mini cocktail dress.

Thou shall haggle: It may or may not work, but it’s worth a try because you know what’s better than an amazing Theory blazer for $10? An amazing Theory blazer that’s $10 and 30 percent off because it’s missing a button.

Thou shall search for new tags: We normally perceive thrift stores as a used Target of unwanted, abandoned and yes, in some cases, unusable stuff. Yet, hold on there, Batman. Not so fast. Keep in mind that tons of people buy clothes they will never wear. (Yeah, target-weight skinny jeans, we’re talking to YOU!) Or retailers often donate unsold merchandise to local thrift stores, so keep an eye open for those extra-special goodies.

Thou shall not be afraid to go home empty-handed: When you’re in a wonderland of dollar goodies, it’s extremely tempting to want to snatch what you perceive as deals. Yet, even if that DVF vintage blouse is only $5, if it’s four sizes too big with yellowish pit stains, it’s not a deal. In fact, it’s a waste of five bucks. This rule applies to any sort of shopping, but especially when it comes to thrifting. Don’t be afraid of leaving the store empty-handed.

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Thursday 26th of July 2012

I just have to share a recent coup: it was on a rainy July 4, and my hubby and I were on vaca on the north shore of Kaua'i (=heaven on earth). Not a beach day. So we tooled down to the biggest town, Kapa'a, to see what there was to see. Plus, I had spotted not one, but two thrift stores in town - Sally's and a tiny local thrift shop - and I intended to look for vintage aloha shirts for my DH. He's got the kind of build that is made for classic aloha shirts - broad-shouldered and meaty-muscular, not too tall. Well. The tiny shop was closed, but Sally's was open. And they had a huge rack of aloha shirts right at the front of the store. I pulled out every shirt that fit my criteria of color, size, fabric, print, and maker, and DH went to try them on. Four shirts, and every one looked stunning on him. I was thrilled because they were marked $5 each. Beautiful shirts: Royal Hawaiian, Pierre Cardin, vintage rough silk, breezy rayon, etc. Can't get much better than that, right? Wrong. At the register, the cashier informed me that the entire store inventory was on sale for Independence Day - 50% off. Yes, dear ones. Four amazing aloha shirts that make my hubby look even more handsome for $10 + tax = $10.74. Mama did a jig of triumph.


Tuesday 17th of July 2012

Feels like everyday getting the good thrifts is more and more competitive, seems like the idea of thrifting is becoming very trendy to people of all sorts.


Saturday 14th of July 2012

You make a very good point about the competition with students with "never-ending" student loans, I always find that places way out on the country side have some of the best bargains and quality.

Wanda Haynes

Sunday 24th of June 2012

I have shopped at resale stores for yrs. and have found the most amazing bargins. Such as a Diane Von Furstenburg silk skirt. Wanda


Saturday 16th of June 2012

I really enjoyed your article on thrifting. It is hard to go home empty handed when you just want to go home with at least one piece of item, but you are right! It's not worth the $5 bucks if you have to tailor and fix a million things on one small item. When you are on a budget, thrift stores are the way to go!

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