How To Score At A Thrift Store
When I was 22 and fresh out of college, my younger sister was graduating from high school. A lifelong resident of Mississippi, her dream was to go to NYC on her senior trip.
So, at the know-it-all-age of 22 I volunteered to take my sister Danielle, then a high school senior, and my other sister Dawn, a high school junior, plus two of their friends to New York City for a "senior trip".
There were lots of firsts on that trip. First flight for them. First visit to NYC. First time in American Apparel (I thought we would never get out of that place) where my sister Dawn purchased a gold lamé bathing suit (which we all proceeded to call a gold lame bathing suit for the rest of the trip, collectively dissolving into giggles each and every time).
(Dawn, myself, and Danielle in Battery Park in 2006 on one of my mandatory sight-seeing excursions.)
The thing that I just could not get over, however, was that Danielle did not want to see a Broadway show. She did not want to visit Ground Zero (I made her anyway, 'cause I'm bossy like that). She did not want to see the Statue of Liberty or wander around Central Park or really any of those touristy type things that I most certainly wanted to do when I first visited Manhattan at age 19. No. Danielle, Dawn, and their two friends had their own agenda.
They wanted to shop. They wanted to go to the Upper East Side and spend afternoons sifting through thrift stores. I remember wrinkling my nose and thinking that I had no desire to dig through the piles of clothes at a thrift store. I liked my clothes new, thankyouverymuch.
Interestingly enough, there were some really, really awesome finds on the upper east side of Manhattan. Lots of designer brands, and for prices you'd never find anywhere else. Chanel earrings? Done. Dior clutch? Yep. I was blown away. Had I been missing out on an entire shopping world?
Turns out I had a few things to learn from my awesome "little" sisters (who are both totally taller than me - and I'm 5'8" - you do the math). They taught me what it meant to go "thrifting", and essentially how to build a closet full of timeless, irreplaceable pieces that my friends frequently drool over.
(Dawn, Danielle, and myself, circa 2010. Lined up youngest to oldest, also tallest to shortest. Pity.)
So what have I learned about shopping in thrift stores over the past 6 years? Well, I'll tell ya:
1. Don't expect the clothes to be new. It's called a thrift store. Or, in my neck of the woods, a second-hand store. Meaning the clothes are gently used. And yes, I mean it when I say gently. The stores only accept items that are still in good condition. Sure, there are stories floating around about some woman finding a Thakoon dress with the tags still on it for $7 (ok yeah, that was me) in a thrift store, but it almost never happens. Used doesn't mean dirty. Besides, that's what you have a washing machine for. Use it.
2. Dig, dig, dig. If you take a cursory glance at the racks and dismiss the entire thing because nothing has caught your eye, you are doing yourself a disservice. Think of shopping at a thrift store as being a bit like dating. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. In this case, that vintage Chanel blouse is your prince, y'know?
3. Have all sorts of time. This one goes along with #2, really. You can't dig, dig, dig, unless you have all sorts of time on your hands. This is not a quick after-school stop with your toddler in tow. This is a mission, and instead of investing lots of money in your clothes, you are investing time. You need to concentrate, and someone begging you to play "Angry Birds" on your phone every 2 seconds will not be conducive to that situation.
4. Bring cash. I'm used to whipping out my debit or credit card wherever I go - I almost never have cash on me. However, many thrift stores will only accept cash, so come prepared.
5. Wear thin clothing. Most thrift stores do not have dressing rooms, so if you wear thin clothing you can try on items that you are unsure about right over the top of your clothes, in the aisle. This may seem strange to you if you spend more time at the Gap than Goodwill, but I promise no one will give you a second glance.
Have fun with it. Take a friend. Make a day of it. My two sisters regularly blow me away with their amazing wardrobes, and I know that next to none of it was purchased brand new. So take a lesson from these three little thrifting fashionistas, and try something new!