Thrift, vintage and second-hand stores are powerhouses overflowing with both singularity and latent potential.
Each unique piece is set at blissfully low prices—drawing fashion connoisseurs and budgeted college students alike.
However, unlike traditional department store shopping, thrifting can elicit an unquestionable thrill that comes from stumbling upon a retro-cool university sweatshirt to a pair of dusty Givenchy boots.
All that is needed is an open state of mind, a bit of luck and the common knowledge of seasoned thrifters.
Be imaginative (if you have the resources)
Thrift shopping takes paramount creativity—both in styling and sometimes actual construction.
One unique piece, such as a quilted bomber jacket, might look out of place when the rest of the outfit is styled with dated ’80s wear, but looks chic as a statement piece. Creativity also requires the vision to morph that pair of mom jeans into high-waisted shorts à la Urban Outfitters, sans the price tag.
Additionally, be sure that your imagination does not exceed your resources.
Know when to splurge
Splurging when it comes to thrifting is quite the relative term. Pricing of thrift store items is completely dependent on the store itself.
Boutique thrift stores often set resell prices higher, but have more rigorous guidelines in their acceptance of donations. These stores generally are the best spots to splurge.
When purchasing from more generic thrift stores, try to evaluate the price compared to the worth. A generic men’s flannel at $25 might be a steal at a regular store, but is generally an overestimation at resale shops.
Think beyond the closet
To this day, one of my biggest regrets was not buying a silk, patterned dress from Goodwill, whose manufacturer tag read AllSaints. At the time it was two sizes too small and so, in my mind, no amount of tailoring could change that.
For the record, a quick Internet search reveals that a similar, brand-new AllSaints dress retails for upwards of $300.
My mind (slightly too thrifty) thought that I would be saving myself a potential $10 —an act I found triumph in after a history of one too many impulse buys.
Hindsight bias intact, I now realize what immense potential that dress had, not for me, but as a gift for a friend or a personal source of income on resell websites like eBay.
Lesson learned: It might not benefit your closet directly, but there are undoubtedly other uses that can be found for it.
All enthusiasm for creative thrifting aside, there are sometimes occasions when no amount of work or heart can save a buried find.
There is a line that needs to be drawn between creativity and common sense. From stains to poor stitching to funky odor, there are sometimes things that cannot be salvaged.
Evaluate materials carefully and avoid cheap blends in favor of natural, more sturdy fabrics like wool, silk and cotton.
As a good rule of thumb, if the item takes more money to fix than could be bought elsewhere, then it probably is not worth it.
Smart thrifting can elevate an act of practical frugality to an experience that blends innovation, artistry and fashion.
All it takes is a keen eye to see the potential in that floor-length dress or embellished ankle boot to save itself from its own shelf.