One of my favorite ways to find a great steal (and often something unique) is making a trip to the local thrift shops.
First off, bring some things to donate. Many thrift stores, like Savers, offer discounts to donors. Each time I bring in a bag of clothes or household items for donation, I get a 20% discount on my purchase. 20% of already ridiculously low prices – awesome! These stores also have sale days (many had 50% off sales on Labor Day, for example) so follow their sites and find their sales. It likely will be busy these days, so head over early before the racks get picked over (or visit on another day when it’s more peaceful, just not right after a big sale)
Focus on high end brands (like the Tommy Bahama dress I snagged last summer) and nicer fabrics (silk, linen, leather, cashmere, etc..), as well as items with high end details (like the leather trim on the LOFT dress). These items won’t look second hand at all. Additionally, the more durable and high end fabrics and finishes last longer and have typically better endured their prior owner. Often times, products from lower quality brands are worn out and have lost a bit of life by being overloved. This will be noticeable, especially when dressing for a more professional environment (as opposed to a night out at the bar, for example).
Continue to follow the motto that it should work with a few items already in your closet. And it should meet your needs in essentially it’s current condition. Don’t plan on major refashions of most items. You will run out of time, ambition, interest, the works. Life just seems to get busy. (Sidenote: If you’re an expert seamstress or have a passion for refashion, this may not apply to you. But for the majority of us with days filled by time at the office on top of life’s other commitments, a consistent pile of refashions on the to-do list will only create unnecessary stress and frustration.)
Don’t buy something just because it is inexpensive. No matter how cheap the items are, if you don’t love them, you won’t be excited about wearing them and, more importantly, they will clutter your closet and frustrate your morning routine (head back to Week 1 for a reminder on cluttered closet syndrome)
Keep A Running List – Thrift stores can be overwhelming if you show up with the intention of combing the entire store. Often, I visit with a specific section or two in mind to focus on. Whether it be a blazer, a dress, a skirt, or a great new belt, enter the store with a plan and list. It immediately helps bring focus to your mission. Using your Stylebook or Go Chic or Go Home app can also help you keep tabs on what you have and what might make a great addition or fill a gap in your closet.
Check out thrift stores when traveling or on vacation – different communities might offer new and interesting styles that don’t often find their way into your local stores. I stopped into a few thrift and consignment shops in NYC during my August visit and loved the items that I collected. A few scores include this wrap dress and this floral sleeveless blouse.
Inspect, inspect, inspect – check for stains, holes, rips, and even pulled threads. Consignment stores likely offer a more curated and reviewed collection, while thrift stores tend to have more varied quality.
And lastly, try everything on! We all know brands vary greatly and items may have been altered by their previous owner. You just never know so give it a whirl in the fitting room before leaving the store.