We all have our dirty little secrets. Some of us like to eat an entire loaf of bread dipped in Nutella. Some of us own, and obsessively watch, the entire series of Dawson’s Creek. Some of us are addicted to trashy magazines, coffee, reality TV or Facebook.
This is the part where I confess what I’m addicted to: My name is Kendra and I’m addicted to thrifting.
I’m addicted to finding a quality, unique item at an insanely low cost. I love purchasing a one-of-a-kind piece that I know I will never see walk down the street in the opposite direction. I envision the story of each item I purchase and wonder where it’s been, if it’s older than I am and whose memories it holds. I have purchased everything from Gucci to vintage coasters, and all for just dollars.
I have had a full fledged thrifting addiction since I was in high school, and have learned some valuable lessons along the way. Below are some of the best tips and tricks that I have used over the years to acquire some of my most prized possessions.
1. Don’t Go with a Specific Item in Mind
Lots of us go shopping with an idea of what we want. Whether it’s a new black cardigan or a pair of skinny jeans, don’t do it. The inventory at any given thrift store changes as often as daily. Each item is unique and the chances of finding exactly what you’re looking for are very slim. If you go with a preconceived idea of what it is that you’re looking for, it will limit what you consider and may make you avoid a color, style or fit.
2. Make a Day Out of It
This rule does not mean that you need to shop for 12 hours straight (although, I would be up for the challenge). Especially if it’s your first time, or you are traveling a long distance to get to your favorite store, try to incorporate other things into your thrift shopping day. Thrifting, by nature, is a game of luck. Sometimes you find six amazing items at three dollars each; sometimes you spend three hours and find nothing. In order to minimize your disappointment and avoid leaving frustrated, make a day out of it. Bring a friend, have brunch at the place you’ve always wanted to try, run some errands or grab a coffee at a cafe in the area.
3. Shop at Least Two Sizes Larger and Smaller than what You Normally Wear
This rule applies to all clothing and shoes. Beautiful vintage pieces from the ’70s and ’80s are considerably smaller, when compared to present day sizing. Though it may make you cringe to try on sizes that are larger than what you normally wear, swallow your pride and try that amazing vintage dress on. I found many of my favorite pieces in my closet in a size range that I won’t even consider in a department store. With that said, it’s also important to shop in the opposite direction of the sizing chart. Many vintage pieces lost their tags or sizing information years ago. If this is the case, store employees guess at the sizing, and from my experience, frequently guess wrong. Try to shop by examining the item itself. Does it look like something that may fit you? Could you add a belt if it’s too big? Could you get it taken out if it’s too small?
4. Don’t be Afraid to get an Item Tailored or Altered
This is one of my favorite benefits of thrifting. Because the prices are so low, you can take it to a tailor and get it custom fitted to your body. I would love to take every item that I purchase to a tailor, but I can’t always justify the added investment to a new (and usually expensive) garment. Thrifting changes all this for me. There have been numerous times that I have paid more for the tailoring of my now new fashion find than I did for the item itself. Even when the item and tailoring cost is combined, I’m willing to bet my favorite vintage leather boots that it would still cost a fraction of what the new equivalent item would be. The wonderful thing about altering a thrift store piece is that you now have a unique, form fitting, one of a kind item that was literally made for your body.
5. Come Prepared
I want to be clear on this: by no means is thrifting glamorous. It’s often fun, hilarious, exciting, inspiring, surprising and rousing. You may have noticed that the words glamorous, clean, chic and pristine were not used once in this article. I have smelled my fair share of odors that I would prefer to forget, and touched more questionable items than I would like to remember. My favorite Saturday morning thrifting partner once urgently yelled “Watch out, there’s a jockstrap in there!” as I reached into a big brown box. It is these experiences that have helped me to develop a thrift store toolkit; a few items that I bring with me every time I go thrifting. The jockstrap experience only emphasized the importance of hand sanitizer or wipes, for obvious reasons. I also find it very helpful to bring a belt, or find one in the store early on in your trip. There are lots of items that look completely different once a belt is added, especially oversized tops and loose fitting cardigans. Finally, if you’re a bit weary about trying on second hand clothing, wear or bring a pair of tights and a form fitting tank. Try on your thrifty finds with your “under armor,” but make sure you take into consideration the overall fit of the garment without a layer on underneath.
And there you have it. I hope you can find as much joy out of “one man’s junk,” as I do. Thrift store shopping is a wonderful way to add a bit of personality, uniqueness and excitement into your wardrobe, and all without dropping too much cash. Depending where you shop, a portion or all proceeds usually support a cause, so you can feel extra warm and fuzzy about your new purchase. Whether you thrift because you’re on a budget, or because you enjoy the thrill of the hunt, there certainly is something for everyone.
Article | Kendra Hagerman
Photos | www.zimbio.com