French Connection for Sears Dress
Dooney and Bourke Bag (thrifted)
American Eagle Outfitters Leather Belt
Leather Boots c/o H&M
If you've read Alaskan Weredork for a little while you've probably realized I thrift and shop on ebay quite a bit. I've been asked if I have any tips for either so I thought Id break it up into two posts. Most of it's not really earth shattering stuff - you won't go to the thrift store tomorrow and find that Gucci bag (although if you do TELL ME) but hopefully it might help a little. so here we go, Tips for Thrifting!
1. Ooooh, what's that smell?
Thrift store have a reputations for smelly clothes and that can be true but most garments will smell just fine unless you have the world's most sensitive nose. However, there is one item killer. Even if it is the most bestest, prettiest thing in the world, f it smells like cigarette smoke, leave it. I've tried numerous things and nothing the smell just will not come out. The good thing is, it's the only smell I've notice that is impervious. the old clothes smell? Most times it'll come out the first time you wash it but if not, zip it in a dry cleaning bag with either some fabric softener sheets of a little bag of ground coffee beans. Works every time.
2. Read Those Tags
Okay, if you find a silk blouse and you love it, don't put it back because it says dry clean only. Some silks you can carefully hand wash and dry but really, putting back a silk blouse because you don't want to pay four dollars to dry clean it is nuts. If you want nice stuff, you have to take care of it and a little extra just isn't that bad to have something that you love.
3. I'll Make That Alteration! (NOT)
sometimes you find stuff that makes you say, "This 90s church lady dress will be amazing once I chop it up, sew on different sleeves, make it backless and so on." You most likely ill not do this and it will stay in your alterations basket for the 90 years. If a shirt is just missing a plain white button, go for it because buttons are easy and fast and it's something you can do while shielding your eyes from the goring that dude just got from the bull on "Bull Riding PAINEXTREME" you'll watch that night.
This goes along with number two but if something DOESN'T fit, don't buy. It might only be 99 cents but if you'll never wear it because you need safety pins to keep it on or you're always yanking on it, it's money ill spent.
5. Know Your Brands, Silks and Cashmere
Thrift stores are the great equalizers. I've found Dolce and Gabana dresses for the same prices as Forever 21 and it's AWESOME. However if you either don't know your brands or your fabrics/cuts/qualitly it can be hard to know what's a find and what you could have gotten cheaper at Target. By researching brands you like, knowing what qualitly silk and cashmere feels like(Banana Republic use to have lovely cashmere and it's gone really down hill the past few years.) you'll be able to tell what still has life in it or if you're even going to be able to put it into the washer. This could also go for leathers, many companies use to use thick leathers that wore beautiful and held up. Now everyone uses micro thin leathers that fall apart before they get that lovely worn in look.
6. It takes Time
Just what it says. Don't walk into a thrift store or a flea market and expect to find a vintage Oscar de la Renta Coat for $2 of whatever. It probably won't happen your first time and you might walk away from the store empty hand, unhappy and thinking wicked thoughts about all of those bloggers who seem to find amazing things every time they set foot into a thrift store. Don't give up and don't stop returning. It might be your first time, it might be your 103rd time, if you keep at it you will eventually find something amazing. I use to never find shoes or decent handbags at the thrift store and the best I could find seemed to be Old Navy. Gap jeans would get me excited! I couldn't understand how bloggers like Linda over at Little Tin Soldier could find vintage DVF shirt and St. John shorts, it just blew my mind. But I kept going and one day I found a Christian Dior skirt and it was like a heavenly chorus. I've kept at it and even though I couldn't find any decent handbags for what felt like forever, I did finally find a Coach leather bag. And then another. And by learning to keep my eyes open, digging through the piles and learning to recognize the nice purses from the "eh" ones, I ended up with a decent little collect of nice bags that has cost me less than the price of buying one brand new Coach bag. That's awesome but it has taken time.
7. Where To Start?
It's kinda overwhelming to walk into a thrift store. It's not like a department store where you can take a quick browse of the floor and now what they carry and what's out. It's just racks and rack of clothes and the only thing that stand outs to your eye is that god awful Hawaiian mumu. Depending on your time limit or how enterprising you're feeling, go to your favorite garment rack first. If you like and wear mostly dresses, go look at those, or whichever. It breaks it down and if you find nothing, just move on. Once you gain an eye and feel for what is quality, you'll be able to skim through the racks and tell off the bat what nice and what's probably Forever21. If you're a mom and you're shopping with your kids, take them to the toy or book aisle first. Give them a little while to have some fun and find a little treat for them(If I go to the thrift store, the kids each get a tiny bit of money to spend on a treat.) Once they have their treat and are happy, move along to your favorite aisle and either let them chill will their toy or book on the floor(relax, bring wipes, the floor won't kill them.) and you'll be able to browse in relative peace.
If you live in a fairly large city you probably have access to tons of thrift stores. Smaller towns can be tricky since you might have one but seeing as many places in the lower 48 a pretty close, chances are the next town over has some sweet spots. Find out where the thrift stores in your area are located and then hit them. If you don't like marathons, go to a different one each week and don't get discouraged if one is awful. Just move along to the next. Fairbanks has two, a Salvation Army and a Value Village with a few consignment shops mixed in.
I hope this helped a tiny bit. The biggest thing I can say is keep trying. It's easy to give up because you won't find great stuff every time but you have to keep at it. Good luck everyone! And because I love hearing stories about awesome thrift store finds, what's the best thing you've ever found at a thrift store?