Happy National Thrift Day!
My father collects old radios and various other antiques, including old cars at some point in time. I think that’s where I grew my adoration for vintage shops and thrifting. My next door neighbors growing up were this elderly couple who had their house bursting with antique radios and record machines. Through the years, they gave us a handful of them, but my dad also filled the house with vintage Pepsi and Coca Cola machines, a velvet barber chair, a telephone from the early 1900’s and countless of other knick knacks he acquired from family, antique stores or garage sales. We spent our weekends following cardboard garage signs or going to our downtown area with the ritzy antique shops. Antiques weren’t really my thing as a child, but I did love looking through the vintage jewelry, coats and clothes.
I remember when I was growing up, my mom took me to thrift and consignment stores to shop for special occasion pieces, costumes and more – she taught me how to be thrifty with my money and what was worth buying at a retail store brand new versus the value in something at a thrift store. Today is National Thrift Day and I think it’s the perfect holiday to celebrate on SAK!
In high school I really started to embrace fashion and take a bigger interest in clothing; but I also faced a challenge – I had no extra money to spend on clothes. The most expensive items I bought were on the clearance rack at Forever 21 or H&M, and I occasionally splurged on sale items from Ross or Target. Owning a piece of clothing over $15 dollars was absurd in my mind. In order to feed my desire to shop and add “new things” to my closet, I started thrift shopping again. I would do consignment shopping with my mom at boutiques around town and in the Phoenix area, but I also took a different approach and started shopping at a few thrift stores in my hometown where I could get items for 25 cents. My dad introduced me to this one store and it became our father-daughter bonding activity – he would look at antiques and house goods while I got lost in the clothing racks for hours.
Now a side note, because I’m sure some of you are thinking this – what is the difference between a thrift store, a consignment store and a vintage store? Aren’t they the same thing? No, they are radically different. A consignment store is like Buffalo Exchange, Plato’s Closet, Beacon’s Closet, etc. – you can sell your clothes there – normally brand new, slightly used and a higher fashion label. The stores buy the clothes from you and you get a percentage of the sale back. These stores are nicely put together, look like a retail store and the prices vary from $5 to $300. Thrift stores on the other hand, are all donation base, typically stuffed with clothing, it’s rare if it has a label and prices range from 25 cents to probably around $50. The last tier are vintage stores. These are antique stores with high-end vintage items, typically designer label and are from an Estate Sales or donated from a customer; prices vary upwards of $50 and more. If you’re looking for a deal, try a thrift store!
I would go to my hometown thrift store about every other week and I would walk away with 2 or 3 bags full of items for under $10. Everything was about a quarter, but higher ticket items like blazers or coats were 50 cents or a dollar. I managed to immensely grow my wardrobe by only spending a few dollars here or there, and I never really made a huge dent in my fast-food paycheck. I started collecting skirts, blazers, dresses and coats. I started fairly simple and stayed safe with items, until I felt more comfortable with wearing this vintage items to school or out in public. After many years of thrifting and learning the lay of the land, I’m here to share my secrets on how I successfully thrift shop – GASP!
Thrift shopping is “now trendy,” – which I love because people are starting to understand why I thrift and how my personal style has grown over the years due to these hidden treasures. In today’s post I’m going to talk about how I walk walk through a thrift shop, what I look for and how I don’t get overwhelmed. Let’s get to thrifting! xo
1. First things first,don’t make a shopping list, give yourself time and don’t go in with any expectations.
I have so many friends who don’t understand how I can walk into a thrift store and walk out with so many things. It’s not always like that – sometimes I walk in and only find one mediocre piece. Or, I have friends that feel completely overwhelmed by the idea of sifting through disorganized racks. Personally for me, thrifting is therapeutic and my “me” time.
Don’t set any expectations that you’re going to walk in and find the most badass fur coat, your graduation dress or everything your fashion hearts hope for. You never really know what you’ll find, so don’t stress out. Also, make sure you allot yourself a decent amount of time so you can leisurely browse through the racks; you don’t want to miss any treasures!
2. Shop in this order: Accessories/Jewelry, Shoes, Outerwear, Jackets/Blazers, Dresses, Graphic Tees, and then everything else.
I always follow this order, and it’s proven to be the most successful. It might seem weird, but here’s why – accessories, purses, jewelry and shoes are always more scarce in thrift stores, typically higher value and the most unique pieces. These items will go fast so make sure that’s your first 10-15minute priority while shopping – also it’s easier to try on and look at things before you have a stack of clothing in your hand. You can always leave these finds at the cashier desk until you check out, or carry a shopping bag while walking around.
Next, make your way down the unique food-chain of clothing. Coats are first of my clothing stop because they’re great finds and unique! After coats, I make my way to other outerwear and blazers. You can try these items on without a dressing room, so #SCORE on saving time and effort.
P.S. Dress simple while thrifting so you can try on items as you go. Most thrift stores don’t have dressing rooms, or they’re always packed, so I typically wear jeans and a simple tank or tee so I can throw stuff on over. Don’t worry – no one is judging.
3. Don’t pay attention to sizing, gender or what it looks like on the hanger.
Next, make your way to the beast of crowded racks of everything else. I make sure to flip through every shirt or pant to make sure I’m not missing any hidden gems. Don’t pay attention to sizing because things that are vintage are very different than sizing in 2017. For example, I’m normally a small/medium or size 4, but in vintage clothing, I’m a size 8 or 10. I also go through the men’s department for jackets, graphic tees and sweaters. And remember, it might look quirky or bad on the hanger, but once you try it on, it can be a gold mine. For instance, I didn’t really think too much of this vintage yellow kimono when I picked it up about 6 months ago, but now I think about how many times a month I can style this thing; I’m completely in love!
4. Be creative!
The beauty of thrifting is that you can create anything you want. I have bought plenty of items that I altered into a different piece – pants into shorts, dresses into shirts and vice vera – don’t take anything at face value. You can belt it, take out the shoulder pads, add embellishments or tailor it. Altering the pieces will still only cost you a fraction of what it would cost if you bought it brand new. I take this rule to heart when it comes to “on-trend items”. Remember when those cut-off denim shorts with lace trim were really popular in 2012? I thrifted the denim and added lace trim from Walmart to save money and I’m so glad I did because they left my closet in 2014. And I feel the same about so many other trends. I thrift to find unique well-made investment pieces like coats, jewelry and fur, but I also find my trendy pieces for a couple bucks for the season.
5. Have fun!
If you’re expecting to walk into a thrift store and walk out with your basics and a one-of-a-kind vintage designer bag, I say you should probably just call it quits and go to the mall. Even though thrifting is currently the “cool” thing to do right now, remember to make it your own. If you hate it, that’s okay! The mothball smell and crowded racks are not for everyone; but for those people who love it, I say cheers! I personally love thrift shopping. It’s a part of my personal brand, my history and my story. It defines who I am as Audree, and Simply Audree Kate.
So no matter where you stand on thrift shopping and vintage stores, I hope you enjoyed today’s post, maybe learned a thing or too, and just in case you’re wondering – yes I do wash everything I buy before I wear it. I mean…like 80% of the time ;).
KIMONO (VINTAGE – BUFFALO EXCHANGE) | SHIRT (C/O LADY DUKE) | JEANS (MADEWELL) | HEELS (STEVE MADDEN – C/O LULU’S) | SUNNIES (C/O BOOHOO) | CLUTCH (VINTAGE)
PHOTOGRAPHY: SAM KELLY PHOTOGRAPHY