Everyone loves a good bargain. I have dug a great deal of my wardrobe out of thrift stores and discounted stores such as Nordstrom Rack.
Over the years, I've learned a lot of things about buying clothing second hand. Here are some quick tips I have picked up along the way to keep in mind when stopping at discount and thrift stores:
Don’t buy anything you can’t clean. If dry cleaning is an inconvenience, fabrics such as silk, linen and wool are a bad idea. For me, stains are a done deal. I do not know what that mystery brown stain is or where it came from, nor do I want to know or have it touch my body.
Often, people do not clean what they donate to places such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Always wash anything you buy from a thrift store before you wear it.
Sometimes it is difficult to control shopping impulses when you are surrounded by steals. Will you actually wear it? If so, how often? Ask these questions of yourself and scrutinize every purchase.
You must have patience. In order to find that jewel in the rough, you must be willing to donate most of the day to rack sifting. I know that with my luck, the portions of the rack that I don’t comb through will contain exactly what I’m looking for. To be safe, I leave no stone unturned.
It is in the $1 bin for a reason. When you find something in bins similar to this, sometimes it is the shopping gods smiling down upon you. However, most often there are defects that aren't readily noticeable like interior holes and stains. Generally, garments in the $1 pile should be left for people who really need them.
However, there are defects that are not deal breakers.
Replacing missing buttons with mismatched buttons of different sizes and colors adds a cute home made feel and lets you add your own spin to a sweater or dress.
I once got a Free People dress for $15 at Nordstrom Rack because of a small tear in the bodice. After I was done, it looked brand new. If you have the sewing skills, tears are not a problem. If no one ever taught you the basics, check out www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Sew.
I love vintage, especially the styles of the'20s and '40s. Thrift stores are a great place to find vintage pieces for a reasonable price.
When I refer to some pieces as “timeless,” I do not mean ageless. Vintage clothing can appear to be in perfect condition, but the wear and tear of time on fabric and thread can conceal a great danger. Unfortunately, I have experienced this first hand.
Last year, I bought a gorgeous vintage 1982 Jessica McClintock cocktail dress for a formal. It seemed almost too perfect. The measurements fit me exactly and it seemed in fantastic condition. I hit the dance floor is a dress I thought would go down in WSU fashion history, but it got me noticed for a completely different reason.
While I was getting down, I heard a terrible sound. The sound characteristic of shame: tearing fabric. The seam that started at the slit in the back had ripped all the way up to the small of my back, exposing my bottom to the world.
Luckily, there was a chair near by and someone took pity on my soul and got me a pair of pants. Not only did I ruin a vintage piece, but while not many people may have noticed my shame, I would have rather had no one see my butt at all.
This tragedy brings to light another thrift store rule: check seams and condition of vintage pieces thoroughly. A garment may seem in perfectly healthy condition, but thread has a shelf life. Give seams in question a good tug.
To some a weak seam is not a deal breaker. However, only buy what you are willing to fix. Everyone is ambitious when they find a project, but make sure you will actually follow through. Buying a damaged garment just so it can sit to gather dust next to your sewing machine is selfish considering someone in need could use it.
Keep these tips in mind and happy shopping.