Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Savvy Thrift Store Clothes Shopping Tips

Here are just a few basic tips when thrift store shopping. Actually, come to think about it I would say most of these tips are great for any type of shopping, whether it's a TJ Maxx or the end-of-the-season sale at Nordies!

Don't buy it just because it's a great deal.

"A pair of Armani/BCBG/Free People/Banana Republic/fill-in-the-blank pants for only $5!!!! Oh wait, it's a size 0. Maybe if I don't ever eat again work out, I might be able to fit into these...someday..." STEP AWAY FROM THE PANTS. Unless you've got a great friend that is a size 0 and doesn't mind you thrifting for her, those pants are only going to sit unused in your closet/drawer mocking you. Believe me, I have heard them do that. Size 0 pants are just that way.

Be realistic about "little" fixes.

I sew. It's one of the savvy skills I learned when nesting with my second child. I can hem pants. Well, not the lined ones or ones that need invisible hems, but jeans and khakis I can do. If a pair of pants does not fit into those two categories then I have to decide whether it's worth the $8 it's going to cost me to get them tailored. As for everything else, it's a case-by-case basis. Button missing - I can do. Seam a little loose - usually an easy fix. Tiny rip in a lining - I'll try if the price is right. Anything bigger and it's usually a pass.

Sometimes, however, the tailoring cost is justifiable. For example, one year I found a gorgeous new-with-tags formal gown and it cost me only $20...until I factored in the $45 for the tailoring. Now I needed the gown for a black tie, $250 a plate benefit that a friend of ours invited us to attend so it was definitely called for given the circumstance, but I wouldn't have dreamed about spending that on a day-to-day dress. Truth is, I would have kept shopping for another dress, but we were invited a week before the event and I just did not have time (or a large budget) to shop for a formal I would only wear once. Believe me, $65 is A LOT for me, but I was able to donate the dress to a local organization that used the dress for high school students who can't afford a dress for prom, thus the $65 became a tax write-off as well! Oh, and the dress must have looked good, my friend and I ended up in the local "society" magazine's photo spread!

When in doubt, don't get it.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it? It doesn't if you end up with piles of clothing you are not using. If you're hesitant about it before buying it, you'll be hesitant before wearing it...if you wear it at all. The ideal situation is being excited to pull the thing out of the closet because you look so good and feel so good wearing it!

Check carefully for stains and rips.
Check even the new-with-tag items you find. Sometimes they are returns from stores or just a manufacturer's error. Either way, it's best to find any flaws before you buy it because most thrift stores do not issue cash for returns. They just offer store credit.

Try it on.
I know this is where I may lose some of you. I have a friend who NEVER tries on clothes and well, the result is a bunch of clothes in her closet with tags and a to-do list that always has "return X,Y,Z" on it. Being a Savvy Suburban Supermom means saving time AND money. But there is hope, the more you try clothes on, the more you will hone a sense of what works for your body and what doesn't and you'll find that you actually do less trying on.

Take chances.
You'll know when you've found something that really works when a) you get unsolicited compliments from other women or b) people keep asking you if you've lost weight. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But I promise, watch What Not to Wear and you will see that almost every single person on there ends up looking AT LEAST 5-10 pounds lighter than when they first got there.

Up until two years ago I never wore faux wrap shirts even though Stacie & Clinton recommend them for most body types, mine in particular. I wasn't even sure I liked them. Come to find out after trying it on at the thrift store and spending just $5 for one, I got TONS of compliments, including one from my husband when he got home from work. THAT alone was worth the hassle of trying it on in the first place. A thrift store is a great way to try new styles at a price that won't break the bank if it doesn't work. If money is really an issue and you have a Goodwill store nearby, try their Monday Bag Sale: that's where you get 10 items of the featured tag color for $5. That's $.50 a piece. This is a great way to not only find things for yourself, but your kids, your husband, your friends, your extended get the picture.

Be patient.

Being patient is probably the number one piece of advice I would offer. Most people will go to a thrift store once, maybe twice, and write the experience off as a failure if they don't walk away with a great bargain. They will say that I have some sort of special bargain radar that they are not equipped with, but I say, "Poppycock!" Ok, maybe not that, but nonsense! Anyone can find a great deal at the thrift store, it just takes a little time and patience. The payoff is definitely worth it!

Final word.
If there is anything that thrift store shopping has taught me is that it's all just "stuff". Yes, I know there is a quantifiable difference in quality between a leather Coach handbag and a pleather XOXO bag and the amount someone will pay for them - but the chance that they will both end up in thrift store somewhere at some point is HIGHLY likely. I've found Prada, Gucci as well as Coach, Free People and Abercrombie & Fitch, Armani, etc. so there are people out there donating them and fairly regularly!

One woman's "so last season" is another woman's "OMG, look what I just found!" but the truth is that today's great discovery usually gives way to a newer and greater discovery in a relatively short amount of time, regardless of whether it came from a high-end department store or a thrift store. There are very few women I know that will regularly carry the same bag for 10 years, much less 1 or 2 - even the women who own Louis Vuitton's that WILL last long enough to pass them down to their daughters. Fashion changes, styles change and WE change.

That's what I love best about Savvy Shopping. I have the freedom to change my style whether it's because of preference OR weight and not feel guilty about it. We all already do it to varying degrees, whether we are trying to figure out what our style is or what our 'end weight' is going to be. That being the case, we might as well do it with a bit of savvy shopping. Don't wait until you reach your ideal weight or find "who" you are stylistically in order to buy clothes that look good on you NOW. It will eventually change anyway. Take a little time and little money and find some great clothes. You will be happier for it. I know I am.

1 comment:

  1. I love this site! I love your tips! I can't wait for more posts and to share with my bff b/c we both have to dress super savvy for our positions, but with the economy...we've downsized our expeditions. She's downsized to TJ Maxx Designer Line, I've fasting to fit into old clothes! This is a more useful alternative:) Thank you!