Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kansas Couture Presents...

Get Your Fix
Any time is a good time for thrifting! But, I recommend going when you have a shopping "craving." We all know the feeling. Your life won't be complete (or at least you won't look cute tonight) unless you buy something new. At least for me, these cravings often lead to spending too much money, buying things I don't really need, feeling a rush and then feeling guilty. Thrifting is a great solution because you are bound to spend much less money, and buying used items is more eco-friendly. Also, the rush from thrifting is distinctly different and, in my opinion, much better than that from regular retail shopping.

Take Your Time
Quick thrift trips are fine, especially if you're a seasoned thrifter or you're just looking at one type of item like shoes. If you're just breaking into the world of thrifting, however, I recommend allowing yourself plenty of time. You're much more likely to be successful.

Monday through Friday
Consider going on a weekday if you can. There will be fewer shoppers, and the store will be less picked over. Also, if you plan to frequent the same thrift store, find out if they have specials on certain days. You can even ask what day or days they restock.

Explore Your Area
Not all thrift stores are created equal. Visit all the thrift stores in your city or town, and travel to those nearby to get an idea of prices and selection. Generally speaking, thrift stores in small towns are likely to be cheaper and less picked over than those in more urban areas. Don't give up on a store after just one visit, though. Thrift stores are constantly changing, which is one reason they're so great!

Be Patient
One of the reasons thrift stores are considerably cheaper than, say, a vintage boutique or an antique mall is they don't filter through the merchandise to find the best items. You have to do that part! But it can be fun and rewarding, and the savings make it worth the effort. Be prepared to comb through a lot of clothes before you find something good.

Be Thorough
Look through everything. Just scanning a rack like you might do at a regular store probably won't cut it. Take it one section at a time, and look at each item. If the entire store seems too daunting, you can focus on one area per visit. Also, take a quick look in the men's and kids sections. You may just find a cute little blazer on the boys' rack or a men's denim shirt that would look great over leggings.

Be Persistent
It's easy to give up on thrifting when you put in the time and effort and come away empty-handed. I've had just as many failed attempts as smashing successes. You just have to keep trying. Often! I probably thrift at least once a week. The more you thrift, the more you'll find. You'll get better at it with practice.

See the Possibilities
It's important to recognize a garment's potential. For instance, a pair of pleated, high-waist "mom" pants from the '80s hanging on a grungy thrift store rack is not going to look as appealing as a similar pair styled on an H&M mannequin. Besides context, some items will actually need to be altered to unleash their style possibilities. A frumpy long dress or skirt may look totally chic with a more modern hemline. A ridiculous blouse may become quirky and cool once you remove the shoulder pads. Considering how little you're spending, it's okay to get some fixer-uppers. And if you're not a seamstress, consider enlisting the help of a tailor. Even after the cost of alteration, you'll probably be spending less or the same as you would in a store, and you're getting a more unique piece.

Cheap & Trendy
So you want to get on board with the latest trend, but you don't feel it's worth an investment. Try thrifting it! You would be surprised what you can find.

Take Risks
Because thrifting gives you more freedom financially, you don't have to be as safe with your purchases. You may only wear that multi-colored sequin blouse one time, but you paid $5 for it. You can always donate it again. That being said, don't buy things just because they're cheap. Money is money, and even small amounts add up quickly.

Be Discerning
Though they're usually cheap, thrift store items are not exempt from being overpriced. Evaluate what an item is worth to you, so you don't overpay. Also, examine items carefully for stains or other defects before you purchase them.
 
A Little Dirt Never Hurt
I've gotten a few questions from people concerned about the cleanliness of thrifting. Personally, I'm not at all grossed out about the idea of wearing clothes that belonged to someone else. The only advice I have on this matter is wash before you wear.

Hopefully I didn't just state the obvious. Feel free to ask questions in the comments. Fellow thrifters, please share your own tips!

40 comments:

Kathryn said...

After spending a good part of my afternoon thrifting I can also add that being ready to try on A LOT of clothing since sizes vary so widely. I try to wear a "thrifting outfit" which consists of a tank and leggings or tights under a simple dress so that I can try things on really easily. All of my thrift stores have dressing rooms, but sometimes they're not available. A good outfit lets you try things on right in the aisles!

Lions, Tigers and Fashion OH MY! said...

very well said! I just went today and they had a special half off for the hour I was there lucky me! xoxo

Marie said...

I haven't had any luck thrifting here in Florida... but i do appreciate the tips.. giving me courage to try again!

www.fashionofmysoul.blogspot.com

cocojones said...

really good tips, although sadly we don't have the same kind of thift stores in the uk, we have much smaller charity shops and ALL the ones in central London seem to have no good stuff left by the time I get there! However, your post has encouraged me to perservere!

DarlingV said...

I loved this, "the savings make it worth the effort" So true!

grace said...

my tip is to make a semi-specific wishlist. it sounds dumb, but i swear it works...it just might take a few tries. last fall, i really wanted a short, red leather pencil-cut skirt. i had seen one on a style blog a while ago and figured there had to be more than one of those floating around in the thrift store world. two months (and quite a few thrift trips) later, i found one that fit me perfectly! this has worked with a variety of other item: a classic coach bag, ferragamo pumps, a cape-style coat, a furry leopard coat, etc! perhaps when you know exactly what you want, you have a keener eye for it?

upatreecupatea said...

A tip from me is to wear an outfit that you can easily try on clothes with, like leggings and a t-shirt or something. Then you can just slip that dress on in the aisle (since some thrift stores don't have dressing rooms)...going during the week is definitely true! I also love to stop at thrift stores in small towns when I'm on a road trip, they are sometimes a gold mine! :)

Laura Gerencser said...

Great tips!

piglet said...

I have the prickly must-go-thrifting urge now! Great tips.

Kelly [kks] said...

Where are your favorite spots in Kansas City? I've been to Rivermarket Antiques, Donna's Dress Shop, Good Juju, Urban Mining, and the Brass Armadillo. I need new hotspots! :)

Steph said...

I like this alot...These are great tips. I remember when I first started thrifting and didn't really know yet how to go about it or what to expect. Now that I really have gotten into the swing of things and know the good places to go where I live, it is alot simpler.

Seval said...

such a nice post! thank you! i wish we had some good thrift shops here in Istanbul too...

Diana said...

These are some really fantastic tips! I love thrifting, and I don't go nearly as often as I'd like.

jesse.anne.o said...

Here (and I guess Chicago and SF) it's more about bedbugs than dirt. I ended up writing a post about how to thrift and AVOID bedbugs recently!

I value the context tip - most of what I do buy ends up getting altered in some way. The other thing is fabrics - I was the queen of buying polyester short-sleeved shirts until I realized that I am never ever willing to wear poly when it's warm enough to wear short sleeves so unless I'm planning on layering them for winter, I now avoid!

kimvee said...

Nice tips :)

kimvee.blogspot.com
omvintage.etsy.com
ohmyvintage.blogspot.com

Becky said...

A lot of these are tips that I'd already learned from my own trial and error (since I've been an avid thrift shopper since junior high), but it's always good to have a refresher. One tip I'll add is that if you have a friend who's also into thrift shopping, bringing her along can be great! One of my good friends and I have a tried-and-true system--we know each other's taste well enough that we can look through different racks and pull things out for the other while we're shopping for ourselves too. And, until the local Goodwill instituted a dressing room item limit (arrrgh), we would always try to get adjacent dressing rooms and literally throw things that didn't fit quite right or we didn't like as much on over the partition so the other could try them on! (I'm taller than her, so she'd get the stuff that was too short for me, I'd get the prints that were a little too funky for her, etc.) It also helps to get the second opinion on things like how good (or bad) those pants look on you! (Of course, on the flip side, sometimes the process is much faster when you go solo, too!)

I went last night, but didn't have enough time to get through as much of the store as I wanted--I think reading this clinched my decision to go back tomorrow!

thevintagedevil.com said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thevintagedevil.com said...

I LOVEEEEEE YOU BLOG AND THRIFTING BUT YOU BEAT ME IN FINDING GOOD DEALS! EVERYTIME I SEE YOU ROCKING SHOES, SHIRTS, PANTS OR WHATEVER FOR $1.50 IT MAKES WANT TO MOVE TO KANSAS TO SHOP RIGHT WERE YOU SHOP!! GOOD JOB!

dressdarling said...

Great tips!
People are often surprised by the things that I find in thrift stores, thinking that I got it from somewhere expensive. It's always hit of miss but then you hit it's so worth it!


www.dressdarling.wordpress.com

elnajay said...

Great tips, thank you! I especially agree with the reminder to take risks...I've picked up some wonderful pieces that I really liked but didn't know whether I could "pull off". If it's a few dollars (often less if I'm at my favorite thrift store where you pay by the pound!) then it's probably worth taking home and trying for myself.

Another thing I've found to be useful is looking at garments based on the fabric...touching a pile or row of clothes and pulling out the ones that have a great feel/texture or a great pattern/color. Sometimes they turn out to be very, very large shorts instead of the little dress I am hoping for. But often this technique has helped me find really interesting pieces.

Now I have the thrifting craving again...

The Tights that Bind said...

Try to find a thrifting friend to take on your adventures. They'll help judge fit when dressing rooms aren't available, suggest when maybe you shouldn't buy something just because it's hilarious and two dollars, and help keep you focused when the amount of options seem overwhelming. This is especially helpful for your first few times out.

lauren said...

i'm from illinois [land of amazing thrift stores] and i've been living in scotland for the past year and the thrift stores here are so depressing. i've gotten some great items, but the stores here are just so small and a lot more expensive. i can't wait to go home for good this summer so i can thrift my brains out.

The Daily Fashionista said...

Very neat tip list! It's putting me in the mood to go thrifting again! Anyways, I'm actually visiting Lawerence in May and I was wondering if you could suggest good thriftshops in your area.

Oh and I've mentioned this on my blog before, but it bears repeating. Target donates new clothes to Goodwill. I usually wait for the Go International and designer series to end up there and buy them. I got a Rodarte dress for $7 yesterday!

-Emily

Grace M said...

Both the time and context factor are really important to thrifting. Thrifting simply takes patience, but that's one of the fun parts, I think. It's similar to browsing in a used bookstore -- which great novel will you find next? It's that serendipity that brings me back to thrifting even after a trip where I walked out empty-handed.

Context is key, too. Like you said, a piece that perhaps seems "dowdy" at first may actually be a real prize.

Little Gray Pixel said...

Great tips! I would add that thrifting with a pal is always helpful. My friend Sara and I always "divide and conquer," picking up pieces for each other along the way. It takes half the time as it would for just one of us to look over the store. We also write about our adventures (Sara more so than I):

http://littlegraypixel.blogspot.com
http://serialthrifter.blogspot.com

Lexie said...

great tips for beginners! at this point the only thing i struggle with is deciding what's worth taking to the tailor and what i should just pass on! sometimes i end up spending more money than i should when i factor in alterations!

Laura said...

I love your tips since I'm an avid thrifter I have a similar approach and my favourite thing is finding oodles of silk shirts.

Laura said...

Another good tip to add to my previous comment is to talk to fellow thrifters it's a good way to make new friends and get input on how whatever you tried on how it looks.And it's fun to talk to fellow shoppers.

Alice said...

Thrifting is... such a rush. In my town, the dirtier the shop, the better. The shiny new stores have newer clothing, and no one wants that! The seediest, most unkempt stores are my favorite- leather purses, boots, silk shirts, fur coats, wool blazers GALORE!
great tips! xx

megan.tme said...

I never really thought of thrift store shopping as a rush, but you are absolutely right. That also must be why I feel like such an addict! Now I have an excuse :)

Thanks for the tips, I really enjoyed reading them and brushing up on my mad skills. :)

P.S. Just want to say how much I enjoy reading your blog because you are very down to earth and not trying to impress anyone. I thought I'd mention it since I've been following you for a year now and haven't really started commenting until recently. You are one of the ladies that inspired me to start my own, so thank you thank you thank you!

~ megan
http://transmissionme.blogspot.com/

Frilled2CU said...

Something I've discovered in my thrift adventures is to hit the thrift store on a Monday night/Tuesday. That's when they've put out all the donations from people who had garage sales over the weekend. I usually find the best stuff those days.

I love your blog:) Please keep it up!

Frilled2CU said...

Oh, and one more thing (sorry) be sure to check the cleaning instructions. Are you really going to (or even want to) dry clean, professional leather clean, or hand wash an item? If it's too expensive or you're too lazy (sometimes I feel both ways) you might want to pass on the item, otherwise you'll be like me and have stuff sit in your hamper for a year waiting for its special cleaning.

Stacey said...

I'd love to get a list of places you think are especially fruitful to thrift shop in the Lawrence and surrounding areas. Just curious which ones you like!

Jill said...

these are some really great tips. will keep them in my mind during my next thrift trips.

Alicia said...

I will have to try this next time I need to shop!

closet365 said...

Great tips. I am fairly new to thrifting, but I agree with everything you mentioned. And now I feel way overdue for an excursion. Hooray!

Nishant said...

sometimes they're not available. A good outfit lets you try things on right in the aisles!
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Patty said...

This is such a great article! I haven't visited many thrift stores (or ukay ukay, as it's called in the Philippines) in my life, but this makes me want to thrift again! Thanks for this. :)

Amy said...

Good tips. I second the "wish list" tip. Having in mind what I need/want helps me find it--usually for much cheaper than I would get it in a store. (Hello, wine bottle opener for $1.50.)

Here's a tip: Visit thrift stores near neighborhoods where wealthy people live. The stores might be a little pricier, but you're more likely to find brand-name castoffs, as opposed to a store full of used Wal-Mart merchandise.

In the Kansas City area, I like Maj-R Thrift near 47th and Mission.

inday_adin said...

Great tips! :) Thanks for sharing.