I suppose this is why I am unafraid of thrift stores. Thrift store excursions put one face-to-face with musty odors, dust, and dirt. There's a guaranteed ewww factor. Some consider the idea of rummaging through racks of use clothing distasteful, and I've received more than a few raised brows and scrunched noses after confessing my love for thrifting (you can see evidence of this passion here, and here, and here.) But I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.
Jentine of My Edit recently discussed this very topic in her Thrift Friday series. I was impressed by her tips for those who find thrifting intriguing, yet struggle with getting past what she calls the ick factor. However, I think there's another group of potential thrifters who could use some advice: those who have never, ever been thrifting, and are simply intimidated to enter the store in the first place. I thought I'd add my own tips to both groups.
- First of all, ask yourself if you are the type of person who can physically handle thrifting. If you have allergies, asthma, a super strong aversion to germs, or are unable to spend much time on your feet, thrifting is probably not for you. Also, you won't always find an item in your size. You won't always find something you like, either. If you are someone who loves to rummage, would sacrifice a half day in pursuit of a bargain, can thrift without triggering allergies, and enjoys the thrill of the hunt, then thrift store shopping is for you.
- Decide what time to shop is best for you. You'll need at least a spare hour. Since rummaging requires energy, choose the time of day when you feel most energetic. Some stores are open at night or weekends, and I've found that fewer people visit thrift stores at night. Weekends are likely to be busier, and sales days are by far the busiest. Most thrift stores post hours and information regarding sales on their website; definitely take the time to check before planning an outing.
- Leave your purse in the trunk of the car (or at home.) Carrying cash in your pocket frees up your hands for sorting/digging/browsing. And avoid wearing your coat into the store for the same reason.
- Understand that the types of people who visit thrift stores are not necessarily the same as in your neighborhood or at church. Thrift stores attract all walks of life. This means that you may be chatted up by lonely souls seeking comfort, confronted by people with intellectual disabilities, or brush shoulders with those down on their luck. All of them have their reasons for being there; just be polite and move on to the next rack.
- If the idea of the Goodwill or the Salvation Army squicks you out, try consignment stores instead. Consignment stores hand-select their items, and some even clean clothing before making it available to customers. They usually sell higher-label merchandise too. They're a nice steps towards becoming comfortable with the idea of wearing previously worn clothing.
- Be honest with yourself even before trying on the item (if that's possible - many thrift stores don't include dressing rooms.) Do you really like the style overall - the arms shape, the leg flare, the neck plunge etc? Is it really your color? Don't buy clothes that you don't absolutely love, or don't quite fit, or are otherwise substandard - even if they are a bargain. It's tempting to purchase something because it's so inexpensive, but it's a waste of time, money, and space to buy something that's not quite right.
- Check closely for stains, tears, mended parts, stretched stitching (often hard to repair) and marks. Do pants have a shiny seat, are beads or buttons missing, is stitching coming loose? If you see these, ask yourself if they're reparable or so damaged that they're better left behind. Only get items in good condition or capable of an easy repair. Buttons, zippers, and small holes can be replaced or mended by a tailor. Perspiration stains, fade marks, and large moth holes are beyond repair.
- And finally, my most-important piece of advice (and I can't state this emphatically enough): Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed to be shopping second-hand. It's practical, smart, and financially sensible. And thrifting makes it possible to find some really unique, vintage pieces that no one else has. Anyone who would put you down for doing it only makes themselves look bad (and shallow.)
Now I ask you: Does any part of thrifting squick you out? Do you avoid thrift stores entirely because of the squick factor? And please share your tips for newbie thrifters!
|Thrifted Kimchi Blue cardigan; thrifted Michael Stars henley; thrifted Seven For All Mankind bootcut jeans; thrifted Frye boots; thrifted vintage Whiting and Davis clutch; Betsey Johnson gold watch|
(Thanks for the positive responses, everyone! I think I'm going to start a Thrifting Thursday series now. It's nice to see that so many people share my passion for thrift stores!)