Thrifting 101, Part 3: Thrifting For The Clothing Snob

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Another Thursday, another Thrifting 101 post! (Need to catch up on parts 1 and 2? Check them out here and here.)  I've really enjoyed reading everyone's comments, and am so happy to be a part of a community that loves thrifting as much as I do.

Before delving into this week's tips, allow me to begin with a confession: I am a clothing snob and a label whore. I read Vogue and lust over glossy photos of luxurious leather handbags; I languishing browse in Neiman Marcus merely to see what customers are wearing; I covet rich furs and supple leathers and handmade lace. Couture fashion shows make me swoon, and I spend entirely too much time reading fashion blogs that examine high-end items, including cosmetics. I don't have a closet full of couture (mostly it's stuffed full of bargain finds from the Gap, J Crew and Old Navy) but I treasure the high-end items I do own.

Thankfully, thrifting allows me to purchase the pieces I never would be able to afford otherwise. I have made some truly remarkable discoveries while thrifting. There' a certain Diane Von Furstenberg dress hanging in my closet I paid $7 for. A Marc Jacobs bag gleamed during a particularly fortuitous trip to a consignment store. And too many pairs of designer denim I'm willing to confess to owning.

I love to wear beautiful clothing. If I'm in something well-made, aesthetically pleasing, and flattering to my body, I feel more self-confident. When I'm in a funk few things cheer me up more than wearing something pretty and well-tailored. Most of my high-end clothing falls into this category. But of course, striving to wear high-end labels and expensive fabrics is not a cheap goal.

So how do I keep my current standard of fashion? I thrift constantly. Here are some thrifting tips for a clothing snob like myself:
  • Go Often  The best piece of advice I can give to high-fashion thrift seekers is to keep going. Merchandise changes constantly. I recently learned that the Salvation Army receives new shipments of clothing in the amount of 12,000 pieces a day. Shocker, huh? I try to visit my favorite neighborhood stores at least once a week. For stores a bit father from my home, I go a couple of times a month. If I'm going by a store before meeting friends, I always make time to stop in. For example, one of my favorite stores had absolutely nothing for a few weeks straight, but I kept going back. Finally, I came across that little Diane Von Furstenberg dress I mentioned. It made the weeks of nothing worth the effort. 
  • Take Your Time. There's nothing worse than having a limited amount of time to browse through an entire store, especially one as vast at the Goodwill or Family Thrift. You definitely need to set aside a reasonable amount of time and be patient while browsing. It's not unusual to take an hour to dig up something worthwhile, but when you find it, it's absolutely worth it.
  • Avoid Getting Suckered In by Brands. Too often I've made the mistake of getting suckered in by a high-end brand, and buying something that I have never worn. This is nothing short of a waste of money, no matter how bargain priced the item might be. If you do happen upon a treasure trove of designer labels, remember that you don't need to buy every piece in the store. Buy what you like and leave the rest for someone else.
  • Research Your Neighborhoods If you live in a major city, do a little research and find the thrift stores in nicer neighborhoods. The surrounding community can dictate the quality of the store and the items in it. For the real finds, suburbs of major cities are the best bet. The best strategy is to thrift around neighborhoods in a higher tax bracket. Chances are, the residents wouldn't be caught dead thrifting, or wearing the same item over many seasons, so you'll find their often unworn, higher-end items at bargain prices.
  • Think Quality over Quantity There's no sense in buying high-end pieces if they're falling apart. Make sure you take the time to check over each of your finds to see if they have any tears, snags, loose stitches, stains, or other defects. If you don't you might end up bringing home an Armani blazer with moth holes in on the sleeves and a water stain along the hem. Like I did.
  • Make Sure it Fits Spending money on the most beautiful, covet-able item in the world is pointless if it doesn't fit. Not everything can be altered. And alterations and tailoring can be more expensive than you might think.  So don't buy it unless it fits, because otherwise it might cost you more than you are able to afford.
  • Don't Overspend! My last, and most important tip: Don't overspend. Especially if you are making a day of thrifting. Set a budget, and stick to it. Save your money for the brands you really covet. Though pieces are cheap, if you end up finding several great items, it will cost you more than you were anticipating in the end. For example, while thrifting last month I bought a vintage rabbit fur bomber ($40), a vintage sparkly tube skirt ($8), a pair of Seven For All Mankind jeans ($7), a black cross-body bag ($10), and a J Crew long-sleeved tee ($10). The only items I should have purchased were the jeans and tee. I overspent by $58. 
Are you a thrifting clothing snob? What are some of your best tips? 

Next week I'll discuss how to find the best thrift stores. Make your you don't miss an installment of my Thrifting 101 series - become a follower, or follow me on Twitter and Facebook!


  1. Such great advice! I love thrifting-I think I thrift more than I actualy "shop". I love the part about making sure it fits-I recently bought a blazer and I'm not sure if I'll ever wear it because it's a little bit big-but I'm working on it!

    Lindsey Soup

  2. Good advice. I'm lucky to have a terrific place in my hometown which often has great clothes 'cause they get donations from rich women in an affluent neighborhood. The selection varies widely so, as you advise, it's best to shop often. You never know when the perfect dress is going to be there!

  3. I found a Prada bag and Ralph Lauren bag for $25 each. I loved the Prada bag, but it had serious damage... I was able to talk them down to $10 for the Ralph Lauren though and it looks brand new...

    So, my one piece of advice on top of what you already said is to haggle... if they know you, (and they should if you are going in a few times a month) is that they usually don't mind.

  4. This is so great! I've googled some consignment shops nearby and will be checking them out this weekend! No more thrifting virginity after this weekend!! :) I will let you know how it goes for sure!

  5. I have a great Goodwill nearby (it's in a nice neighborhood, like you suggested), and I've been particularly lucky finding premium denim (Seven, COH,etc). I also found a gorgeous Juicy Couture top and a Michael Kors sweater!

    As far as advice, I think you covered most everything. The only thing I have to add is that it seems the best time to shop is right after the weekend (as people often drop off items on Saturday or Sunday) and in the first fews days of the month (because of people moving apartments, etc).

  6. I love this post. I grew up in consignment stores/thrift stores and travel for a living. I have a designer wardrobe all thanks to goodwills, junior league thrift stores, and saint vincent depaul stores that are in every city I travel to. A lot of the time they are set up the same way and are super easy to browse. All your tips are spot-on, but one I liked in particular is to make sure it fits! I bought a pair of vintage FRYE boots at a Goodwill in Omaha NB ($15) and tried them on briefly to only find out in the future that they hurt my feet so bad I couldn't wear them for more than a few hours!!

  7. You know, I have NEVER thrifted for clothes, but good golly have I ever overdone it in the past when I went on a vintage glass/pottery/vase rampage. It is embarrassing the amount of vases I scrounged around and hoarded away for my *flower arranging* phase! LOL I do have a large garden, and I love having fresh flowers displayed in pretty vases, but it can get out of hand FAST. I have justified some of my purchases by giving freshly arranged bouquets, including the unique, interesting vase to friends and family...good Lord, I sure have plenty to go around. I one day just said NO MORE after a couple of months of obsessive collecting and worrying that if I didn't pop into my favorite thrift stores and antiques malls I would miss out on the very best vase ever created and worse still, that someone else would get it. Ha! I was a vase junkie! Yikes!

    As for clothing...eBay should own a part of my soul at this point. But, I LOVE eBay! I'm an addict!


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