Thrifting 101: My thrift story. What's yours?

There once was a girl.

She lived with her mom, dad, and little brother in an apartment in Queens, NY. Money was tight, so they lived very frugally. Sometimes they went on food stamps. But the girl didn't mind. She always had nice things to wear, and friends to play with, and family who loved her.

This girl eventually grew up, and became a teenager...

...who left middle school, went to a performing arts high school in Manhattan, and discovered thrift stores.

Thrifting was her passion. It was also her secret. You see, when she was growing up, thrifting wasn't something you bragged about (or blogged about.) Thrifting was an activity you did strictly out of necessity. Going to a thrift store was shameful and embarrassing - an admission of financial desperation. To visit a thrift store not only meant you were too poor for the mall, but also that you were perfectly fine wearing someone else's used clothes. These were two things teenagers generally frowned about in the nineties. So this girl kept her after-school activity hidden.

She thrifted throughout high school and college, learning how to identify vintage, when the best days to thrift were, and where the best stores could be found. She thrifted for vintage Levis, and concert tees, and leather belts, and wool plaid skirts, and seventies men's suede jackets. Thrifting was both a way for her to develop her personal sense of style and stretch her dollar. And it was fun.

Eventually, though, this girl grew up. She got married and moved to the Texas suburbs and had a few kids. She forgot about thrifting, and started buying her clothes at the mall. But something was missing. She found herself wistful for those afternoons she spent at the Goodwill. She tenderly remembered the thrill she'd had after digging out something wonderful from a thrift store rack. So she returned to the thrift stores, and hasn't looked back since.

Blazer? Blouse? Pants? Shoes? Thrifted.

It's hard to believe that I've been thrifting for twenty-five years. I've battled against allergies, staples impaled into my thumb (why thrift store insist on stapling price tags into clothes, I'll never know), creepy men trying to hit on me, other shoppers attempting to steal things out of my cart. There have been highs - such as the Christan Dior sweater I thrifted for $3 a few weeks ago - and lows. Blessedly, the lows are few and far between. I am addicted to the thrill of the unknown, the possibilities that exist when I enter a thrift store, and the knowledge that I'm saving hundreds of dollars a year on clothes for both myself and my family.

So what's your thrift story? When did you get started thrifting? What first brought you into a thrift store?


  1. I thrifted in high school as well, much to my mother's dismay. She would always be so confused about the clothes and accessories I brought home.

    Funny twist in the story: When I was starting a new job about 3 years ago, I went to the Salvation Army and came back with so many good quality items. The next week, my mom went to the Salvation Army and also came home with items. I think she went pretty much every week for a year.

  2. I started thrifting in high school (90's). I remember one of my first purchases was a pair of old men's Levi's with a circle faded into the back pocket from chewing tobacco tub, haha. This past summer, my husband and I both overhauled our closet and have been building our wardrobes up with mostly thrifted clothes, though our clothes now are much nicer than before! I think I replied before, but I have found so many nice cashmere sweaters. In fact, I'm wearing a beautiful robins egg blue Ann Taylor one I picked up the other day for $3. Can't beat that!

  3. Really? I'm surprised to hear New York was that behind the times. I was in high school in the eighties in Wyoming and thanks to movie's like Pretty In Pink or Molly Ringlwald and a resurgence of Punk, thrifting was considered on the fringe but totally acceptable. I wasn't even considered a freak or a geek and I wore some pretty out there stuff. I lived in New Mexico in the nineties and stores like Buffalo Exchange had made finding cool used, even more acceptable. Especially if you could find beat up plaid shirts. Who wanted a new one?! I can't really remember a time in my life when I felt like I had to hide that I went to thrift stores and resale places. I'm shocked to hear you had to in New York of all places and a ART SCHOOL??!!! Blows my mind!

  4. In my circle in high school, thrifting just wasn't cool - even though I attended a performing arts high school. Among the theater and art majors, I'm sure it was. But I was a classical musician, as were my friends. They were a conservative, preppy, uptight little bunch. Sure, a few were more creative with their dress. But overall, I never felt as if my thrift habit would meet with their approval. That was just my personal experience, though. There were a couple of resale shops in Greenwich Village that were popular, but I wouldn't consider them true thrift stores - not in the same sense at Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

  5. I still remember how awful I felt when a girl a grade ahead of me was overheard whispering that I had on a sweatshirt that she had sold on her garage sale (my mom had brought it home for me).

    What's funny is--while I didn't like stopping at local yard sales after this--I did grow into thrifting as early as 12. I loved going to the salvation army and getting plaid polyester pants and old man shirts and wearing them together. The crazier the better.

  6. That totally makes sense. I jumped to the conclusion it was art or theater, stupid on my part! My son goes to a very classical school, not to mention a high population of well to do families. I can see that attitude being perpetuated there.

  7. Your post made me recall when I began thrifting, 1988. I was a single mom, entirely responsible for three little girls. So, that makes 24 years. It began out of necessity and continues because I learned to turn poverty into a game. I hate the staples too!


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