What’s your thrifting strategy?

by jennine on September 28, 2009

thrifting blues

32258355Thrifting is not like riding a bike. You can forget how to do it. It’s more like running. If you run regularly, it’s great, you get faster, stronger, more in shape…but if you don’t do it for a long time you get out of shape. Great thrifters are ones who go obsessively, they have ‘the eye’, strategies, they can see things in clothes the rest of us mortals cannot, they’re well practiced. I know this because I hadn’t been thrifting in quite a while… they have flea markets in Germany, but not thrift stores like they do in the US, where you can get a blazer for about $4 and a dress for $3. On Friday, I went to a thrift store I heard about and checked it out. Maybe I was rusty, but it was super hard to find anything.. for some reason I have it in my mind that thrift stores have vintage gems, which in reality, that only happened in vintage times. Nowadays thrifting is more about finding secondhand, discarded clothes to love. I did find some amazing items, not really wearable, but certainly put a smile on my face, like these Y2K pumps I yammered on about all weekend, and a sequin American Flag clutch…ah, whimsy!

I piled a whole bunch of things in my cart, a red blazer, tartan culottes, a French blue men’s shirt, some gold thing, a boys’s blue blazer with gold buttons,  a blue Forever21 dress, and a chain belt…  yet only ended up buying three things. In total cost $10 for a belt, dress and blazer… the final edit was a bit more classic than anticipated, I went in wanting bolder colors, but ended up going with the blues. Not bad for my first attempt back at thrifting, it certainly felt good to go back to a form of shopping which I really love.

Here I’m wearing: Thrifted boy’s blazer, thrifted F21 dress, thrifted quilted white bag (not from this trip), navy blue tights from flea market, spectator pumps, jewelry: necklaces from mom & grandma and cuff via Market Publique.

What’s your thrifting strategy?

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leigh September 28, 2009 at 10:57 am

Your hair looks really pretty straightened. And I love the blazer. I’ve been searching for the perfect blazer, but everything i find comes up a big bulky or big on my frame. Yours looks perfect!
.-= leigh´s last blog ..Not Your Average Sweater: Sibling Spring Summer 10 =-.

Meghann September 28, 2009 at 11:01 am

I love the Blazer!
I have one similar to it - I am on the hunt for a black one now!

Alicia September 28, 2009 at 11:09 am

OOh! When I go thrifting, I usually have a solid idea about what I’m looking for. It’s strange (because this always happens), but when I’m in the area where what I’m looking for would be, there’s something else in the near vicinity that I also end up buying. Just last night, I was looking for a black cropped jacket (found) and right above it was an oversized black clutch.

I think most of my success comes when I know what I’m going in for so I don’t spend too much time pawing through racks. It’s when I’m cursorily looking around (usually after I find or don’t find what I originally went for) that I find the interesting stuff.

You came away with some good stuff. That navy blazer is a gem! Makes me want to sew gold buttons on the one I thrifted the weekend before last!

Jenny September 28, 2009 at 11:17 am

Usually I go with a goal item in mind, or at least a dollar amount I would spend. It really helps me stay focused and shop the store in a logical way. If I’m just doing a mindless browse, I look for color and good fabric, and then from there pull the hanger out and really look at the garment.

Jeanne September 28, 2009 at 11:41 am

I’ve actually been looking for a boy’s navy blazer for ages! Everyone seems to find them except for me…

My thrifting strategy… usually I’m going and looking for skirts or dresses (or blazers!), and I don’t mind buying (and wearing) shoes — I know some people don’t like it, but I don’t mind. I’ll also check out the purses and the jewelry (pins and brooches, mostly). I also look for color and good fabric, and the “will I really wear it” factor — if something needs a little extra love (new buttons, fixed hem), will I actually give it the love, or will it sit in my dresser?
.-= Jeanne´s last blog ..NYFW iPhone Photo Drop - The Finale! =-.

Suzanna September 28, 2009 at 11:42 am

You look fab in that picture, J. Love the hair!

I dislike thrift stores, I will come right out and say it. The ones I’ve been in are mostly desperate. The best “find,” if I can call it that, was a painting that looked to belong in the Museum of Bad Art. I took a photo of it and sent it to them; I was intending to buy it (for a dollar) and donate it to their wonderful collection, but they were not interested.

So, not only do I not have an eye for vintage clothing, I also do not have an eye for bad art.

Do you recall the ones on Haight in SF? Sometimes those would have relics of the psychedelic era that were pretty cool, if largely unwearable. Much of it-men’s-looked as if it had been scavenged from the Grateful Dead House at 710 Ashbury.

Susiii September 28, 2009 at 12:09 pm

wow, you look so different! but very lovely!

jennine September 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm

❤ leigh..oh i have the same problem with blazers, this one i found in the kids section, but it’s still not perfect….
❤ meghann…. blazers are essential!
❤ alicia…ooh that’s so interesting, i like how you didn’t say, i go in looking for something and magically it appears, because that’s never happened for me! but the whole serendipity bit you explain, that ALWAYS happens….
❤ jenny, so true, there are a lot of other elemnts i’ll sacrifice for good fabric or some interesting detail…
❤ jeanne, you raised such a good point! which is why i didn’t get the y2k pumps… cool, but would i wear it? prolly not.
❤ suzanna…i LOVE the museum of bad art…love it. art and home decor is probably one of the best things thrift stores sell… by far.

anh September 28, 2009 at 1:54 pm

looking great! when thrifting i definitely have a type of item in mind. i like to think i am very good at thrifting :D and when i thrift shop i dont discriminate. i look in the kids and men’s section and even maternity clothes cos you def find some great items anywhere!!!
.-= anh´s last blog ..Keep it Clean! =-.

Wikifashion September 28, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Gorgeous dress!! Although I’m not much of a thrift shopper, I tend to buy a couple of high quality pieces and rotate the outfits by pairing with really cheap, on trend costume jewellery :)
.-= Wikifashion´s last blog ..File:Miroslava duma.png =-.

Sheena September 28, 2009 at 3:06 pm

That whole outfit looks great on you! I love the dress paired with the blazer and the spectators. Beautiful! You know, thrifting for me has always been difficult and it’s almost like I have to give myself a pep talk before I go into the store. I’ve only found a couple of thrift stores that I like, but I don’t go nearly enough. On the other hand, I have a friend who comes out with the best buys ever. I think some people really do just have that eye. I don’t think I’m one of them, though.
.-= Sheena´s last blog ..True Red =-.

hannahlizabeth September 28, 2009 at 3:33 pm

it depends on where i’m going - if it’s a real vintage store i’ll look for anything that catches my eye - sequins, velvet etc… if it’s the salvation army or something filled with 90s chain store duds then i’ll keep an eye out for crop tops, bustiers, floor length grandma dresses that can be hemmed, oversized sweaters, and jackets that can be made in to vests!

.-= hannahlizabeth´s last blog ..“I got to dress up in funny clothes and run around New Zealand with a bow and arrow for 18 months, how bad could that be?” =-.

K-Line September 28, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I don’t know that I have a strategy - I just have a vibe about when to vintage shop - and it often serves me well. BTW, your hair is gorgeous here! And I love the shoes.
.-= K-Line´s last blog ..She’s Grrrrreat! =-.

eyeliah September 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm

You are so right about getting out of practice, my closet has been so full that I don’t want to buy anything until I clear out the junk and I’ve lost my thrifting touch a bit. My stategies are to go to the best first, dresses shoes and jewelry. Then to look down the skirt aisle and tryto spot the a lines (triangle shapes) that are peeking out, they uit my body the best.
.-= eyeliah´s last blog ..Chickdowntown Giveaway & Last Giveaway Winner =-.

Carolyn September 28, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Persistence, an open-mind and time are my secrets to thrift shopping. I simply cannot pass a Thrift Store by- I must look. There just SO much possibility! But you do have to overlook weirdos, questionable smells and the general stigma some people perceive about these please. None of these phase me one bit. I will dig through any pile to find a gem. Heck, I did it today and came away with a perfect pair of wool Ralph Lauren slacks, a vintage sleeveless blouse, a vintage velvet blazer, and more. You’ll never know I didn’t buy them at the mall.
.-= Carolyn´s last blog ..Todays Outfit- Tank and shorts =-.

enc September 28, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I haven’t got one. Maybe I need to get one.
.-= enc´s last blog ..Well, You Could’ve Fooled Me! =-.

Clare September 28, 2009 at 5:54 pm

My strategy is mostly just showing up. I get frustrated quickly if I’m looking for something specific and don’t find it, so I tend to just randomly pick a thrifting day, and shop, and see what happens. Out of curiosity, which thrift store did you go to? I’m a big frequenter of the Goodwill in the west Loop, but I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been to many other Chicago thrift stores.
.-= Clare´s last blog ..You May Be a Million Miles Away =-.

rachel c. September 28, 2009 at 8:02 pm

from the looks of your success, i’d say you’re a thrifter at heart!

i usually find that the best scores can be made early, early in the morning and on days when sales are NOT happening.

jennine September 28, 2009 at 8:45 pm

❤anh…ooh maternity??? really! i’ve never heard that one before!
❤wiki..ooh that’s a great strategy!
❤ sheena…ahhh i know what you mean, some people are just gifted.
❤hanahelizabeth…oooh yes, there is a huge difference between vintage and thrifting. the latter you need to have a more open mind about.
❤kline…oooh intuitive approach…love it
❤eyelia, i have done that too… oddly enough it’s during my blogging time that i have thrifted the least…
❤carolyn, no truer words have been spoken… particularly the open mind, and going all the time
❤enc…well i don’t know if you NEED one… ;)
❤clare, i’m going to check that one out!
❤rachel, good point, i’m tempted to go to the shop on monday that’s the half off day…but you’re right sale days are madness…

Freya September 29, 2009 at 3:08 am

OMG! You look like a moviestar, Jennine! Straight black hair simply rocks! (seriously, no unnecessary use of the hyperbole here)

.-= Freya´s last blog ..Luxury at less =-.

Sal September 29, 2009 at 6:11 am

Seriously, the straight hair is AMAZING. And I agree that thrifting takes practice, and you can lose your edge. JUST filmed a news segment about effective thrifting that relays my main strategies! http://www.alreadypretty.com/2009/09/channel-12-news-segment-thrift-tips.html
.-= Sal´s last blog ..Reader Request: Fashion as Crutch =-.

glowingdoll September 29, 2009 at 6:50 am

I think understanding what looks good on you and/or what you enjoy wearing is the most important. Once you figure it out you can save lots of time and money by avoiding those impulse buys that you never end up wearing.

Ebay is a great tool as well but beware of it’s addictiveness. You might end up saving money on ebay but then nullifying it by buying twice the needed quantity. Also when buying on ebay take your measurements beforehand and compare them to the measurements that the seller has listed (if they haven’t listed the measurements ask them too). Never ever rely on the size stated on the label. Labels lie!

PAPERFASHION September 29, 2009 at 8:03 am

Your hair looks gorgeous, as always. I love it straight (and not straight!). I can’t say I’m a great thrifter (because I rarely do it)- but I definitely admire people who do. It’s an art!

I love the post on smoking in fashion blogs also- I hate smoking but I’ve also had the thought of it seeming glamorous… it’s an odd link. And a horrible one.
.-= PAPERFASHION´s last blog ..YOUNGISTA =-.

Sabrina Krejci September 29, 2009 at 9:24 am

I love the blazer and dress!!! These are great finds.

I shop at thirft stores all the time!!! I love them. It can be frustrating at times, but I usually just go in with my head clear and expect to spend awhile there. You truly have to dig through everything since items can be placed in the wrong area or under the wrong size section. I have come up with some great things. Cashmere scraves, brand new pants, designer jeans, etc. Just don’t be afraid to look at everything and always make sure you have the time. If you go to a store when you only have a limited amount of time to spend there you will be fustrated.

My favorites thrift stores in the Chicagoland area are the Village Discount Outlets. The one on Roscoe and Damen is great. Also, the Salvation Army on Fullerton and Ashalnd is great too, they also have a huge household/furniture dept.
.-= Sabrina Krejci´s last blog ..Must Have Obession: Fall Favorite Boots =-.

suzi September 29, 2009 at 10:01 am

Cute dress. I really like all the necklaces around your neck. they add so much flavor to the outfit.

Dottie September 29, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I rarely shop in new stores, preferring to buy all of my clothes in thrift/vintage stores or online sales. Usually I come out with only one piece, if I buy anything at all. My strategy is not to buy simply for the sake of buying: my closet is cluttered enough as it is.
.-= Dottie´s last blog ..Fall Arrives in Nashville =-.

Aja September 29, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Generally, if I have something in mind that I’m looking for, it’s always a bit easier to navigate the store. If I go in just to browse, I leave with a headache. I’ll usually go for a look and say “I want this and that because they’ll go with X,Y and Z” and sometimes I leave with my arms full of goodness I didn’t even realize I was looking for! It’s all a bit of luck of the draw, isn’t it? You look fabulous here by the way. So nicely put together.

...love Maegan September 29, 2009 at 10:31 pm

love. this! the colors are amazing on you! …especially with the red lips.

this last weekend I was itching to go out thrifting …instead, I did it on ebay. It was almost as thrilling ;)
.-= …love Maegan´s last blog ..Completely Gratuitous Outfit Post =-.

Vint junky September 30, 2009 at 3:00 am

You look amazing in that cobalt blue, i always think thrifted or vintage items add something abit more individual than new bought clothes

I thrift / vintage shop ALOT , i always find i have to be in the right mood ie. not a bad one! Then i will keep an open mind to things even if they are not my current personal style but always with an eye for a print, colour or cut that is current that i think i could incorporate into wardrobe…. i think you more you do it the more you develop a kind of radar for items !!! You just kind of home in on them, i got an amazing peaked shoulder sleeveless leather jacket recentl, probably my best buy yet for less than £10.
Thrifting rocks!
.-= Vint junky´s last blog ..raven =-.

grace September 30, 2009 at 12:40 pm

cool blazer and dress! my favorite thrift stores in chicago are the village discount in logan square and the salvation army and unique thrift in uptown.

Liv Lundelius September 30, 2009 at 3:24 pm

omg! you look so beautiful on these! i like the hair. no- i like everything

SwanDiamondRose October 1, 2009 at 3:55 pm

i have an ongoing little list of what i want to find at thrift stores. sometimes it takes a few years but… eventually it shows up.

i only buy what fits even if i love it and it is cheap. and definitely going more often will get you what you want, it’s very random of course. very!

i wouldn’t really count stores that have already thrifted for you as a thrift store, but if you really want something and can’t put in the shopping hours, it’s a good option.

and try to go to places that aren’t too overrun by other savvy thrifters, sort of impossible but worth a try.

also, look in neighbourhoods where the type of clothing you want is being thrown away. when i wanted more “boho” type things back in the “boho” day and a lot of Indian clothing fell into that category, i would thrift in a suburb where there was a large Indian community.

and really look carefully for flaws in the store, it’s so easy to miss moth munchings and tiny holes and stains, but later on they might drive you crazy.

and remember to test out certain things well at the store. there are a whole bunch of shoes from the 80s that have the blown foam soles, i don’t know the real name for it, but they often look perfectly preserved but one good bend or a few full-weighted steps and the sole just kind of cracks and starts disintegrating. yuck!

never fully trust the stores categorization of clothing. look in the kids section for things that will fit you, look in small sections even if you are large etc.

and remember that sizing changes pretty much every decade. so just try whatever it is on.

i am definitely a bit of a committed thrifter!
.-= SwanDiamondRose´s last blog ..what i need right now is a poem… =-.

Jillian October 1, 2009 at 6:36 pm

oh you look AMMMAAAAAZING here
that’s all i really wanted to say!

but yes i love to look for vintage pieces… i don’t know why
maybe because they’ve been loved by someone already? Thinking of the clothes backstory is so wonderful and I often find some of the most uniquely crafted jewelry, which is great. I’ve also noticed that if you go way back, some vintage is much better constructed than things you might find in say urban outfitters. (not dissing UO just saying i think the craftsmanship is way different)
.-= Jillian´s last blog ..Freja - Just Because =-.

Ferferwok October 4, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Just found this oneline store with Authentic RL Polo shits have been looking for a while and even have been to ebay but its all fake there. Big Pony Polo RL !


Market Publique October 14, 2009 at 6:59 am

AI know the feeling… sometimes it seems that wherever you go thrifting many someones got there first. It’s pretty hard to find vintage in your neighborhood Goodwill these days, especially if you live in a big city. Still, you never know when you’re going to run into gems, so I am always prepared: a measuring tape is in my bag at all times so I don’t have to try things on, since most of the time there’s no dressing room.

Love the hair and the bright blue with the chains!

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