Shopping at thrift stores has been a major joy in my life since high school, when my Besfrinn and I would contrive to have our moms drop us off at the Summer and Highland strip, and we’d gleefully spend an afternoon trying on ridiculous things, perusing 70s records, and having a free-for-all with the costume jewelry. It was awesome. And it still is. I love the thrill of the hunt, and I’ve been thinking lately about thrifting strategies, since I’ve been going so much (I have Christmas money, and they keep giving me coupons!) Without further ado, here are some things I’ve learned in my many years of seeking and finding diamonds in the rough.
1. Keep an eye out for sales. This big sign hangs way up high, and I’d probably been to this thrift store two or three times before I noticed it. A sale at a thrift store might seem like an oxymoron, but knowing that I’ll get 50% off sometimes puts a splurge item within my reach (hello, brand new pink dress!). Also, it just makes it more fun when I realize that something I really like has a magical green tag:)
2. Have some things in mind that you’re looking for before you go. My mom swears I have some kind of thrift store magic because several times she’s heard me say, “Well, what I’d really like to find is a pair of nice cowboy boots,”…and then, there they are! This doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but I like to keep the things I need in mind so I don’t forget to look for them. I’ve been hoping to find a green belt for ages (no luck yet!) and a parka to wear when Eric and I go to Aspen next week (hurray!)
3. Look at the fabric as well as the garment. If the color speaks to you, but the cut is way off, consider whether you could alter it or transform it into something else. These can be really fun projects! I always look at the kitchen linens as well to find pieces to be used in food photography. The right color napkin will really make your dish pop!
4. Look in sections of the store that seem counter intuitive to you: you never know what you’ll find! I have been dreaming up lots of projects with ties lately, so I usually make a beeline over to them, but I have also been finding some great men’s button down shirts that I adore. Yesterday I was looking for a big ivory-colored shirt to use as a fabric backing for some pillows I am making for our new couch. Score!
5. Look for old patterns. This is one my favorite areas, for sure! Most stores will have vintage patterns somewhere near the linens or housewares, and they are a steal, as you can see! A lot of them have not even been opened, but do a quick check that the pattern is in your size and that all the pieces are there, and you’re good to go. I love that these patterns are so vintage, since most of the clothes I wear are vintage anyway, and I think they present a great opportunity to try new sewing techniques. Never done ruffles before? A 19-cent pattern can get you on your way, and it’s a considerably smaller investment than a new pattern (those can get kind of pricey these days!)
6. Look in the arts and crafts section (also perhaps known as the “Stuff” section). I have found huge caches of buttons here, as well as really nice yarn, great fabric scraps for quilting, and a myriad of other delights. Even if you’re not in the market for confetti, there’s something for everyone.
7. Just because it’s in a case doesn’t mean it’s expensive. It took me some time to realize this, but nothing in this case costs more than $2. I am not really sure why it’s in a case, except that maybe they had a case and wanted to fill it. Works for me.
8. Look everywhere! Sometimes things can get hidden in big clumps of hangers, but the dig will yield incredible finds. Remember the parka I was looking for? I had given up on it when I found just the thing I was looking for falling off its hanger in the dress section. Magic!
9. By the same token, if you do find something that has fallen off its hanger, take 5 seconds and hang it back up instead of letting it slide onto the floor. It makes the store nicer for everyone, including yourself, and it’s just a tiny nice thing to do for the charitable organization that runs the store.
10. Have fun! You never know what treasures you will find, so enjoy the ride! This blue dress, which is displayed front and center at my favorite Pasadena thrift store, makes me smile just because it exists. Thrifting for me is a joy in part because I like to imagine the previous lives of the objects I encounter. All the better when the road the object has taken leads to a new home with me. How about you? I’d love to hear your tips or tales of thrift store glory!