Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Confessions of a Thrift Store Nube

It wasn't until a year ago that I began my journey into thrifting.  I'll admit: all my life I had an aversion to buying ANYTHING second hand.  Not because I was accustomed to the finer things in life or because we were living in the lap of luxury.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Like most people, I assumed that thrift stores carried outdated or damaged merchandise. But even more so, I had this (admittedly) weird obsession with what kind of experiences the clothes (or their past owners) went through and carried with them.  That if I bought something second hand, I would somehow adopt whatever karma came with that piece of clothing.

What did she say??
 I told you it was (read: I am) weird.  BUT I'm here to say that I have overcome my past aversions and eccentricities....mostly.

Luckily, NYC has lots of great second hand stores that helped me ease into this world of thrifting.  And this is what I've learned so far:

1.  Don't just be on trend.  Be uniquely on trend. 

Aside from the obvious low prices, thrift stores offer one huge advantage over department stores: exclusivity.

In fashion, everything old is new again.  It's easy to buy the same pair of flared jeans that everyone else is buying at the mall but that's just what you'll get...the. same. pair. of. jeans.  Nothing special, nothing different.

This is where the beauty of thrift stores comes in.  It's very possible that your local thrift store has it's own collection of flared jeans (from the last time they were in style).  Snag a pair here and be guaranteed none of your friends will have a pair like yours.

Check out this vintage dress I picked up second hand.  Actually, I'm pretty sure it was a shirt back in the day.  I was looking for something a little different to wear to a music event with the hubs and scored this cutie for less than $20.  Sure, I could have picked up something from any one of my fast fashion favs but for the same price (or less) I was sure I would be the only one at the event wearing wearing my dress.

2.  Labels for less.

To be clear, I'm not hugely into labels.  I have nothing against them, except their price tags!  LOL
However, if labels are your thing, you'll be glad to know that you can find some serious deals at the second hand shop.  I can't tell you how many times (in my short thrifting life) I've come across perfectly wearable, stylish J. Crew sweaters, Nicole Miller cocktail dresses and Tory Burch accessories (to name a few) for literally a fraction of the price.  No, less than $10 for a designer sweater.  You'd be surprised.  I was!

3.  Original tags.

Yes.  Another revelation I had.  A good portion of the "second hand" purchases I've made had their original tags still attached!  I bought this dress to wear to a wedding.  It was originally from Zara, brand new, with the tags still attached....for a quarter of the original price.

4.  Designer samples.

In addition to new retail items, I've also come across designer samples with tags still attached.  These are items that a designer or agency distribute to potential vendors in hopes the vendor will carry the item in their store.  This awesome faux fur poncho was one of these items.  This is another great opportunity to snag something truly unique and stand out from the crowd.

5.  Curation, curation, curation!

Today's thrift stores are experiencing a new birth of sorts.  Shop owners are closing the gap between the retail and second hand shopping experiences by sprucing up and modernizing decor, upping their visual merchandising game with up-to-date displays and stylishly dressed mannequins, and overall creating a more contemporary atmosphere.  While there seems to be a growth in self-contained second hand boutiques, many long-established chains like Goodwill are featuring in-store boutiques which cater to more fashion-savvy thrifters.

Goodwill's Deja Blue Boutique in Las Vegas, NV

Perhaps the biggest shift is in curation.   These shop owners carefully and deliberately sift through each piece of their incoming merchandise for items that fit the overall style of the store or are currently on trend.  The items are still arranged by article of clothing and size but may further be categorized by occasion (i.e. cocktail vs formal dress, business attire) or era (i.e. vintage finds).

To see more about this new trend in thrift store curation, check out Akron, OH blogger Dina ( and her Goodwill Boutique called the "Spice Rack".

6.  From across the pond.

This kinda goes with #1 but specifically about where items come from.  You'd be surprised how many interesting things pop up in thrift stores from people's travels.  I've seen beautifully embroidered tops from Mexico, gorgeous patterened skirts from Africa and one of my fav thrifted tops:

Until I can make it to Bermuda IRL, I'll def settle for this little gem.  So you see, you can find all kinds of items from places you might not have had access to otherwise.

So there it is, my thrift journey thus far.  I still love my H&M and F21 dearly but I'm so glad I've added second hand shopping to my routine.

What about you guys?  Any thrifty veterans out there willing to share their experiences/tips/best finds?

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