Many people dismiss thrifting as a dirty, second hand nightmare of a thing! Over the years I’ve noticed many changes in second hand stores, stores are now properly designed, and are no longer used as a dumping ground. Clothing, accessories, shoes and furniture are now organised by style, size, and type. They often no longer smell too! I know that’s been a huge turn off for people in the past, but in Melbourne we’ve definitely seen a trend towards designing an op shop as a proper store. Op shops are even marketing themselves and very involved on social media. Some even have loyalty cards; I'm looking at you Salvos, and Brotherhood of St Laurence!
Clothes are also often washed and pressed before making their way on the racks, and often feels like you are buying a completely new piece of clothing. Also thrift shopping doesn't always mean vintage (though you can find some great pieces), so if you've been avoiding op shops for that reason, try again! You can find some amazing on trend pieces, since as the saying goes, fashion goes around and around.
If you’re not comfortable diving straight into a thrift store or op shop, then I’d recommend heading to a consignment store or a clothing exchange. You’ll generally only find curated clothes, shoes and accessories. Consignment stores and clothing exchanges such as Buffalo Exchange (in the US), are generally for profit businesses, but a great way to introduce you to the idea of second hand clothing.
My recent thrift haul
I'm starting a new job next week, which happens to also be quite a bit more corporate than my last workplace, so that called for a new wardrobe! Because I'm such a thrift hunter, I set myself the challenge to build a wardrobe as much as I could from op shops, and with a limit of $100. So how did I do?
I managed to snag 13 pieces; 4 x blouse, 1 x dress, 3 x skirts, 1 x blazer, 3 x belts and a pair of Wittner leather heels. And wait for it....for only $72. Can I get a hell yeah! Each piece is neutral enough to mix and match, and will fit in perfectly with my current wardrobe. They're also of varying brands; I picked up a Witchery blouse, Zara dress, Forever New skirt, Portmans skirt, and a few non labelled items. I looked for pieces which are of good quality and long lasting.
Plus nothing feels better than giving a piece of clothing a new home, and you’ll also be supporting your local community.
Chase your own thrifting bargains with these tips
Accessories, Accessories, Accessories!
Accessories are cheap, easy to alter, and can update an outfit super fast. I always make a beeline to the scarves and belt sections. Belts are often at the top of my list. I can't bring myself to pay $50 for a belt only to wear it a few times. However at thrift stores, belts are often only a few dollars. If a belt is too big, you can easily puncture a new hole with a metal skewer (like myself), or a leather puncher. Belts are also perfect when you need to cinch the waist in on a dress which is lightly too big.
Try clothes on
I know it sounds obvious, but it's very tempting to forgo this when a piece of clothing is only a few dollars. Set yourself enough time to pick through and try on clothes. I rarely have a set list of things I want to purchase because it's hard to guarantee what you'll find, but I always try clothes on. It's important to try things on; even though a top might only be a few dollars, if you get home and it doesn't fit or you don't like it you've just let that money go. Trust me I've done that plenty of times, and now I make sure I try things on.
Don't sneer at shoes!
Often people ask me if it's safe to buy shoes at a thrift store. I say yes. It's pretty easy to tell if a shoe is of poor quality, or in a poor state, but you can find shoes which are barely worn, and some of my best leather shoes have been thrifted. I'd definitely be looking for leather as it wears so well. Also sometimes you come across the perfect pair, but they're marked or you don't quite like the colour. At this point, my trick is to dye them. You can pick up shoe dye at many places, and it's often very simple to apply, some are even spray cans, making the whole process very smooth.
Know your neighbourhoods
Start in the wealthier suburbs to find better quality and barely worn bargains. In my experience I've found that the better quality clothing are housed in thrift stores in the wealthier parts of down. In Melbourne's case, I cross the river, and head just south to find bargains. My advice here is to get to know your neighbourhoods and research.
It's not all about the brands
When you're thrifting you'll come across a whole variety of clothing; sometimes I find brands I recognise, but more often than not I don't. I also dismiss sizes, as you're looking through clothes from various times, the sizes can be quite different. You'll start to become better at recognising what will fit based on eye.
Last but not least, enjoy yourself. There is a satisfaction which comes from thrifting, and you'll be amazed what you can find!
I grabbed this idea from Dina at www.dinasday.com - to get you started in thrifting, try this 12 Months of Thrifting challenge, but for the southern hemisphere :)