Fun Fact: Everything I'm wearing, with the exception of one bracelet, was thrifted! The whole look cost not more than $55. I would say "What's the point of going to the mall?" But let's be honest, if it weren't for our society's consumption habits, we wouldn't have thrift stores and garage sales so chock full of awesome stuff.
Okay, I think it's high-time I share some of my thrifting advice.
First and foremost, thrifting takes patience & experience! I've been doing this for years and seem to have endless amounts of focus when it comes to shopping. I went garage saleing with my dad as a kid and I have really good eyesight, which helps me pick out things like real leather among a sea of plastic. My hope is that this post will help you work with your predispositions; be they genetic or otherwise.
#1: Plan Ahead
If you don't have the patience or are short on time, go in with a game plan so you don't get overwhelmed. Need summer dresses? Then head straight for the dress section! Not sure what you're looking for? Choose 2 sections to start with and branch out when you feel comfortable. If you're like me and get overwhelmed in big stores, keep your head down and focus on just the stuff directly in front of you.
#2: Get to know quality
Do some research and familiarize yourself with good brands, good fabrics, and countries of origin that are known for higher quality construction.
Classics like L.L. Bean & vintage Levi's, vintage Salvatore Ferragamo & Coach, or mid-range brands that just hold up well, like Gap, Old Navy, & J. Crew. Coach knock-offs from the 90s are still a good buy, because they're usually good leather.
As for materials, leather (duh), silk, linen, & wool are all good bets. Wool, especially, as it has anti-microbial properties meaning it shouldn't stink no matter how many times its former owner wore it skiing.
Countries of Origin to look for:
USA & Canada
England, Scotland, etc.
France, Spain or Italy
Anything in Scandinavia
This is not to say high quality can't be made in other countries, but these countries aren't big garment manufacturers anymore, so the item is either old or a really good newer piece that was probably very expensive.
#3 Look in Unexpected Places
When you're feeling more confident or just aren't finding things in your size, don't just leave! Check out the places no one else has thought to look! I'm petite, so I always check the XL section of the Boy's Clothes. Quite frequently, amazing things are mistaken for boys clothes and put here. I've found a cashmere Burberry sweater, a pair of jeans made in Ballard, just 10 minutes from my apartment, and some vintage pieces that have since become all-time favorites.
If you're tall, try the men's section. High quality women's jeans are frequently mistaken for men's jeans, and it's a great place to find nice sweaters.
Stunning vintage maxi dresses are always put in the XXL section of women's dresses because they usually involve much more fabric than maxi dresses of today. This means, that even if they are a little bit big, the good construction and drape of the fabric will be flattering on you anyway. Vintage sizing is also very different from modern day sizes, so don't assume something will or won't fit!
#4 If you love it, buy it
No matter where it's made, what it's made from, or whether it's in style or not. If you feel good in it, buy it! Things in thrifts stores should be considered one of a kind, even if they're from a mass producer like Gap or Target. It's probably a good deal and who knows when you'll find another in your size! Like I said, I've been doing this for years, and I rarely find 2 of something in the same size.
Think of it as a treasure hunt. Don't forget to have fun!
Email me if you have any more questions about thrifting!
P.S. The dress is for sale in Shop Fleur Elise.