This might be one of the most requested blog posts ever. When I was growing up in North Carolina, I went to the mall constantly. I went to shopping malls with my friends, with my mom, sometimes even alone. But when I was around 15, I realized that I wasn’t loving everything in the mall. Vintage pieces were a dime a dozen in boutiques and far more than my first job salary could really allow. So one day during summer break, I discovered thrifting. I remember when I was in high school, I was asked why I didn’t just want to go to Hollister and I recall pointing to a little 60’ss scarf with strawberries on it in a really shocked voice, “but THIS is vintage!!!” This is special. You can buy dozens of pieces for a fraction of what they would cost new. So many people have mixed emotions about thrift stores, and think that people with very low incomes shop there. Some of the most impeccably dressed women I know love thrifting, and like me, have found so many treasures. From Manolo’s to even a little Fendi bag, I’ve found an incredible amount of designer and vintage pieces while thrifting.
Strangely enough, even with the mass amount of options in New York, thrifting is still my favorite way to go shopping.
So many of you have asked me, HOW do I WIN at thrifting?
- Go during the week instead. Wednesday is my personal favorite day go to thrifting because Salvation Army is also always 50% off that day. Most people go on Saturdays and it’s always packed and everything wonderful has been picked over. Timing doesn’t seem like it would be that important but it is. If you do go on the weekend, go as early as you can. The reason being that buyers (often from boutiques and vintage stores) scour the stores and take some of the most precious pieces.
- Know the difference between value and junk. Is there a huge row of clothing you’re curious about but don’t want to look through each piece individually? Use touch and sight first before pulling things off the rack. If a fabric looks luxurious, it probably is, but there’s only one way to know for sure: touch, and look for the inside label that contains the fabric.
- Look further than trends. This is personally what I do but of course is optional. Look for intricate beadwork, bright color, satin, leather. Things that aren’t just valuable, but special!
- Don’t abandon the small stuff. Lots of people skip looking through belts, scarves, and handbags. You can find everything from beaded bags to 100% leather belts and skirts. I’ve found some incredible designer and vintage belts and scarves. Yes, even an Hermes one!! They are usually organized really well and super easy to look through.
- Sometimes it’s very hit or miss. While again I would highly recommend going in the morning, sometimes you just don’t score. And that’s okay! The fun part about thrifting is the thrill of the hunt.
- Give back! I am a firm believer in “closet karma”. A term I most definitely made up entirely. When you give good, you’ll get good back. Basically, if you donate good clothing back into the community, good clothing will come back to you. I also always hang up the clothing I come into contact with back on their hangers, it’s the little things that make a big difference for everyone. I really think this has made a difference in my shopping, and why I’ve been so “lucky” when it comes to finding glorious pieces.
- Don’t shy away from weird. This sounds funny, and that’s because it is. Thrifting is the time to experiment with fashion you wouldn’t normally buy. You really like a jacket but think it might be a little too strang? You’re drawn to it for a reason.
- EDIT LAST. This is seriously important. When you’re thrifting, there is so much to look at and take in. When you’re shopping and browsing, pull the things you like or are curious about into your cart or basket immediately. Things go very quickly, and that DVF dress you weren’t sure would fit you (it would) now is in the hands of someone else and walking out of the store. Hold onto everything and edit when you’re close to done.
- Give it a good final look. Right before you’re about to check out, look through all your pieces one by one and inspect the damage. Is there a single button missing? Is there just too much wrong with the garment? Or can it be salvaged easily? Things like hemlines can be fixed but holes and stains are huge no-no’s and should be disregarded.
No matter when or how you go thrifting, enjoy the entire process. It’s a really relaxing experience in my opinion. No sales or commission, just you and racks and racks of gems waiting to be discovered.
Here are my personal favorite places in New York City.
- Housing Works: This is a chain of thrift stores, they donate back to AIDS charity work. My favorite location is in Chelsea. 143 West 17.
- Salvation Army: The one on 23rd and 7th is phenomenal.
- Beacon’s Closet: They always have designer shoes under $100. In need of a pair of Manolo’s stat? You can find them here.
10 w 13th st
- L Train Vintage: All of the locations are so affordable and wonderful but the very best one is in Brooklyn in Bushwick!