Most of the time, my two part-time jobs – substitute teaching and fitness and conditioning coach – require two distinct and separate wardrobes. Because of the current economy and a longstanding natural cheap streak, I shop at thrift stores frequently. Here are some suggestions to help maximize your shopping “finds” at thrift stores:
Browse Your Closet Before You Go
This activity should remind you of holes in your wardrobe that you’ve been meaning to fill for some time – like that black cardigan that still needs to be replaced after the dog ate your last one. If your size has changed due to diet or exercise, you’ll need to make note of what pieces might need to be on the “replace” list as well. And for that great piece that you’ve never even worn since 2007? Get rid of it. In fact, put it in a donation bag with some other past poor choices and donate before you shop. Now, you’ll have room in your closet for all your new finds.
Dress Casually Without Any Fussy Frills, Buttons, Laces, or Make-up
You’re not attending an exclusive boutique where you’ll be served champagne while peons search out that perfect piece in your perfect size. No, you need to quickly sort through all the different sizes – especially between brands and manufacturers – in order to find what you need. Thus, whether or not this is a true urban thrift store where you “try” the clothes on over the lightweight ones you’ve worn or you have access to an actual dressing room, the less you have to undo what you’ve worn, the faster your try-on process and therefore, the sooner your shopping excursion successfully ends. And as for skipping makeup? There’s nothing sadder that finding that stunning, $1-priced, perfect ivory sweater dress and then discovering that you’ve left a lip’s worth of lipstick on the bodice when you took it off. Live and learn.
Concentrate On Neutrals and Solids – Patterns and “Odd” Colors Are For Dessert Only
Thrift stores are essentially miles of black, white, khaki, and grey with odd patches of pattern. Therefore, concentrating on these neutral solid colors gives you a tremendously greater choice of styles, pieces, and fit. Since you’ve wisely followed my first suggestion, you’ve been reminded to keep an eye out for a replacement black cardigan. You might even have decided that you really like your grey trousers and would like a grey skirt to go along with the tops you already use with the pants. Find the skirt section, then the half-mile of solid gray and you should be able to find one, if not two, grey skirts within the 4000 available to look through and try on.
So, now that you’ve completed all the drudgery shopping, it’s time to reward yourself with a sweet little pattern piece, some weird burnt sienna t-shirt, or at least a scarf. Then, write a check for at least $300 less than you would at a regular retail outlet and go home, guilt-free, to your closet with plenty of room for your finds.