Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving // Thrifting

I hope everybody had a lovely weekend! For those in the US who had an extended weekend ... I hope you enjoyed it! I spent time with family, attended my annual get together with my high school friends which included a very rousing game of Clue Jr. (intended for ages 6-10 ... which prompted us to decide that we would do a gift exchange this year based on the theme "board games"), and instead of heading out on Black Friday bargain hunting schemes, headed out on thrifting bargain hunting schemes.

Sometimes the pickings at my favorite local thrift shop are abysmal but recently I've had a string of fantastic luck of late. I don't know what it is - maybe the depressed economy means that stores are having a harder time getting rid of inventory so more is getting donated, or people are really clearing out their closets (like I've actually seen stuff that could count as vintage! It's a first), or maybe they've got somebody new in charge of procurement. Whatever the reason, I am totally thanking the thrifting gods! But of course, with more temptation comes the need to remind myself of my personal rules when it comes to thrifting:

1) Focus on high quality basics. One of the best thing about thrift shops is the opportunity to get higher quality for the price you pay. Below, pure wool or silk sweaters, and some brand name, too. I have found, though, that you need to inspect wool sweaters at thrift shops since a number have holes in them -- which you can repair (and I've done so on the black and gray), but at some point you have to ask yourself if that large hole is worth the 3 bucks (or you can always embellish your way from basic to Anthro!)

2) Look for garments made up in fabrics you couldn't work with otherwise. Some of these are made with fun, unique prints that I know I would never be able to find in a fabric shop (and am not inclined to hunt out in online fabric shops ... I don't do well with choice overload). Others, like the second from the left, is a dress I would never think to tackle myself -- a bunch of stretch knits fit together all funkily. Cute, but cuter when Made By Others. If I tried it, that would be one ripply mess jutting out in funky directions all over.

3) Thrift to fill a wardrobe hole. When I moved to Boston, I had exactly one winter skirt. The minute I signed myself up for 2 years of grad school, I began keeping an eye out for wool skirts at thrift shops. Oddly enough, I never found a single one that fit me off the rack, but sourced a number of oversized 100% wool skirts that I later refashioned into my current wardrobe staples.

4) Look for an interesting twist on a favorite/basic. These are 2 of my favorite garments ever, a white button-down in an eyelet cotton, and a denim pencil skirt with a panel of chevrons running up the middle. Included in this category are "details that I would never tackle myself," (like those chevrons! Pintucks also fall into this category).

5) Keep an eye out for interesting fabrics with refashion potential! As with most refashions, it isn't about the garment itself but the potential it represents ... here I am always sucked in by quirky prints or high quality materials. This is also the category that causes the Refashion Pile to get out of hand. But ... but ... !!! So usually I try to gauge how long the refashion project would take. Too long, and it goes back on the rack. The sewing queue's always longer than I will have time for, as it is!

6) Look for garment features that really make a statement ... (and have refashion potential). Like #5, this can also cause the Refashion Pile to quickly get out of hand, although I think I would've snagged this one regardless. The other day, though, I had to put back a fantastic black dress with a 80's sailor bib that would've made a really striking dress because I realized I had already thrifted 3 black and white dresses in the past year, and didn't need a fourth one that also required an extensive refashion!

So those are my general guidelines. Look for good quality, look for basics/that fill a hole, and look for something fun you couldn't otherwise get (either because you'd never invest the time yourself, don't have/can't work with a certain type of material, or they're a period piece). What do you think? What else is on your list?


Minnado said...

I really enjoyed this post, and reading about thrifting on the other side of the Atlantic. I try to look for certain items,and try to choose stuff that I think will go with the handmade clothes i have already. For instance recently I have looked for knitwear and scored some great cardigans. Stripey tops are also a weakness of mine. I don't know about other UK residents but recently I have noticed prices in many charity shops rising and some becoming more professional in their layout, for instance colour coding the clothing. My friend thinks this is due to a TV programme earlier this year in which Mary Portas (a kind of retail guru)tried to revolutionise charity shopping. There is also a lot of cheap Primark clothing flooding charity shops over here, but if you look carefully you can still find good clothes. I also always check labels for things like wool content. I recently found a fab 2nd hand sale held once a month a village hall which I just blogged about. All clothing £2. I am inspired by your woollen skirts, will be looking for some next time I go shopping.

Ali said...

Ah, a woman after my own heart. I'm such a thrifter, that thrill of the hunt. And there's something about this time of year (the cool air? the holiday spirit? the rampant consumerism?) that also gets me indulging in my thrifting-love.

I found myself nodding to every one of your rules. High quality basics. Check. Moody fabric. Check. Gap-filler. Check. Great fabric/details. Check.

What I like about having rules like this is it helps us stay a little focused in an environment dizzy with possibility. I used to be a thrifter who may only manage to rotate, say, half of what I bought into my regular wardrobe. Now that I'm become a smarter dresser I'm also a smarter shopper, and I'd say 80-90 percent of what I snag ends up getting worn a ton. I still feel guilty about the things I bought and didn't use, but I justify it by saying I can re-work them or consider it my donation to charity.