Upon entering a thrift store, our first few thoughts are usually “where do I even start?”, “why does it smell like my grandmother’s closet?”, and “how do I find the discounted Prada pieces I heard about?”
Fear not- thrift shopping is not as daunting as it seems. The seemingly never ending racks of clothing aren’t there to scare you or to hide what you came ‘looking’ for, but rather to provide endless possibilities.
I have been thrifting for a couple years now and I’m forever in the process of building a collection from my finds. I have always loved shopping, but in an attempt to find and embrace my own style, I’ve turned to vintage shops instead of sticking to mass produced, ready-to-wear brands and new collections from designers. While those pieces have a time and place, it’s far too easy to fall into trend traps if, unfortunately, it’s ones sole outlet for their wardrobe.
By becoming more comfortable with thrifting, you shy shoppers can break out of your shells and develop a personal style. With plenty of options for special occasions and business wear, thrift shops come with a diversity of designers and are representative of all walks of life. The money saved makes thrifting a cost-effective option for the fashionista inside of all of us.
Here are 5 easy ways to have a smooth vintage shopping experience:
1. Don’t go into a thrift store with an outfit or a detailed piece in mind.
Vintage shopping is unique in the sense that it removes the original purpose of shopping – to find a clothing piece in order to fit a certain situation. Instead, ‘thrifters’ treat their new finds like a lost puzzle piece they have to fit into their lives. Thrifting isn’t for those looking to prep for a fully successful day of shopping. One doesn’t go into a thrift store knowing the type of stock available from browsing online beforehand; it is a mystery as to what is available and the inventory is ever-changing. This is what makes this type of shopping interesting in a sense, but it can be frustrating if you came in looking for a specific item. Instead, like google, vague search terms provide the most results. For example, a size small black dress with heavily beaded cap shoulders, a cowl neck, and a body-con silhouette may be far out of sight. However, if you eliminate all expectations and just think of a statement piece: a little black dress, a pair of well-worn jeans, or a timeless leather jacket, it will be easier to place those items in your everyday life.
2. Bring a friend if they won’t distract you, but this is not the time to bring the entire crew.
Thrifting takes focus and while some people may live for the opinion of others, especially for an item that may make or break their street style game, sorting through racks upon racks of clothing is time consuming. Couple that with stopping every five minutes to chat, and the hunt for one or two statement pieces can morph into an all-day affair. In addition, the normal mini fashion show that occurs while trying on clothes won’t fly in most popular thrift stores; since every piece is a different size, trying before buying is necessary, which often means there’s a long line for the fitting rooms. While it is not likely that one will be kicked out of the store, it’s etiquette to perform quick changes as to not annoy everyone else waiting their turn.
3. Patience is key.
It requires talent to walk into a vintage store and walk out with even one item in a short span of time. Picking out a statement pieces to try on can sometimes take at least an hour. Beware, it’s not uncommon to come out empty handed. Also, the melting pot of styles that come together in vintage shops ensures a wide variety and may require store-hopping, patience is essential. For all of the miles put in trekking through the aisles and to-and-from shops, your reward will be worth it once that perfect, classic piece is found!
4. Look for diamonds in the rough.
The majority of things sold at thrift stores have been well loved by their previous owners. Clothing can become sentimental and thus, marks of memories past like initials written in sharpie on tags, small rips from where a gown’s waist were taken in, and slight discoloration may be found. These should not be viewed as flaws by their potential new owner, yet more so taken as a sign that it held importance in its former life. While on the rack it might just be a plain creme blouse with a stain in the hem, but for you it may be the most extravagant fitting blouse that people search their whole lives for.
5. Brands aren’t everything.
Yes, it is blinding to see tags bearing iconic names, but if that’s all your planning to scout while thrifting- you’ll often leave frustrated and empty handed. Designer brands don’t loose their status when placed in thrift stores. In fact, it may even give the shop owners an excuse to mark up the price of damaged goods simply because it carries a good name. Although it is rare, counterfeit or fake duds of designer items may often be mistakenly put on the floor if the sellers aren’t aware of the clues to spot a fake that are specific to each brand. It is imperative that if you are thrifting for a specific brand name that you make yourself aware of these indications. Lastly, keeping an open mind is a great way to find offbeat pieces that may not necessarily carry a household name, but leave you with clothing to build a look that can’t be traced anywhere else.
1.Beacon’s Closet – A color-coded mix of new and gently used items with a wide selection of designer items (especially at the Manhattan location) at fairly discounted prices. A great shop to sell items as well!
Locations in Brooklyn (Greenpoint, Park Slope, Bushwick), and Manhattan (Union Square).
2. Vintage Thrift & Vintage Thrift West – These sister stores have their staff dressed to kill the street style game. The Gramercy location also has a grand selection of antique home decor and knicknacks. I would recommend visiting the Gramercy location first; it has a larger selection of period vintage clothing (1950s-1990s). and is sorted mostly by style rather than decade or color. The West Village location is on the smaller side, but has a better selection of vintage graphic tees.
Locations in Manhattan (Gramercy and West Village).
3. Tokyo Joe – A tiny shop with a lot of potential when it comes to designer brands. The priciest and most showy items are hung up high on the walls around the store for display and easy impulse buy motivation. There are many pieces that have never been worn before, and the prices range depending on the value of the designer, but are relatively cheap compared to the original sale price. They mostly cater to women but there are a few great unisex pieces to be found here too!
Location in Manhattan (East Village)