For the uninitiated, thrift stores, such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Value Village, and secondhand stores, like Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange, add up to lots of savings in your clothing budget. Thrift stores are based around donated clothing, so they are typically larger, have more stock, and are less picky about what they accept. Thrift stores can also contain household items, books, DVDs, and more, but for this article, I will focus only on the clothing offerings. Secondhand stores actually buy clothing rather than accepting donations, so they will pick whatever looks fit inside their store model. As a result, secondhand stores are slightly more expensive than thrift stores, but both cost much, much less than buying clothing new.
|A day's haul from Goodwill and Buffalo Exchange.|
My New Year’s resolution for 2012 was to buy all of my clothing secondhand this year. Aside from a few more intimate items and some specialized items, I have been completely successful! My wardrobe has become more diverse, flexible, and, most importantly, I have spent far less money than I typically do on clothing. There are plenty of reasons why anybody should shop at secondhand stores, but here are a few of my favorites.
1. Buy unworn, new-with-tags clothing for pennies. Often, you can find name brand clothing that has never been worn. That’s right – cute sundresses from Target new with tags, waiting to be snatched up by you for a few measly dollars. Even if you are nervous about wearing clothing someone else has worn before, I still encourage you to take a look for things that were donated or sold by someone who ended up disliking the item or simply never got around to wearing it.
2. Almost every item is affordable. I say “almost” because occasionally, especially at a more selective store like Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange, you will find an item that is priced much higher than usual. For the most part, though, you can find clothing for way, way cheaper than usual. $20 at a Goodwill could get you a whole new summer wardrobe rather than a single t-shirt at Forever 21 that might not even last the whole season. Thrifting is definitely the way to go for cheap clothing.
3. The store is organized by color. If you are a lolita, cosplayer, or any kind of fashion-conscious individual, you might have your closet organized by color – it’s okay! I do it too. Most of the thrift stores I have visited have organized their items by type (knit shirts, blouses, dresses, etc.) and then by color. This has been incredibly helpful in finding that perfectly matching blouse for your dream Lolita print, or the exactly right shade of blue for a cosplay item. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a thrift store and walked out with exactly the item I’ve had in mind!
|Bodyline Lolita shoes found at Goodwill -- in my size!|
4. You’ll get a good story out of it… sometimes. Okay, okay, I’ll be the first to admit that not every thrifting outing turns into a success story. When it does, however, you suddenly have proof that thrifting works, whether it’s the vintage Chanel dress that fits like a dream, swiped for a whole $10, the Bodyline shoes in the color you have wanted for months, or the ideal Phoenix Wright jacket. Actually, the second story is my own – I found those shoes at Goodwill!
5. Find unique, quirky clothing items that tell a story. Resale stores offer an opportunity to find a look you like, whether or not it is currently trendy. Those who love vintage dresses, quirky sweaters, or even presently popular items can all find something at a resale shop.
6. Try something new. If you are afraid of trying a new, trendy look, why not do it for cheap? Depending on how new the trend is, take a look at a secondhand store. What about trying on ridiculous taffeta 80’s dresses to see how you look? That’s what thrift stores were made for. It’s easy to try something new, maybe something you wouldn’t have risked wearing before, when the price is oh-so-right.
So now that you know why you should go to your closest secondhand store and get shopping, here are a few shopping tips:
· Don’t pay too much attention to size. A lot of items, especially at thrift stores, are older and sizes have fluctuated. If you like an item, try it on!
· Be prepared to spend a little more time at the store. Since secondhand stores are larger and not always organized by size, it can take a little longer than shopping at your favorite retail store.
· Wear something that is easy to change in and out of. This is true no matter where you shop!
· Resist the temptation to buy everything. Just because it is cheaper doesn’t mean you should forget the basic rules of shopping – try everything on, make sure it fits you well and is flattering, and make sure you can visualize it in an outfit before you buy it.
· At upscale resale places, don’t forget to bring any clothing, shoes, or purses you no longer want. You can either be paid in cash or put that money towards your purchase for the day. Sometimes, thrift stores have a similar policy where if you donate something, you get a coupon!
· Keep an eye out for special offers, rewards cards, and sales to save even more.