image source: graygoosie on flickr
We talked about the ‘Fundamentals of Thrifting‘ on Monday. This post is all about the nitty gritty details. The funny little bits and pieces and little nuances that set you apart from the rest. You’ll be a bo-na-fied ar-teest when you’re done here and you will rock those thrifts! Treasures will be found!! This is exciting stuff!
Let’s get started.
TRAIN YOUR EYE.
If it’s vintage that you’re after, it’s a good idea to start paying attention to things like labels, prints and patterns, textures, stitching, colors, etc. It’s not something I can really put into words so much… but something that you’ll just pay attention to and practice and one day you’ll realize you have an Eagle Eye for scanning a rack and plucking out the gems in record time. Vintage shades and colors are just different from those of today, they really are. Textures, knits, construction, it’s all different. Practice really feeling the fabrics and textures and studying the labels, too. You’ll know a David Crystal for Izod dress when you see one, you’ll know that if you come across a Lilli Ann piece, you’ve hit the jackpot. (I came across this article and found it to be pretty helpful, especially worth checking out if you’re new to this sort of thing.)
If you’re looking for new, non-vintage clothing, you still can apply these same kind of techniques! Know your brands, know what you’re looking for! I can spot Banana Republic, J Crew, Boden/Mini Boden, J Jill, etc all day long – the nice things about brands like this (over your average Merona shirt from Target) is that they wash + wear really well… so a lot of times, they’re still in great condition even though they’re pre-worn. I’ve picked up plenty of Oilily, Mini Boden, Hanna Anderson, Crew Cuts and Gap Kids for Dotty and Henry, and these brands really hold up so they’re a great thing to look out for. Mister Matt has a nice collection of Banana Republic/J Crew and Gap stuff that’s perfect for the office. So it’s not all about finding vintage! Here’s a tip if you have kids and a little bit of extra storage: Don’t be afraid to buy ahead! Last year I came across 5 pairs of cute (like new!) Gap jeans for dotty- skinny, dark denim, adorable jeans. And they were all 4T. Two bucks a pop meant I was definitely grabbing them and saving them for down the road. Guess who’s wearing all those jeans right now? Yep, they’re in her regular rotation. 10 bucks total compared to easily $100 that I could have dropped at Gap Kids. Just sayin’.
This is big. When you’re combing through the racks, touching every hanger and each piece of clothing and you come across a garment that’s hanging halfway off the hanger, FIX IT. It takes two seconds and it really makes a difference. See something on the floor about to get stepped on 50 times? Pick it up! No biggie, right? I might be going overboard here but every time I see something hanging off a hanger, I have this little voice in my head that says, “If you don’t fix that, the thrift might not reward you with treasures.” Call me crazy, call me superstitious. Either way, it’s a little habit that’s completely ingrained, and I can’t stand being in a thrift store that’s a hot mess.
Another nice thing? Be nice to the employees. Not just friendly, but be helpful! I always have my items off the hanger and folded into stacks that are sorted by price. I probably do this because I used to work in retail and it’s another thing that’s just habit for me – but 9 times outta 10, the person standing at the register lets me know just how much they appreciate my help. They’re able to ring me up really quickly because I can stand there and say, “two at $4, five at $3, eight at $1″ and so on. It’s a little thing you can do and it makes the thrift a much happier place. Trust me.
SOLO THRIFTING VS THRIFTING WITH FRIENDS.
This is probably obvious, but I prefer to thrift by myself. Everyone shops at a different pace, and there’s nothing worse than being there with a friend who fizzles out just as you’re getting your groove thing going. I have my best luck when I’m able to really just dig in and get dirty, free of any chatter or interruptions or constant LOOK AT THIS! DID YOU SEE THIS?! comments from whoever I’m with. Leave me alone to enjoy my mowtown and I’m in the zone. This is also why I like to hit an antique mall alone. I find the whole process of going out into a place like that to be a little like meditating. Completely relaxing and unplugging from conversation and just getting a little lost in time. A peace-out time for the Freckle, if you will. (I’m a little bonkers, I know.)
That said… I just had THE MOST FUN on a Thrift Tour on the last day at Alt Summit – a couple cars packed full with girls excited to treasure hunt in a new city. The cool thing was that we were finding things for ourselves and other people around us. No fighting over the cute polka dotted dress or the faux Enid Collins bucket purse, oh no! Clothes were flying everywhere and lots of chatter + ‘look what i just found, It’s totally you!’ happening and it was a great day. After hitting up a handful of great shops, we went to the cutest little coffee shop and watched through the big storefront windows as snow began to fall over Salt Lake City. So if you’re a solo-thrifter like me, remember that it can actually be really, really fun (every once in a while!) to come out of your thrifting shell and make a date with some friends.
fab recap of our thrift adventure over on Modern Kiddo btw.
TOOLS TO HAVE ON HAND.
I always carry the following: baby wipes (your hands get dirty touching all those hangers!), a tape measure (especially helpful if you know your measurements and don’t want to try stuff on – I almost never try things on anymore, takes too much time!), a magnifying glass and hand sanitizer. It’s also great to have a bottle of water and some gum.
THRIFTING IN A NEW CITY.
I LOVE a good road trip. I especially love a road trip that allows for a little spontaneity. How fun is it to pull off for lunch and toodle around a tiny town you’ve never been to looking for a little thrift shop? SUPER FUN! You know what’s great? THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT. Seriously, folks. There are apps for that. I used a couple (hunter + buddy) when we drove out to Wyoming last summer.
A quick search of the app store turned up Thrift Hunter, Thrift Buddy, Amvets Mobile and Buffalo Exchange. Also, you can use google maps on your phone and just search “thrift store” or “goodwill” and see what comes up. I’ve had plenty of success going that route. No pun intended, hyuck hyuck!
Oh my goodness, let’s talk about a few things that cause me to go bonkers.
1. People that let their cell phones ring and ring and ring. Most times these people have annoying ringtones that are a SONG or something… Nickelback, for goodness sakes. And they have it CRANKED. And they just let it ring! What is this?!
2. People that turn their kids loose. Seriously. Is there much that needs to be said about this?
3. Parents who don’t recognize that their kid is not into it and yet they keep shopping, keep scanning, keep pushing the cart on down the aisle with the kid in it, who really doesn’t want to be there and the parent is basically ignoring them and making everyone else miserable in the process. Just the other day, I overheard a woman tell her daughter (age 5 or 6, sitting in the cart) that she better stop yelling at her or she wasn’t going to take her anywhere. And the little girl was simply asking when they were going to go. She was actually quite timid about it and definitely not yelling. It was unsettling and I might have given the Mom the stink eye.
4. People who pass gas. Let’s just not do that, ok? Matty doesn’t thrift with me often, but it seems like any time he does, he’s always commenting about how he just walked through some dude’s fart cloud and he’s immediately ready to go. It’s kind of wrong, people. Take the toots outside. Please and thank you.
5. People who don’t follow the RULES OF THE ROAD. What I mean by this is: an aisle that’s clearly only wide enough for one cart, and you’re halfway up the aisle, happily combing your way down a really long rack of shirts and someone enters the aisle with a cart, coming at you head on. REALLY? Rules of the road. You’re driving the wrong way down a one way street.
6. The use of packaging tape. What is this?! The Goodwill loves to use clear packaging tape – the real strong stuff! – on things like cardboard/paper/other materials that will essentially be destroyed if you attempt to peel off the packaging tape. This makes me so frustrated.
7. Thrift stores trying to be something other than Thrift stores,
throwing wacky prices on stuff they think is collectible. True story:
one time, I was in a thrift store in Richmond, and I came across this
rack of dresses and attached to the top of the rack was a handwritten
sign that read, “VANTAGE.” Need I say more? But seriously, it’s a
growing trend for thrift stores (the Goodwill has gotten really bad
about this) to price things like it’s an antique shop. And it’s totally
not cool! A) items have been donated, B) It’s a THRIFT. STORE. the
answer’s in the name, no? I’m seeing too many crazy over the top prices
on things that are chipped, rusted, beat up and broke down and would
never have that price on them in an antique store. Thrifts need to fix
(I should stop here, I feel my blood pressure rising)
FEED THE THRIFT MONSTER.
I’m a big believer in this one and I think it goes hand in hand with the good thrift juju. Totally important to put things INTO the system and not just take from it. I try to remind myself about the something in, something out rule… in an effort to not have my home turn into a thrift store, I regularly go through with a small donation bag and drop off a little donation. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal, making a thrift store donation. It doesn’t have to be this kind of thing that’s like, “ohhhh jeeez. I guess we’re putting together that huge donation this weekend so that means we can’t do anything else…” but it can be just little bits at a time. And since you’ll be doing all these great 15 minute “pop-ins” you can easily do a quick little drop off too.
People! Have fun. Thrifting is good. You’re recycling and reusing, you’re spending less and supporting great organizations.
Enjoy it. And do it often.
Stay tuned for Part 3, Thrifting With Kiddos, coming at’cha this Friday.