By Kate Wolfe Maxlow
It’s not secret that even more than I love shopping, I love a bargain. Anyone can go out and get high quality clothes for tons of money; finding high quality clothes for pennies takes talent. When I find the perfect Brooks Brothers dress-with pockets--for $5 (original: $90)--that’s the kind of thrill you’ll never get at a shopping mall.
That being said, there are some things that I never or rarely buy at thrift stores.
This one probably goes without saying. It’s partly the skeeviness of wearing something that has been that close to someone else, but also, quite simply that you’re unlikely to get a good fit buying either your top or your bottom undergarments secondhand. Given how often your undergarments can make or break and entire outfit I’d much rather shell out the money for quality when it comes to these articles of clothing, even if it means I have a small quantity of items.
VERY, VERY RARELY: Hats
When I was 10 and on a trip in Germany, I tried on some hats in a store and took home a glorious case of headlice for my trouble. No thanks. If you’re daring enough to buy a secondhand hat, I recommend NOT trying it on in the store, taking it home, and putting it in a plastic bag for a week or so until you’re positive that all adults and nits have died. (Okay, a week is probably overkill. But gah...lice.)
VERY RARELY: Shoes
Here’s the thing about shoes: people don’t “outgrow” them often. The majority of quality clothes that end up in thrift or consignment stores get there because someone gained or lost weight and the clothes don’t fit anymore. Gaining or losing even ten pounds can size you out of your beloved, rarely worn clothes. But you have to gain or lose a substantial amount of weight to no longer fit in your shoes...which means that people usually wear their comfortable shoes into the ground. The shoes that do get donated are usually either out of style or shabby from lots of wear. If you DO find a pair of immaculate, stylish shoes, it’s a 99% guarantee that someone donated them because they’re uncomfortable as all get out.
Therefore, I rarely ever look at shoes in a thrift or consignment store. Instead, I just look for good deals on my favorite, high quality brands, through the stores themselves.
I love a good blazer, and I have found some nice ones at thrift stores. Like with shoes, though, people can often get more wear out of a blazer even if they gain or lose 10 pounds, depending on whether they decide to button it. Moreover, not as many people wear blazers as other articles of clothing, so there just isn’t as great a supply. Therefore, the blazers that I find are often severely out of date or incredibly worn/faded. I still check anyway, because you never know. You’ll often have more luck in an upscale consignment store than a bargain basement thrift store with blazers, though. And keep in mind that even if you find a nice blazer, you still might need to get it tailored to fit you properly, which is going to up the cost even with your thrift/consignment discount.
This one is probably just me, and I expect most people don’t have nearly the problem that I do with thrift store pants. I’m 5’8”, which means that I’m just tall enough that most average sized pants are too short on me. If I do find a pair of pants that are just slightly too small, I check to see how much hem there is at the bottom, and sometimes I can get up to another ¾ of an inch by having a tailor lengthen the pants.
Just look for “tall” pants, you say? Finding a pair of tall pants at the thrift or consignment store is like finding a needle in a haystack. Also, 5’8” is that awkward height at which tall pants are also often too long. Usually I end up scouring quality clothing websites for sales, buying size tall when I find them, and having them shortened the appropriate amount.
Note that if you’re shorter than about 5’5”, you’re probably going to be able to find pants, but you’re going to have to get them shortened as well.
Do you like to thrift store shop? Tell us about your favorite deal in the comments!
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