Wednesday, January 2, 2008

How to be lucky when shopping secondhand

I have been frequenting secondhand shops since high school but this year I got really serious about finding quality items and I have been very lucky with many of my finds. True, alot of secondhand shopping is about sheer luck, finding that one special item before anyone else does. But there are also several factors that contribute to finding quality items secondhand.

Here are some things that have contributed to a fulfilling secondhand experience for me this past year:

1.) I moved to a college town in the deep south. I think there is some truth to the "Southern Belle" stereotype, especially among college aged women in the SEC. I don't know why exactly but the ladies dress well down here and they donate their clothes often. I have had better luck finding quality items down here than my previous homes in the mountains of Virginia and in my hometown an hour south of D.C .

2.) I learned to walk out with nothing. Sometimes you are lucky, and sometimes there is nothing but crap. When I was really working on my wardrobe I would venture into secondhand stores every weekend. It was during football season when my fiance was occupied so I would have hours to dedicate to shopping. This is not an art for the patient person. You have to be prepared for disappointment.

3.) I learned to have my clothes tailored. Another thing about the South: there are tailors and seamstresses everywhere. I can think of three all within a few miles of my home. Two are within walking distance. It is easier to find things secondhand if you are willing to tweak them a little bit. Don't expect perfect fitting garments and you will be able to work with more.

4.) I learned to have an open mind. I have a favorite consignment boutique in a neighboring town where it is easier to find quality clothing. But I also visit the local Goodwill and Mission Thrift Store where it is a little harder to find something special. I will sometimes even go into the dreaded, overpriced, abercrombie t- shirt filled Plato's Closet because really, you never know what you will find. It is necessary to keep the "you never know what you will find" mentality because it is true. I have found banana republic sweaters at Goodwill and my black leather knee high boots are from the unlikely Mission Thrift Store.

5.) I learned to enjoy the experience. I sometimes get depressed in shopping malls. I haven't figured out why but I think it is from all the people looking to simply spend money to fill some void in their lives. When I go into local consignment boutiques and thrift stores, I feel more connected to the community and I never get that empty feeling I do when I go shopping at the mall. This helps me get through not being able to find anything I need or want. The experience of looking at all the junk that once had meaning in people's lives is fun in itself! Secondhand shopping is not just shopping to find a specific thing, it is a form of entertainment.

Happy 2008 to all of you!


My Inner French Girl said...


I completely agree with you re: Southern thrift shops. I'm from Dallas and always always always make sure to visit my favorites when I'm in town. The women know their stuff, and fortunately for the likes of you and me, they tend to get tired of them pretty quickly. ;-)

What's your BEST thrift shop find? My mom once found a Gucci satchel in excellent shape at our local Goodwill for six bucks! This was about 15 or so years ago, before fakes were common, and Gucci had become a tired old brand. Nowadays, of course, it's back in vogue, and I wish she'd kept it!


Amarie said...

Marjorie- I must say I have not found anything near as exciting as your mother's find! I really enjoy my ferragamo flats. They are so comfy and interesting ( to me) and I get compliments on them all the time. So I would say that thus far, they would be my BEST thrift shop find. They are in desperate need of a re-sole and re-heel now from so much wear though... I have a few good finds I have not posted yet. I am saving them. Can you feel the suspense building haha.

My Inner French Girl said...

Bonjour! Well, I went to this one thrift shop in town yesterday that's run by the local hospice. They always have the best clothes, and at super-cheap prices! I've seen minks for less than $75 -- gorgeous, but I couldn't do that to my vegetarian husband. ;-)

Got four great sweaters for $8 ($2 each!), including one with beautiful pearlescent buttons. Yum.

Can't wait to see more of your finds!


Amarie said...

Wow good job! You are making me want to go out again today! haha.

Diabolina said...

just found your blog. i am a big believer in resale.

excited to see some of your finds in 2008 :)