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!