Thrifting for Treasures
I have been thrifting since high school and I have learned a few things along the way. And in the hopes that it might prevent more consumption of fast fashion, I am no longer gatekeeping all the things I have learned through my many years of digging through racks of clothes to find the best treasures. The best way to be sustainable is to wear what you already have, but the second best way is thrifting. You can find insane pieces that will cost you a few dollars, and often times these thrift stores are saving clothing from heading directly to the trash.
Tip 1- Not every Goodwill is as great as the next. I have found that certain Goodwills are great for particular items. If you are on the hunt for great furniture or home decor, there might be a thrift store nearby that has a huge furniture section. If you are searching for the perfect pair of jeans, you might find them somewhere else. I'll keep a note on my phone when I check out new shops and write down what I found the most of or what I bought the most of on my trip. That way, if I am hunting for stuff, I know where to look first.
Tip 2- Be ready to try things that look too big for you, and find a great tailor. I get compliments on my clothes from thrift shops ALL the time. It's not because I find the "Holy Grail" all the time. It's because I am willing to pay a little money and get things tailored. (Or do it myself if I can find time). Oh, and if you are tall, head to the men's section. I am 5'11, and most of my best finds come from menswear!
Tip 3- Let's get specific. There are three things I am ALWAYS looking for when I head to thrift stores. (Denim, Leather and cashmere.) I can't tell you how many pieces I have found in these coveted materials and I only paid about $10 for them. Back in the day, Goodwill priced everything pretty much the same. They have gotten a bit smarter, so now most of their leather costs between $30-$80, but that's still a fantastic price for a dope jacket. When I am looking for denim, I am looking for vintage. I have trained my eye to see it quickly.
It's hard to explain, but the best way I can put it into words is that denim without a lot of polyester or nylon has a larger weave. So there is more white and blue that your eye picks up. Also, a little secret for the ladies who live and die by high-waisted pants, head to the men's section and look around. Men's pants have a longer zipper/crotch, and by putting darts in the back, you can make almost any pair of jeans high-waisted! (Shhhhhh, lets keep that between us so we have more denim to choose from.)
Let's talk leather. As you know, this is my specialty. There are two things to stay away from when it comes to thrifting leather: number one, mold. Mold shows up as white splotches or marks. I usually stay away from leather with mold on it. It is possible to remove it, but oftentimes the leather dries out, or the mold has changed the chemical balance of the leather itself. The other thing I stay away from is cigarette smoke. I have tried everything you can imagine to get the smell of cigarettes out of leather jackets, and nothing seems to work. SO, take a good look at that jacket, and take a good wiff while you're at it too.
If you want to remove mold from leather, try this!
1. Take a mixture of eight parts distilled white vinegar with 2 parts tap water in a spray bottle.
2. Apply to the leather surface until its soaked
3. Let sit for 15 minutes
4. With a wet-dry vacuum, remove the still wet vinegar and mold residue
5. Air dry overnight
6. I suggest conditioning the leather after that
Next up, sweaters and cashmere. I love high-waisted everything, so when I hit a thrift shop, I am usually also looking for cropped sweaters. They are nearly impossible to find, so instead, I look for a large weave sweater (look for very large loops and the knitted thread itself to be large), and I just cut them into a cropped sweater. They do unweave themselves in the wash, but I trim off the ends and rock it just the same. I love a raw edge in clothing, and I think it makes everything a little edgier. Now for cashmere. I have found so much cashmere at Goodwill. Check the tag if you see a sweater that looks a little fuzzier than the rest. Sometimes, they are 100% acrylic, which is fine if you love the sweater, but cashmere is a better and more long-lasting material. If it has a moth hole, DON'T DESPAIR. You can grab some clear thread from a craft store or Walmart and sew a little stitch around the hole to pull the woven thread in on itself and sure up the hole!
4. What you wear while thrifting can make your life easier or harder. Let's start from the base layers and work our way up. This might be a little TMI but wear a nude bra and white/nude undies. NOT a thong. Mostly because you don't know when these clothes were worn last, and if you want to try them on, you should protect your lady parts. Now that we have that out of the way, I usually wear a pair of jeans and a white/black tee shirt or tank. Jeans because when you are trying on blouses/tops/jackets they are something you will likely pair with the piece anyway, and same with the tee shirts. I always bring a lightweight coat and one of my larger cross-body bags. My favorite is the bucket bag because it easily fits my coat, wallet, water bottle, and hand sanitizer; plus, you will still have room left over for headphones, a hat, and gloves if needed!
5. Be conscious of WHERE you are thrifting. I will seek out wealthier communities when I thrift sometimes. The main reason is that when you go into poorer communities and buy from their thrift stores, you take resources away from people who need them more than you do. If you can access a car or public transportation, head to a wealthier town to fulfill your thrifting needs.
Thanks for checking in, and if you have any questions, ask them in the comments section below!
P.S.- Dina's outfit above is fully thrifted in the image we used for this blog post with Bernie. Both the dress and shoes are from Goodwill!