I have made a second career out of shopping at thrift stores. Seriously, I have. A few months ago, after applying for a job as a barista and being told that I “lacked the commitment” that they were looking for due to my erratic performer’s schedule, my next door neighbors informed me that they were basically doubling their income by selling used clothing on ebay. I hit the thrift stores the very next day and I’ve since sold over 100 designer items and currently have over 200 designer dresses and skirts listed in my ebay store (and in every corner of my home).
What has become increasingly obvious to me over the past few months, aside from the fact that it is possible to make money by shopping all day, is that there is really no reason to ever buy “new” clothes ever again! The quality of the items that people donate can be unbelievably high, and the prices are so low that you can easily be decked out in Anthropologie and Trina Turk for less money than you would spend if you bought your entire wardrobe new at Forever 21 or H&M.
Here are some tricks of the trade to help you snag your own amazing thrift store finds:
- Bigger is better. When it comes to choosing your thrift stores, you will almost always have more success with bigger stores. My favorites are Savers, Goodwill, and Out of the Closet. Each region has it’s own mid-size thrift chains, so check yelp to see what your area has to offer. Bigger stores, that are part of large organizations, are constantly getting new merchandise in and they can carry a large inventory at all times. At many of these stores, new merchandise is put out onto the floor multiple times a day! Small, independently owned thrift stores usually do not get as many donations as chains do, their prices tend to be higher, and they don’t have as much turnover in merchandise. Consignment stores like Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads are great options for finding the latest fashions in consistently good condition, but plan on paying more for better brands than you would at a true thrift store. Not only do these stores have to charge more so they can buy the items from their consigner, but they are much more likely to know the true value of their goods and price accordingly. I recently snagged an authentic vintage Emilio Pucci for $6.00 at Goodwill and I guarantee no consigner would have let it go for so little! Pucci dresses sell new for upwards of $1,150.00 at Neiman Marcus!
- Get out of town! Each thrift store location is unique and will carry slightly different merchandise. If the stores near your house haven’t been yielding any treasures, do not despair. The opera career is fantastic for thrifting because it takes us to so many different places. Leave yourself some time before or after your lessons, coachings, or rehearsals to browse the thrift stores wherever your singing takes you! I spent most of May in Los Angeles and I loved exploring the thrift stores in all of the different parts of the city! It’s a great way to get to know a new place, and it’s an affordable way to give yourself a little retail therapy after a hard day’s work! Even when I’m at home, I sometimes take a break from the usual tried and true stores in my area to explore stores in different towns or neighborhoods that I’ve never been to before.
- Don’t rule anything out until you’ve tried it on. Keep in mind that these are all pre-owned items and may have been tailored or altered, especially dresses, blazers, or pants. An item may be marked for a different size and may fit you perfectly. Also, vintage sizes run very differently so do not go by the numbers. Try it on!
- Look for bridesmaid dresses! These used dresses are perfect for singers and don’t really hold much value for anyone else. Who else needs to own that much formal wear? Thrift stores are usually teeming with bridesmaid dresses, they can be snagged for cheap, and usually they’ve only been worn once. I love J.Crew’s bridal line and I come across their bridesmaid dresses all the time! The long gowns are obviously great for recitals and formal events, but I always see a lot of really great knee-length options that would be perfect for auditions!
- Know which flaws are fixable and which are not. A seam that is coming apart is no big thing and is super easy to fix with a needle and thread, but a hole in the fabric itself might not be as easy. Depending on the location of the hole, you might want to pass. By the same token, some stains are completely removable and some are there to stay. If you’re feeling brave, bring a Tide pen with you into the dressing room to see if you can get any stains to come out. Don’t let anyone see you do this though! If you find an item that you absolutely love and can’t live without, you might want to take a risk and bring it to your dry cleaner to see if they will have any luck.
- Never thrift with only one thing in mind. Go often and keep an open mind. If you see something you love but you don’t have a particular need for it at the moment, just buy it and save it for when you do need it. You’ll thank yourself later. If you see something great that’s not in your size, text a friend to see if they want it...or sell it on eBay!
Picture courtesy of David Sorich via Flickr.com under license https://creativecommons.org/compatiblelicenses https://www.flickr.com/photos/dsorich/8242943196/