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Thrift Shopping for Women

September 10th, 2008

thrift-shop-clothing.jpgIn addition to garage sales, flea markets, and online auction sites, thrift shops are another venue for frugal people like me to save money during difficult economic times. Although this article by Lorraine Syratt is mostly focused on purchasing women’s clothing items, some of the general guidelines mentioned here could be applied to other things as well.


Thrift and charity shops can be found in nearly every town and city. Buying used clothing isn’t just for the less affluent anymore. It’s become a hip and intelligent way to shop for designer classics and vintage chic. A dress by your favorite designer can be bought for a small percentage of the original price. For less than one hundred dollars you can easily fill your wardrobe. But you have to know how to shop.

Thrift shop clothing is “used” for the most part, but you may find new items or items that were never worn with the original labels still attached. Most thrift shops devote a special rack to those.

Check the item thoroughly for holes, stains (including underarm stains), tears, and wear. If it appears to be on its last legs, don’t buy it. It may not make it through your pre-wear wash.

If you wear vintage clothing, you’ll find numerous pieces. Some thrift shops have a rack with just vintage wear, but you will also find vintage items elsewhere in the store. Don’t rely on those who shelve and rack the items to know the difference. It’s common to find a lot of polyester and circa 1970s mother-of-the-bride and bridesmaid dresses. But if you dig, you may find some real treasures. If the dresses are categorized by color, have a look at the black section. For some mystic reason, black and vintage are closely related. Weird, but true. Many a forties dress has been found this way. The lingerie and sleepwear rack may also unearth some vintage treasures.

If the collar label was removed, it is likely a “second.” In this case, the manufacturers have donated the flawed item and removed the label themselves. The flaw could be minor or it could mean a seam is in the wrong place or a button hole is missing. Try it on first, to ensure it fits without any awkward pulling, indicating its flaws. Most thrift shops do not allow refunds, so it’s wise to try on everything.

Don’t buy anything simply because it’s cheap. Even buying the thrift shop way, you still need to look for quality and it’s there.

Smell the item. We suggest you clean all thrift shop purchases, but sometimes a strong perfume may be impossible to remove, especially in wool or thick fibers.

If the racks are separated by size, don’t be afraid to look at everything. You will often find items placed on the wrong rack. And if you see a must-have dress two sizes too big for you, think about altering it, especially if it’s from a well-known designer. Consider what it would cost if you bought it in a high-end shop.

If the shop is a large one, you can easily put together a mix-and-match, complete outfit, including shoes, bag, and jewelry. Don’t be afraid of thrift shops. There is no stigma and they are fun places to shop. We all want to spend less on clothing and thrift shops are a great way to do it. Once you have the bug, there’s no going back.



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