Tips for fashionable thrifting

I recently revealed my dirty little Goodwill Outlet secret.  It's not uncommon for me to realize I'm wearing Goodwill outlet finds head to toe and tally up my outfit at only $3-$6.  I've found clothes from Anthropologie (a personal fave), Ella Moss, Seven, Juicy Couture, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, and on and on. And I can't tell you the thrill I get when someone compliments me on what I'm wearing - I just smile and say thank you!

Here's how I do it:

Grab now, decide later
Get a cart.  You'll need it.  As you find things you might want, toss in the cart and keep moving.  Once you've made your way through the store, go through your cart and decide what to keep.  You'll find it's easier to decide when you have all your options together.  Plus, it's faster than trying to decide each time you pick up an item.

Spotting a gem
The clothes at the GW outlet are in piles, and even for me, the sight is a little dispiriting.  I do NOT dig through the piles item by item.  I cruise by at a leisurely pace and let my eyes scan the piles.  I look for: colors I like, washes of jeans that seem current and fresh, prints I like, and fabrics that are current.  For example, there is a big difference between a top made of knit fabric now - much finer and softer jersey -  than one made in 1995.  You can learn to see the difference with a cursory glance.  When something catches my eye, I'll pull it out and look. Otherwise I keep moving.

You can't try on clothes at the GW outlet, so you have to learn how to estimate size and figure out whether something will fit.  Now, this is the part that amazes me.  I've had nightmarish years of trying on pants in dressing rooms.  My lovely pear shape rebels against jeans!  However, I have found the most perfect-fitting jeans - ones I wear over and over - including a pair of skinny jeans!  And I never even tried them on before buying.

The magic technique? It appears to be holding the waist and hips of the pants totally flat and then holding them up against my waist and hips where they would hit, and if they make it to about the halfway point on my hips, they almost always fit perfectly.  Now why didn't I know this years ago?

Be flexible - and have an idea of what you're looking for
The great thing about this mode of shopping is it really opens you up to mix, match, and creatively layer your outfits.  But it can be hard to see the potential in something.  Some people are born fashionistas and others (like me!) have to learn how.

One thing that's helped me is checking out fashion blogs regularly to see how these stylin' chicas do it.  It gives me ideas for ensembles.  A few of my faves: Cardigan Empire Kansas Couture  What I Wore  The Vintage Society

Carefully examine before you buy
I've had a few disappointments where I bought something and brought it home only to find a hole or a stain.  So now I've learned to look it over carefully for wear and tear before buying.

Draw the line
We all have that line - what we will or won't buy secondhand.  Almost anything washable is okay with me.  But underthings, lingerie, socks, and shoes are a giant blaring NO for me.  Way too creepy.

You win some, you lose some
Since you can't try things on, you'll find that on average for every 10 items you buy, 8 will be keepers and 2 will be losers.  Know this from the start and it won't bother you as much!

Wash and fluff
Coming home with a bag of thrift store finds squished into a plastic bag, doesn't have the same thrill as carefully pressed new things, nestled between tissue paper in a crisp Anthropologie bag.  But you'll start to see them sparkle if you throw your finds in the wash right away with some scented detergent and then hang them to dry.  You'll wake up the next morning with a fresh injection of fashion in your wardrobe!

*Images via tao_zhyn martinvarsavsky, j.sanna, hooverine, Creole Collection,

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