The page that we are most excited about here at Operation Sparkle is our new Thrifting Tips page! Laurie and I have been compiling an ongoing list of all the tips we come up with during our thrifting trips and finally have them set to share with you, the readers of Operation Sparkle. So even though the tips will always be readily accessible on the sidebar under, naturally, "Thrifting Tips," in celebration of this glorious accomplishment, we are sharing them here as well!
1. WISHLISTS. One of the best things about thrifting (and there are so many best things about thrifting) is that if you can find almost anything and everything you could ever want and/or need. That said, if there is something you need or covet, put it on your list and keep an eye out for it as you thrift. Your wishlist items can also be a guide for how you navigate each shop you go to. Just be sure that your obsession with fulfilling your list does not cloud your vision to the point where you overlook items that are just as cool (or cooler!) than what you dreamt up in your mind.
2. With that in mind, BE PATIENT, and don't settle for less. If you are looking for a specific item, don't leap for something that half-ass fulfills your dreams. Eventually, if you persevere, you will find exactly what you are looking for, and maybe something even better.
3. Figure out when the SUPER DEALS are. Many thrift stores have special discount days, bag sales, or specific tag colors for 50% off. These kind of deals, on top of thrifting in general, are THE BEST kind of deal.
4. Have a GAME PLAN. Plan out what shops you are going to hit, know where they are, how long it takes to travel to them, what time they close, and budget your time accordingly. Thrift stores, because they are often tied to religious/nonprofit organizations, have notoriously weird hours. Tons of places are closed on Mondays, lots of places close at 4:00 or earlier, some have totally nonsensical hours. Nothing is more heart breaking than arriving at next possible goldmine to find it has closed twenty minutes prior. This situation totally sucks.
5. BRING CASH. Lots of thrift shops refuse to bow down to the corporate evil credit card companies and will only accept your benjamins (or abes or washingtons or jacksons or hamiltons). This also helps avoid embarrassing confrontations with very annoyed old ladies who do not approve of your inability function for five minutes without plastic, resulting in you shamefully trying to find the nearest ATM.
6. KEEP YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME. Don't be hungover. If you are hungover, drink some coke and eat some fried food. Be sure to carry tums with you. Or just get drunk again, because drunk shopping is, like, the best.
In the store
7. SHOES FIRST. Great shoes are thrifting gold and this section is usually the easiest to breeze through, due to how it is laid out.
8. DO NOT DISCOUNT categories/departments that don't "fit" you. If you are negative sized, plus sizes can be great oversized pieces. Menswear can be excellent for the ladies. Petites can produce perfect high-waters. Be open to nay.
9. DON'T SKIM. The only thing that skimming leads to is missing out on fabulous finds. There is very little you can truly tell about the contents of the dingiest looking rack without actually looking through it, piece by piece.
10. UNIQUE DETAILS rocket a piece from a good find to a great find. Highly consider anything that you simply have never seen before.
11. QUALITY is CRUCIAL. Pay attention to fiber content/materials. Thrift stores are filled with fantastic looking clothes that are made of terrible, nearly unwearable (in my opinion) fabrics. Curse that polyester was ever invented, because there are entire decades worth of amazing, but totally unwearable clothes in thrift stores. Anything 100% REAL--cotton, silk, wool, leather, etc--will make you much happier to wear and survive wear and tear much longer. They also tend to look much less like they came from a thrift store, and there is nothing more satisfying than receiving a compliment on your awesome cashmere sweater, and revealing that it is thrifted.
12. Pay attention to FIT, try EVERYTHING on, and EDIT. Something that looks rad on a hanger can look terrible on you. Not because you are not fabulous, but because there have been some seriously weird silhouettes in style in the last fifty years, and you just never really know until it's on your body. This also saves you a lot of money in the long run that is otherwise blown on stuff you hate as soon as you get home. Dedicating time to trying on can edit down your purchases by more than half, and more importantly, you don't want to end up looking like Gillian Anderson in an early episode of The X-files.
13. Be REALISTIC about how much work you are willing and able to do to fix or alter a piece. Would that dress be cuter if it was just taken in a bit? Do you own a sewing machine/ haven't turned it on in two years? If so, leave it behind. If you have a few skills and sew on a regular basis, your thrifting options are blown wide open when you are willing to alter clothes.
14. On the flip side, be willing to EXPERIMENT and TAKE CHANCES! This is one of the greatest aspects of thrifting! Stuff is cheap so you have freedom. If you try something on, and your friend thinks it's weird and you are not quite sure but there is something about it that is just nagging at you, buy it! In this case, blowing $4 is much better than losing sleep over something that you leave behind that could have changed your life. The things you are not quite sure about often end up being the things you can't imagine ever having lived without.
15. Be aware of your personal "DEAL BREAKERS" and thrift by them—this is closely related to #10 as you should have an understanding of things that, for you, mean no go. i.e. stains, holes, fur, polyester, colors that you never ever wear, high waists, etc. Of course, you can always make exceptions, but having an idea of what your deal breakers are can cut way back on the amount of items you thrift that end up sitting in your closet for months, because they make your ass look the size of China, or whatever.
16. If you are running low on time, look for STANDOUT FABRICS/PATTERNS. This is the one feature that can possibly be communicated to you when skimming, and will increase your chances of finding standout pieces with little time to dedicate to digging.
17. Be aware of THRIFTING BLINDNESS, where you have simply looked at so many clothes for so long that you are no longer able to discern between the good, the bad, and the good ugly/bad ugly.
After you have found amazing finds
18. If at all possible, WASH your new finds asap. Hand wash delicates, silks, wool and other items that radiate a need for a softer touch (Word to the wise: rayon is iffy. Sometimes washing is fine, sometimes it isn't. Whenever I wash something that is rayon, it gets stiff and crumbly and often shrinks. Sometimes this works with the garment and other times not so much, so proceed with caution!). If this isn't possible, and you are a money bags, then get the treasures dry cleaned. If you are not money bags, my new favorite is just throwing non-washable pieces in the dryer on high for ten minutes. I read somewhere this kills bed bugs, but don't quote me on that (so far, so good). If you use the dryer method, however, be sure to keep items separated by color—drying a fuzzy white sweater with a black one only results in a disaster.
19. It is BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY when choosing a cleaning method—few things are more heartbreaking than destroying a one of a kind treasure before you have even had a chance to wear it.
20. Have the TOOLS to take care of your goods! Leather/suede cleaner and sealant go a long way, especially if you live anywhere that receives precipitation. A hot glue gun and pliers can fix broken jewels, and even the occasional ripped leather strap (they can also help you adorn your finds with even more exciting details, like feathers or gemstones). A lint roller and fabric shaver can remove unsightly fuzzies and pills, making what is new to you look even newer!
21. SHARE your finds! Spread the word about how great the thrifting lifestyle is—tell your friends and share with us at Operation Sparkle!