How did they find a Picasso at Goodwill????? Tips for shopping the thrift store, part 1 - clothes.
We have all seen the headlines that pop up every so often, where someone purchases a Picasso Painting or a Ming Dynasty Vase at goodwill for $5 or so. How did they get so lucky???? And how did no one recognize the donation?
Through the years I have come to learn many, many tricks to second hand shopping. For example, my first pregnancy, I spent about $200 on Target Liz Lange maternity clothes. So I had 4 outfits, they looked frumpy and fell apart by the end of my pregnancy. For my second pregnancy, I wore all high-end designer clothes I found at Goodwill and a few other consignment stores. I probably got 30 outfits and maybe spent $80. I have been able to pass every one onto a friend, who had her baby in October, and in turn passed the clothes along to someone else. The clothes looked great and have held up for all of us.
I was able to do so by using the following tips (which do not apply to maternity wear alone, that was just my example) I have picked up over the years:
1. Score big, but be ready to dig - Thrift vs Consignment. Consignment stores cost more, but they have done the digging for you.You will not spend time wading through seas of junk to find a treasure, and they have likely cleaned the clothes and weeded out the rejects. They often buy clothes from individuals, so you will find good finds at a consignment store without having to waste hours digging, but they know exactally what they are selling and therefore you wont find that $5 Picasso at a consignment store. Thrift stores work off donations. They do not have a staff whose job is to know brands. If you are willing to dig through the crap, and you know your brands you just may find that proverbial Picasso.
2. Rich people have fancy "junk" - Whenever possible, do your shopping at thrift stores in or near affluent neighborhoods. Someone making a donation who lives neighborhood where the average family is living on $500k a year may not bat an eye at donating high quality clothes they never got around to wearing. Someone living in a neighborhood where the average family is surviving on $25k a year is far less likely to do so. Also, in lower income neighborhoods, the thrift stores see higher traffic, merchandise in more picked over.
3. InStyle Magazine is your friend - Get familiar with high end quality brand names. Learn your brands. Most people know that a Polo Shirt or a Louis Vuitton handbag in mint condition is a good find, and those items get snatched up. But often higher end brands that don’t grace the department store aisles are unfamiliar to the average shopper. You don’t want to pass up a Tommy Bahama dress for a White Stag.
NOTE: If you have a smart phone, do a quick search on the brand to verfiy the quality and value of your find.
4. Try everything on - Dress for a montage. Getting a Perry Ellis shirt for $5.50 is a steal. Getting 10 dress shirts at $5.50 a pop is not quite a steal when only 2 shirts work out. Often thrift stores do not have fitting rooms, so dress in clothes you can slip items over to try on, A tank and jeggings, etc..... Once the items are on, see if they really fit. Touch your elbows together, squat down, raise your arms above your head. Check every seam and pocket for holes. Which leads me to my next two points.....
5. Beware of the dollar store trap - only buy items you would purchase at retail price. Buying items that you would otherwise pass up means you are likely to never wear your new find.
6. Stick to your style - You are not going to reinvent your style based off of one funky thrift store find. If every pair of pants you own is striped, you won’t wear that polka dotted shirt. Do you have anything that goes with this piece, or are you walking into a "If you give a Mouse a Cookie" Scenario? Also, if you dont dry clean your clothes, dont get a dry clean only piece of clothing.
7. This isn’t theater, don’t break a leg – some things should not be purchased at the thrift store. Shoes. Tennis shoes are sometimes ok, but every pair of heels I have purchased at a thrift/ consignment store have broken on me and left me stranded within a wear or two. Also, ringworm can lay dormant in shoes for a while. Beware putting your barefoot on a used shoe. Check the soles, bend/ flex the shoes to ensure the soles are secure. Underwear is generally a no-no, socks too. Pillows, unless you want to risk bed bugs, you have to wash pillows. If you wash the pillow, is the stuffing going to get all balled up, making a lumpy pillow? Same for hats, can you wash this hat without ruining it? No hat is cute enough to risk lice.