Charity shops get a bad rep sometimes, along with the women who thrift in them. If you’re part of the camp that can’t think of not buying retail, you probably have a skewed idea of what goes on behind those dollar-sale doors.
If you’re anything like my friends, you probably imagine little old ladies armed with their social security checks pushing squeaky-wheeled carts, making their way through racks of crocheted sweaters and ’80s New Year dresses. Or you think of little porcelain dolls with soul-stealing eyes and chipped mugs crowded onto the same shelves as old VCR players and 50 cent bibles. That or you imagine Macklemore running wild in a fur coat and buying used bed sheets. I mean, you’ve got some validity to a point, I’ll give you that. I may or may not have seen Macklemore in a ‘coon hat once or twice.
But thrifting is so much more than all of that! If you have the patience for it you can find barely used J. Crew coats and cashmere sweaters, beautiful vintage hats and Audrey Hepburn-inspired wiggle dresses. You can find just about all your basics for around $3 or less (like your turtlenecks and black maxi skirts), and a little bit of kitschiness can be charming when you know how to blend it into your living room or kitchen.
We women who understand the pros of thrift shopping have to endure quite a lot of flak, and more times than not, it’s a little bit funny. We just smile and shake our heads, still glowing over the fact that we just bought a brand new trench coat for $4. Below are nine things women who thrift are sick of hearing:
1. “Aren’t you scared you’ll bring bed bugs home?”
I went into a thrift store, not a New York City dumpster. You know all those times you cleaned out your closet and donated the pieces you were bored with? Did you happen to sprinkle some bed bugs into the bag before you dropped it off? I didn’t think so. All those donations are from normal, clean people. I have a higher chance bringing bed bugs in from the subway than a Savers.
2. “Aren’t you skeeved out by wearing used clothes?”
You know that Zara dress you just bought? 40 other women tried it on before you. Granted they didn’t live in it, but that’s why we have detergent! Just pop that $2 find into a hot water rinse cycle and it’s as good as new.
3. “I just don’t have the patience to dig through all those racks. I don’t know how you do it.”
Have you ever stepped into a Forever21? That place is a labyrinth of clothes. And not everyone makes it out alive. If you can conquer that, you can conquer anything. A thrift store is child’s play compared to that.
4. “Everything is so outdated, though.”
Everything that was once old is new again. Tropical prints of the ’90s are coming back, as are culottes and wide leg pants. As long as you know how to style an outdated piece in a modern way, it’ll always look interesting and stylish.
That or you always have the power of a thread and needle backing you up. Did you find a busy Megan Draper-inspired print on a dress, but it’s a terrifying maxi? Hem it into a mini! Did you find a happy, sherbet-colored top but it’s three sizes too large? Turn it into a flowing crop top. Nothing is outdated if you now how to play with it.
5. “Are you part of the extreme couponing brigade, too?”
Just because I like to hunt down pants for 50 cents doesn’t mean I buy one-ply toilet paper. I’m a treasure hunter, not a TLC reality star.
6. “I don’t know how you do it, nothing ever fits me right.”
Again, you just have to be a little creative. If a dress is baggy but you just love the way it feels on you, cinch it with a belt and it’s automatically your size. If a jacket is a skosh too big but has the right look about it, roll up the sleeves to even out the bulky proportions. If a skirt is a smidge too loose, belt it and give the waist a paperbag feel. In this dress I snipped off the sleeves because, ew, polyester sleeves. I don’t just have a magic body type that fits all thrift finds. But if there’s a will, there’s a way.
7. “Man, I never find vintage like you do when I go.”
As cool as it sounds, I’m not the pied piper of vintage. I don’t whip out a flute in the middle of the sales floor and have dresses and vintage Coach bags come waltzing to me.
You see this right here? You see this amazing, long-skirt, let’s-vacation-in-Hawaii-in-the-’50s dress? I found it after an hour of rack-cruising and shelf sifting. I didn’t lock eyes with it a minute through power-walking through the sweater aisle. Like with any great find (anyone who’s stepped into an Ikea or a TopShop on sale day will agree with me), it takes patience, determination, and commitment to go piece by piece, rack by rack. You’ll find it — you just have to give the mission more than five minutes of your time.
8. “I don’t know, I’d rather just pay a little more and get the same piece new.”
I’m sorry, my blood runs a little too Polish to understand what you just said. My mom’s been training me with the ancient Slavic tradition of haggling since I was old enough to “walk away,” so I’m just going to assume you’re having a stroke now and call you an ambulance. Hang tight, I have you.
9. “I’m not a hipster, I can’t pull the style off.”
Babe, you don’t have to buy the Cosby sweater. Ignore anything cat-patterned and shoulder padded and just focus on the Calvin Klein shift dresses and the like-new knit sweaters and leather bags. Just keep your eye on the prize and breathe.
Images: Author’s Own (3); Giphy (6)