• How I Find Great Vintage & Thrift Store Finds

    Posted on August 6, 2012 by in Style

    This weekend I went thrift shopping and lucked up on some amazing finds to add a lot of color to my wardrobe as well as fun “new” pieces.  I don’t usually go shopping as often as I once did, yet for a once shopaholic I still get the thrill finding great pieces for a tiny fraction of the cost.  It also pleases me to know that it is so much better for the planet to buy used than new.  The final bonus is having clothing that is unique and not going to be in everyone’s closet.  Here’s how I find amazing vintage and thrift store finds.

    1. Shop Rich Colors

    I’ve noticed many second hand retailers organize their clothing by color versus sizes.  Some do both, but that isn’t what I usually see.  This weekend I made a conscious effort to look for luxurious jewel tone clothing since I’ve found myself looking at black pieces repetitively while shopping.  I still ended up purchasing one black blazer, yet also a stunning plum dress and more of my favorite green than I can usually ever find.  I knew the colors that I truly love wearing and searched in those sections of clothing.

    2. High Quality Fabrics & Design

    Thrifting and shopping vintage allows me to purchase high fashion and quality pieces that I wouldn’t otherwise buy on a budget.  I’m not so into designer labels in general, yet I’m a big label reader when I’m second hand shopping.  I want to ensure that the item that I’m thinking of purchasing will have a long second hand life in my closet.  When I’ve purchased trendy thrifted pieces, they didn’t last very long in my wardrobe.  To make the work of thrifting pay off, I need to make sure I bring home only quality.

    Check the labels for high quality fabrics and care information.  Many times you can simply feel the difference in quality immediately.  Also look to see if there is a proper lining in the jacket, pants, or skirt, and also how well the seams look.  Unique quality designs may take a bit of effort to find, but sometimes they just show up out of no where.

    3. Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

    The whole purpose of thrifting for me is to find pieces that I wouldn’t usually buy to enhance the items that I already have in my wardrobe.  Before I really starting paying much attention to fashion and my shopping habits, I was always buying the exact same pieces.  When I wanted or even needed something to wear for a specific occasion, I was completely out of luck and back at the mall.

    This weekend I found a great pair of green pants that I wouldn’t usually even think twice to buy.  For a girl whose wardrobe was once a sea of minimalist neutrals, I’m finally adding much needed color to spice things up again.  Although the pants fit me well, I plan to reshape them tomorrow or the next day which gets me to my next thrifting tip.

    4. Don’t Discount A Great Piece Because It Isn’t Perfect Immediately

    Even if you are not a seamstress or own a sewing machine there are always tailors.  The green pant that I found fit perfect, yet I didn’t like the straight leg shape on me.  I tend to prefer wide leg, flares, or skinny leg pants.  I took a moment to pull in the leg and look in the mirror.  They were immediately perfect once slimmed down a bit!

    Having a bit of imagination can be your best friend.  Just keep in mind that it is best to never go more than two sizes larger than your size and of course never smaller.  Don’t plan to fix tears or holey garments as that most likely won’t work out in the end.  Thrifting is to be fun not a torturous experience.

    5. Use Your Intuition & Also Shop With A Plan

    Whenever I go shopping I usually head for either jackets or dresses first.  After those two sections anything goes.  I will look for pieces section by section but never take too long in any one section.  I tend to skim across racks looking a what stands out to me and intuitively stopping to look when I think I may have found something good.  I also look for pieces that stand out with great fabrics, unique cuts, and special details.  I was headed for the dressing room when I spotted a taupe silk blouse that I just knew would be perfect and it was.

    Although thrifting takes some time, you can sometimes find some incredible treasures.  I recently found a great vintage denim jacket that I will share with you later on this week along with the other terrific finds from the weekend.  Between the vintage denim jacket and this weekends finds, I purchased six fantastic pieces for less than $40!

    Any Tips To Add?

    (Image by pinterest.com)

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11 Responses so far.

  1. Jesus-in-the-City says:

    Hi Dawn!

    Are you in New York City?

    I love thrifting too, but how do you find stuff so cheap? I’ve started shopping at my favorite regular stores again because buying vintage,I was paying the same price anyway.

    Mind giving away any of your favorite stores? Mine are The Family Jewels on 23rd Street and Ruby Slipper in Crown Heights, BK.

    :)
    Aja

  2. Jesus-in-the-City says:

    Oh, and Stella Dallas in Williamsburg!

  3. Mary says:

    try buffalo exchange, theres a couple in nyc.. i love the one by FIT, such great clothing for great prices :)

  4. Dawn Michelle says:

    Hi Aja,
    I’m in Los Angeles. The places I like to go thrifing here are Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange, Goodwill, Wasteland, and It’s A Wrap. This sounds like another great article to go into more detail a bit later. I also like visiting consignment shops in other cities. I would never have found the amazing vintage 80’s black leather jacket if I wasn’t looking at shops in San Francisco last fall. I don’t ever need to buy a lot. Just one phenomenal piece at a time is good for me. This recent shopping experience was all from Goodwill. More on that later this week!
    Best,
    Dawn Michelle

  5. Dawn Michelle says:

    Hi Mary, Buffalo Exchange is a great spot! In Los Angeles I think Crossroads and Wasteland are pretty awesome too!

  6. Kiriko says:

    I love visiting thrift + vintage shops when traveling. Such a fun way to get a sense of a new city and meet like-minded people. And great for souvenirs!

    It also pays off to develop a relationship with one good local thrift/vintage store. I love to visit local shops that I haven’t yet seen, but I try to focus my attention and dollars on one shop in particular– one time the shop owner sold me a $120 gorgeous wooden bookshelf for almost half off, and there are a couple employees who are now friends and give me great discounts or will save things for me that they think I’ll like. =)

  7. Dawn Michelle says:

    Hi Kiriko, I think I should visit more vintage shops when traveling too. Thanks for sharing!

  8. queenbee9 says:

    I’ve been a thrift shopper since 1973. As a result, I own furs that I got for a song (rich people used to give all their old stuff to good will and you could pick up a real mink or fox stole for less than 30.00) and I have more crocodile and alligator and leopard skin bags than any sane woman needs.

    I am a purseaholic, so while clothing and shoes may come and go and be given away–I normally cull my purses only every 2 years or so (recent cull moved me from over 950 bags back to around 750)

    I buy mostly vintage. One of the things that is very helpful to people is to BEWARE of shopping and looking solely at labels.

    Designers often “job out” their clothing lines especially for ready to wear –when this happens, even your most famous design houses put out lesser quality pieces.

    Right now, these are pretty easy to spot and it is also useful in spotting fakes. Here are some things to look for:

    1. Fabric–high end designers like Louis vuitton, chanel, fendi, etro, chloe, celine, valentino, galliano, marni, –do NOT use cheap fabrics. If you find items of theirs in cheap fabrics (flimsy, easy to fray when fraying is not part of the design) it is either a knock off, a second or …. thin, cheap fabric will not last longer than a few wears and is prone to runs, tearing, and discoloration or deterioration when cleaning. Certain fabrics should be heavy or weighted: Silks, cashmere, wool, boucle, tweeds. linen (spring )

    Certain fabrics should be light and airy but still substantial: cottons, batiste, voile, muslins, summer linen…

    2. Finishings–look at the finishing touches when in doubt. If you run across items you like with interesting or exquisite linings and you can afford them–buy them–if the seams inside are finished (french seams) buy them, if the buttons or other accoutrements are heavy and well made–buy them.

    3. Zippers on vintage items before 1975 are metal there are very few plastic zippers before then.

    4. Keep an eye out for gorgeous buttons especially at good will. Often you can find buttons or other finishing pieces on something horrible–you can always remove these items to make bracelets or jewelry or to jazz up an item you do love.

    Many a “Chanel” jacket is chanel only due to the buttons and not the designer–but on the right item, who knows?

    Purses–I could blog all day about these, but I wont–like clothing, look for heavier leathers or suedes, finished and nice linings and the hardware must be heavy if it a high end designer.

    Mid level designers would be Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Lucky, Ralph Lauren, etc–they may have their names on some tacky fabrics–a name is not worth it –look always at fabric weight, and hardware (finishings) only buy a designer in lesser quality if it is a throw away piece you do not intend to wear more than a few times–and then, it should cost very little.

    Great places to thrift are Goodwills, and Salvation army in larger cities or college towns–and ebay has some great items for vintage though they are rarely very inexpensive.

    Be open when you go in–look at not what you think you want, but have an idea that you can drape around more than what you came for–in other words, think in terms of what you can USE to get the look you want–if you want something sumptuous and exotic–that opens you up to any fabric being used ingenously and so you are apt to SEE more than if you just are interested in a “blue suede top” Keep your options open because thrift and resale shops are not ready to wear made to order places, items are one of a kind, so KNOW your look or what you want so that even if you weren’t interested in a cherry red bag made by MCM, you know when and how to SNAP it up, when it happens to come your way.

    Many a hermes birkin have been picked up at thrift stores–because people knew their designers and knew what they were looking at and were OPEN to actually looking.

    Thrift stores are scavenger hunts in a way–except what you are looking for has to be open or you will miss the amazing item because you were too focused on your “signature look or designer”

  9. queenbee9 says:

    Best finds in thrifting and consignment shops in 2013:

    Stroller mink
    heavy brown diplomat messenger bag
    dark brown leather jacket (Balenciaga)
    lulu guiness corduroy bag with leather gloves as part of the design
    Louis Vuitton jodhpurs
    stacking inlaid bone and horn bangles
    zebra skin (faux) lilliann Oaris coatdress

  10. Dawn Michelle says:

    Hi Queenbee9,
    Thanks so much for all of these thrift/vintage shopping tips! I prefer shopping thrift and vintage shops versus any other way. Right now my favorite bags are vintage Coach bags. They are so simple and the leather is absolutely incredible. I love the tips on fabric weight and finishings. Also when you only shop disposable clothing you completely miss out on owning truly quality pieces that can be found for the same price at a consignment shop. I so appreciate your comment! Hope you are well and best wishes with everything that you are doing!

  11. Dawn Michelle says:

    Hi Queenbee9,
    You found some incredible pieces this year! Enjoy them! <3