Friday, February 19, 2010

Debunking the difficulty of dressing on the cheap

The most common comment I hear when I get in conversations with folks who don't generally shop for clothes at the thrift store is, "I never find anything good!" This is typically said in a kind of a frustrated whine.

I have a theory. I think people who say they 'never' find clothing at a thrift store don't shop at thrift stores very often.

These folks probably went to a Goodwill a while back, may have been overwhelmed by the diverse selection, and turned tail.

I'm sure the uniformity of FBR (full blown retail) stores is comforting to some people. Like flipping on the television at 5 pm  to watch the evening news, these stores have a distinctive comfort. They're usually all laid out the same way, and there's a certain predictability when entering a Kohl's, Target, Macy's or Nordstrom. Walk into a Dillard's in Denver and you may as well be walking into a Dillard's in Virginia. And for many, that similarity may be one aspect of the appeal.

And that's okay.

But there's a lot of cool clothing at thrift stores.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I started shopping for clothes at thrift stores when I dropped a bunch of weight and was stunned at how expensive it was to dress myself during my descent.

Now I'm hooked.

I have my method when it comes to shopping for clothes.

I'm kind of a snob.

I used to work in retail advertising, and became accustomed to the benefits of branding. I like designer clothes, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

So I know the brands. That's an advantage, I think.

I also know which color palates appeal to me.

I shun color, so most of what I wear is in the brown/black family. Even though my skin tone and hair color doesn't correspond with what season the experts say I should be, I am, appropriately, a Winter.

So when I go thrifting for clothes, I look first for fabric and color, then for brand.

And it's amazing what I've found.

I could go on and on, but I found a Norwegian wool sweater at Neighborly Thrift a few years ago that would retail in the hundreds. Neighborly Thrift is run by a bunch of older women who live and die by all things 1957, including pricing, so I bought the sweater for $3.

Just the other day, I wandered into Porter Thrift. Same demographic in terms of sales staff. Porter Thrift was having a sale the day I stopped by, and I found a J. Jill shirt and a pair of J. Jill pants, just my size. Together, my brand new (to me) outfit cost less than $5. The shirt looked as though it had never been worn, and the pants had a tag attached that indicated they'd recently been dry cleaned, even though they didn't need to be.

If I were to have bought the ensemble in a J. Jill store, I'd have undoubtedly have paid well over $100.

So here's my advice, for those intrepid shoppers who want to become skilled in thrifting for clothes.

Look for fabric and color that you like.

Then check for the maker. I do believe higher end designers make better clothes. And there are lots of designer clothes to be had at thrift stores. Like crime and traffic accidents, someone's always cleaning out their closet.

Of course, check the size. Jeez.

If that set of criteria fits, then buy it, for god's sake.

You're going to pay a ton less than you would have if you'd have bought it new. And honestly, just like a new car when you drive it off the lot, new clothes have very little 'brand new' cache once you take off the tags.

No one will ever know that what you're wearing is a thrifty find.

No one but you.

And your bank balance.

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