Shopping in style

LogoLately I’ve spent a few evenings helping sort donated items at our local thrift store. Last time, feeling a bit chilly, I took a sweater off one of the racks to wear while I worked. By the end of the evening I knew it had to come home with me!

This 100% acrylic hooded Vero Moda cardigan is lightweight yet cozy and warm; perfect for a day of Christmas shopping in chilly Alberta. Even at -8°C (17°F), I found that I could leave my winter coat in the car and dash from the vehicle to the store or mall, saving me the effort of hauling a bulky coat around with me. Like most of my thrift store purchases, the sweater is practically brand new.

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In the photo, you’ll also notice that I’m wearing a cross body bag. After writing a recent post about different kinds of purses, I decided to give one a try and I can only wonder why it took me so long! I found it much easier on my neck and shoulder, and I loved having my hands completely free. I’m definitely a cross body convert for long days of shopping!

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18 Tips for Successful Thrift Store Shopping

LogoPeople often wonder how I find so many amazing items in the two small thrift stores in our local area. Racks packed with clothing of every size and description can be overwhelming for even a seasoned second-hand shopper, but a few tricks can make the search much easier and a lot more fun.

1.   Let go of your prejudices.

Perhaps your idea of a thrift store is a dingy, cluttered mess of old and worn out clothing. While there may be a few of those out there, thrift stores are often clean, bright, and well organized. Also, second-hand shopping isn’t only for the poor amongst us. In troubled economic times, it’s definitely a good way to stretch your wardrobe dollar, but thrift store shopping is for everyone. If you must, think of it as doing a good deed. You can help whichever charity the shop supports while at the same time keeping perfectly good merchandise out of our already overcrowded landfills. It’s definitely a win-win situation!

2.  Allow yourself plenty of time to browse.

Be patient. Sometimes you have to sift through a lot of things to find one treasure, but it’s definitely worth it!

3.  Dress comfortably.

In my opinion, any second-hand clothing store worth its salt will have a dressing room, but some do not, so be prepared. If you have to try things on in the aisles, you want to be able to do it easily and modestly. Even if there is a dressing room, wearing leggings, a cami, and slip on shoes will make trying things on a breeze.

4.   Try everything on.

Just because it looks nice on the hanger and the tag says it’s your size doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. Don’t buy just because the price is right. Make sure it’s something you’re actually going to enjoy wearing.

5.   Don’t limit your search to the size you usually wear.

Sizes have changed over time. What used to be a size 12 might now be an 8, so when you’re looking at older or vintage garments, expand your search to take in sizes on both sides of what you normally wear. Also keep in mind that sizes vary widely between manufacturers as well as areas of origin. North American sizing is different from European.

6.   Consider making a list.

If you’re looking for specific items, having a list can definitely narrow the search and make it less overwhelming, but…

7.   Be open-minded.

Look beyond what’s on your list. Be creative. Think outside the box. Thrift store shopping is a great way to step out of your fashion comfort zone without spending a lot of money. It’s a perfect opportunity to try colours and styles that you haven’t worn before.

8.   Examine the item carefully.

Second-hand stores seldom take returns. Before you head for the till, check cuffs and collars for wear. Look for holes, stains, missing buttons, loose seams, and zippers that don’t work.

9.   Consider tailoring.

A vintage, designer, or high quality item that doesn’t fit quite right can often be altered to fit you perfectly. Investing a little extra might be well worth it if you end up with a quality garment that you love to wear.

10.   Look for quality brands.

Lots of well-made, expensive clothing can be found hiding in thrift stores. You may have to search for it, but I consider that part of the fun!

11.   Try new brands.

Thrift store shopping is also an opportunity to try brands that you may not have worn before.

12.   Know the current trends.

You can often recreate new looks with older items. For example, velvet is on-trend this season, but it’s been popular before. Look what I found for my daughter this week…

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Black velvet heels! Ooh la la! For myself, I’d love to find a velvet blazer.

13.   Go often.

Inventory is constantly changing.

14.   Learn when new inventory hits the racks.

Larger stores like Value Village and Goodwill tend to restock their shelves all day, every day, but smaller stores may not. For example, our local Good As New shop is closed on Mondays and Thursdays. Clothing is sorted and racks refilled on those two days, so obviously Tuesdays and Fridays are the best days to shop.

15.  Watch for sales and specials.

Whenever the Good As New is overstocked, they hold a “Brown Bag Sale”. With the exception of a few items such as jewelry, you can buy everything that you can stuff into a large brown paper bag for $5! Some thrift stores have regular half price days.

16.   Find out whether or not haggling is acceptable.

The second-hand stores that I regularly shop at have set prices and I’m glad they do because haggling is not something that I’m good at or care to do, but when in Rome as the saying goes. If haggling is part of the thrift store culture where you are, learn to bargain with confidence.

17.   Don’t be afraid to leave empty-handed.

Thrifting is like a treasure hunt; sometimes you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not, but don’t give up. Just try again another day!

18.   Thrift while on vacation.

If you have time, seek out second-hand stores in places that you visit and go home with mementos from your trip for next to nothing.

If you don’t shop second-hand, what’s stopping you? Why not follow these tips and give it a try. I think you’ll be glad you did!

 

Retail therapy

LogoI’ve never indulged in retail therapy. I don’t shop because I’m feeling lonely, stressed, depressed, or bored. I confess that the fact that I live 85 km (53 miles) from the closest mall might have something to do with that! On Tuesday, I travelled that 85 km to spend two hours sitting in a dentist’s chair. On the way, I stopped to have several vials of blood taken for post treatment testing. No one could blame a girl for adding a bit of shopping to a day like that, could they?

Just before I left home that morning, I checked my emails and discovered that Payless ShoeSource had a BOGO (buy one pair, get a second pair half price) sale starting that day. Of course, I had to stop in and check it out!

In my world, there are two kinds of shoe shopping. If I’m looking for shoes (or boots) that I’ll be doing a lot of walking or hiking in, I want quality, support and comfort. I’m willing to pay for that and Payless isn’t the place I usually go looking. If, on the other hand, I’m looking for something fun and I don’t want to spend a lot, it’s definitely my go to. I’ve actually been surprised, however, to discover that most of my Payless purchases have stood up well and have been very comfortable. Hopefully that’s true of Tuesday’s purchase! Here they are, the Fiona Pointed Toe Ghillie Shoes by Brash.

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I knew they were going home with me the minute I tried them on! They’re perfect for wearing with summer’s shorter pants. Here, I’ve styled them with a pair of capris that I bought off a sales rack in the middle of winter and the white sateen crop pants that you’ve seen several times before. You first saw the black lace top here.

Shopping Payless, especially their BOGO sales, is a bit like thrift store shopping in that they don’t always have a particular shoe in the size you wear. I was lucky to find this pair in my size, but I couldn’t find a second pair I wanted, so I bought a package of socks to take advantage of the BOGO savings. I can always use more socks, especially at half price. The shoes themselves were a fantastic buy. Marked down from $49.99 to $16, they actually rang in at $13! Bonus!

I’ll be back to town for more dental work next Tuesday and the Tuesday after. Hopefully retail therapy doesn’t become a bad habit!

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An unusual find

LogoAs many of you know, I love thrift store shopping. It’s the thrill of the hunt and finding something unique or special that keeps me going back. That, and the prices! It’s not looking for something that I need, but finding something I can have even if I don’t need it because every item in the store is so affordable.

When I saw this particular garment, I knew I needed it. Well, actually I just wanted it really badly! I wanted it to fit perfectly. That’s the only problem with thrift store shopping; everything is one of a kind. If it doesn’t fit, there aren’t any other sizes to try on.

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As is often the case with second hand clothing, the size tag had been removed, but it looked like a possibility, so I headed for the dressing room and discovered that I was in luck! $2.50 made it mine!

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I’m not actually sure what to call it! Made of delicate translucent polyester with slits almost to the waist in front and on both sides, it clearly isn’t a dress. Perhaps tunic is the right word.

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Whatever it is, it’s incredibly lightweight and comfortable and the black piping is a nice finishing touch.

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In these photos, I chose to wear it with black and white camis and last year’s white sateen crop pants, but it looks great over black leggings too. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I think it would also look good worn unbuttoned as a long vest which gives it added versatility. Its final advantage is the fact that it packs well taking up almost no space in a suitcase and adding virtually nothing to its weight, something that I almost always consider when buying clothes.

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Fast fashion is not frugal!

logoI almost never buy “fast fashion”, or disposable clothing as I like to call it. Fast fashion refers to a phenomenon in the fashion industry that sees retailers introducing new products as often as multiple times a week. Garments are manufactured quickly and inexpensively allowing consumers to fill their wardrobes with trendy styles without spending a great deal to do so. These clothes are usually characterized by shoddy workmanship and low quality fabrics.

I seldom enter retailers like Forever 21, H&M and Zara that specialize in fast fashion, but I made a rare exception about three months ago. Walking through the mall, I spotted the cardigan that you’ve seen before here on a rack at the entrance to one of these stores.

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On a dreary February day, it was the blush pink colour that caught my eye and made me think of spring. At $15, it was definitely an impulse buy and one that I knew wouldn’t last long, but after just a handful of wearings, look at the way the fabric is pilling!

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Fast fashion has also come under criticism for contributing to poor working conditions in developing countries where these garments are churned out, not to mention the garment factory disasters that have claimed the lives of many workers. It also has a very negative impact on the environment. Producing the staggering number of fast fashion garments that are sold worldwide requires tremendous amounts of energy and releases enormous quantities of harmful bi-products into the environment. In addition there’s the problem of disposing of the used garments which, like my cardigan, don’t last long and aren’t worth passing on to the second hand market. Instead, they end up in the landfill where the mostly synthetic fibres take hundreds of years to break down.

I’m proud to refer to myself as a frugal fashionista, but frugal is not buying cheap, poorly made garments; frugal is buying quality items at bargain prices. Buying fast fashion is definitely not frugal!

Pretty in plaid

logoThere are a few classic prints that never seem to go out of style. Though their popularity may wax and wane, they are a safe bet in a modern woman’s wardrobe season after season. Stripes, florals, animal prints, polka dots and plaids are timeless.

 

Last time I volunteered at our local thrift store I came home with this basic black and white flannel shirt, a steal at just $3 and oh so comfortable!

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I’m especially impressed with this hidden feature that eliminates the possibility of gaping at the bust line.

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Though the look may be a bit too matchy matchy, for the purpose of this post I also donned another recent purchase, my new rubber boots!

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I’ve been eying cute patterned boots every spring for the past few years, but my plain old navy blue ones, purchased more than four decades ago when I first visited my in-laws’ farm, refused to wear out and since I usually only use them for camping, investing in another pair seemed wasteful. This year, however, the old rubber finally deteriorated and a split up the back of one of the boots sent me shopping for a new pair! Considering how long I might have them, what could be better than a timeless pattern like plaid?

Given that the weather forecast is calling for lots of rain while we’re here in Vancouver, I’m glad I brought them with me. Whether it’s checking out the creek that runs through our son’s backyard or going on adventures in the forest with our grandsons, I’m probably going to need them.

How to host a successful clothing swap

logoThey say that you should write what you know, but this time I’m going out on a limb and writing about something I’ve never tried. Everything I suggest here is based on what others have written.

A clothing swap is a party where you and each of your guests bring an agreed upon number of garments and/or accessories to the event to trade with one another and thus breathe new life into your closets without spending a cent!

So, how does this work?

1.  Choose your guests

The first step to hosting a successful clothing swap is to decide who you’ll invite. Include friends of all sizes and shapes making sure that no one feels left out because there isn’t anyone in a similar size for her to swap with.

2.   Choose the time

The best time to host a clothing swap is toward the end of a season when people are likely tired of what they’ve been wearing and ready for a few new pieces to freshen up their wardrobes. They may be planning to clean out their closets anyway and your party will be just the incentive they need.

3.   Set some rules

Decide on a minimum and maximum number of items that each person should bring and include this information in the invitation. You want to ensure that there are plenty of items to trade but not so many that it becomes overwhelming to look through everything. It’s also best to ensure that you don’t have a situation where some people bring lots and others hardly anything at all.

Encourage your friends to bring accessories as well as clothing. Shoes, handbags, scarves and jewelry add to the fun and ensure that everyone, regardless of size, is able to find something that fits.

It should go without saying, but make sure to stipulate that everything must be clean and in good condition. It’s also a good idea to remind your guests to empty all pockets so that they don’t inadvertently give someone a cash bonus or find themselves trying to track down lost ID after the party is over!

4.   Set the scene

Presentation is important. If possible, have a hanging rack available as well as a table or two so that items can be organized and displayed attractively. No one wants to feel as if they’re digging through someone else’s laundry!

Designate one or two rooms for changing and have at least one full length mirror available. It’s also a good idea to have a belt or two on hand for your guests to use when they’re trying things on. Belting a loose-fitting dress or top might be just the thing to make it work for one of your friends.

5.   When your guests arrive

Start by going over some basic ground rules and then let the fun begin. Set a time limit for the swap so that when it’s over you can all relax and enjoy some wine and cheese or whatever you decide to serve. It is a party, after all!

Depending on the size and make up of your group, you may want to consider dividing the time into five minute segments allowing each person to choose only one item per round.

If two or more friends have their eye on the same thing, have a predetermined method of determining who gets it. Having them each model the item and letting the group vote on who wears it best can be fun, but if you’re afraid of hurt feelings, flipping a coin might be a better idea.

No one should go home with more than she brought.

6.   Serve snacks

Wait until the swap is over to bring out the goodies. This helps keep things moving along during the exchange and also helps prevent spills. Keep it simple. You might even want to ask each guest to bring something to share.

7.   When the party’s over

Choose in advance a local charity or thrift store that will appreciate the overflow from your swap. Give each guest the option of taking home anything she brought that wasn’t chosen, then pack up the leftovers to be donated.

Have you ever hosted or attended a clothing swap? Do you have any tips or suggestions?

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