[Recent thrift finds from l. to r.: Old Navy dress, Liz Roberts dress, In Roads dress]
I get a lot of emails and comments about how I find some of my thrifted and vintage dresses, especially on where I find them. I've touched up on how to go dress shopping before, but I thought I'd explore the thrifting side of it here. Is there some vintage lair that I get invited to that magically has dresses in my size? What do I keep in mind when I'm shopping? What's the big secret? Here are just a few of my tips:
1) Find every thrift store near you. Visit frequently: I have a theory that almost every bit of current retail will end up in a thrift store somewhere six months to a year later. I'm serious -- I'll hold out on purchasing a blouse from Ann Taylor and see it in the Salvation Army months later. With that in mind, I very rarely shop retail stores and thrift most of my clothing purchases -- and my closet is a mix of vintage and modern (vintage is usually classified as being 25 years or older). I spend the majority of my time dress shopping at thrift stores such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill. I only have a few vintage stores in my town, and they mostly feature accessories, so the thrift stores are the best bet in my area. But since there are several Goodwills in my county, sometimes I will spend a day off going to a few just to explore the variety. Sometimes I strike out and find nothing, and sometimes I get really lucky and find lots of dresses. No thrift store is the same -- one store that features only dud items could vastly differ from the one that's 10 miles away that's stocked with a treasure trove of dresses. So map out your area if you can.
2) Find out about special sale days: As if their low prices weren't enough, some thrift stores offer special sale days, where certain colored tags mean those clothing items are half off. My Goodwill and Salvation Army both do this, and the Salvation Army also features a "Half Off Day" on Wednesdays, where all clothing is half off. Find out if your thrift stores do this, and go early on those days. In my town, those are the days the stores get raided by early bird collectors.
3) Go alone: I do my best shopping alone. Unless you have a very patient significant other or friend, it's the only way you can carefully look through every aisle and search clothing items. I also use my time alone to methodically try on clothes, contemplate purchases and inspect clothing items for the fabric, durability and any damages. It also gives you time to figure out how you might wear an item. I like to think of several places that the clothing item would be appropriate to wear to (work, fun time, party, etc.)
4) Know a tailor, and memorize the rates: I'm not an expert sewer -- I'm somewhere between being able to fix buttons but unable to alter lengths. So, it's very important for me to think about possible alterations when I consider purchasing a dress. A $3 dress might end up costing $25 after its broken zipper is fixed, which is still a low price, but alterations can really add up, so you should be picky about which alterations to do. My motto is that if a dress needs more than three fixes, put it back on the rack.
5) Google is your friend: One of my favorite things to do when I'm thrifting is looking at the tags. There are a lot of older and (sometimes defunct) clothing companies that still have dresses floating around in the thrift stratosphere, so it's fun to look at tags and wonder what happened to the companies that made the clothes. I'm not an expert on vintage companies, so anytime I find a dress I like, I always Google the company to figure out what era the dress is from.
I hope these are helpful on your next thrifting adventure. What do you keep in mind when you're thrifting for dresses?
Earlier: [How to go dress shopping]