There are some folks out there who can't resist the urge to wrinkle their noses at the mention of thrift shopping, but I have seven steadfast reasons why I shop second hand. Like most great love affairs, my relationship with thrift stores happened on a fluke. A former boyfriend was dragging me away from the prospect of a brunch filled with strawberry crepes and mimosas to meet his friends at the thrift shop down the block. Sulking over the fact that I had to wait to eat, I followed him into the mothball-scented store. His friends were looking for the makings of a costume, and as I threw a judgmental eye over the loud sleeves and collars arranged in no particular order, I couldn't see why they had come here.
As you can tell, I'm really mean when I'm hungry. But then it happened. After I sent my boyfriend a pointed look that communicated "crepes, or breakup" and had him wrapping up his goodbyes. Just as I began making my way towards the exit, I caught a quick peek of an Easter-hued mint sleeve, checkered with white. Though it looked ridiculous and matronly, I couldn't but help see its potential. Imagine Sally Draper after she discovered platform shoes.
All through brunch, I couldn't get it out of my head, and come the next afternoon, I somehow found myself back in that grandma's attic of a store — and I haven't looked back since.
These days, I encounter a lot of people who either can't believe my finds are from a dollar rack or who are weary of the bed bugs they think I'm probably wearing. But here are the reasons I now shop almost exclusively at charity and thrift shops.
1. You Can Find Your Basics For A Tenth Of The Price
While I still let myself buy more intricate pieces from the store racks of the mall, I seriously can't force myself to buy basics at full price. Why would I when I could find that same turtleneck or trench coat for two dollars with a little bit of patience and thrift rummaging? This year, I overhauled my whole wardrobe to look like a mix between '60s college student and normcore minimalist and bought around six sweaters and four turtlenecks for a whopping $20.
2. If You Have A Great Tailor, Everything Turns Into An Option
I'm completely obsessed with high waisted pants. If they don't hit over my belly button, I'm not buying. The thing is, though, when you buy those kind of on-trend trousers at the store, they cost you more than a pretty penny. But you know who else really likes that style? Grannies who donate their wardrobes on the way to Sunday brunch.
If you have a great tailor, you can snap up those wool Calvin Klein pants or tapered Saks Fifth trousers for three bucks and turn their frumpy silhouettes into body-skimming forms for $30 max. The same goes with other pieces like blazers, dress profiles, or pencil skirts.
3. It Forces You To Look Outside The Box
When you go to a mall, everything is in its final form: You don't expect to take a dress home and put a needle and thread to it. But when you're thrifting, you begin to see the possibilities, mainly because at two bucks a pop, it's worth the try. For example, kitschy dresses can be made into chic crop tops, or schoolmarm suede maxi skirts hemmed into Alexa Chung-like minis.
4. You Come Across Vintage You'd Never See At The Mall
Right now, the fashion world is having a throwback revival, what with Gucci rolling out its Margot Tenenbaum-esque fur coats paired with matronly midi skirts and Prada going into Audrey Hepburn-like pastels and textures. While you might not be able to afford $1,500 fur-lined, slip-on loafers, you can afford a $5 gingham day dress.
5. You Find Really Unique Pieces That Move Your Wardrobe Up A Notch
You know how you splurged on that one black and white leopard print fur clutch or those stacked leather booties? Well, the thrift store is filled with those. Seriously, you can find velvet, boxy clutches that are reminiscent of Holly Golightly stepping out for dinner. There are so many special, one of a kind pieces to find if only you have the patience.
6. The Thrill Of Treasure Hunting Is Addicting
Last week, I poked into my favorite, closet-sized thrift store expecting to do a quick sweep through the sweater rack when I ventured over to the plus size dress section. That's when I saw it: A full blown maxi dress with a froth of see-through charmeuse falling down to the ankles like tissue paper. It was something Daisy Buchanan would have worn while entertaining guests in the sun room. And it was only $20. The thrill of the hunt guys, the thrill of the hunt.
7. You Can Experiment With Your Look Without Much Of An Investment
It can be stressful sitting on the cusp of two opposing styles, especially if you decide to swing one way rather than the other after a couple of months of debating. Then you're out hundreds of dollars in clothes and crying salty, bitter tears. But if you go thrifting and purchase some experimental pieces, you're maybe out 30 bucks, tops. So buy a grungy '90s floral print dress, or button up a prim pastel cardigan. If you end up hating it, you're only out the price of a fancy sandwich.
Thrift store, this is why I love you.
Images: Marlen Komar