Why You Absolutely Need to Go Thrift Shopping Before Halloween

Breaking, breaking: Now is the best time to go thrifting ever. Quick, before those secondhand Halloween costume racks sell out.

Consider me your friendly neighborhood thrift shop guru. I've been scouting out secondhand clothing ever since I was a young, gangly preteen, when my mother and I wake up wickedly early and garage-sale our little hearts out. Thrifting is my greatest hobby (after gazing at pictures of Hugh Jackman) and about 80 percent of what I own was once worn by another person. Hygienic, right? So anyway, I spent a leisurely afternoon at my favorite Goodwill this weekend and people, I realized some things.

1. So Many Sweaters

You know how every time the weather gets cold, all those chunky tights, cute scarves, and cozy sweaters you wore last fall are mysteriously gone from your closet and suddenly you're staring at drawers full of miniskirts and tank tops? Believe me, it's a thing. If you desperately need warm clothes, but don't have the budget to invest in a wardrobe of staples, thrift stores are here to make sure you don't perish from hypothermia. They're putting out the good sweaters right now. I found enough basic pullovers to get me through December in every color of the rainbow:

And I'm not talking about stretched-out, pilling sweaters — these were all either 100 percent cotton, wool, or cashmere (!), from brands like J. Crew and Ralph Lauren. Thank you, former owners! As we all know, dressing room lighting is incredibly flattering, so I figured I should take a few selfies:

Never underestimate the easy power of a bright, solid-colored sweater for those cold mornings when you just don't see any point in getting dressed.

2. Halloween Costumes

No, no, no, I'm not talking about wigs and bellbottoms, though those are awesome if you're actually looking for a costume. Here's the best industry secret you'll hear all day: When thrift stores are putting together their Halloween sections, they simply comb through their store for anything weird, old, and off-brand. Shirt with Peter Pan collar? Little girl costume! Fringed skirt? Cowgirl! Most of these "costumes" aren't costumes at all, they're something a thousand times better: vintage.

Yes, pre-Halloween is when thrift stores — who usually emphasize clothing that sells quickly, meaning popular brands and items like button-down Banana Republic tops and Forever 21 cocktail dresses — finally put all those musty vintage gems on full display. You don't even have to hunt for it; the vintage goodness is just there for the taking. It's like taking candy from a baby (don't do that on Halloween). Look what I found:

In case you were unexpectedly blinded by this amazing find, I'll spell it out for you: This, my friends, is a bright yellow coat with a sparkly fur collar that cost me a budget-breaking five dollars. Yeah, yeah, I'm pretty sure Goodwill was envisioning this as some sort of "Big Bird" costume, but sorry, kids, the coat is mine.

Look at these other vintage treasures I found, just waiting for the right girl to come along and pair them with skinny leather pants:

I mean, how cute is that peplum? Not pictured, a filmy black-and-gold top that promptly went home with me.

'Tis the season for new clothes, warm layers, and a slightly different look. And what better time to tweak your fashion persona than the weeks before Halloween? It's not a costume unless you say it is.