Birds are chirping, trees are in bloom and across Richmond people begin the seasonal ritual of throwing open overflowing closets for spring clothes only to find nothing to wear. And without an overflowing bank account to match those closets, finding clothes among the hibernating stacks can be daunting. Enter thrift stores.
Shopping secondhand is one of the best ways you can find pieces that are gentle on the wallet and on the planet, too. For those who think thrifting takes too long, or is too much work, here are a few tips to get you started, and you’ll be a pro in no time.
- Scott Elmquist
- This dress, which Zimmerman says reminds her of “Star Trek,” is from the Salvation Army on Hermitage Road. The shoes are from the West Broad Street Goodwill.
1. Have a Plan
Don’t be overwhelmed by the chaos of endless racks. Looking for a new dress for work? Head straight to dresses. Need some black pants or a light summer sweater? Go to those areas. This might seem obvious, but thrifting is a lot easier when you narrow it down and don’t force yourself to look at everything. Shopping for what you need or what you’re in the mood to look for saves a lot of energy and minimizes overstimulation.
Know your colors
Another way to stay on track is to shop by color. Scan the racks first for the colors you know look good on you, or you’re interested in trying out. Ignore the rest. Goodwill usually displays its items by color — even by shades — and that makes finding your favorite colors or patterns even easier.
2. Try Things on Creatively
At the thrift store, it’s almost impossible to rely on the tag size with so many different brands and clothes from different eras. And you never know when something shrank in someone’s dryer. So, try things on whenever you can.
But, a lot of times, you’ll find the best deals at thrift shops that have no changing rooms. A little trick that often works with pants is to check the waist and hips. Take a pair of buttoned pants and wrap the waistband around your neck like a necklace. If it overlaps with some breathing room, then the waist should fit you. Then fold the pants over from the waist at the widest part of the hips and measure that against your chest near your shoulders. Does it hit both shoulders? Then the hips will likely fit too.
- Scott Elmquist
- The re-purposed ski pants are from the West Broad Street Goodwill, and the top is from Fan Tastic Thrift.
Of course, the best method is to come prepared to shop in leggings and a tank — then you can just try clothes over them.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, re-imagine the proportion of garments. A cashmere-blend sweater that’s two sizes too large can look great as an oversized tunic with slim pants. An oversized men’s button-up pulled taut around your waist with jeans or a skirt, and you’ve just channeled Sharon Stone’s red carpet moment at the 1996 Oscars.
3. Check the Fabric Content
One of my favorite things about thrifting is collecting merino wool, cashmere, pima cotton and silk garments for practically nothing. Just be sure to check the garments for moth holes, snags or stains.
Keep in mind that synthetic fabrics can sometimes be itchy and unforgiving, especially if they’re older garments. If you’re in the fitting room and something feels “kinda itchy,” don’t bother. You’ll regret it when you’ve brought it home and can’t stand wearing it for more than an hour.
- Scott Elmquist
- The robe is from the Midlothian Goodwill on Alverser Drive, the shirt from Fan Tastic Thrift, and the pink pants from the Love of Jesus Thrift Store. The necklace is vintage.
4. Try Out a Trend and Make a Statement
Thrifting is such a good way to try something new or buy something you know you’re not going to wear that often. I love looking for pieces that speak to an of-the-moment trend. For instance, you can usually find tons of denim: Try cutting off the bottoms of a pair of great fitting jeans and in one wash, you’ll have that perfectly frayed, undone hemline that’s everywhere right now.
Thrifting for events or special occasions is a bit of a gamble but can yield a higher reward. I’ve found incredible vintage pieces in the formal dresses sections — once, a handmade 1970s gold Lurex jumpsuit that I wore for a holiday party. If you do have the time to look around a little at a few shops, you could easily find yourself with a one-of-a-kind outfit that will start conversations all night.
5. If You Don’t Love It, Don’t Buy It
Learn from my mistakes: Even though it’s cheap, if you aren’t excited about it, don’t buy it. Money adds up quickly. Even worse, I swear it’s harder to get rid of clothes than it was to bring them home. Keep that decluttered home joyous and only purchase items you truly think you’ll wear.
Julianne Zimmerman is the lead stylist at Need Supply Co.