I SPEND A LOT OF TIME AT THRIFT STORES. The unique, cheap clothing is a perfect fit for my unique, cheap self. But deeper than all of that, I do so to protest clothing produced in sweatshops. Buying second-hand puts a wrench in the buy/discard North American attitude that contributes to the demand for cheap working conditions.
But maybe you thrift shop simply for the unique items awaiting discovery. You can stumble upon clothes from lines that are out-of-production for whatever reason ó maybe they’re too old or they just didn’t catch on to any market. You might even find something homemade (though sewn-on cat patch sweaters have never been my thing).
Or maybe you’re just a starving student who’d rather pay half the price for the countless H&M and American Apparel articles that end up as thrift. In any case, if you love thrift stores then you’ve probably walked away with something that was discarded for a reason: shirts with stains, stretched out ties, etc. But don’t give up. Enhance your thrifting experience with these tips for getting the most out of your second-hand expedition.
INSPECT THE GARMENT CAREFULLY.
Look for reasons that someone might have given the garment away. I’ve walked away with one too many shirts with stretched collars, faintly stained sweaters, and pants with covert holes. If an article has a slight stain, make sure you can get it out and that you’ll even want to spend the time doing so. It’s might be easier to just put it down and keep looking.
KNOW WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.
Go into the store with an idea of exactly what you want to buy, and only shop for what fits that criteria. There’s no reason to settle for a shirt with a hole in it, or pants that are a size too big — the store you’re at will probably have new stock a week later and there are so many thrift stores out there. Having a clear idea of what you want also helps curb the desire to buy super cheap trinkets that seem like a great idea until they’ve been sitting on your window sill for three years.
DON’T BUY WHITE CLOTHING.
It’s possible these items look good in the dim light of Chateau de Thrift, but exposed to the sun, stains become evident. This doesn’t mean the clothing isn’t clean, of course, but some stains just won’t come out when you’re dealing with whites, especially after they’ve been treated with heat or with certain chemicals. Chlorine bleach, for instance, tends to make some stains worse.
TRY ON EVERYTHING.
Take many items into the changing room. Often, something will look good on the hanger, but, on you, it might be obviously stretched out or a wacky foreign size (ever tried on American clothes? They’re a lot looser than Canadian brands).
CHECK FOR TAGS.
If something is dry-clean only, consider if you really want it. Remember that it’ll cost a fair amount (depending on size) to get the garment cleaned each time. Rest assured, too, that if a store smells musty, its clothing will too, and will require cleaning.
I bought a big coat once that smelled a little musty, a smell that a $25 dry-cleaning did not remove. I opted for hand-washing instead, which kept my coat intact, but it still took a few washes to get rid of the smell, a process that might ruin certain pieces.
CLEAN THE CLOTHES BEFORE WEARING THEM OUT.
D’doi. Learn from Macklemore.