The Art of “Thrifting”

This weekend I was heading home from a wedding in Minneapolis and stopped in Rochester, MN to stretch my legs and walk a bit.  What better place to walk around than a thrift store?  🙂


Yes.  I said it.  Thrift store.  In this case, it was Goodwill.  Now hear me out.  I do enjoy shopping.  I enjoy name brands and designers.  I also enjoy luxurious fabrics like silk, cashmere, wool, and real leather.  (And with that said, I really dislike polyester and other synthetics.)  In high school and college I worked for a retail store and spent most of my paycheck on clothes.   What I don’t like is the price tag that usually accompanies these luxury items.  So… I thrift.  And, honestly, my wardrobe is full of beautiful, high quality items that I paid a small fraction of the retail price for.


As I was walking around the store on Sunday, I came across this gorgeous red swing coat.


It was incredibly soft to the touch and I knew instantly that it wasn’t a cheap acrylic coat.  So I checked the label and noticed it was a wool/cashmere blend.  And once I tried it on, I knew it had to be mine.  Sweet.  I’d never heard of the brand, Louben, but Googled it once I got home.  Definitely not cheap.  This is the closest I could find by the same designer and it’s $400!  Louben Jacket



And, since I’m taking photos in my room, I can see a few more thrift finds so I will throw some extra photos into this blog post for good measure.


Last fall I was at the Viroqua Flea Market.  It’s an awesome two-story historic brick tobacco warehouse that has been turned into a flea market.  It’s hit or miss there but I’ve walked away with some amazing finds.  For example, while perusing a display of purses, I came across this beautiful leather handbag.  It’s a gorgeous, soft, supple brown leather.  The tags were STILL ON THE BAG! Retail price: $268.  It was marked $20 with an extra 20% off.  So I scored this bag for $16 which is 94% off retail.




And then there are my beloved throw pillows.  These are awesome.  Intricately embroidered (not screen-printed) with washable covers (a must for thrift store purchases) and down feather pillows… these are some seriously awesome additions to my room.  These are also from the Viroqua Flea Market and were less than $10 each.



Obviously these are just a few of my treasures from the last year but I’ve been thrifting for years.  Some friends think I  get lucky with my thrift shopping trips but the truth is that I just know how to dig.  Here are a few tips:

  1. Learn your fabrics.  It’s easy to pick out quality fabrics that will stand up to the test of time vs fabrics that will fade, pill, stretch, or any number of bad things.  Once you do this you can quickly sweep through the aisles and pause only when you see something that might work.  Otherwise, you could spend hours going through every single item on the racks.
  2. Don’t settle.  It’s tempting to buy a pair of name brand pants because you know they cost $150 in the store.  But if they are faded or too short, how are you going to fix that?
  3. Remember that the tailor is your friend.  🙂  I have found great lined wool dress pants with tags on them for over $120 that were slightly too long.  After buying them for $10, I paid a few more dollars for a local seamstress to hem them.  And that amazing pair of jeans that gaps in the back when you bend over?  Easy fix with a seamstress.  You’ll end up with the best fitting pair of pants you’ve ever had.  But again, if they aren’t great fabric and something you could keep for years, it probably isn’t worth it. I refuse to spend $20 to buy/hem pants that probably cost only $30 to begin with.
  4. Learn which stores frequently have nicer quality items.  Sometimes you need to go to nicer neighborhoods.  Sometimes you need to go to larger “chain” thrift stores that cover a large area.  In my area, there are Goodwill “regions” where they send their name-brand inventory to all of their stores… regardless of the neighborhood. Sometimes consignment stores have fantastic merchandise.  There is one in Madison, WI that specializes in designer items.  I picked up a Kate Spade wallet for about 75% off retail.
  5. If you really have time on your hands, try branching out.  I tried out a REALLY low-end thrift store where you buy clothes by the pound.  Seriously.  It’s where one chain of thrift stores sends all the stuff that doesn’t typically sell in their regular stores… sort of a last resort.  Anyway, I’ve found 100% wool sweaters for crafting as well as a pristine, fabulous cotton/angora/cashmere sweater by J Jill and gray Calvin Klein pants.  I paid less than $1 for both since clothing was $1 a pound.

You know the best parts of shopping this way?  I have amazingly high quality items to wear AND I don’t feel guilty splurging on a Kate Spade handbag during their sample sales. Winning.  😀

Do you have any tips for getting great deals?  I’d love to hear them!

August 22, 2012 - 10:16 am

Stephanie Neprud - Oh Rebecca. One of the many reasons that I adore you. This post made me think of my sister. She was the QUEEN of thrifting. When Elyse was born, she bought her so many clothes at garage sales. She knew all the good neighborhoods and would get brand new GAP clothes with TAGS on. As a matter of fact, she enjoyed it so much that we used to have totes labeled, 3T, 4T, 5 etc for when she could grow into them. She stopped going to garage sales about two years ago as her cancer prevented her for doing much. And we literally JUST used up our last tote about a month ago and Lisa has been gone since December. Thrifting is the BEST. Take me with you sometime. I love it sooooo much!!!!

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