Secondhand Savvy

Posted September 2, 2011 at 5:06pm

Thrift stores are another place to score great secondhand finds. Here are some tips.


Adjust your expectations.
Don’t expect thrift stores to smell good or look nice. Keep in mind that you’re looking for diamonds in the rough.


Finding the right size.
Wear tight-fitting clothing so you can try on things even if there isn’t a dressing room. Look at the garment itself, not at the size on the tag, to determine whether it will fit you. A vintage size 6 will fit a modern size 2. Even newer clothes of the same size can fit differently depending on the brand. 


Check for defects.
Make sure the zipper works because it can be expensive to replace. Look for stains. Face makeup will probably come out, but don’t count on getting wine, lipstick, ink or mystery stains out of the fabric. Check for missing buttons, ripped seams and loose hems. If you are handy with a needle and thread, you can fix these things. For minor defects, ask for a price reduction; the store may give you a discount of 10 percent to 20 percent. 


Be prepared to dig.
There are at least 35 pairs of mom jeans for every pair of designer denim. 


Location, location, location.
Thrift stores in college towns, big cities and trendy bohemian neighborhoods are the most picked over, so don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path. When it comes to consignment, wealthy neighborhoods are where it’s at. Someone else’s so-last-season trash can be your half-price treasure.


Timing is everything.
If you don’t find anything the first time you visit, don’t give up. Thrifting is a hit-or-miss adventure. If you go to the same store often, ask when it restocks. 


Pitfalls.
Beware of bedbugs when buying upholstered furniture. Don’t buy bike helmets. Damage from a crash might not be visible but it can affect how well the helmet protects your head.


Consider the possibilities.
Keep in mind that furniture can be painted or refinished. If you find an ugly painting in a cool frame, you can ditch the painting and use the frame. If a fabulous $10 dress doesn’t fit exactly right, use the money you are saving by shopping secondhand to have it altered.