Before we begin on this road together, we should probably lay out some ground rules. Most rules are meant to be broken, but these are tried and true.
1. KNOW THYSELF – It’s as true in fashion as it is in philosophy. If the latest trend is to dye your hair bright purple and you know that you’d spaz out with anything other than your safe brown (or strawberry blonde, in my case), don’t do it. That’s not to say that you have to stay in your comfort zone 100% of the time, but the key to making any outfit work is confidence. If you aren’t comfortable in your own skin, you won’t rock that look as well as you think you should.
2. HAVE A PLAN – Thrifting is a great way to accumulate junk. Sometimes, one person’s junk is… really junk. If you go into your local Goodwill or Salvation Army or Mom & Pop Thrift without a plan, you could walk out with 20 sweaters that will wind up right back on their shelves in a year… or, worse yet, in a “I Plan To Do Something With These One Day” box. Take a picture of an outfit you want to recreate or think to yourself “I’d really like to find x, y, and z today. If I don’t, I’ll just get a cup or coffee or put that money in my savings account instead.” Heck, if you were going to spend that money anyway, use it how you’d like, but DON’T just buy things to buy things.
3. KNOW YOUR LIMITS – Can you sew? Can you paint? Can you repair? If you can, great. If you can’t, put it down and walk away. Most places have a pretty good filtering system that gets rid of all the stuff that is completely unusable. The fact is, however, that they don’t have filtering systems for out-of-date or just plain hideous clothing, furniture and accessories. If you have the know-how (and I hope to provide alot of that) AND you have the time to do whatever needs to be done to make an item fashionable, take it home and love it with all you’ve got. On the other hand, if you think the item will wind up in the box with your 20 sweaters, leave it for someone else who will cherish their find.
4. IMAGINE – Just because it’s sitting in a store that isn’t high fashion doesn’t mean that people will know that when you’re strutting your stuff later. You have to take the item out of its environment in your head and put it in your closet with all your other fabulous apparel. If you can clean it up and pair it with a something you already own, it’s a yes. Take that puppy home!
5. JUST BECAUSE IT’S USED DOESN’T MEAN IT’S USED UP – I know… this sounds alot like 4. It’s not exactly the same, though. If you find a pair of jeans that make your butt look amazing, but the bottoms are worn down past the point of “pairable with flats only,” think about them as a skirt. I promise that your butt will still look amazing and you’ll give new life to something that was discarded. Or, are you short like me? Maybe all they need is a good hem-job and you’ve got yourself a brand-spankin’-new-to-you pair of jeans. Let’s say you find a great chair. You L-O-V-E the lines, but the color is gross or the fabric is holier than The Pope. Step back and close your eyes (not too long or it might be gone!). Can you give it a shabby-chic makeover? What if you covered that seat in a great piece of leather and painted the wood a color that would pop in your office or guest room? Don’t write something off just because it’s not perfect.
6. TRENDS ARE TRENDS – Classic fashion stays forever. That little black dress that you saw at a major department store IS a good investment. Those are items you should put a little money into. If you’re lucky enough to find something at a thrift store, great. My suggestion is that you purchase a few base items (at least at first) that are new, in great condition, and will last a very long time. For your experiments in here-today, gone-tomorrow trends, rip those second-hand jeans to shreds or splatter paint on that oversized shirt. Don’t spend $200 on a pair of jeans that you won’t want to wear in 6 months and don’t spend $2 on a dress that is so ratty that it looks like you lived on the streets for a few years.
7. ENJOY – Fashion should not be a test to see how much money you can spend or who does it better. Fashion is about you and your personality shining through. Don’t get bent out of shape because skinny jeans make you look like sausage or because you’d much rather wear heels than flat sneakers that could double as clown shoes. There are trends all over the place. Pick some you think will be fun to try and do it. Who cares if you look perfect? You’re your worst critic. I promise you.
8. TAKE A BUDDY – Make sure that it’s a tell-it-like-it-is friend. If you pick up a pair of patent leather purple over-the-knee boots and your friend doesn’t tell you that you look like a drag-queen on a bad day, they should stay home. You’re better off without them. They need to be completely honest with you or you need to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself all on your own. Good judgements, friends. Good judgements.
9. HAVE TIME – Shopping at a thrift store is exhausting if it’s big and frustrating if it’s tiny. The big places have SOOO much stuff to sift through and the little ones might not have much of anything. While you might work close enough to a thrift store to pop in on your lunch break (like me), it’s usually best to take a fellow thrifter, grab some java, and take a couple hours. That way, you have plenty of time to try things on and really enjoy the experience. It’s a treasure hunt, not a convenience store run. It’s a triathalon, not a sprint. Pace yourself.
10. YOU ARE NOT A SUPER MODEL – Yes, this goes along with 1 and 6. I’m aware. The thing is that you need to remember that you are not a walking coathanger. You have curves and bits to hide and lift and squish and tuck and disguise. You are not 5’8″ and 110 lbs. Buy the right size for you. Just because that dress is SO IN, doesn’t mean that you need to walk around not breathing to wear it. You aren’t in a department store. They won’t have your size or be able to order it. They have what they have. If you’re a size 14 and it’s a size 12, put it down. Walk away. Look for something that FITS you. Confidence is like 20% of fashion. Style is like 10%. FIT IS AT LEAST 70%!!! If you have a muffin-top or it looks like you have 4 boobs, that’s a no. The ONLY exception to this is if you plan to use it for the fabric or to drastically alter it (see 3).
I hope you find these tips useful. If you have your own, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m Goodwilling it Saturday so I will let you know how that goes! 🙂