In Her Words
Tips for Thrift Store Shopping
How to walk away satisfied with your purchases
-Terri Potratz, The Conveyor Belt
I never used to have ANY skill when it came to thrift shopping. Eternally in a rush, I struggled to find the patience to sort through the racks, consider the potential of each item, and torture myself in the fitting room trying to force the pieces to look good when they simply didn’t. I ended up with a closet full of clothes that I never wore – hence my love for clothing swaps. Then suddenly I became a master second hand shopper, consistently scoring unique and well fitting pieces for dirt cheap. I finally developed a successful system, and here it is:
• Buy to fit. I have tupperware containers of items that need serious alterations because I overestimated my ability to tailor them. BUT if the item is really cheap and just a bit too big on the sides, buy it, as taking something in down the sides is a cinch.
• Don’t go into a thrift store looking for a specific item, as you’ll probably leave disappointed. Have an open mind, and be ready to adopt anything if it fits you well – even if it’s a summer dress and you’re stuck in the dead of winter.
• Prioritize your sections. I go straight to the dresses, then jackets and sweaters, because I have the most luck in these departments.
• Shopping for pants in a thrift store will kill your spirit, and I wouldn’t advise attempting this unless you are very brazen and have a lot of time on your hands. If you do have the patience to try on 20 pairs, keep in mind that a size 28 from the 70s does not fit the same way a 28 does now.
• Take a peek in the children’s department. If you’re between a size 2-8 in women’s clothing, size 10-16 in girl’s might just fit you. This conversion is usually only practical for jackets and shirts, but it depends on your body type.
• Try to hit up your favorite thrift store haunt about once a week. There’s no shame in being an obsessive shopper, especially when there’s deals to be had.
• Head to the suburbs. The clothing there isn’t quite as picked over, and old people throw a lot of cool shit away.
• Finally, I love shopping with friends but try to avoid thrifting with someone who has the same style or size as you. It could result in a nasty tumble. It hurts, but your friendship is worth more than nabbing that $3 clutch your best girlfriend just unearthed.
Terri has been a freelance fashion writer for two years, contributing to both local and international publications. She has also worked as a stylist and costumer for film, television and editorial photo shoots. After nearly a year as a staff writer and photographer for INFAMOUS Magazine Terri adjusted effortlessly into her role as editor and publisher of The Conveyor Belt, and is dedicated to promoting Vancouver style within the global fashion community. She continues to freelance for other companies and publications, and is always keen on taking on a new subject or challenge. In 2008 Terri also launched Larry Designs, a knitwear company whose mandate is to support BC farmers and artisans by using locally sourced materials to construct unique and modern designs.