Monday, July 30, 2012

Shopping for Giants – How to Thrift

Although I provided a large list of where to shop online in this post, and information on how to shop online in this post, most of my shopping is actually done at thrift stores.  I love thrift stores because, as Sal points out every season, there are very few current trends that you can’t find at thrift stores.  I’ve stated that fast fashion retailers (like H&M, Zara, F21, etc.) can be useful for trying out trends on the cheap, but they really can’t hold a candle to thrift stores in that regard.

And, unlike fast fashion retailers, thrift stores also contain high-quality, well-made garments for the same next-to-nothing price.  (Unless, of course, your thrift store has decided to charge more for items they think are vintage (yes, you, St. Vincent’s!)).  I’m not going to tell you that you’re going to find the studded velvet Miu Miu pumps of your dreams at a thrift store; you’re probably not.  But you can find some great pieces.

Here are my tips for thrifting like a giant.

One, be patient.  Seriously, proper thrifting should probably take much of the day, if not all day.  For me, it takes all day.  Especially for my trips to Portland; I like to map out all of the thrift stores I plan on hitting for the day.  This website is a national thrift store directory that I use to locate thrift stores in Portland and plan my day from there.  I usually allot a couple of hours per thrift store; some take longer and some take less.  Just remember, you need to allow enough time to go through the racks and to try stuff on.

Two, go west young man, go west.  Or, if you’re on the West Coast, go east.  Essentially, go where the people aren’t.  Thrift stores in big cities can be pretty picked over and a lot of the time the prices are higher due to the increased interest in thrifting (Darn you, hipsters! (angry fist shake to the heavens)).  On the flip side, thrift stores in smaller towns (usually inland for most of us) are lower priced and/or haven’t been plundered by the mobs yet.  And while you probably won’t find any DVF or Gucci at these stores, you can find a lot of great items, often handmade.

For example, I love driving to the smallish town of Albany, Oregon and thrifting there.  That’s where I found this fabulous handmade coatdress:

Three, thrift on vacation.  Thrifting on vacation is a great idea because even if you’re in a bigger city, there is a good chance the locals have already perused the selection and weren’t interested.  And you know what they say; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  What they locals pass up may be the perfect piece for your closet.

For example, I bought one of my very favorite skirts while on vacation in Santa Fe last spring; I wear this skirt all the time:

Four, size ain’t nothin’ but a number.  Especially when it comes to vintage.  Sammy, at Sammy Davis Vintage, breaks it down in this post, but basically, modern sizing and vintage sizing are completely different.  I have vintage dresses in size 20 that fit me perfectly.  I also have some from the 80s that are a size 12.  If you like something, try it on.  Don’t depend on the tag to tell you whether or not it can go home with you.

Five, buy petite.  I know it seems counter intuitive when you’re six foot and a size 14 to buy petite pieces, but trust me, it works.  Especially if you’re a fan of midi skirts.  All of my midi skirts are thrifted and most of them are petite.  I think they’re probably ankle length on the less tall, but on my giant self, they are the perfect midi skirt length.  This is true for dresses as well.

Here are some petite pieces I've thrifted:

Petite Dress

Petite Skirt

Petite Dress

Lest you think petite dresses won't fit your wider shoulders, they often have shoulder pads and are cut to allow for those.  I just tear the should pads out, insert my no-padding-needed broad shoulders and couldn't be happier.

For more, non-giant-specific tips on thrifting, I’d suggest this post of Sal’s and this post of Sammy’s.  I'd also suggest exploring their blogs further; they are both great resources on thrifting.

Happy Shopping, All!



  1. Dang, I thought that thrifting in small towns was my secret! Only in recent years have I started thrifting while on vacation, but have found some wonderful souvenirs that way. I often buy petite size blouses. The only thing I can't purchase petite would be slacks of course. (And that shirt dress was a great find!)

  2. Wow, what a fabulous coatdress. And good tips on thrifting.

    Thrift-stores enable and fuel my fashion addiction because they make dressing up affordable and the serendipity of the changing, unpredictable selection leads me to take chances.

  3. No matter where I've shopped, I never find anything good in my size (18/20) in thrift or consignment stores. Of course, the stuff I consign (that I paid a fortune for retail, grr) always sells at my local shop in like, a day. I'm impressed with your powers.

  4. Great coat dress! You look great! Excellent tips, especially about being patient!

  5. My grandmother lives down in Albany! ^_^ (And you are so right, there are some seriously styllish people in that town, I only get to thrift once every couple years down there when I visit, but it's always great for good finds.)

    Thrifting is just awesome. I've found some really amazing garments, everything from Dior to DVF in our thrift stores, but it takes time. (I've walked out of a thrift store empty handed.) I have the hardest time thrifting blouses, the shirt racks always seem so overwhelming to me! (And I'm lazy and just gravitate towards to dresses and skirts. :) I love the beautiful coral skirt you thrifted, it's stunning on you!

  6. I find that thrifting IS a vacation :P But you're right about planning on taking the time, especially for stores with a lot of inventory. Go slow. Remind yourself it's okay to leave empty-handed. Try on anything that looks like it might fit.

  7. Such a great post! I'm always interested in how other people shop! And I completely agree that the size listed doesn't mean much!

  8. gracey, shouldn't this post be titled how to be adorable? that handmade coatdress is divine, & so it the outfit you wore with it. i'm swooning.

  9. You hit the nail on the head with this post. All great pointers for successful thrifting! I desperately covet that coat, by the way. When you're tired of it, let's swap. I'll give it back when you want. :-)

  10. I had a BLAST in the odd, Warrenton, OR store I went to. Did you read that post? I totally second the notion of going where the hipsters are not.

  11. love this post--great tips Gracey!

  12. love this looks and also your blog! It's so nice!!! I follow you!
    Pass to my blog and if it likes you follow me too, I will be so glad :D

  13. All great tips; we have smaller charity shops over here, usually, not the gigantic thrift barns I recall from when I lived in the States. (Oh, how I miss them!) I can usually do hit-and-runs on the small charity shops, so I tend to shop frequently, but fairly quickly, as part of my daily routines.

    And thrifting on holidays rocks! I love an unfamiliar charity shop so much.

  14. I think patience is my thrifting downfall - I'm always running into a thrift store for 20 minutes, hoping I'll find something awesome during my quick trip, and I almost never do.

    This was a fantastic post, and I'm bookmarking it to refer to later!

  15. Love it, Gracey! That coatdress is a killer find. I have been thinking a lot about thrifting recently and one thing I would add to the list is that you need to love it! Often I find myself buying things that are a great find rather than buying something I'm going to love and wear a lot. So many of the things I thrift rarely get worn but I buy it because it's such a great price.

    Cable Car Couture

  16. this is an awesome post! i love thrifting and have been doing so for the past 3 years, it's like an adventure and I always find wonderful things! :)

    C’s Evolution of Style

  17. Hey, now I know where all of that petite clothing that I need (I'm 5'1") has been going! Seriously though, nice, informative post about one of my favorite topics.


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