Great White Snark: "We must never confuse elegance with snobbery." -Yves Saint Laurent

Thursday, April 15, 2010

"We must never confuse elegance with snobbery." -Yves Saint Laurent


Right, so I started this blog with the intention of it being a more affordable fashion type blog. Clearly, it's failed thus far in that regard, as it's become more of a sounding board for all my useless opinions.

But I still love the idea of helping people look awesome without breaking the bank. So. Back to the drawing board. This is a post I've had planned since before this blog existed, and I think I've been putting it off simply because I know it'll be huge. But I want to get it done now. :)

Without further ado...

Your Guide to Discout, Consignment and Thrift Stores

*The primary thing to remember about ALL of these places is to take off your judgment goggles. Sure, I love, but really, if you're in a discount or thrift store, you're in there for the same reason as everyone else: to get cheap stuff. So that makes you in NO way better than anyone else shopping there (even if they are wearing silver lamé leggings and a feather boa).

Thrift Stores
I think a lot of people tend to have the idea suggested by the editorial cartoon above, that thrift stores are stanky, nasty garbage receptacles that profit off other people's trash. In some ways, that's absolutely correct. If you're a snobbish cynic. If you're a treasure-seeking opportunist, you can find some incredible things in thrift stores.

The primary thing to remember about thrift stores is this: the things in there are used. But that doesn't mean they're all nasty and disgusting. Yes, there are some icky things. But seriously, you guys? We all use public bathrooms, see concerts in disgusting clubs and smoke/eat/otherwise ingest things that are way more nasty once broken down than most things in thrift stores. So stop pretending that your poop doesn't stink and get over it.

My mom was the co-manager of our church's thrift store for 2 or 3 years, and I learned a lot about them in that time by volunteering a LOT. Here's the thing. Thrift stores don't take everything they get in. Or at least, good ones don't. The stuff people bring in in massive black Hefty bags has to be emptied by people just like you. Yeah, we used to get in things like, a sock or used underwear. That stuff we tossed. Most thrift stores do the same.

Things to Keep in Mind:
-Thrift stores require LOOKING. I've been thrifting before with people who will walk in, take one turn about the store, not touch anything and then be like, "Well, I didn't find anything." NO KIDDING. The thing with thrifting is you really have to go into it with the treasure-hunter mentality. Pirates didn't find buried treasure by just walking around the island and not touching anything. They had to wade through water, get sandy, and dig around. You're a pirate now. You have to touch things and dig around. (And no, I promise, you're not going to contract herpes by looking at thrift store clothes. That's SCIENCE.) You need to go through the racks piece by piece, because chances are, most thrift stores don't organize by size or color. Everything is mingled in together. Which means even though the entire rack is seemingly full of nasty sweater vests that could be useful only for the Ugly Sweater Christmas parties, the one from Abercrombie with the tags still on is in the same section.

-Don't just buy because it's cheap. Make sure you examine the piece--how is the stitching? Is there extensive staining? What about rips and tears? If it's a must-have piece, chances are it can be washed and tailored. If it's just so-so, save your money for a new piece.

-Be sure that what you get will actually go with other things you own. Right now, trendy little vintage clothing blogs are so popular it's almost bizarre. But the truth is, you're not going to get that look after one trip to the thrift store. Sure, you might find an awesome maxi skirt that looks like it fell out of the skies from the 70's, but if you have a black and white conservative wardrobe, it's not worth it to go out and buy the top, shoes and bag to match. Then you're spending more money than the skirt was worth in the first place. If you are looking to rebuild your wardrobe, do it slowly, piece by piece. And buy things you know will work with other things you own for maximum versatility.

-Don't pass judgment on the people working or shopping there. When we were at Re-Threads, we had a number of people come in who I would've otherwise ignored looking at in the street (you know how it is, when you try to avoid making eye contact because it's awkward? Those types of people.). But I talked with a lot of them, and their stories are heartbreaking, heartwarming and encouraging. I think we tend to look at the majority of thrifters as dirty, poor, addicts, etc. Some of this is true. But many of them are parents, siblings, children and friends who are doing incredible things for the people they love. They work two or three jobs, move their parents back home with them to save them from nursing home abuse, deal with more disease and heartache than most of us can even imagine, quit their corporate jobs to live frugally while volunteering for causes they believe's incredible (and every single one of the aforementioned things pertain to certain customers we had. I didn't make ANY of it up). So don't look at them and think, "Ew," because you can't even begin to imagine what some of these people have been through.

Consignment Shops
Consignment shops are stores, usually privately-owned, that re-sell used clothes. The difference between consignment and thrift stores is that consignment stores will either pay you cash for your used clothing outright, or give you a cut of the proceeds if your clothing sells in their store. Being as such, they're more selective than thrift stores since they'll lose a small amount of money paying the original seller. You don't want to give away more money than you're making, so they usually make a concerted effort to choose clothes that they think will sell.

I feel like many consignment shops are going out of business due to the economy. It's so hard to pay rent now, especially on sales made off of used clothes. I think boutiques are the same way--private-owned clothing stores just can't stand up to the corporate big-whigs. And when it comes to paying your electric bill and groceries or clothing, most people will put clothes on the back burner for a while. So I feel like these are the hardest to find, especially good consignment shops.

Things to Keep in Mind:
-PRICE. A lot of consignment shops will charge wayyy more than a piece is worth. I've been in consignment shops that will charge $18 for a pair of used jeans or capris. If you save the $18 twice, you can get a pretty decent pair of brand new jeans. Keep this in mind.

-For the younger shopper, Plato's Closet
is AMAZING. And no, I'm not just pimping it because I worked there. It's really a brilliant concept. They ONLY take clothes made within the last year to two years (we learned how to tell that kind of thing...AWESOME LIFE SKILLS). They're really selective about brand, style and condition, and the prices are so super. Some of my nicest pieces of clothing have come from Plato's, and I know I'd never have been able to afford them brand new. But what's reassuring is the fact that they're not ancient, since it can only be a couple years old max to be accepted. I can deal with that. EASILY. Like the Citizens of Humanity jeans (which sell for anywhere from $150-$300 a pair!) that I found for $35. Ordinarily, I'd think $35 was a bit much to pay for jeans (when I said I was cheap, I wasn't joking. Please, laugh at me. I do it all the time *_~). But because it's such a high quality pair of jeans that I KNOW will last forever (and fit PERFECTLY to boot), I totally didn't mind paying that much.
Also, GUYS! Plato's has perhaps my favorite selection for young men out of any store I can think of. Regardless of your style or tastes, Plato's will pretty much have you covered. Check it out, dudefriends!

Discount Stores

This is where you need to be careful. Everything in the discount stores I'm going to talk about is new, but the quality is sometimes sacrificed in the name of a bargain.

Wal-Mart, Target, etc:
These stores are FANTASTIC for your basic needs. My all-time favorite t-shirts (Hanes men's v-neck!) can be bought for like, $6 at these stores. Same with socks, other basic tees, cami's, etc. Also, Target has really stepped it up in recent years, particularly with their guest designer collections (featuring the likes of Thakoon, Rodarte, Jean Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen, Luella Bartley, and many more). Currently in right now is some ADORABLE stuff from Liberty of London. I feel like the quality of Target's clothing is you get what you pay for. It's decent--I'd venture to say better than stores like Charlotte Russe, but lower than other mall stores (like Express, Gap, or American Eagle, for example). Still, I'm a die-hard Target fan.

Discount Mall Stores
Stores like Charlotte Russe, Wet Seal, and Forever 21 are excellent for buying that trendy, need-it-now seasonal piece for really cheap. I would not recommend such stores for investment pieces like boots, handbags or trench coats. The quality is pretty poor (F21 has gotten better, and is the best of the three), but what'd you expect from a $15 party dress? Be careful of fabrics, too. Anything with cotton in it WILL shrink, probably a whole size down. So while it's depressing to let the stick-thin 16 year old cash out your size 12 jeans, don't be too bummed, because they'll fit perfectly as soon as you wash them (if they survive the washing, that is). And as always, inspect the overall quality of the piece. Make sure the stitching looks relatively sound, check for loose or fraying threads and keep versatility in mind ALWAYS. Even if you're only spending a few bucks on something, you might as well make sure it's something you can use.

TJ Maxx, Ross, Stein Mart, etc:
These stores get such a bad rap, and I have NO idea why. I mean, yes. They are messy. Usually siezure-inducingly so. But I have had some AWESOME scores, especially at TJ Maxx who I feel like carries more better-name brands (Betsey Johnson, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, etc.). It's the same with the thrift stores: you need to be willing to dig and sift and really look if you want to find anything good. All of the products are new, just significantly marked down (mostly, I've noticed, because of being a couple of seasons old). That being said, CHECK FOR DAMAGES. Try on anything you want to buy and make sure there are no unsightly stains or tears. Every once in a while you'll get something, only to realize once you've gotten it home why it was so cheap. Stein Mart is pretty much an "old lady store," but I got my Oscar de la Renta sunglasses there, so I feel the need to pimp. Skip the clothes and just look at the accessories there. So overall: buyer beware, but also HAVE FUN, because you can get some kickass bargains. Don't discount the discount store!!!

WHEW. Okay, I want to show you guys just three examples of stuff I've gotten at the aforementioned stores. Also, despite the original price tags, I didn't pay more than $35 for ANY of them. :)

Adorable Betsey Johnson "Betseyville" (which is her cheaper, but no less adorable, brand) laptop bag.

Juicy Couture wallet I can't WAIT to carry this summer.

Awesomely gorgeous Guess dress that I found lurking in the racks, new with tags. It's one of those rare pieces that looks better on me than the hanger. :D

So there you have it, guys! I hope you enjoyed this article and that it was informative. Hit me up if you ever want to go thrifting--it's one of my favorite things ever--or if you need a list of thrift/consignment stores in the area. I know them ALL. Also, PLEASE let me know if you've scored any awesome bargain deals! I get off on stuff like that. *_~

1 comment:

  1. I have been waiting for the perfect post to let you know that I adore your blog and think you should keep it forever and ever... And here it is!
    This is brilliant advice and it makes me want to go thrift store shopping right now. I am excited about the possibilities that await me when I'm at home this summer. And I love that I can call you up and take this lovely advice glampirating with me!
    Thanks for this loverly article. Keep it up, dearest Mcad.