My Year of Thrifting

22 Apr

I did it! I made it a whole year with only buying second-hand clothes!

I always love thrifting anyway, and have picked up clothes here and there, but I wondered if I could really survive a whole year without ONCE looking at the clearance racks at Target (my usual place to buy clothes – I’m there anyway!).

First, some statistics: “The volume of discarded clothing in the U.S. reached 8 million tons in 2005 and has continued to increase since then.  A U.S. EPA study estimated 85% of discarded clothing is discarded, accounting for more than 4% of municipal solid waste volume. The volume of U.S. clothing consumption has quintupled since 1980.”

And: “According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year and clothing and other textiles represent about 6.3% of the municipal solid waste (in major cities like New York and Chicago alone, textiles make up a whopping 10% of all municipal waste).”

Yikes. I’m just as guilty as everyone else, I have a closet full of clothes that I barely wear all of, and although we always donate clothes we don’t want anymore, I still feel like I could do more. Plus I LOVE finding treasures of any kind at the thrift shop, would clothes be much different?

Red Shirt (I usually never buy red!) $5

First I set some ground rules. I would not be purchasing my “unmentionables” at the thrift shop. And although I have found one pair of shoes (see below), I have also bought another pair new. I also have yet to shop for jeans, although it can be done.

Overall this Year O’ Thrifting has gone really really well. I saved TONS of money. I learned to practice self control (okay, I’ll admit right now that I did break my rule ONE TIME and bought a new shirt at Target but it was on clearance for $3 and it was exactly what I was looking for, but that’s IT!), and now it’s no problem at all for me to skip by the shops I used to love.

Not only did I find some really cheap, recycled clothes, but they were SO different from what I usually buy! Since generally I was left with whatever was at Target or the occasional trip to Old Navy (yeah, I’m a super fashionista, let me tell you!), this really helped me see more of what the world of clothing had to offer. I bought brands I’d never heard of, and some that I had but never could have afforded at regular price.

I did learn a lot about thrift-store shopping for clothes along the way. Here are some tips if you want to try it yourself!

1) You Need Time: At thrift-stores, clothes are usually arranged by type and then within that by size and sometimes even  (oh, the rainbow!) by color. If you are in the market for something sort of specific, like you need some new tank tops for the summer, you have to look through the WHOLE.ENTIRE.RACK of tank tops. Why? Because not only do things very often get put in the wrong place, but also because sizes are arbitrary, especially when thrifting. Which brings me to my next tip:

Skirt - found in kids section. $3

2) Ignore the Size on the Label: Sure, it will give you some idea of what to expect in the size department, but as you probably already know, sizes can vary GREATLY by brand and style. I usually wear a medium, but I have thrifted clothes from size XS to XL that fit just great. Eyeball it. Then…

One of my all-time favorite shirts. Size XL. $4

3) You Must Try Things On: I know this part can be a little gross. Not only are you trying on clothing that has been warn by another human being and possibly not washed since, but I will be the first to admit that the dressing rooms at thrift stores are GROSS. But I take a deep cleansing breath and jump right in. I have WAY too often bought things without trying them on only to get home and say out loud to my mirror “Did anyone actually TEST THIS OUT before they MANUFACTURED IT?” or “I now know EXACTLY WHY THIS ENDED UP HERE!”. A lot of thrift stores don’t take returns or can be a little grouchy about it, so do yourself a favor and take the plunge. I have found things that I didn’t think were going to fit – like TOTALLY the wrong size OR things that were obviously handmade without a tag to begin with – and they DID fit! And I LOVE them!

Handmade - no size. It was previously a dress, I shortened it to a longer shirt. $8

4) Examine All Items for Flaws: I can’t tell you how many times I have found the perfect shirt, tried it on, LOVED IT, and brought it home only to discover there was something VERY wrong with it. And now it’s going to (sniff, sniff) either end up in the landfill anyway, or get thrown into my never-ending pile of clothes that I’m going to do something fun with, someday, I promise! Check the backs and fronts, tops and bottoms for things like the Stain of Unknown Origin (a lot of these do come out, but why risk it?), holes, zippers that don’t work, buttons that are missing, hems that are falling apart, etc. And also learn what is a deal-breaker and what isn’t. If a shirt is awesome but a little pilly, do you care? If you bought it new, it would get pilly anyway after a while.

Old Navy Shirt - a little bit pilly but I don't care! $3

5) Shop Wisely and Be Thrifty: If you’re trying out thrift-store shopping for the sake of saving tons of money, make sure you take note of shop sales and markdowns. Most thrift-stores have color coded tags for each week, and every week they put one or two of the “old” colors on sale. Personally I like to spend as little as possible, which means I rarely pay more than $4 for each item, and will sometimes go up to $8 if it’s perfect. But keep your eye on the tag color because a lot of items are actually cheaper than they are marked. Yay!

Happy Springtime Tulip Shirt. Half off - $2

Another part of being a Wise Thrifter is to know some brand names. Higher-end brands are usually really well made and seem to last forever (and fit better) so if I spot their tag I’ll at least take a second look. They also MIGHT be worth spending a few extra bucks to get because they’ll last a long time (and, of course, for Thrifter Bragging Rights to tell someone just how LITTLE you spent on that).

Ann Taylor Skirt - $4

6) Shop Around: I have about 6-8 thrift shops that I stop by on a regular basis. You’ll find that some are better than others. Some mark their stuff up pretty high hoping it will sell, so you really have to buy stuff when the tag color is on sale or it’s never a good deal. Some of them seem to pay attention to the brand name and those are more expensive, some don’t seem to care at all. Sometimes you find a store that you are SURE the Thrift Store Gods have sent you too because apparently someone in your EXACT SIZE with your EXACT TASTE just dropped off the Mother Lode just for you. Go back there. They might clean out their closet again. If you don’t find much the first time, always stop back because you just never know what you’ll find at the thrift shop!

Cute ankle-high black boots. $5

7) Practice the Art of Serendipity: If you are looking for something really specific, my best advice is to be open minded AND to put out a call to the Thrift Shop Gods. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been looking for something pretty specific (i.e. ankle-high boots) and looked for WEEKS before I actually DID find them! Last summer we stopped by Goodwill to try to find some bathing suits for my girls and my oldest daughter really REALLY wanted a Tinkerbell suit. I told her about a dozen times before we went in that we probably wouldn’t find a Tinkerbell suit, that we would be lucky to find ANY suit in her size. What did we find on the very first rack we looked at? A 5T Tinkerbell suit. Apparently she’s in with the Gods more than me! So write down your wish on a little piece of paper and stuff it in your purse. Or say it out loud a few times, and see what happens!

So there you have it! The incredibly long-winded response to how I thrift for clothes. I have NO plans to stop thrifting for clothes, in fact I feel even more committed to doing it. I love the “thrill of the hunt” and finding great clothes that get a new chance to be worn before going into the dump. I think everyone should give it a try, even if it’s for just a few items a year. Try it, you might like it!

Now go wash your hands… then tell me, what have YOU found at the thrift shop lately?



12 Responses to “My Year of Thrifting”

  1. feistyowlstudio April 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    This really got me in the mood to go thrift store shopping! The last things that I bought (for myself) at a thrift store were some pants and shorts to wear until I could fit back into my pre-pregnancy clothes. Now I’m almost back to my original size and I think I need some new clothes to celebrate : )

    • hipviolet April 22, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

      Yay! I can’t wait to hear what you find! Happy Thrifting!

  2. Thais Zoe (@ThaisLuckyDuck) April 25, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

    Well done! Tweeted and posted to my LuckyDuckLiving FB page:)

  3. Lori Cohn April 25, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    Great post, makes me want to go find some thrift treasures. Love the photos too!

    • hipviolet April 25, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      Thanks Lori! Let me know what treasures you find! 🙂

  4. Fit Activewear April 25, 2012 at 10:34 pm #

    As I was reading this post all I can do is think about my two younger sisters! They love to go Thrifting but they use a “fancier” name for it…they say: “we are going vintage shopping” lol…Once in a while they do find some cool pieces…

    • hipviolet April 25, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

      Thanks Zeudy! Searching for vintage finds is the BEST! Most of the furniture and decor in my house was thrifted (I LOVE mid-mod style stuff!), and if I can find vintage clothes that fit, I love finding those too!

  5. Pink April 26, 2012 at 12:38 am #

    It is so awesome to discover what lurks in the thrift store racks. I definitely think that TRY IT ON is so important, I have a wonderful size 4 dress I bought at a thrift store, and I am not usually a size four (or even close) Congrats on a full year and I hope you continue to stalk the second hand clothes

    • hipviolet April 26, 2012 at 12:47 am #

      Thanks Pink! Isn’t it crazy how different brands can be SUCH different sizes? It’s frustrating but can also be really good when you find the right thing! See you at the thrift shop! 🙂

  6. annapereira April 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

    Excellent! I loved all the tips and commend you on helping out not only the landfills, but family budget saving $. I especially ejoyed reading about hemming the dress into a shirt. Brilliant!

    • hipviolet April 26, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

      Thanks Anna! Yep, I’m not much of a dress girl, but I LOVE Longer shirts to wear over jeans. It only took about 10 minutes to shorten that dress and I LOVE it now and wear it all the time! Thanks again!

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