Tuesday, February 25, 2014

top 10 tips to be an expert thrifter

Over the years I've learned the art of thrifting ...  i've taken chances that have paid off and not. When it comes to thrifting you never know what you're going to get until you're there... but - more importantly-you need to know how to look.

Tip 1- when you find a second hand shop that has more than 3 things you love, keep that one to yourself and go back periodically (once a month to once every 2 months).  I've found that the same 3 shops somehow always have stuff that peaks my interest and keeps me going back. Of course you should not go too often... Allow for there to be turnover time.  Telling friends about your favorite shops is fine and dandy but pretty soon you and everyone you know will be shopping there and it won't be such a find anymore.

Tip 2- when you go on vacation, rather than shop where the tourists shop, google your location with antiquing, consignment, and thrift and you will usually find something interesting.  i did this when i travelled to Houston for a friends' wedding... and also while in Telluride, West Palm Beach and Washington.
old blue house antique shop

peggy guggenheims- super rare find

Tip 3- usually the housewares section is my first stop... a treasure trove of amazing finds... my eye is trained to spot hidden gems that may lookordinary to the everyday shopper. I have spent enough time on design blogs and etsy to now be able to spot Scandinavian design, sought after vintage enamelware, 70's macrame plantars and collectible Pyrex.  Mix and match vintage china at your next dinner party will give a unique chic vibe to your table top.  Never skip the housewares section!!! A thorough cleaning and most items are good to go.
aren't these 70's macrame plantars pretty?!!!

finel enamelware- super collectable
Tip 4- for those of us who never learned to knit or crochet, the blanket section can sometimes be worth a look.  One of my favorite shops always has several handmade afghans available for shockingly low prices. You may think..."ewwww, gross" but after a good wash with a soak setting or professional cleaning these blankets can make the most adorable accessory at your next picnic or hanging over a boring neutral sofa... Check out the photo of my collection... all purchased from thrift shops.

love them all!

Tip 5- clothes are always a risky purchase... Either they end up having an unfortunate hole or stain that you didn't see while on the rack or they are ill fitting and not able to be returned.  Whenever possible, try the item on in the shop.  I know... when stuff is cheap you might be tempted to buy it without bothering with the dressing room.  I rarely buy clothes from thrift shops- BUT the exception is VINTAGE!  Every once in a while you get lucky and find true vintage beauty among the masses of old- navy pilling hoodies and flannel shirts.  This happened to me just the other day.  While checking out the goods at one of my top 5 places, my eye was caught by pink- hot pink- floral vintage pattern.  Low and behold I found the absolute cutest maxi dress- just needs minor alteration- totally vintage, made decades ago in honolulu!  LOVE!

then... minutes later i see something purple and a little hideous from the corner of my eye...

 on the same rack there was another full length gown- vintage and my perfect size- super flattering- and the hideous purple was actually quite lovely when on.  Who knew? I'm convinced someone cleaned out an old- and very hip- woman's closet and both gowns came from it... but who knows?  part of the fun when buying vintage is dreaming of the lives that were lived in them before you.  Stay tuned for photos of me wearing both dresses at a super hip wedding this weekend in Manhattan!

hanging at the tailors- alteration a mere 25 dollars for BOTH

Tip 6- Jewelery- i can't say that i'm super knowledgeable about jewelry.  so i'll keep this part short.  the jewelry section is always worth a look.  if something resonates with you, try it on... think of the components for you crafters out there... maybe repurposing a cool earing into a broach or hair accessory might be fun.

Tip 7- Books- i love picture books from the 60's and 70's- ESPECIALLY lifestyle/advice and crafting- they are a tremendous source of inspiration for me.  Usually thrift shop books are a steal- the limiting factor is the condition and bulk.  Below are some that came from a recent outing...

i will learn to knit this year!!!
who wouldn't want matching knit outfits with their child?
vintage photo albums are always a find
this cute booklet came from my mother in law's stash- the advice is pretty right on
Tip 8- Shoes- i think it's rare these days to find anything good in the shoe department at most thrift stores... this is one section where i don't usually bother... But if you are interested in adding something specific shoe-wise to your wardrobe I suggest an etsy or ebay search. There are expert thrifters out there with shops selling their finds... and sometimes you get some amazing gems... in your size... and usually cheaper than any pair of similar quality current shoe bought new.  A year or so ago I had a minor obsession with vintage Bruno Magli after a friend of mine showed me a couple of pairs that she inherited from her well dressed MIL... after seeing this I looked on ebay and etsy and found a couple of pairs... one in berry snakeskin and the other shown below... and even though I don't wear them much they are so special because they are extremely rare... and stunning... and fit me perfectly.  The point is that shoes are out there but you will find great variety online rather than in shops.
thom mc ann- circa 1970s- i wear these all the time... so nerdy chic
jane fonda 1970s
vintage bruno magli

Tip 8- Furniture- oooh this is one of my absolute faves!  i don't have space left for every cool piece of furniture that i see these days but i know what i like and i know how to transform something with potential.  these days you do not need mad skills to do what i'm talking about.  here's why...  the easiest way to renew a piece of furniture is with paint.  invite some of your buddies over and have a painting party... why not?

the best furniture that you can thrift is what can actually be functional- i have learned this the hard way!  if you fall in love with a super cool juke box- don't buy it unless you have a spot for it and/or have a plan to convert it into amazing functional art.
I love furniture from the 50s and 70s.  i love faux bamboo... lucite...campaign... anything that looks like this...

upholstering a sofa (pictured above) usually runs upwards of 1500 dollars plus the cost of new fabric- not cheap!- so unless it's something really great, think twice about this type of project.

Tip 9- the best way to fine tune your aesthetic is to take inventory of stuff that you instinctually respond to... I'm talking about personal style... This extends to your shopping style and being a smart shopper.  I learned over the years that I like the quirk of crazy bold colorful patterns- but love the tasteful simplicity of solids and minimalism- and I continue to search for the fine line between the two.  

there needs to be something that you love about everything you buy otherwise why do you want it??? Use the 3 tips that my mother always used to ask... Do you like it... Do you need it... Is it worth it?  With thrifting things can get quickly out of hand because the third answer is usually a big YES but please only buy it if you love it and need it.  Need is an interesting one because for collectors because really who needs another celluloid deer???... ME!

Tip 10- shop alone



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