Tag Archives: thrift store

How To Thrift, Part 2

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

I have been solicited to write a follow-up post addressing some more specific questions about how I, personally, thrift shop – the questions come from Rebecca Brightly and Matthew Glassman, so thank you for your interest! I will try to address each question individually, so here we go…

Do you make up a game plan?

There are three reasons I would go to a thrift store – two involve a plan and one does not. One would be if I were looking for something specific – in my last trip it was an ivory blouse. In these cases the game plan is easy, go to the rack at the store where the item may be, scan the rack for colors and textures, and move on if the store doesn’t have what you need.

Another reason that I would head to the thrift stores would be if I am looking for pieces of a costume. The game plan here is more nebulous because often the thrifting can become part of the creative process. You may find something that could be altered to make what you need, or something that is similar to what you need but that could jog your creativity into thinking of a better or different way to make what you need. The plan of attack depends on what you are seeking and you may need to visit multiple sections in the store. Also, never eliminate possibilities based on gender or even age. The kids section has serious prop potential.

Finally, I do go to the thrift store for fun from time to time. I usually go when I have a companion, but sometimes I go because I need some retail therapy and I’m low on cash. Sometimes I hear about a friend’s really great find at a certain store and I have to go check it out for myself. On these occasions there is rarely a game plan, I just go and scan the racks for colors and textures I enjoy. I often wander around aimlessly at the beginning of my visit to the store because I’m looking for something to catch my eye. I’m not a digger, which is why it is often better for me to go thrifting with a companion because I can be a lazy shopper.

Where to begin?

How do you cope with feeling overwhelmed?

I do often get overwhelmed in thrift stores because I am a very Type A organized person and seeing racks upon racks of mismatched clothing sends my senses into overload. The sales people usually can’t keep up with the inventory, so asking them for help is an act of futility. My saving grace is when they organize the clothing by color because I immediately head to the green section. If there is no color-code, I seek my comfort zones – housewares and shoes. Both of these sections, by their very nature, do not fit into tight racks where each individual item is rightnexttoeachother. There’s some clarity and some room for the items to breathe in these two sections. If I am hesitant about digging, I know I can go to these sections and see everything without having to touch anything (usually, unless there are boxes to dig through). Once I have made friends with one or both of these sections, I start to feel more comfortable in my surroundings and have usually been in the store long enough to have something else catch my eye, or I’ll think of something I’d like to look for once my brain has calmed from the overload, or I go seek out my companion and see what he/she has found, then go from there. I have gone into thrift stores that are just so full of junk that it’s not worth it to dig. It’s better to leave at that point.

Do you give yourself a time limit?

If I am in a local thrift store I usually do not give myself a time limit. If I am traveling, there is usually a time limit and a certain number of stores on the agenda, so time must be used more wisely.

Do you bail if you’re not finding anything after a certain time?

Yes! I am a lazy and impatient shopper, so if I am not finding things that catch my eye I will leave.

Do you wander?

I am definitely a wanderer. I’d like to say I was more diligent and would start at one rack and work my way through the store, but that seems to require so much effort. I admire these people – my mother is one of these people. I will wander through a thrift store 3 or 4 times sometimes before I will touch anything. I like to take everything in before I commit to an area. I also find that in taking multiple looks at an area of a store you will see things on the 2nd and 3rd go around that you missed on the first.

You can never have too many kitchen clocks.

What specific kinds of items do you look for?

Sometimes the aforementioned costumes or a specific item, but if I am just going for fun I tend to look for vintage, shoes, kitchen items, and work-appropriate clothing. Vintage can be a long shot in thrift stores, but I have found some great vintage coats on the rack. Shoes can be hit or miss, but I’ve found some great 1970’s Nike tennis shoes for my everyday wardrobe, tap shoes when I needed those for a class, and clearly found some awesome turquoise glitter dance heels in my last run. Some stores I know even get unused shoes – a local thrift store here got some great low heeled character shoes in gold and silver that were fantastic (but not in my size). I have lots of yellow 1950’s kitchen paraphernalia in my kitchen, so I am always on the lookout to add to my collection of yellow accoutrements. Work appropriate clothing can be had, occasionally, and I find that these items are better cared-for than a lot of the other clothes in the store. Oh, and vinyl – if there are records, I’m going through the stack.

How much do you compromise on fit, color, and quality?

I always try to find things in the best possible condition, but the cheaper the item is, the more willing I am to try to salvage it. I’m pretty picky on fit and quality – if I can’t fix it myself based on my sewing skills and a bottle of Shout, I will probably leave it. I’m a little more flexible on color. If it’s not a color I usually wear, I may decide that the price is worth the risk and, in this way, I am pushing my own boundaries, which can be a good thing. If it works out, I have done well – if it fails, I didn’t break the bank.

How much you should spend on a second-hand item (and what is too much)?

I assess things similarly to the way I do vintage clothing, only my maximum price is probably $20 instead of $200. Unless it’s Prada or some other quality brand, or an actual vintage item, I try to keep things as inexpensive as possible. A safe average cost per item is $5.00 – some things will be more, some will be less, and this may vary depending on your location or the type of thrift store.

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Shopping Locally for Swing: The Triangle, NC

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

The Triangle Swing Dance Society has requested a post about where to shop locally for vintage or vintage-inspired swing dance clothing in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill). In the spirit of shopping locally, there are a few places I would recommend to find garments, but keep in mind that this is never a sure thing – vintage shops have one of a kind items and you may have to visit a shop several times before finding anything; similarly for retailers, things that may be in stock one season will not be carried for another season. I’ll list some of the more consistent producers and some general ideas about where to look for these things.

Dolly’s Vintage

Dolly’s Vintage is in the forefront of my vintage shopping right now because my office is two blocks away from this delightful shop and I often (read: 2 or 3 times a week) stop by the shop to chat with Jennifer Donner, the amazing and talented owner of Dolly’s, and to soak up some of the cheerful atmosphere of the store. Dolly’s is also the most reasonably priced vintage store I have ever encountered. Where other vintage stores would charge $40-$100 for garments, or even more, Dolly’s keeps everything just below that range, with most items between $20 and $30. Jennifer stocks decades from the 1920’s through 1970’s (with a few choice items from more recent decades), but keep in mind that 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s garments will be much rarer and she may not have anything in stock, but you should still ask so that she knows how many people are looking for these garments. She will be more likely to purchase these items from people clearing out estates if she knows there is a demand. I can usually go into Dolly’s and find a few 1940’s items, and definitely a lot of 1950’s day dresses that are perfect for swing dances. For men, Dolly’s has a great selection of sport coats, pants, shirts, and an entire rack of 1950’s skinny ties. If you see something you like, you should either buy it immediately or ask her to hold it if you need to think about it or find something to match it – the clothes fly off the racks in that store and she stocks new items every day just to keep up with the demand. I know some of the Triangle dancers are already a fan of Dolly’s, as I’ve seen Elizabeth Tietgen pick up a 1920’s cloche, Holly Owens bought an adorable polka dot dress that she wore to a dance at the Century Center recently, and Jason Sager purchased a wig here for RDU Rent Party’s role reversal night.

For more information, here is an older blog post I did on Dolly’s Vintage: https://lindyshopper.com/2011/05/03/field-trip-dollys-vintage-durham-nc/

Beggars and Choosers

While not technically inside the borders of the Triangle, Beggars and Choosers should not be overlooked. It is a bit of a drive to Pittsboro and they are only open on some Saturdays, but this is the only place I know of in the Triangle that stocks clothing from the late 1800’s through the 1970’s and consistently has a few items from the jazz age and swing era. I see a lot of conflicting information about when this store is open, so it’s best to call ahead before you decide to make the trip. This is a gold mine for men’s and women’s vintage clothing, so I promise it will be worth the effort!

For more information and photographs, here is an older blog post I did on Beggars and Choosers: https://lindyshopper.com/2010/04/30/field-trip-beggars-and-choosers-pittsboro-nc/

Raleigh Vintage Collective

While they have no brick and mortar store, the Raleigh Vintage Collective has a lot of swing era clothing and accessories available for purchase through the web. They are a group of ladies who periodically have trunk shows around Raleigh and list their wares on Etsy (Raleigh Vintage and Time for Vintage). Most notably for dancers, they will have a trunk show at this year’s Eastern Balboa Championships, back by popular demand after last year’s trunk show, which featured only items from the 1920’s through the 1950’s – no digging through polyester to find what you want and no question about the garment’s decade of origin.

For more information about the Raleigh Vintage collective, see my post about their activities at EBC last year: https://lindyshopper.com/2010/11/08/ebc-vendors-the-vintage-collective/

There are a few other vintage stores in the Triangle, but my experience with them in finding garments for swing dancing has been unsuccessful, as they stock 1960’s or later garments. Men may find them more useful, as menswear has changed fairly little over the past century. For example, The Clothing Warehouse in Chapel Hill had a rack of men’s vests that looked promising.

Other random notes: Someone who designs for Urban Outfitters must have a penchant for vintage hats because I always seem to find great vintage-inspired hats at this store. I always make sure to stop in at the Southpoint Mall, Durham location when I am there to browse through the accessories. Also at Southpoint, Anthropologie is a store that has built its brand around vintage-inspired clothing and accessories. The prices may set you back, but they always have a good sale rack and, if you find something on the sale rack or in the store that is not in your size, they will locate your size in another store and have it shipped to you.

Gents, the best and cheapest place for you to look for things are your local thrift stores. When my grandfather passed away, most of his suits went to a thrift store – jackets and suits from the 1950’s forward, most of them only worn on Sundays so they were in great condition. I see a rack of suits and sport coats and every thrift store I go to and this can be a great place to pick up something cheap that you don’t mind sweating in. You may also want to check shoe repair places for vintage dress shoes, as people leave shoes or bring them there to sell them. Men’s shoes, for the most part, are easily repairable and able to be shined up to look as good as new. Main Street Shoe Repair in Durham always has several pairs of cap toes and wingtips that look dance-ready, at a fraction of the price of a new pair of shoes.

Finally, Remix Vintage Shoes, a company based out of California that makes gorgeous reproduction shoes, sells their shoes in a couple of stores in Durham – Magpie, a boutique in the West Village tobacco warehouses, and Cozy, on Ninth Street. Neither store carries the entire Remix line, but if you find a pair locally that you like it will save you about $20 in shipping from Remix in California.