Tag Archives: thrift

How To Thrift

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

The loot from my thrifting expedition with Bill – plaid skirt with bias side panels, Stewart plaid wool tie, brown dress belt, belt back jacket, and turquoise glitter dance shoes, all of this for $10.50. My cat Guinevere approves.

On Saturday I embarked on a thrifting expedition with swing DJ Bill Speidel – anyone who is Facebook friends with Bill will have noticed that over the past few months Bill has been racking up some serious finds at various Virginia thrift stores, including English tweed jackets, designer ties, and a giant box full of Trafalgar braces. I know I’m not the only one salivating over his finds and Bill was generous enough to take me around to his Hampton Roads haunts.

This reminded me of my childhood shopping trips with my mom, many of which involved thrift stores and consignment shops – The Snob in Winston-Salem, the Salvation Army in Greenville, and Second Fling in Goldsboro, NC come to mind. Mom was diligent and found some great things over the years, like two Yohji Yamamoto suits and a pair of signature Ferragamo heels, things she would not have been able to afford off the rack, but could use second-hand (and sometimes never worn, with the tags still on – she is the master of finding things with the tags still on). She definitely taught me some good lessons about how to find good shops, how to assess the items in the shops, and how much you should spend on a second-hand item (and what is too much).

A lonely Brooks Brothers suit in a Norfolk thrift store

In my opinion, thrifting can be even more fruitful for guys, simply because menswear hasn’t changed a lot over the past century. For example, it is very easy for me to tell which women’s suits were made in the 1980’s (screaming electric color giant button trim shoulder padded mess), but it’s not as easy with menswear at first glance. Much of the dress clothing that ends up in thrift stores is still in great or very wearable condition, as most men do not have to wear a suit every day – these were special occasion or church clothing for most people, so your odds of finding items in good condition are high. Bill found two Brooks Brothers suits on our trip, that were still there from one of his previous trips – $40 would get some lucky gent a mint condition Brooks Brothers suit, they just have to go to Norfolk and get it.

Also, you can get really nice things for minimal investment, so if you happen to rip something dancing or continuously sweat through it, the possibility that it may be ruined hurts a little less at the bank.

Here are a few tips I like to keep in mind about thrifting more effectively:

GO EARLY

Like yard sales on Saturday morning, the earliest bird gets all the good worms. It may also be that instead of earlier in the day you should go earlier in the week – find out what day(s) they put out new inventory and be there on that day.

GO OFTEN

If you are serious about getting some really good pieces you can’t just go once a year and expect your wardrobe to materialize. Often may be variable, depending on the quality of the store and the turnover rate of items in the store, but it could be once a week, once a month, or once a season, depending on your needs or your commitment to thrifty shopping.

CHECK LABELS

I’m not usually one for brand labels when I am purchasing new clothes, but they can come in handy in the thrift store when you are gauging the quality and durability of a garment. It’s also important to check the other tags, such as the material and cleaning instructions. Sometimes the garment will have a country of origin tag, which is especially nice if you come across a nice tweed and find out that it was, in fact, made in England.

CHECK FOR FLAWS

Like vintage clothing, these garments were pre-owned and may have stains, rips, holes, or other flaws. It’s important to give a garment the once-over in the store to determine if they exist, the extent, and if the issues are repairable.

DON’T EXPECT A COMPLETE OUTFIT

This kind of shopping is piecemeal – you may find one wardrobe item you love and nothing to go with it. If you can’t think of anything you have to match it or aren’t compelled to build an outfit around it, then it might be best to resist the impulse buy, even if it only costs $5.00.

LOOK FOR ADDITIONAL DISCOUNTS

Even the thrift stores have sales and there may be certain days of the week or month where everything is marked down even further. Some stores mark items down based on how long an item has been in the store. It’s good to know the store’s policies on their sales and, if it’s a certain day of the week, refer to my comments about getting there early…

DON’T GET OVERWHELMED

Some stores are so big or so crowded with what appears to be a bunch of junk that it can be truly overwhelming, especially for someone who is a lazy shopper like me (I usually go up and ask the store clerks if they have what I am looking for – this is generally not effective in thrift stores). If the store groups by color, that’s half the battle, just go to your favorite colors. If it’s a jumble, scan for colors and texture you love – you don’t have to pull every garment through the rack to see if it works.

Happy thrifting!

Advertisements

Top 10 Places You Should Be Shopping for Swing

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

(Another article for Yehoodi – enjoy!)

Inspired by Rebecca Brightly’s “Top 20 Online Resources For Becoming a Bad-Ass Swing Dancer” (and delighted to be included in her list!), I decided to come up with a list of my own. Unless you are a regular reader of the Lindy Shopper blog, it may be hard to determine what sources may be most helpful to get you started in your swing dance shopping endeavors.

I usually try to stay away from lists because I find that they can become outdated quickly (stores no longer in business, styles no longer relevant, etc.), so we are going to say that this is my top 10 list as of the date of publication. Most of these sources have been tried and true for me, so hopefully the list will withstand the test of time, at least for a few years.

1. Dancestore.com

This is kind of a no-brainer if you’ve been dancing for any length of time, but if you are just starting out you may not know where to find dance shoes. Most people outside of the swing dance community see character shoes as an option and I’ve definitely seen newer dancers show up in ballroom shoes, but it shows a level of commitment to the dance when you invest in your first pair of swing dance shoes.

Dancestore.com provides the work-horses of my dance shoe collection, as well as thousands of other dancers, with their Aris Allen line of shoes – shoes that are comfortable, relatively inexpensive, and offer vintage styles that work well with both vintage and modern outfits. I think we sometimes take Dancestore.com for granted – when I have worn my Dancestore shoes outside of the swing dance community, they tend to garner a lot of attention because they don’t look like shoes that are available anywhere else – and really, aside from a couple of other vintage repro shoe makers, they aren’t. Dancestore does the swing dance community a great service with their products and makes it easy for us to point new dancers in their direction and say THIS is where you should get your first pair of dance shoes.

2. Re-Mix Vintage Shoes

Let’s say you’ve accumulated a few pairs of Aris Allens in great neutral colors, but you’ve just acquired an outfit that requires some color or something extra fabulous in the way of footwear – Re-Mix Vintage Shoes is the next step. Offering an array of vintage styles from swing-era decades with divine details and fabulous color, Re-Mix is the place for the most stylish reproduction shoes I know of online.

3. Your local vintage store

If you are blessed with a wonderful vintage store in your area, then you already know this is a great place to shop. More likely, your vintage store does not stock swing era clothing or men’s clothing and is full of polyester, but don’t be discouraged! It is important to check in on these places for two reasons – first, you never know when they might get something in stock that you would die to have; second, if the store owner doesn’t know that there is a demand for these things, he or she probably won’t buy it from a seller or an estate. It is so important to develop relationships with the vintage store owners in your area and tell them what you are looking for in terms of clothing. Then, when something does come across their desk, they will have you in mind, they might even give you a call to let you know that something has come in, and they also might give you a better price on it because of that friendship and loyalty. Don’t assume you can come into a store and tell them you are a swing dancer and that they will instantly know how serious you are about collecting vintage clothing – to them, you are no better than the random college girl or boy looking for something to wear to a theme party. Distinguish yourself!

4. Your local thrift store

This is mostly for the gents, although ladies may find a diamond in the rough every now and then. But, seriously, menswear hasn’t changed so much in the last century that you can’t go to Goodwill, Salvation Army, or any local thrift store and find a sportcoat, old pairs of dress shoes, entire suits, pants, just about everything you need at a fraction of the cost of buying it new in a store AND with a cut and quality that is more likely to be in line with that of the swing era. It must pain most men to spend money on clothing because I talk about thrift store shopping (usually after hearing a complaint about needing more vests, pants, etc.) to dozens of men every year, only to hear the lamest excuses. You obviously went somewhere to buy those jeans and that tee shirt…and if you didn’t, you should tell the person shopping for you about the thrift stores…

5. eBay

I post a lot of items on Lindy Shopper from eBay because there are so many good things at good prices, if you are patient and willing to look. I spend the time looking on eBay because it’s worth it – I don’t have lots of vintage resources locally and it’s more efficient to shop on eBay because you simply type in your search terms and – voila! – what they have available pops up on your screen. Because eBay has continuous auctions and it’s not practical to search for the same items every day, you can save your search terms if you don’t find what your are looking for and have eBay email you when something you want does pop up on eBay. It’s that simple. For example, I get daily emails for 1940’s dresses and sometimes I go through the listings (looking at the most recently listed items), but other items, like 1930’s suit in size 40 (for my husband) only pop up every few months. Yes, it can be hit or miss and auctions can go for astronomical amounts, but even with the gamble it is still the best place to find the most rare items and the quickest way to find specific items, new and old.

6. Etsy

I am addicted to Etsy for many things. It’s almost as good as eBay for vintage finds (usually pricier), but it’s even better for new items that people have hand-crafted. If I can dream it or find it in a vintage photograph, someone on Etsy can make it. Etsy is my go-to source for hair flowers, fascinators, and affordable reproduction garments. Some Etsy sellers have ties to the dance community, like Jitterbuggin and Allure Original Styles, while others, like Time Machine Vintage and Raleigh Vintage simply have a love for vintage and reproduction clothing.

7. Your relatives’ closets (or anyone within earshot at least 40 years older than you)

The odds are favorable that you have a relative who was alive during the swing era, and the odds are pretty favorable that they have kept things from that era (being products of the Great Depression in some fashion – anyone else’s grandparents have giant freezers full of food?). I have been the recipient of so many items, mostly accessories, that relatives have given me that they didn’t want to get rid of, but were delighted to give to me knowing these items would be used and loved. Once word got out that I was looking for vintage items, other people (aunts, friends of grandparents) started digging through their closets or finding things at yard sales (for pennies!) that I might like. Even people I’ve encountered and simply had a conversation with about my vintage clothing has yielded items from closets, lovingly tucked away for years, but brought out for me because they thought I might like the garment and get some use out of it. The key here is to talk to people – a simple “Hey Grandpa, do you have any old suits you don’t wear anymore?” or “Grandma, do you have any jewelry from the 1940’s?” Even if they don’t give it to you, it can make a nice connection or revive some stories from the past. 🙂

8. My Heinies

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of covering your butt at swing dances. If you are not vintage-inclined and are buying the very short dresses that are in style now, don’t assume that the dance floor won’t be able to see your underwear. We all see it and I, especially, SEE it. Dancer Carol Fraser is a saint with her dance pants, My Heinies, developed based on her years of experience as a dancer and instructor, with the dance community and clothing styles in mind. There’s something for everyone on the My Heinies web site and I would encourage ladies who wear skirts and dresses to invest in this product so that you can dance uninhibited and free from worry that the entire room will see your private parts.

9. Vintage stores at out of town dance events

For me, the grass is usually much greener on the other side, so I take the opportunity when I travel to out of town swing dance events to visit that town’s vintage stores. Before I travel to a new city, I like to ask one of the local dancers where they recommend shopping (and if it’s worth it to try), or I’ll check to see what information I can find on the internet and, if it’s not apparent from the information on the web, give the store a call to find out if they carry swing-era merchandise. I relish every trip to Cleveland for All Balboa Weekend for the event and for Cleveland’s vintage stores, and I can’t wait to get back to Portland and Seattle. By the way, anyone know of any good vintage shops in Iowa City? Hawkeye Swing Festival, I’m coming in April…

10. Clothing swaps

One of the best places to get clothing and shoes for swing dancers could be other dancers. The ladies in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill swing dance community have been organizing periodic clothing swaps for the past couple of years, which include all clothing and accessories, but have been particularly helpful in passing around dresses and shoes that are good for dancing. That dress you are tired of wearing is brand new to someone else, so rather than give it to Goodwill, why not take it to the clothing swap and find it a new home? I’m always delighted when I see other girls in dresses that don’t fit me anymore, and they are always grateful for the garment. It’s a win-win.