Vest $2.00, Tie $1.50, Shirt $3.00, Shorts $3.50, Shoes $5.50, Bag $7.50
There I stood among the tattered garments hanging sadly on the rusty racks. The familiar scent of mothballs rushed abrasively to meet my senses as I searched for something that would catch my eye. I brushed past item after item packed one next to another, like dogs at a kennel, begging with sad eyes for a second lease on life. Each with a story I would never know, and a face I would never see. Hanger after hanger, rack after rack, knowing that the best things do not come to those who wait, the best things come to those who are willing to sift through the refuse that resides on the surface.
Consignment shopping is one of the most difficult things to do well when it comes to style. It is like the difference between using a coloring book vs. a plain piece of paper. It is completely up to you to take a blank canvas and create something extraordinary. No lines to fill in, no safety net, nothing to stop you from taking that extra step that shatters the fragile structure of an otherwise expertly constructed outfit. Consignment pieces are often cheap looking, dirty, torn, dated, and downright ugly. They often toe the line that separates fashion forward and tasteless. That’s why I get so excited: it ain’t easy .
Anyone can walk into a large retail chain, look at a mannequin and buy the same cookie cutter outfit and walk out completely satisfied. Its quick, painless, and to me, a major copout. I see it as a sort of plagiarism. I know that sounds a little drastic, but hear me out. If you take the time to really inject your wardrobe with creativity and personal flair it turns into something to be proud of. It is like a gallery of fine pieces of art each grouped with purpose and certainty. It is an expression of your taste and personality, so why would you ever want to directly copy that of another person?
Thrift shopping is not merely about saving money. Why would anyone waste time and effort when clearance sections in normal stores contain many items at comparable prices without all of the hassle? The fact of the matter is there are other driving forces for truly dedicated thrifters. Owning a piece with history and rarity are extremely important to many of us regardless of price; the fact that I can often pay for pieces with the change I find between the seats in my car is the cherry on top.
I have found a few key principals that make this seemingly impossible task seem a bit more feasible:
1. Survey the store.
When you first walk around take a look around and find the sections that may interest you. This way you eliminate wasted time sorting through prom dresses circa 1974. (Believe me, they are there.)
2. Don’t go in with a list.
If you walk in with a list dictating exactly what you want and need down to the shape of the buttons and the colors of the laces, the only thing you’ll be walking out with is a big bag of disappointment. Try instead, having no expectations, you may be surprised with what you find.
3. Take notice of shoes and leather goods.
These items often have a longer lifespan and style longevity. A pair of wingtips will never go out of style and if they are a little rough around the edges that only adds to the aesthetic. The same goes for bags and belts, people pay big buck to get brand new things that look like they have been dragged through the dirt and run over by a car. In this case you might actually get the real deal.
4. Appreciate things for what they are.
In consignment stores there will be many pieces that are clearly outdated. The trick is finding items that you can incorporate seamlessly with the rest of your wardrobe. Instead of buying a neon tracksuit from the 80’s, find a pair of unique pair of sunglasses instead that give a more subtle nod to that era.
Thrift shopping is like panning for gold. So instead of wasting your money, find your latest second hand store and strike it rich.
By: Eric White- Style & Photography