Strolling back home after being slayed at the gym, I discovered our sleepy town hall had transformed into a lively hub of bright colours and whirling bodies. A clothing swap was happening. The first “wave” brought the most eager exchangers out of hiding and into piles of unsorted clothes, eagerly digging through to find a gem. The music was pumping. The people enthralled by the promise of scoring an amazing bargain, rapidly scouring through each item in a fashion frenzy. I had to be part of it.
40 minutes later, I emerged from the heap triumphant. Bags stuffed. I scored an; Acne T-shirt, JW Anderson top, a Rhodes and Beckett Shirt and a Leona Edminstone grey pencil skirt as well as a bunch of basic gym pieces. Not bad for $20. Best of all I also got to donate a bag of clothes, and all the proceeds went to cancer research.
What a rush. Although this was a swap event, I figured I would share some of my pro thrift shopping skills with those of you interesting in scoring your next gem.
Before you start, know what colours and styles look good on you. This saves time and effort and helps limit regrettable purchases. What undertones do you have? Which length suits you best? What kind of fit flatters? Knowing what you feel comfortable in will make finding your next bargain a breeze.
Wear clothes that are easy to change in and out of. It’s also handy to wear clothes that you don’t mind what happens to them; often you have to get down and dirty. Sometimes its even easy for your clothes to get mistaken for someone else’s, so play it safe. Dress down and pick something effortless. For me, it was high waisted shorts a singlet and a T-shirt. No accessories so you’re not fiddling and can focus.
Prioritize the type of clothing you need first.
Go in with a game plan but keep an open mind. That way you have some structure, and it doesn’t feel too overwhelming. Keeping an open mind means you’re not restricting yourself from discovering something new or unexpected.
People use their eyes a lot when sifting through piles, but your biggest strength is touch. Feel the fabrics. Are they itchy? Do they feel stiff? Stretched? Static? You may be able to find the materials on the inside right-hand side tag. Before long you’ll be well versed on the difference between satin and silk.
There is no universal size, the sizing has changed over decades, don’t be deterred if you see a larger or smaller size, give it a go!
Which decade is it from? This is mostly handy for spotting trend pieces that have long come and gone. No thank you peplum. It’s also good to know for re-sell value, adding a couple of extra decades makes it “vintage.” Which brings me to the next topic.
If it has a thick square label, it’s usually vintage. They don’t make them like that anymore. Branding well-known brands that you can trust are comforting but don’t be afraid of branching out into unheard of territory.
All items need to be inspected thoroughly for stains, holes, missing buttons, stretched fabric, discolouration and unravelling details. Some details are easily repaired, such as a loose sem. While others; like stretched, see-through material, are not worth holding onto.
Hold as much as possible then try on everything at the end. You’ll get an arm workout while being time efficient. But please be nice and put the rejects back where you found it!
Does it fit properly? Where would you wear it? What would you wear it with? Will it compliment the rest of your style? There was a pair of white AG jeans that I adored, but I turned them down because they were a squeeze to fit into. Despite their quality, The discomfort meant that I wouldn’t reach for them and it would remain at the back of my wardrobe. Aim for wearability.
You win some. You lose some. This all sounds fairly serious, but ultimately it’s just about enjoying yourself and the environment. It can be exhilarating, frustrating, exhausting and most of all…rewarding.
More great tips on bargain clothes hunting here.
What are your favourite thrift stores or swap events? Got any tips?
Feel free to share in the comments below x