Finding designer deals (vintage or otherwise) has always been a passion of mine. The thrill of wearing a great dress is only topped by the thrill of finding a one-of-a kind piece while thrifting or a surprisingly affordable gem at department store mega sale. Housing Works is a great place to try. On my last trip, I found this amazing vintage Burberry dress for $125. I ripped it off the display window mannequin for a chance to try it on, and I now own a classic plaid piece!
Read on to see my Burberry find and learn my basic thrifting checklist that applies to all kinds of effective shopping!
I enlisted Marie Claire Photo Intern Cristina to snap a pic of my dress in the Beauty Closet. (We got our work done, I promise!)
Your Collabor-eight Guide to (Thrift) Shopping:
1. Know Your Prices! This rule applies to every purchase you’ll ever make. The first step to becoming a savvy shopper and finding the best products is knowing the going rate on everything. A $125 dress isn’t any hot bargain in general, but it’s practically pennies for a Burberry frock. Also, know department store sale prices. Often times, thrift stores charge higher prices than Bloomie’s would on a great sale day. You can disregard this if you’re finding a rare piece from decades past: otherwise, get it brand new and in your perfect size! Which brings me to…
2. Size: It’s Just a Number! Sure, sizes are helpful. It can save you the heartache of trying to cram your size 8 hips into an off-the-runway-model couture 00 number. (Though if you get a great price on your favorite designer, buy it anyway: it’s like art!) But don’t let the size completely prevent you from trying something on. I’m usually a 4-6 in dresses, but this Burberry’s a 12. I found that the size difference was nothing a safety pin and a belt adjustment couldn’t fix! All designers have a different size system, and really old vintage pieces may be completely off in terms of what you’re used to. If the size really bothers you, cut out the tag!
3. Persistence! You’re not going to find a great deal or a beautiful outfit every time you go shopping. Browse often, buy when the moment is right! You can track sales and know the market this way.
4. Patience! No matter what your body type, you’re going to encounter fitting room issues. Find a designer that caters to your shape, or track down a skilled tailor who can fix minor issues. Try on everything!
5. Feel Your Fabrics! The best way to judge the quality of a garment is through its fabric. Make sure it can stand up to your lifestyle: what good is it if it’ll fall apart in the first washing?
6. Inspect! This is especially important to do while thrifting. Make sure everything you’re buying is in good, clean, wearable condition. Most thirft shops are non-refundable, so check every inch to catch any stain, rip, snag, splotch, or pill. (A sniff test doesn’t hurt, either! ) Make sure you can live with any imperfections, because otherwise you’ll be donating it back! Ask about “as-is” policies: you may be able to negotiate a better deal with the shop if you point out obvious flaws. Always check your department store purchases as well, though you don’t have to be as thorough since you’re less likely to run into these problems. And lastly,
7. Invest! If you found a small, unnoticeable snag on a, say, $12 Marc Jacobs dress: buy it anyway. You’ll have to use all your knowledge about prices to decide if an item is worth the ticket. Think about the frequency you’ll wear this new piece and if you can really justify it taking up valuable closet space. If every criterion fits, enjoy your new find!