I’ve heard a lot of comments as I’ve shopped at the thrift store. There have been positive comments like, “OMG you have to try this on!” There have also been some not-so-great comments like, “ugh, that looks awful!” After spending the time that is likely the equivalent of a part-time job thrifting, I decided that it’s finally time to make a series on this blog called “Overheard At The Thrift Shop.” I want to peel back some of the comments that I hear all the time — the good, the bad, and the controversial.
This week I’m starting with one of my all-time least favorite comments to overhear at the thrift shop: “I’m only here to buy…”
The other week I was trying clothes on in the Salvation Army thrift shop when I heard a man announcing himself throughout the store. I’m talking a booming voice that was yelling “COME ON SWEETIE! WE’RE ONLY HERE TO GET A HAWAIIAN SHIRT AND GET OUT!” to his daughter. Now, I get it. There are times when you need to get the little ones going. But this father was saying it all throughout the store. Stopped at the t-shirt rack, screamed it. Went to the button-ups, screamed it. Headed to the fitting room, screamed it.
I kid you not, I must have heard him say the same phrase eight times throughout the twenty minutes that he was in the thrift store. Then, to make matters even worse, he went to the checkout with his $1.99, bright orange shirt with yellow and green Palm Trees all over it and had to explain why he was there to the cashier. He went on and on about how he “doesn’t normally shop here” and was “only here for one thing.” While I can’t say what the man was thinking, it’s likely that he felt embarrassed about being in the thrift shop.
It’s perfectly fine to not be comfortable shopping at a thrift store. But this comment almost makes it seem like thrifting is something to be ashamed of.
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again — leave your privilege at the door when you go thrift shopping. People thrift shop for all types of reasons. Some people go thrifting because it’s fun. Others go because they absolutely need to. There’s no reason to make anyone at the thrift shop feel bad about being there.
Comments and behavior like the above typically come from people with privilege. You know, people that are shopping for their ugly sweaters or theme parties. There is plenty of space for all shoppers in the thrift store, but no one should feel uncomfortable while being there.
I’m sure this man meant no harm by his comments. I don’t mean to shame him, and I didn’t mention anything to him as he yelled through the store. But it is an important reminder of how little comments that people make, at the thrift store or outside of its walls, can affect people.
Every year I swap out my spring and summer wardrobe with my fall and winter items. I pull the box out from underneath my bed and go through all the sweaters from the year before. Without a doubt, my style always changes. While I don’t get rid of everything in my winter collection from year to year, I do find myself building brand new capsule collections for every season. That’s the fun part about a capsule wardrobe — you can mold and shape your style for the season while not having to feel overwhelmed with the options in your closet.
What is a capsule wardrobe? It’s anywhere from 10 to 30 items that all work together to form different outfits. Think of it as your favorite, tried and true items that you want to wear every single day. And, yes, you can find those items at the thrift shop. In fact, with a few tips and tricks, you could find your entire capsule collection in one trip.
The key to building a capsule collection is all about mindset.
You have to get out of the mindset that you need to own something because it looks good. It might be the cutest shirt in the world, but is it practical? Does it work with other items in your closet? Can you see yourself wearing it someplace other than Instagram? Building a capsule wardrobe is about the feeling that you get when you’re in the clothing. You’ll feel like your truest self and you won’t want to take the item off once it’s on.
There are plenty of brands that you can shop to build your own capsule wardrobe. Heck, VETTA CAPSULE creates an entire 30-outfit wardrobe for you with just five pieces. The only catch is that it will cost you about $500 to buy the entire wardrobe.
When you shop at the thrift shop, you have to do a little more digging but save a whole lot of money. My own wardrobe is proof that it is possible. Yes, there will be some items that just don’t work. (I show you my hits and my misses over on Instagram.) If you’re up for the challenge, try these three tips to build your very own thrift capsule wardrobe.
1. Know your personal style.
If you’re thrifting for your perfect 10 to 30 piece wardrobe, you need to first know what your personal style is. The number of options at the thrift store can be overwhelming, even if you’re a pro. There is everything from vintage prints and patterns to classic staples and everything in-between. It’s all sitting there on the same rack — not divided into sections like it would be at a department store.
Before you head into the thrift shop, get a clear picture in your mind of what kind of capsule collection that you’re looking for. Are you a minimalist? Do you want tons of colors that go together? Do you want mainly staple pieces with a few out-there looks? Anything goes when it comes to personal style, but it’s overwhelming to try and figure it out while you’re trying to build a capsule wardrobe. Baby steps, my friend.
2. Grab a notebook and get planning.
Nothing great in life comes without a little bit of planning, and thrifting is the same way. When you’re building a capsule wardrobe, it’s important to know what you want. The key is to do this on a piece of paper — not saved pictures on Pinterest or Instagram. By all means, print and paste and get creative with it. But sit down with a pen and paper and write down the items that are important for you to have. Of course, leave some room to get creative too.
I am a firm believer that you can manifest anything in your life. I cannot tell you how many times I have written down, pictured, collaged items in my notebook and found them at the thrift shop the exact same week. The mind is a powerful tool.
There’s also the added bonus that having a list in front of you at the thrift shop is a great tactic. When you get knee-deep into the sweater section, it’s nice to have a reminder to move on to t-shirts or skirts.
3. Try on everything.
Yes, I mean everything. Grab a cart at the beginning of the thrift trip, fill it with every single item that you think might work for you, and try the items on. Get over the fear of trying on secondhand items, because you will not know which items you should have in your closet until you try them on. It’s as simple as that.
It’s one thing to see an item on a hanger or see it on someone’s Instagram. It’s a completely different thing to feel it on your body.
You will know when an item should be a part of your capsule wardrobe by the feeling you get in the fitting room. You will quite literally get excited to wear the item. You’ll start pairing it with other items that you threw in your cart and imagining wearing the items to work or school or whatever life event you have. Trust me, the feeling is real and it is exciting.
Thrifting an entire thrifted capsule collection is possible. It might not happen overnight, but if you know your style, plan, and aren’t afraid to try on a whole lot of items, you’ll be on the way to the closet of your dreams.
Bonus tip: Wear items that you love to the thrift store.
If you already have a few items that you know are going to be staples in your thrift capsule collection, wear them when you go shopping. It is so much easier to envision what items will work for you if they work with items that you already own.
I recently set aside an afternoon and start building my winter capsule wardrobe collection for myself, and I used this tip when I went. The jeans and boots that I’m wearing in my photos are two of my favorite items in my closet. It was a heck of a lot easier to know which items were right for me when I could already see them styled. I got all the above items plus one more in one trip. And guess what? I had a photo of that wool jacket in my journal. I just so happened to find it in my size for $6. The black cashmere sweater, staple burgundy long sleeve tee, 100% cotton white sweater, and a thick, oversized gray cardigan is a third of my capsule wardrobe found all in one trip.
After ten years, my boyfriend and I have decided to go ahead and make it official. No more dancing to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” at weddings, my friends. Because your girl officially has a ring on it! An ethically sourced ring, I might add. That’s a post for another day though. This post is all about how it happened. Because I want to remember this day in as many different ways possible.
It all started with a walk through Holden Arboretum. The park in Kirtland, Ohio is one of the largest botanical gardens in the United States. In millennial terms, it’s Instagrammable. There are tons of paths to follow and, at the time we went, the trees were ablaze with bright oranges and reds. What I thought I was going there for was the Canopy Walk, a 65-foot tall bridge that makes you feel like you’re walking in the trees, and the Emergent Tower, which is a 120-foot, well, tower where you can see all the way to Lake Erie.
Little did I know that I was going there to get proposed to.
My boyfriend, Chad, and I don’t always get the chance to have weekend trips. He works for the Cleveland Police Department, and his schedule is always different from week to week. On this particular day, we decided to wake up early and hit Holden before he had to work. Even before I had the ring on my finger, I was excited to have the morning with him. We woke up early, took the 25-minute drive to the park and, although it was a little chilly, started our walk. We were both definitely underdressed for the morning stroll. When we saw an old couple birdwatching, wearing gloves and hot mugs of coffee in hand, we realized that we were amateurs. I actually ended up catching a sinus cold a few days later, but it was well worth it.
other than the slight morning crispness, Chad picked the perfect time to go to Holden. The trees were in full bloom, changing their colors from green to bright orange, yellow, and the occasional red. A weekend earlier and the trees would have still been green. A week later and it would have been way too cold. It made the canopy walk absolutely incredible. No matter when you go, standing in the middle of the trees is an incredible feeling. But when the trees are showing off all of their different colors, it’s even more incredible.
When we’re together, we almost never take photos. We’re always too caught up in the moment to take out our phones. On this particular day, he was very camera happy. (Hence all the blog photos.) For some reason, I didn’t take this as a hint of anything. Honestly, I thought he was just finally catching on to the Instagram-boyfriend trend I’d been feeding him.
After the Canopy Walk, we took another short lap around the park. He took his time, scouting out every sign and even pulling out the park map to make sure that we were headed in the right direction. Looking back now, I can tell that he was a little antsy about getting to the Emergent Tower but at the time I couldn’t tell a thing.
After checking the maps multiple times and taking our time looking at all the different types of trees in the park, we were on our way to the Emergent Tower. I had been on it before, but this was Chad’s first time up there. We literally stood at the bottom, looked at each other, and looked back up. When I say 120-feet in the sky, it doesn’t really sound like a lot. When you’re five-foot-tall, standing at the bottom of the 120-foot structure and looking up, it is a giant of the best kind.
The entire structure is made of wood and one large spiral-ish staircase winds around the entire structure. After a few flights, there’s a place to sit if you need a stop, so it’s a legit tower. The stair also gets smaller as you hit the very top. Then, after all of the steps, you hit a giant lookout platform. On a clear day, which it was, you can see all the way to Lake Erie. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
Oh, and just one tiny little detail that I forgot — the bottom of the platform is grated. Which, at the time, means absolutely nothing to me, but it meant a whole lot to him when we got up there.
After taking some time to look at the gorgeous trees surrounding us, Chad asked a lady if she could take our photo. She was more than happy to, and I was more than happy to finally have a photo of us to frame. When she handed us back the camera, Chad asked if she could take one more. As soon as the woman went to tap the screen, he got down on one knee. I won’t lie, it was pretty darn smooth.
Then, I blacked out. Not literally, but I honestly have no idea what the heck he said to me as he was on one knee.
Something about loving me forever, I assume? He could have been reading a list of ingredients to his favorite meal and I would not have known the difference. (Actually, maybe I should figure that part out.) But as soon as I saw that little box peek out of his pocket, I went into shock. I just kept nodding my head.
Thankfully, a kind lady who saw it all go down whipped her phone out and recorded all that she could. The video shows me nodding my head up and down a lot and saying “duh!” one too many times. I guess some people say, “yes.” But after ten years, I said “duh.” I also threw in a “don’t drop it” at the end. We were, like, really high up.
We were really lucky to have such great people up on that platform with us. Not only did everyone quiet down when they saw what was happening, but we also got some amazing photos from multiple different angles. Besides one kid screaming, “AH IT’S SHAKING!”, it was almost dead silent at the top of that tower. Or maybe that was part of me being in shock? Who knows, but it was my perfect moment.
After that, the view was the second most perfect thing about the Emergent Tower. We took a few more pictures and then went climbing down the tower to celebrate. The woman who took the photos was in front of us on the climb down. She and her kids kept announcing our engagement to everyone that we passed on the stairs. It was the cutest thing!
When we hit the ground, we started our way back to the car. As beautiful as Holden is, I couldn’t wait to go tell the good news to our families. Despite, you know, almost all of them already knowing. Oh, and listen to Taylor Swift’s Paper Rings on repeat all the way home. Chad’s the real MVP for letting that happen.
It turns out that this wasn’t the only surprise that Chad had for me on the day.
After we went to share the good news with my grandparents, I was told that we were on our way to my parents. Then we passed the exit. I had no idea what was going on, but he assured me that we were going to grab something to eat before we stopped at our parents’ house.
We drove past wineries until we got to our favorite one. Wine at noon? Anything goes after you’ve just gotten engaged. As soon as I walked in, both of our families were sitting there waiting for us. It was yet another magical moment for the day.
To wrap everything up, we took a much-needed nap when as soon as we got home. Yes, really. (It was a long morning, okay?) When I woke up from the nap, I actually grabbed my hand to make sure it all wasn’t a dream. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
Picture it: you’re walking into your favorite store, hoping to find your go-to sweater. It’s a few months before it starts to get chilly, but you’re looking to get a head start on your warm-weather wardrobe. You walk in, grab a few items that stick out, and head to the fitting rooms. There you are, standing in front of the mirror. You turn around to look in the mirror after slipping on the sweater and BAM — it fits you perfectly. That is the feeling that this blog gives me.
Tales from the Thrift Shop has been a place to share thrift tips, styling hacks, and new ways to think about secondhand fashion. But my love for thrifting has always been much more than that. It’s time that I faced the facts of why I started this blog head on — to figure out who I am.
I haven’t always had a clear sense of self. Honestly, I didn’t even realize that I didn’t know who I was until after college. Everyone tells you that college is the time to explore yourself and “figure it all out.” For me, college was a time to try new things, navigate my comfort zone, and face new anxieties. It also happened to be the time that I realized that I didn’t know how to handle my anxiety.
It’s hard to figure out who you are when you’re afraid to leave the house, try new things, or put yourself out there to new people. I blended in. I stayed out of people’s way, was afraid to stick out, and went with the flow. Oh, and I definitely didn’t yell my love for thrifting from the rooftops as I do now.
College is supposed to be a time that you figure yourself out. Instead, I figured out that I was too afraid to do that.
My journey to figuring out who I was didn’t start until right here on this blog. The more I wrote about fashion for Bustle, the more interested I was in my own style. Style is about who you are as a person. It’s a way to show who you are without saying a thing. I didn’t know who that was, but I wanted to find out.
The only thing that I knew was that I wasn’t a fan of mainstream fashion. Growing up, life was all about heading to the mall and shopping. I knew I wanted to stay far away from there. I also wasn’t making a whole lot of money, so I hit the thrift shop.
I loved that I could shop whatever style I wanted. There was vintage, minimalist, over-the-top, and everything in between. The options felt freeing to me. I loved being the one to choose my outfit — not a mannequin or buyer stocking the store for that season. I could be anyone that I wanted to be.
I got the chance to find myself, and it was the least anxious I had ever been.
I was finally myself. I loved it. And now, whenever I’m feeling down or lost, IJ hit the thrift store to get that feeling back. I don’t have to think about anything but being myself. It’s my own little world that I can get lost in. Bonus points that I’m saving the planet and clothing from the landfill at the same time. I love that I can share that feeling with you on this blog. It’s my thrift shop away from the thrift shop. I hope you feel the exact same feeling when you’re reading these posts.
Heck, if you’re feeling a little anxious, maybe the thrift shop will help you too. Because it’s nice to feel in control of your style when there are so many other things out of your control.
This blog is called Tales From the Thrift Shop, so I figured it was time to, well, share some of my personal shares from the thrift shop. This week was all about finding an outfit for an upcoming bachelorette party. When I say upcoming, I mean that it’s happening on Saturday. Last-minute, I know. I couldn’t find quite the right outfit for me, so I decided to keep looking at the thrift store instead of settling.
On the first trip to the thrift store, I found pretty much nothing. It was still mid-August, so the thrift store was still stocked with tank tops and summer dresses. The bachelorette party was in September, so I wanted to make sure my look was fall-appropriate — just in case the weather did decide to drop for our night out. I left that trip empty. Well, I did snag myself some cute new cotton napkins for my kitchen, hehe.
The next few trips happened in a blur. I’d run in when I had a free minute, look through the dress section, and then run out. I didn’t find anything on those trips, but I figured that a quick trip was better than nothing. At that point, my main goal was to figure out when the fall items would be stocked.
Then, September hit. The first day of the month came, and it was like all the leaves had magically changed colors. The thrift store’s tank top section had magically turned to sweaters. It was the moment that I had finally been waiting for. The dress section got a re-vamp too. There was now heavier fabrics, dresses with sleeves, and darker colors popping up everywhere. While there still weren’t a ton of items that I deemed “going out worthy,” I found a few that I thought could be winners and hit the fitting room.
The first dress I found had thing, black and white diagonal stripes. It had two layers of dress. One was a thin, sheer layer with the print, and the other was a black silk layer underneath. I liked it but didn’t love it.
Dress number two was a little more promising. It was a lace spaghetti-strapped dress that screamed, “let’s party.” It fit me just right, and I planned to put a leather jacket over it and be ready for fall. I didn’t know what shoes I would wear with it, but I added it to my cart anyway and decided that it would have to do.
The dress was perfect for a bachelorette party, but not perfect for me.
When I looked at the dress, I could tell it was meant to be worn to a bachelorette party. That’s why I decided to put it in my cart. I also knew that there was a good chance that I would never wear the dress again; 1. Black just isn’t my color, 2. the lace isn’t the most practical, and 3. I was showing a little more skin than I typically opt for. It might have only been $6, but, personally, I don’t see a point in buying an outfit just to wear it once. That goes for special occasion outfits, sweaters, and everything between. I want to invest in pieces that feel like me. Pieces that I want to grab when I’m getting ready in the morning. Not just pieces that work for one night.
Simply put, I will never buy an outfit just to wear it once. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
While I’m saying all of this, I also have to be honest about what was going through my head at the moment that I was shopping — “I’ll stick this in my cart, just in case I can’t find anything else.” Thankfully, I did.
Honestly, I didn’t mean to find the outfit that I did. I was walking around, trying to kill time while my mom was still in the fitting room. The skirt section was right next to the fitting rooms, so I mosied over there. As I was sifting through, I saw a long black skirt. The material felt nice in my hands and the asymmetrical buttons had me sold from the moment I saw it. I grabbed it and put it in my cart. Then, as I was walking back to the fitting room, I noticed a top in my ideal shade of brown. It was off-the-shoulders, had tied sleeves, and was 100% cotton. SOLD.
I got to the fitting room that my mom was at and decided to throw the two items on together, just to kill time. And wouldn’t you know, they ended up looking absolutely perfect together. The skirt had an unnoticed slit in the front that ended up making it the perfect going out look. That, mixed with the amount of shoulder that was showing from the off-the-shoulder top made it the perfect amount of skin showing. I was comfortable and knew that I’d wear the items again. I decided right then and there to ditch the lace dress and opt for the skirt-top combo.
The top and the skirt rang in at $4 each.
That’s $8 for an outfit that I will wear not only to the bachelorette party but all throughout the holiday season. I can see the skirt matching with sweaters over it, tank tops under it, and jackets over top of it. I already know that I’ll be wearing the top to Thanksgiving this year too. So, yes, it was a great $8 investment.
This is what I mean when I say to make every purchase count. It might take some patience — trust me, it took me a while to learn too — but it’s almost always worth the wait. It’s like there are thrift gods out there looking out for you every time, as long as you wait for it. But, all jokes aside, it’s worth it to feel confident in what you’re buying.
Oh, and you’ll likely see this on the ‘gram multiple times — no shame here. Major Kim K vibes, am I right?
You’re scrolling through Instagram in bed, which you swore you’d stop doing. You’re desperately trying to get past your friend’s “take-me-back” vacation photos, and all of a sudden you see some outfit inspiration. It’s the most gorgeous white linen top and matching culottes. Right when you tap the tags to see where you can get that gorgeous-yet-slightly-vintage outfit, you see that it’s from the thrift store. You’re likely amazed since the best thing that you’ve ever found was that bulky sweater that screams “I’m secondhand!” and can’t seem to figure out how this whole thrifting thing really works. Well, this post is for you.
Thrifting is not as easy as walking through a department store, finding the item you love, and choosing your own style. But the benefits of thrifting are better for the planet, your wallet, and the landfill. As someone that’s been in the thrift-game for years now, I’m here to take my knowledge and pass it on. Here, take the baton. I want to make your trip a little easier, so you can see just how much fun thrifting can be. There are four foolproof tips that will get any beginner — or someone that’s been thrifting for a while — an easier thrift store trip.
First off, I applaud you just reading this. It means that you’re ready to make the switch to a more sustainable wardrobe, which means you deserve a big pat on the back. Now, with that out of the way, here are four tips to make your next thrift trip that much easier.
1. Make a list.
Going to the thrift shop with a list is one of the best things that you can do to make your thrift trip a little more organized. The thrift store has everything you can possibly imagine. There are hats and dresses and skirts and blazers and everything in between. If you have a list of items or outfit inspiration that you’re going off of, you’ll know exactly which color and item sections to hit when you walk in the door. Of course, you don’t have to stick to this list, but it will give you someplace to start. It will also help with the overwhelm of so many sections, not enough time.
Personally, I have two ways of making a list. While a lot of people like Pinterest, I tend to get most of my outfit inspiration from Instagram. I have a saved collection titled “Outfit Inspo” on the ‘gram. I pull it up when I’m at the thrift shop to see which colors and items that I’ve been loving lately. That’s where I start.
My other tactic is to have a running list on my phone of items that I can’t seem to get off of my brain. For example, I have been all about straw hats and bags lately. I kept thinking about the items over and over, so I added them to my phone list. I actually found both of them within the month, too. (You can see them both on my Instagram page.) The only rule for the list is that I have to think about the item three times before it’s added. That way I know that it will work well in my wardrobe and not sit in the corner of my closet.
2. Bring cash.
When the possibilities are endless and the prices are low, the thrift store can seem overwhelming. Sometimes the hardest part of thrifting is deciding what you will or won’t get. Especially if you have the privilege of being able to afford the prices. Next time you go to the thrift store, try taking a set amount of money with you next time you go instead. Yes, actual paper money. You’ll be forced to look at price tags and buy only the items that you’ll actually use or wear.
3. Get a cart.
Just do it, okay? Even if you think you’re only there to get one thing. Just grab a cart when you go through the door. When both hands are free, you’re more likely to check price tags and labels. You’ll make more strategic purchases and be able to see all of your item laid out in front of you. That way it’s a win-win for everyone involved — you, the planet, and your wallet.
Seeing everything in front of you will make it clear that you have four skirts and maybe don’t need all of them. Or that you found three mugs and should possibly put a few back on the shelf. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve seen friends head to the checkout and forget that they held that item that they only-sort-of-liked. They end up putting it on the counter with everything else and creating more clutter in their life. Grabbing a cart is an easy way to skip that and buy the items that you truly want in your life.
4. Don’t scan every aisle.
The sections at the thrift store are pretty much endless. There’s everything from sweaters and hats to homeware and books. Heck, some stores even keep winter jackets out year-round for the people looking to shop early. It can easily feel overwhelming. Just know that you don’t have to scan every single aisle. Maybe you’re only looking for the perfect pair of shorts one day. Maybe the next you only want to see if there’s a good deal on picture frames. Don’t think you have to do it all.
It can be hard to feel like you might miss out on the perfect item at the thrift store. Especially since items are all one-of-a-kind and not guaranteed to be there next time around. But that doesn’t mean that you should spend hours in the thrift store. Stick to the aisles that interest you and your wallet will thank you.
Remember that you will find the items that you are meant to. You don’t need to buy everything from home goods to accessories all in the same trip. Thrift shopping is all about the hunt, but you should only be hunting the items that you truly need in your life. You get to decide what that is, and I hope that these tips make your job secondhand shopping a little bit easier.