Thrifting Tips From a Pro
I have been a faithful patron of thrift stores since high school. I've wanted to do a post about thrifting for a while but realized that it would really make sense to consult with an expert. When I first met my friend Liz Donovan, I was taken by her combination of utter sweetness and completely fabulous style. Liz is an avid thrifter and a design researcher who has done freelance buying for thrift stores. I decided to go straight to the source and pick her brain about thrifting.
What got you into thrifting?
Growing up on Cape Cod in the 70s, all the churches had thrift shops where we would bring our used goods to. Every once in a while, we would get something. I was confused that it was only for the needy but my mom would point out how cool and unique stuff was. Then, in junior high, when I was getting into punk rock, I would read in 'zines that everyone was getting their clothing at thrift stores. So we would get people to drive us to the Salvation Army in Hyanis, Mass. My sister told me about the Garment District. I would wander there for hours and it was a dream world of crinolines and vintage 40s dresses.
Why do you do it?
Environmental - When you’re in a thrift store, it can dawn on you that as Americans we have more than we'll ever need. I can usually find something better made and more awesome. It's one less packaged purchase.
Financial - There are times I’ve done it for financial reasons because I needed to. There are times I haven’t needed to but know that I can get something that’s cooler for pennies in comparison. It can really add up. Most thrift stores have great deals going.
Side Hustle - When I started working in thrift stores, I realized that people who were selling things were doing it as a business - curating their goods and selling them. There’s a charity getting some money, there’s an item getting reused. It's a great way to make extra money and to have fun doing it.
Social - What’s great about thrifting is that there’s an environment where people are on a bit of a hunt. You see people new to this country and folks who are collecting vintage items. There’s something about the environment that makes you talk to people.
Unique Factor - As we become more and more mass marketed, it becomes harder to find unique stuff. Finding the vintage items can evoke a memory or make you stand out.
What are your favorite thrift-inspired craft projects?
I like to find stuff I can use to collage. Sometimes it looks like it’s just a pile of crap, but things like old rolls of wallpaper or sewing notions, old tags on clothing can be great for making collages.
Are you an avid thrifter? Do you have awesome thrifting tips? Let us know in the comments!