Natalie put this request into the suggestion box:
I have seen you cover this a little but, but I would love to see some more ideas on where to get QUALITY accessories. I love the leather belts and scarves you feature, but I never find them at thrift stores, and they cost a fortune at department stores. I would love to see some of your strategies on when and where to shop for them.
Weeellll, there’s no easy answer to this one, I’m afraid. I’ve been thrifting, Etsying, DIYing, antiquing, art fair-ing, and otherwise collecting my accessories for many, many years, culling and evaluating as I go. I have some marvelous stuff now, but I’ve had some utter crap over the years, too. And it’s taken me a while to train my eye. I’m happy to share a few tips for sourcing and spotting quality accessories, but definitely hope you’ll share more suggestions in the comments, too!
If thrift fails you, try consignment
The Twin Cities thrift environment is really, truly fabulous. I’m a lucky gal in that respect. But I understand that many towns, cities, and areas either lack thrift entirely or offer meagre pickings. If thrift has failed you AND you’re in a locale where consignment shops are available, try them out. You won’t find $0.25 silk scarves or $1 belts – prices will be slightly higher – but you may still encounter quality, used goods at affordable prices. Why buy used accessories at prices that rival Target’s when you could buy new FROM Target? Because a quality used item will endure better than an affordable but cheaply made one. And how an item has aged and worn after a previous owners’ use may give you a preview of how it’ll hold up as you begin to use it.
If you’re on a truly tight budget, this option may not pan out for certain accessories. Handmade, unique, artisan-crafted accessories are almost guaranteed to be better quality than mass-manufactured, so shopping local art fairs, boutiques, and open studios in addition to trolling sites like Etsy and Big Cartel will give you access to a better class of goods than you’ll find at mall stores. Additionally, buying from the person who made an accessory means you can contact that person if you have questions or concerns. I’ve never met a craftsperson who was unwilling to talk with a customer post-purchase about anything related to the product. Again, buying handmade goods can be pricey … but you’re getting superior quality and craftsmanship.
Consider antique fairs, malls, and stores
OK, buying decades-old, cracked leather belts from antique stores might be a bad plan. But many antiques vendors and dealers stock items that are relatively new, including scarves, hats, jewelry, handbags, watches, belt buckles, and loads more. Again, this is a case of observing how a used item has fared against previous wear and tear to predict how it’ll do in the future. While it’s not universally true that older, vintage items are better made, many of them were crafted from better quality materials in a time before “fast fashion” even existed.
In terms of spotting quality pieces in person? I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but much of the time I go with the “heavier is better” philosophy. I KNOW. But I’m just being honest. I know from experience that heavy leather belts, thick silk scarves, and other accessories with some heft to them last longer and take abuse better. Both in person and online I check material content and am more apt to purchase real leather and pure wool than synthetics. And, finally, unless I can handle an accessory myself I make sure to purchase from vendors who accept returns.
I’d love to hear some other suggestions for resources and tactics for tracking down quality accessories! How do you spot quality? What are your favorite resources for good accessories, both new and used? Do you have luck at thrift, consignment, or antique stores? Online? Share links, if you’ve got ’em!