Thrifting for Coats

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As the weather turns from cool to cold to downright FREEZING, you may be reconsidering the coats in your closet. Are they warm enough? Do they cover all of your bits? Are they in good shape? Styles that work with your figure and wardrobe? If your current coat options are somewhat lacking, consider hitting the thrift shops before shelling out for something new.

The best types of clothing to thrift are durable. While flimsy tees and diaphanous blouses are lovely to wear, they just don’t hold up to lots of use and laundering so by the time they hit the thrift racks they may only have a year or so of wearable life left. Garments like blazers, jeans, handbags, and coats, on the other hand, are made from sturdier fabrics, constructed using heavier thread and stitching, and are created with use and abuse in mind. Even if they were made decades ago and worn relatively frequently, these items can still be in good shape when you find them at your local thrift store.

Here are some tips for thrfiting for coats:

Check for damage

This should be a checklist item for all thrifting, but is especially important in coats as it can be easy to overlook. If the coat has wool content, check for moth holes. If the coat is a down puffer, look for feather leakage. Look for stains or worn spots and if any buttons are missing, check the seams for extras. Give the coat’s lining a once-over. Many lining rips can be easily repaired, but if the lining is completely shredded you’ll need to decide if you want to re-line the coat or just live with the damage.

Try on while wearing your winter clothes

It’s pretty wintry in much of the U.S. right now, but this still bears mentioning: If you aren’t wearing a typical winter outfit when you hit the thrift store, throw on a sweater, scarf, or blazer from the racks to emulate one. You want your coat to fit you when you’re dressed for cold weather including layers and thicker fabrics. A coat that looks amazing thrown over jeans and a tee might not look as fab once you’ve got on a blazer, scarf, and longjohns.

Consider color

Many people will invest some serious cash in a classic or basic or extremely versatile neutral coat, often in black or gray. Thrifted coats are less costly, so think about splashing out on a color instead. If your thrifted coat will be an auxiliary one, why not try red or purple or green and perk up your wintry days a bit?

Coats will be on the thrift racks well into the new year, but now is a fabulous time to start your search. It may take a few trips to a few stores to find your perfect parka, so consider getting a jump on the process. And good luck!

Image courtesy kellyhogaboom

A version of this post first appeared on the Goodwill blog.

  • yasmara

    I would add one more…smell it! Sometimes winter coats (especially wool blends) have trapped odors that are really difficult to remove. Washable ones may be less of a problem.

  • Laurel H

    Excellent tips. Most of my coats were thrifted. I also find that coats are the best value in a thrift store. Finding a used Gap T-shirt that might have been on sale for $20 new, costing $10 in a thrift store, is not a great deal. But finding a Rudsak leather jacket that would have been several hundred dollars new, for just $20, is a major thrift store score. If I only have a few minutes to shop in a thrift store, I head for the coats.

  • http://fashionforgiants.blogspot.com Gracey the Giant

    Like Laurel, most of my coats are thrifted as well. I’ve thrifted wool, lightweight rain coats, furs, everything. And the most I’ve spent is $25!

  • http://couturgatory.blogspot.com Aya in Couturgatory

    Thrifted coats are the best. The. Best.

    Well, except for the part where I’ve got 7 coats in my closet that I can’t bear to part with. >.>

    Speaking for myself, I cheerfully ignore the dry clean only labels and toss my wool coat into its own washer, on cold water delicate cycle, and hang to dry. I have not had any ill effects come of this.

  • Marsha

    I have an addiction to thrifted coats, with about a dozen in my collection at this point. My best finds are 1) a 100% cashmere vintage coat–about 50 years old– in camel brown, in perfect condition for $10, and 2) a 100% wool Pendleton, in charcoal grey, in perfect condition for $8. I also have beautiful coats in black, navy, dark green, teal, red and purple. Since winter lasts about 5 months where I live, I enjoy having an extensive coat wardrobe for very little money.

  • Jen

    Any tips for the larger plus sizes and thrifted coats? I can find almost any clothing item at a thrift store that will fit me, but in the 15 years or so I’ve been thrifting, I’ve only found one coat that fit, and a couple of blazers. I’m a size 22.

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sally

      Oh Jen, I wish I had some good tips for you, but I have had the same experience: Many of my local thrift stores have plus sections, but they VERY rarely have any coats. At all. Tops abound and bottoms are fairly common, but dresses rare and coats almost never available. I’m sorry! I know that online thrift-alternatives like eBay and Etsy will have more options, but of course you can’t try anything on when ordering online …

      Anyone else have tips? How do you track down plus-sized coats secondhand?

  • http://frugalfashionableforty.blogspot.com SDC

    I picked up a basic gray coat for this winter, but added a few more thrifted for great prices…a coral flecked wool one, a black faux fur, and a nice leather jacket.

  • Anna

    If a button is missing, consider moving the top button to fill the gap and getting a contrasting button for the top! As long as it’s the same size and shape but a totally different color, it’ll look intentional and almost brooch-like.

    (I did this to a $15 green peacoat – the buttons were all matching-fabric-covered, i.e. totally irreplaceable, which is why it got donated. The silver military-style button I sewed in the top spot gets me compliments all the time)

  • Rositsa

    What a funny coincidence that I stumble exactly upon this post – I thrifted the coat I am currently wearing to work for it was really cheap (I guessed about 1/3 of what it would have cost new), it’s part wool and it’s blue! The coat I purchased new last winter is very stylish but it’s black and I’ve grown a little bit weary of it. This one, though, is lighter, colorful and more casual (I was looking for a casual jacket or coat anyway), and even though it’s a shade of blue I wouldn’t typically wear, I matched it perfectly with a 100% wool scarf that also complements my complexion. I had my mom shorten the sleeves as they were too long for me and voila! I’ve come to really like wearing it! The best part is, I ended up getting it for half the tag price, which would make about 1/6 of a new coat of that kind, YAY!