I thrifted that neon yellow cardigan in 2008. It was Theory brand, in great condition, and only $9.99. And I hung onto it and wore it for years – through 2012 if memory serves – even though it was always a bit too snug and washed out my complexion. Such is the perilous allure of thrifting designer items. I’ve definitely succumbed to it myself quite a few times, but I’m trying to be more mindful now.
Most of what you’ll find at your local secondhand stores will be clothing and accessories from bargain and mall brands, since those are the most commonly worn and purchased families of brands. But occasionally you’ll turn up a pair of Joe’s Jeans or a vintage Armani blazer, and they’ll generally be incredibly affordable. Well within your budget. And you’ll be tempted to snap them up just because of that fancy label, which is only natural. But here are some questions you should ask yourself first:
Does this fit me well?
Not just does this fit me, but does this fit me WELL. Buying clothes that almost fit is unwise under any circumstances, and you may be tempted to fudge a bit due to that recognizable brand name. But don’t. Everything you purchase should fit you well, and that includes designer items, thrifted or otherwise.
Where will I wear this?
I once found three pristine Donna Karan suits at a Chicago thrift store. I don’t wear suits. Ever. So even though they were going for $26 apiece, I passed. A designer piece that never gets worn is a waste of closet space, so be certain you’re purchasing something that will work for your life and lifestyle.
Is this a current cut? Or striking enough to be recognizably vintage?
I’ve seen several Dior items turn up here in the Twin Cities – mostly suits and blazers, but a few dresses, too – and they’re extremely 80s. Those big shoulder pads and long torso lines aren’t aligned with current cuts and fits, and although 80s-influenced styles are trending now many actual 80s garments will look dated instead of retro. Older designer items can be fabulous finds, but be certain they’ll either look very vintage or pass for current.
After running through these questions, remind yourself that a bargain isn’t really a bargain if the item in question never gets used. That Michael Kors sweater may be $9.99, but if it’s three sizes too big for you then that is $9.99 that you’ve wasted. Save your money for something that will be truly useful to you, and leave that sweater for someone else.
I don’t mean to be all gloom and doom. In fact, here’s a designer thrifting story that ends well. See this red polka-dotted blouse?
That’s a $100+ silk blouse from Equipment that I thrifted for a whopping $0.99. It’s current, in great shape, it fits me, and it works with my life and lifestyle. If you dig big names, definitely keep your eyes peeled for them as you cruise the thrift racks; They’ll turn up more often than you might expect! Just make sure you’re using your money wisely and choosing garments that look fabulous on you instead of succumbing to the siren song of designer labels.