Posts Categorized: thrifting

Thrifting Wisely for Designer Items


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.

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Thrifting for Trends: Fall/Winter 2014 Edition

It’s time, once again, to examine the hot “new” trends for the season, and remind ourselves that fashion recycles EVERYTHING! Here are just a few of the garments, colors, and styles that are trending for fall and winter that you can easily track down at your local thrift and consignment shops. (Note that all of the on-trend items I’m wearing below have been thrifted. Already.)



Can a classic like plaid really be considered trendy? When it shows up in on dozens upon dozens of runway shows and subsequently FLOODS the mall stores, I’m answering with a resounding, “Yes.” But! Since plaid never really goes out of style, that means it’ll be plentiful on the thrift store racks, too. Classic tartans featuring red, black, green, and blue are always a safe bet, but feel free to spring for more modern iterations. Just be sure to pick a plaid that is dark-color dominant: White-backed plaids can work for fall and winter, but sometimes seem a bit to light for truly cold weather.

Dark Florals


This trend took hold a few winters ago, and has swung back around once more. As with plaid. what you want here is a print that has a dark color as the background. Floral prints in which the blooms themselves are done in dark prints will look lovely, but a black, eggplant, burgundy, or navy background with botanicals of all kinds will capture the somber mood you want here. Dark florals will be mixed in among the brighter and lighter ones at your local Goodwill. When you can, opt for large-scale florals over ditsy styles.



Pantone’s color report for fall is all about the jewel tones, but sangria – a rich magenta – is a standout. This color is incredibly versatile and can pair with neutrals, bold brights, and other jewel tones. It also works well with a wide variety of complexions and skin tones. Choose a version that has warm or cool undertones to complement your own coloring. As is the case with all color trends, these ones will be among the easiest to thrift! This cardigan is a secondhand find from last year. (More of a neutrals person? Gray is the big one for the season.)

Leather Everything


Another Autumn/Winter standby, but also a trend that showed up in virtually every ready-to-wear show. Leather jackets are always a great bet – I scored this pre-loved cropped cognac jacket last year – but feel free to splash out on leather skirts, pants, even dresses. All of which will turn up in most thrift stores.

Rich Embellishments


Another great thriftable trend since it’s incredibly broad and can be interpreted in a million ways. On the runways we saw sequins, embroidery, velvet burnouts, textures, applique, and lace insets. When shopping the thrift racks look for anything that goes beyond a basic print: Texture, sparkle, detailed necklines, metallics, anything that makes a garment or accessory look vaguely royal. When examining secondhand items with sewn-on embellishments like beads or sequins, look closely for any missing elements. Some can be easily replaced with a quick trip to the craft store, but others may be trickier and require mending work-arounds.

What trendy items will YOU thrift for this season?

Runway images courtesy Marc by Marc Jacobs | Erin Fetherston | Chanel | Louis Vuitton | Dolce & Gabbana

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Thrifting for Trends: Spring/Summer 2014 Edition

It’s time, once again, to examine the hot “new” trends for the season, and remind ourselves that fashion recycles EVERYTHING! Here are just a few of the garments, colors, and styles that are trending for spring and summer that you can easily track down at your local thrift and consignment shops. (Note that all of the on-trend items I’m wearing below have been thrifted. Already.)



About as groundbreaking for spring as florals, I know. It merits mentioning that just about every fashion magazine highlighted actual florals as a trend for this season. Will there ever be a time when florals aren’t appropriate for spring and summer wear? Probably not. And although pastels are a classic palette for warm weather, especially around Easter time, they fell out of favor for a good long time. They’re back now, though, and extremely hot for the coming season. If pastels don’t suit your complexion, wear them away from your face in pants, skirts, shoes, belts, or bags. As is the case with all color trends, this one will be incredibly easy to thrift! Pastels have been around for many decades, which means they’ll be readily available at your local thrift shop.

Tea-length skirts

tea length skirt

So you’ve got your mini, your knee-length, your midi, and your maxi … where exactly does “tea length” fall? By most definitions, it hits near the bottom of the calf. A little nitpicky since most midi skirts hit mid-calf, but this longer-than-midi, shorter-than-maxi length does give a distinctly different feel and look than its skirty counterparts. Tea-length skirts are quite common in thrift stores, though many will be in very 90s prints. Mix your thrifted skirt with some edgy items for an updated look. (Mine is leather, so it’s plenty edgy on its own.)

Geometric prints

geometric prints

Most broad print categories are readily thriftable, and geometrics are no exception. Anything graphic and regular will qualify, and stripes and polka dots will be plentiful, searching for windowpane, tiled prints, basketweave, chevron, or other less common prints will up your style ante. Even a pin dot print like the one on my thrifted shirt here may feel more trendy than simple spots or stripes.



Pleats took many forms on the runways, but were most prominently featured in skirts and dresses (as you might expect). Although smaller knife pleats were common, you can cash in on the trend with pleats of just about any shape, size, and configuration. Pleats are far from new, so they will be wonderfully thrift-able. As with tea-length skirts, they can read a bit stodgy at times, so be sure to pair with updated color schemes, shapes, and layers.

Romantic rocker

romantic rocker

More of an overall aesthetic than a single trend, this look showed up at the Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Moschino, Alexander McQueen, Alexander Wang, and Saint Laurent shows in various incarnations. Lots of black and loads of leather, but paired with drapey, flirty, and feminine fabrics and silhouettes. For this look, thrift up leather pencil skirts, silky blouses, tuxedo pants and jackets, metallic fabrics, and moto style jackets – all of which can be found at most well-stocked secondhand stores.

What trendy items will YOU thrift for this season?

Runway images all courtesy Style.comPrabal Gurung, Proenza Schouler, Fendi, Michael Kors, Saint Laurent.

(This post first appeared on the Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota blog.)

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