Thriftable Classics

collarless_tweed_jackets_with text

Now, you all know I’m no fan of the must-have list. There is no one-list-fits-all set of classic items that will suit every possible body type, budget, and lifestyle. Plus, so many must-have lists overlook bodily diversity and try to shoehorn a huge array of body sizes and shapes into a single mold. Nevertheless, these lists can serve as good jumping-off points if you’re just beginning to build your wardrobe, or looking to take your style in a more conservative direction. And, of course, many “must-have” items are beloved by individual women regardless of their fashion-sanctioned status.

So here’s what I’m gonna tell you today: Countless classic items can be thrifted. Or, at the very least, nabbed for slightly higher than thrift prices on consignment. Here are just a few of the classic items that I see on a near-weekly basis at my local thrift shops.

Collarless Tweed Jackets

See those little J.Crew lovelies up above? They’ll run you $200 a pop. Similar styles can be found at Ann Taylor and Banana Republic at times and they, too, are in the $200 range. This style of jacket was hot for spring and will come back around again for fall and winter, guaranteed. I generally see between three and 10 in every thrift store I frequent, and most are $20 or less. Bought mine on consignment back in April!

Black Pencil Skirts

Some will be of questionable quality, but plenty will hold up to years of wear and tear. This style has been a classic for ages and has never truly gone out of style. But since women’s bodies and styles shift constantly, plenty a pencil skirt has been donated. And black is the most common color. I’ve seen them from size 00 to 28, too.

Bootcut Jeans

Skinnies have stuck around for more than a decade, but bootcuts were here first. And that means you can find them on the racks in every wash, rise, and variation imaginable. You can find them pristine and you can find them perfectly weathered. Bootcuts are fabulously thriftable.

Button-front Shirts

YES. I know. They are controversial around here. But if you love ’em – and I know I do – thrift stores are among the first places you should look. I may have bought two or three brand new button-fronts over the course of my adult life, but the rest are all thrifted. Prints, solids, cottons, silks, you name it.

Sheath dresses

Another style that’s never really gone “out,” and is therefore plentiful on the thrift racks! I’ve gradually phased out my sheaths, but over the course of the past six years have found them in every color from cobalt to navy to periwinkle, scarlet to brick to burgundy, classic black, winter white, and just about every other color you can imagine. I’d say that sheaths are the most common dress style on thrift racks.

Images courtesy J.Crew

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details. Sustainable options are either used, handmade, made in the U.S., artisan made in non-sweatshop conditions, or made using sustainable/fair trade practices.

Originally posted 2013-06-10 06:14:17.

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22 Responses to “Thriftable Classics”

  1. Jen

    I love thrift shops for button ups. It’s often the only place I can find ones that fit. Jeans are more often a miss. My favourite pair is only $25 so I’m not too bothered about it.

    Closet Refreshment

  2. Sarah

    Those tweed jackets were all the rage about 10 years ago. I remember seeing them everywhere and agonizing over which color combo to buy. I also remember finally springing for one and wearing it out on a date in late June and sweating like a crazy person because it was way too hot for it. I wish I had saved mine from back then! Definitely one of those items I recommend that you hold onto once it cycles out of style because it will make a come back sooner or later. They were also huge 20 years ago, in the early 90’s, when Karl Lagerfeld paired them with micro-mini skirts.

  3. Versatile Style by Tracey

    I recently did a look through my Pinterest board of outfits and was quite shocked at the number of classics now in my wardrobe mostly due to thrifting. I’ve never owned this many button up blouses. My favorite item to thrift is jackets!

    • Jen

      I love thrifting jackets too. Way back when Value Village started opening up stores, you could get the nicest vintage leather jackets for under $5. Now they are $20+ but it’s still cheaper than buying new ones!

  4. Lynn

    Once again I am envious of people who live where they can thrift. In my small college town no one dresses up (think college students, professors and employees of businesses that support the college) so the only items in thrift shops are children’s clothes, bootie shorts and tank tops or worn out khakis. Everything looks limp and faded. I do thrift when I travel, but it’s not an option at home.

    • Alyson

      It’s very similar in the college town I live in too. I have my choice of any number of polyester, low cut, revealing club-wear shirts, but very few dressier blouses. I’ve found a few casual A-line and circle skirts, but no pencil skirts or skirts of dressier fabrics.

  5. leah

    Cashmere sweaters. For some reason they are donated on the regular, in good condition. Maybe people don’t enjoy dry cleaning? Either way, I just bust out the sweater shaver and enjoy my thrifted cashmere.

    • Shaye

      This. All of my cashmere – and I have a lot – is thrifted. Now I am all picky about my thrifted cashmere, too, since I’ve found so much of it!

  6. Aya

    One of my favorite things to do when friends come to visit is to take interested parties thrifting in San Francisco. I joke that it’s an all-you-can-eat thrift buffet for the low buy-in price of 2 grand a month for rent.

    • Anne

      What thrift stores do you recommend in San Francisco? I live in Mill Valley but would definitely be willing to do a little driving. But it’s a little overwhelming without knowing where to start. Thanks!

  7. LinB

    Things I thrift for where I live: Dressy trousers, skirts of all ilk, trench coats, silk blouses and men’s shirts. Dresses are hit-or-miss in my size range, usually they look like what 90-year-old women wore to church, ten years ago. I have good luck finding decent leather shoes. My husband has good luck finding jeans. Those Chanel-style jackets, in all combinations of boucle colors and trims, are available in every size, at all Goodwill locations in my city, in excellent condition. Were I of an age and had a lifestyle to justify them, I’d snap up the whole rack. As it is, I just look silly to myself when I try them on.

  8. A.B.

    This is also going to be region-specific. I have found jeans and button front shirts at thrift stores, but not the rest. The jackets are because tweed is basically not worn here in the Miami area, although you can find the same cut jacket in a much more weather appropriate fabric. I have no idea why it’s so hard to find pencil skirts and sheath dresses though, because they are very popular.

  9. paisleyapron

    I agree that it is completely up to where you live. On the west coast, I could find cashmere sweaters and jean jackets in great shape. Now that I live in the south, my favorite items to thrift are silk dresses and blouses. But I have to be choosy about where I shop, most of the thrift stores are not curated and are full of worn out trash.

  10. f.

    On the bootcut jeans tip, I’ve actually started thrifting jeans by looking only at how they fit my waist, hips, and thighs, and getting them tailored to have straight, slim legs. It costs as much as the jeans do to get them tailored, but it still works out to half of what I’d pay for a new pair, and I get to support my local thrift store and craftspeople. I’ve done this to 2 pairs of jeans and they’re now my favorites! Re-tailoring can also work nicely for thrifted skirts. I really recommend it.

    • linB

      I know! At $5 a pair in our local thrift stores, jeans are a real bargain. On my last pair, I took off cuffs and rehemmed, took out the “thunder thigh” allowance to make them straighter in the leg, changed the fastener, put in darts at back waist for a closer fit there. I couldn’t have bought fabric and zip to make jeans that from scratch, and now the thrifted jeans are customized exactly as I want them.

      Zips and buttons are easy to replace. Sometimes just changing out buttons takes a “meh” blouse to a fantastic garment — I’ve even bought thrift items just to scavenge fabulous buttons.

  11. ClaraT

    Anne-Two SF consignment stores I like: Goodbyes on Sacramento and Janes on Clement. Goodbyes has some bad yelp reviews but everyone has been nice to me. I’m not a big consignment shopper but these have bigger selections than Jaylinas in Mill Valley and aren’t too far away.

  12. Bella Q

    Great list- and message- the best way to thrift is to shop for quality classic pieces that can be updated by fresh details. I love finding a good quality wool winter coat at thrift stores you can get some amazing coats for under $40, and I go for classic shapes- because they always look smart. Also, silk blouses- can be expensive new, but they wear so well, that you can get a good one at a Goodwill for under $7.

  13. Gail

    Anne – Mill Valley has a couple decent consignment shops and a good Indy thrift near Whole Food. In SF just go walk Haight to start, branch out from there.

    I like thrifting for classic accessories: scarves, gloves, purses. It’s fun to check the costume jewelry too.

  14. Hayley

    You know, lately I’ve been finding that things at our local thrift stores like Goodwill and Value Village are way overpriced and that the many consignment stores have much reasonable prices for higher quality clothing. I just find it interesting – in my head, consignment stores were a little intimidating but now I just shake my head at $20 for a dress from Target at Goodwill that I could’ve gotten on clearance for $8.

  15. Teri

    I picked up a pair of Joes Jeans at Value Village yesterday for $19.99! I love buying jeans at thrift stores. It will cost a bit for alterations, but what a great price!