I live in Chicago, which - while it might not have quite the sartorial clout of New York or L.A. - has a thriving fashion scene all its own. Ever heard of Ikram Goldman? Ever taken a stroll down Oak Street? Yep, us Chicago girls like to dress nice, too.
But, much as I’d love to be able to shop at chi-chi Chicago boutiques, I’ve… gotta eat. And pay rent. And deal with my above-mentioned credit card debt. And while, like most girls, I rely on shops like Zara and H&M to help my wardrobe stay on-trend, I pride myself on having a sense of style that both chic and unique. And yes, I love my labels.
So, now that my secret’s out, I’m planning a new blog series, “Thrifting 101,” where I’ll share a few tips and tricks of the trade, to help my readers supplement their own wardrobes with amazing, unique, and cheap designer goodies, secondhand.
To start… well, where do you start? I recommend Goodwill, if you’re a newbie thrifter. In my experience, Goodwill’s stores are cleaner and better organized than most thrift shops. They’re also bigger, and usually have dressing rooms. The downtown Chicago Goodwill (i.e. "MY Goodwill") also gets awesome overstock from local boutiques, which means a fabulous selection of designer labels. I’ve found Catherine Malandrino, Derek Lam, and even Maison Martin Margiela - some still new with tags - at my Goodwill.
Price-wise, you may pay a bit more at Goodwill than other thrift shops. In the past year, as thrifting has more become “de rigueur,” I’ve noticed prices going up at Goodwill. Leather handbags, for example, have gone up from $4.99 to $6.99 now. Well-known designer labels like Coach and Michael Kors are often marked up to $15.00-$20.00. Still, when you take into account the retail value of most designer labels, you’re still getting a screaming deal by shopping secondhand.
Finally, most avid thrifters will agree, better neighborhoods yield better thrift shops. Admittedly, my own thrifting luck is due, in part, to the fact that I live in Chicago, and the city’s Goodwill is located in the West Loop, near downtown. If you don’t live in a big city, you can still find great pieces at your local thrift shops. Just identify the “rich neighborhoods” in your community, and check for nearby resale and secondhand shops. Be sure to look for smaller shops run by local charities and churches, as well. Small shops may not have the same vast selection as Goodwill, but you’ll be more likely to find great vintage pieces and nicer quality items.
Ready to give thrifting a shot? Start by checking out Google Maps and plotting locations for your local shops. If you’ve never been, go check them out and see what they have to offer. And by all means, if you’ve got a Goodwill in your community, go there and see what’s available. Next week, I’ll come back with specific tips on what to look for, and how to distinguish the good from the grunge. In the meantime, keep an open mind, and happy thrifting!