Growing up, I was never the girl with the latest fashions. My parents prioritized other things financially and I’m thankful for that. But if I wanted to look good, I had to get creative. Thrifting for me started out of necessity, but has continued well past that point. I absolutely love the thrill of finding unique and high quality pieces at an incredible price. I have even furnished entire apartments out of Facebook Marketplace and thrift store finds and the majority of my wardrobe is secondhand by choice.
Today, clothes are built for a season, and not for a lifetime. The clothes I thrift tend to be vintage or from high end consignment stores with a higher level of craftsmanship. Yes, I do still shop at the H&M’s and Zara’s of the world, but I gravitate towards basics and solid colors that I can mix and match with my more eccentric thrifted pieces and I always take advantage of their holiday sales.
I genuinely find so much joy and excitement in the search. I have found Burberry purses shoved in the back of the accessories rack and a Christian Dior two piece suit in the blazer section. I’ve also found high quality new with tags cashmere sweaters for $4.00, a 16 book Harvard Classics collection, and random DVDs of my favorite childhood movies that are not available online. Each of these finds made me so excited to stumble upon them that day.
However, not all items are made alike. In fact, the majority of the items won’t be and it’s why most people get overwhelmed when they initially start thrifting. This is why it’s important to train your eye to know what to look for and where to search first. When thrifting, I tend to look for high quality fabrics, structured craftsmanship, and pristine condition. I can scan a rack without touching anything and I immediately know what is high quality and what isn’t. I’ll select the pieces that stand out or double-check the tags for information on the material breakdown, but 90% of the time, I’m right. However, I’ve also noted that there are certain pieces I’m more likely to find and will therefore pick up more often.
These are my personal favorites.
This is my secret to instantly dressing up an outfit or adding a pop of color without committing to anything over the top. I tend to stick to a neutral color palette when I get dressed and specifically love to dress in black and white, but I still like to have fun incorporating some accents here and there. A silk scarf is a luxurious touch to any handbag and can be tied loosely through the bag loop or secured in a floppy bow. It can also be worn tied in a variety of ways around the neck for that extra Parisian flair. Silk scarves make you feel instantly put together, I can’t describe it. My favorite silk scarf that I thrifted was one I picked up in Boston with the names of each US President embedded into the pattern. Today, these luxurious touches are seen less frequently, so wearing them is an instant standout.
This could be the large oversized leather totes that I use to carry my work items or the smaller, more formal beaded bags that I use for dinner outings and special dates. Don’t get me wrong, I love designer handbags and they’re absolutely stunning. But at the moment, I’m focusing on saving and investing my money and it’s not the time for me to splurge on a high-end item. I don’t feel like I’m missing out though because I’ve built a vast collection of fun and quirky handbags that match any occasion and that I genuinely always get compliments on. They’re usually always under $10.00 and I love the intricate beading and handles that different bags come with.
I’m more recently a belt person, but it’s only because I’ve thrifted some truly beautiful belts that instantly level up an outfit. Usually, thrifted belts are made out of a higher quality, as opposed to the synthetic leather commonly seen, and they include real leather or brass elements that give the piece a longer lifetime. I use them to cinch in flowy blouses and dresses for additional definition in the waist or to wrap up a loose jacket in the wintertime. I’ve even used chain belts as the ultimate statement necklace too!
Blazers / Jackets
This is my all time favorite thing to thrift. I have a massive collection of high quality jackets and since I live in the Midwest, they get year round use. I love how a beautiful coat instantly makes an outfit more put together and formal and it adds immediate drama to a look when draped over your shoulders. I especially tend to gravitate to long coats that hit below my hips, so they look even more put together than a short cropped jacket that is seen more frequently today.
In addition, thrifted coats are typically older and have much higher construction quality due to the craftsmanship standard of previous eras. This may be shown with real brass buttons, triple interior linings, wool or other high quality fabrics, and additional structure to the garment. Cheap blazers tend to hang off the body, whereas a high quality vintage one will immediately have structure and presence to it.
Thrifting wasn’t as trendy as it is now when I was growing up, but I’m a lifelong advocate for the frugal fashion one can find. I’d much rather spend my money on an investment that will reap additional returns or on a night out with friends or on a weekend vacation. If you’re confused on where to start looking when thrifting, these four areas are an incredible spot to try first. You’re more likely to find high quality items here and once you start training your eye to know what to look for, you won’t have to spend hours sifting through racks of clothing or accessories. You can simply scan and gravitate towards those stellar statement pieces.
For additional styling tips of some of my favorite thrifted pieces, check out my Reels on Instagram @theboletcollective.