An Odd Tip for Avoiding Impulse Buys Online

If you shop secondhand online, you’ve probably bought something you later regretted; perhaps the color wasn’t as it appeared on your monitor, or maybe the fit was off in a way that taking your measurements didn’t account for.

Sometimes the reason we regret an online purchase is simply that we shouldn’t have bought it at all – we didn’t need it or love it, but we were seduced by the thrill of having found something unique or nabbing a sought-after item at a great price. After all, when you can search thousands of people’s closets with just a few clicks, you’re presented with far more possibilities than provided at your average thrift store.

So this tip for avoiding bad secondhand buys online is a bit counterintuitive:

Ask yourself if you would buy this in a thrift store.

This seems illogical; after all, the reason you’re interested in that “perfect” striped shirt from Current/Elliott is because you’d likely never find it in your local thrift store – and if you did, you’d snap it up as an amazing find. And why else are you looking online if not to find a very specific piece or standout stuff that makes your local thrift scene look anemic?

But weirdly, it works – for me at least.

I think that’s because I’m actually used to finding great stuff at the thrift store – and used to saying “no” to it, because I know from experience that a great find isn’t really a great find if it’s not actually my style/doesn’t fit *just* right/is a weird color I never wear. Thrifting for me has become a rather choosy undertaking – I have high standards and know what I’m looking for, and if I don’t find it, I can leave emptyhanded and come back another time.

I also know from experience that items that seem like I’ll NEVER find them again often do crop up again at the thrift store – not always, but often. And that’s doubly true online where the inventory is greatly multiplied.

So when I’ve found the “perfect” pink trench coat on Poshmark, for a very reasonable price, I stop for a minute and imagine it on the racks at the thrift store. Would it be an immediate “nab this and try it on”? Or would it fall into “eh” territory, or “it would be great if it were just a little different” territory, or “I have too many pink coats already” territory? If so, I “like” it so I can come back to enjoy it later, and move on.

Everyone says a good rule for thrifting is to ask yourself if you would pay full price for an item with a cheap price tag on it – and that’s a good strategy. But I’ve found that the reverse thought experiment is true, too – would I spend $6 on this $45 eBay listing, given how often I’ve learned that spending $6 on something is no guarantee I’ll wear it?


How do you keep from making impulse buys online?

Thrifting in a Pandemic

There are, of course, so many more important issues to be working on right now than what’s in our closets. (Hello COVID-19, dismantling white supremacy, preserving GLBTQ rights, the national mental health crisis, voter suppression, natural disasters, and and and…)

But taking a page from JVN’s wise words about the new season of Queer Eye, maybe thrifting is a bit of a refuge in the strange and hard landscape we live in, a place where you can be creative and have fun and recharge your batteries so you can keep doing that crucial work for justice, sanity, and everyone’s well-being.

So if that’s the case for you… let’s talk thrifting in a pandemic.

Many thrift stores are open now – hurray! – but their fitting rooms aren’t. What’s a thrifter to do?

If you’ve been thrifting for awhile and you’ve gotten good at eyeballing fit, you’re in good shape. It’s such a helpful skill given that the size printed on a tag doesn’t really tell you much about how a piece of clothing will fit your body.

Here are all the things I’ve thrifted during this pandemic that I wasn’t able to try on but that fit beautifully anyway:

Why yes, that is a new with tags Ann Taylor blouse and some J. McLaughlin lemon yellow jeans that retail for close to $100.

But what if you haven’t honed that skill yet, or if you don’t feel comfortable shopping in person yet (or your local stores aren’t open)? Don’t worry – just get out your tape measure.

Knowing your measurements allows you to successfully buy secondhand in person and online. Simply get out your best-fitting shirt, pants, dress, skirt, etc., and measure the key bits: shoulders, bust, waist, hips, hem, inseam. Note these down on your phone or a piece of paper and head to the thrift store with a portable tape measure to measure promising clothes in the aisle – or head to your favorite online secondhand site and ask sellers to share measurements (if they aren’t already listed). Don’t feel like you’re inconveniencing a seller by asking for this – it’s basic groundwork sellers will do if they want people to buy their stuff, because sizes vary so much across brands (and even across styles and years within the same brand).


Are you thrifting in person? Only online? A mix? Can you eyeball a good fit, or is that something you’re still working on? Do you bring a tape measure with you to the thrift store?


Thrifting Baby Stuff

Contrary to popular belief, babies really don’t need that much – and what they do need can be thrifted!

Why thrift baby stuff? So many people donate baby goods (toys, gear, clothes) in great condition precisely because they either buy or receive so much baby accoutrement that they don’t end up using; their excess can be your gain! Plus, when you pay thrift prices, you can afford to experiment and see if your baby loves a bouncy swing/rock and play/swaddler/etc. without breaking the bank.

Tips for nabbing secondhand baby stuff

Where to look: Most thrift stores have kid/baby sections that will cover the bases. Baby/kid consignment stores are good for higher quality clothes and specialty items; the same applies to consignment events like Rhea Lana. Borrowing from friends or searching your local Freecycle/”Everything’s Free in [Insert Your Town Name Here]” group are also great options to try out gear with zero financial investment.

Don’t thrift too far ahead of time. It’s so tempting to stock up on everything baby-related that you “might need one day” and end up with your storage spaces spilling out with unused, bulky baby gear and clothes that just frustrate you on top of trying to soothe a crying baby while sleep deprived. The truth is, you just don’t know what your kid is going to want/need/like down the line because every baby is different. If you’re worrying you’ll never find a particular item in a thrift store again, I’d say don’t – because baby gear cycles through so quickly, it’s very, very likely you’ll see it again or be able to borrow from friends/find it secondhand.

I work particularly hard to avoid this with kids’ clothes so I don’t end up with a bunch of stuff that might not fit during the season it’s meant to be worn, might not be what the kid likes, might duplicate hand-me-downs/gifts we receive later on, etc. The exception with each of my kids so far has been one toddler shirt I just fell in love with when they were still babies/in utero – something that made me smile to think about what they would be like when they were old enough to wear it.

Cleaning: wash clothes, blankets etc. as you normally would before using. You can add white vinegar to the washing machine if you’re worried about sanitizing. Vinegar diluted with water is also a good way to wash baby furniture, toys, etc. made out of wood or plastic.

Here’s the baby gear we’ve thrifted – both for our first (now in preschool) and our current newborn:

Play mat

These are always hanging around the Goodwill. Just run the fabric bits through the washing machine and add on your own dangly toys (that’s Giardia on ours) to keep infants entertained. I find the over-arching arms a bit of a pain to store when not being used, though, so we might ditch this and just use one of the many blankets we’ve been given, since the current baby has a big sister to keep him entertained :)



We borrowed something similar from a friend the first time around and found it super handy for times when we needed to put the baby somewhere secure to do things with two hands (like, say, eat dinner). When I was newly pregnant with #2 I nabbed this replacement for $10 at a local thrift store. The music/vibrate feature on it is broken, but since the Spouse and I hate toys that make electronic noise, we were perfectly happy with it as-is.


Changing Table

With baby #1 we used an inflatable changing pad from IKEA on top of a dresser as our changing station. That dresser is now in the guest room; we often have family and friends staying with us and didn’t want to run in to our guests’ space every time baby #2 needed a diaper change. Luckily a parishioner spotted this made-in-Italy changing table with drawers and buckle-in straps on his neighbor’s curb and brought it over in the back of his truck – so while not technically thrifted, it’s a total secondhand win. I wiped it down with vinegar spray, put the same inflatable changing pad on top, stocked the drawers with diapers/onesies/blankets, and called it good. PS Hi baby hand!



We co-slept with our first kiddo, but since she’s now a preschooler who still climbs into our bed some nights, it felt safer to give kiddo #2 his own space so he didn’t get stepped on. When I saw this SwaddleMe By Your Side Sleeper at the thrift store for $15, I knew it would be the perfect way to keep the baby right next to me for middle-of-the-night feedings but still safe from the midnight rompings of his older sister. (Both our mattress and the bassinet are on the floor.) PS: that blankie was made by my aunt for my sister and me decades ago – talk about hand-me-downs!


Bottle dryer

The spouse makes fun of me for this one because with our last kid, I scoffed at these artificial grass-like bottle dryers as space-wasting one-use inventions of the baby industry, designed to sucker bleary-eyed parents out of their money with promises of making life with a baby bearable. (Yes, I was dramatic about it.) But after multiple years of playing Jenga with our older kid’s bottles and pump parts on our regular dish drying rack, and after swapping said drying rack for a simple dishcloth on the counter, this time around I was willing to pay $3 to thrift a designated spot for the bub’s bottles. We’ll see whether it was worth the investment (and additional counter space) once I start pumping and bottle feeding.



Our preschooler bought this cute little elephant rattle at Goodwill with her birthday money as a gift for her soon-to-be-born baby sibling. (Awwww.) She likes to entertain him with the rattle sound, but we’ve found an even better use for it: the trunk is his favorite boob substitute, even moreso than the bink he inherited from his older sister. That accounts for the milky stains on the elephant’s face – time for a wash cycle!

Do the same with toys as with clothes – resist the urge to thrift alllll the toys/games/puzzles at the thrift store until you know what your kid likes and they are old enough to use it. There will always be more Melissa and Doug at the thrift store, I promise.



Our baby clothes for #2 are a combination of items passed on from our older child and from friends, plus a few gifts. As he gets older, we’ll do what we did with his sister – thrift whatever we need to fill the holes in his hand-me-down wardrobe. This is the one “ahead of time” shirt I mentioned above; I spotted it in a Goodwill while I was pregnant and fell in love with the colors and (surprise surprise!) mix of visual patterns.


What have you thrifted or found secondhand for the small people in your life? Any tips to share?

Maternity Wardrobe without Breaking the Bank, Part 1

Hey all! So, I’m pregnant, due in December with Mini Thrifter #2:

We’re really excited, especially Mini Thrifter #1 who will get to be a big sister:

Thrifted shirt, natch.

When we started trying to conceive, I admit I was super psyched about the idea of thrifting a maternity wardrobe. It seemed like a great excuse to go thrift a whole bunch of clothes without having to think about whether I really needed them.

And then a funny thing happened – I suddenly had no desire to thrift. I mean, if a friend had suggested we hit up a Goodwill, I would not have said no – but I didn’t feel the need to initiate anything myself, and even inside a store, didn’t feel much desire to buy. Proof: the last time I went thrifting, all I grabbed was pants for my kid because I had neglected to bring anything but shorts for her on a trip to Maine. (Note: even if it’s the middle of summer, Maine always requires pants. And a sweatshirt. Always.)

In other words, I suddenly felt content with my closet. Hormones?

In part I just couldn’t be bothered, so I started looking for ways my current wardrobe could stretch (pun intended) to cover at least part of my maternity wardrobe. I already favor looser, fall-from-the-shoulders type silhouettes, so tops were pretty easy to find in my closet. And thanks to growing up in the 90s and feeling like waistbands anywhere near my actual waist are anathema, my shorts all button closer to the hips and a few are still doing maternity duty:

Pants only made it the first couple months; I am now done with them until the cold weather comes back. Dresses have picked up the slack and are doing a great job of keeping me cool on hot days:

I have one new (to me) piece which is not actually maternity but regular Uniqlo – a skirt with a nice wide elastic waistband, on hand for days when the shorts are too casual or don’t want to button:

And I have one new (to me) dress waiting in the wings for August-September when things start to get a little bigger around here:

Pockets! Thrifted J. Jill, found in the regular dress section.

I have no doubt I’ll need to thrift more for colder weather; I don’t have any pants left over from last time and the few maternity sweaters I needed in Atlanta are in eye-burning color combos like electric purple and chartreuse (what was I thinking??). I’ll keep you all up to date!


Tips for building a maternity wardrobe

Thrifting (or shopping secondhand in other ways) is a great way to save money on a wardrobe you won’t need forever. Here are some strategies to help you thrift maternity clothes:

  • Shop your closet – don’t assume all your current clothes won’t work, particularly if you favor roomier styles.
    • Pull out the pants/skirts/shorts that have always seemed a little loose or needed a belt – they’re your friend when your waistline starts to expand!
    • Dresses with any kind of stretch in the fabric are your friend – they can bridge from pre-pregnant through your first few months and give you time to scope out maternity clothes for when things really start popping.
    • Use the rubberband trick to keep regular pants in rotation longer.
  • Hit up maternity consignment stores. This is what I’ll do for my winter clothes because they have the advantage of a) a lot more selection in one place and b) more modern, up-to-date styles. If you don’t want to abandon skinny-cut jeans, for example, go consignment. All I ever see in thrift stores are bootcut styles. Pro tip: many children’s consignment stores have a maternity section that’s worth checking out.
  • Shop secondhand online. Same as consignment, you get a wealth of current style options. Downside: you can’t try on for size and often can’t return, so look for pieces like dresses and stretchy tees that can afford to give a little either way.
  • Look beyond the maternity rack at your local thrift store. You can easily find pregnancy-friendly tunic tops/dresses and skirts/pants with elasticated waistbands in the regular racks; empire waists are also great at adapting to pregnancy. Look in the PJ section for cute shorts for sleep or play, or fashionably oversized pj tops. Size up for regular shirts/sweaters, or snap up one of those normally frustrating pairs of jeans that leaves you swimming in the waist but fits everywhere else. Shoes that are wider than your normal size (particularly sandals, mules, clogs) are a cheap thrift score to give those expanding feet more room.

If you’ve thrifted for a maternity wardrobe, what are your strategies and tips?  Or any specific season in your life – when you’ll need clothes for a certain purpose but you know you won’t keep them forever?

Treating the Thrift Store Like Rent the Runway

One of the best parts about shopping at the thrift store is finding things you’d love to try out – new styles or colors you want to play with but that may not be permanent closet additions.

Like this houndstooth wool J. Crew sweater with bedazzled Peter Pan collar:

A post shared by Leah (@thriftshopchic) on

Fun to wear! Festive! A great fall color. But not really a hue I love or a level of flash I want to regularly sport. For $6, though, I was able to wear it through autumn and the holidays and not feel bad about donating it back to Goodwill after Christmas.

Paying thrift prices means you can essentially Rent the Runway for your regular wardrobe. (For those not familiar, Rent the Runway lets you rent designer clothes for a black tie or special event, then return them, all for a fraction of the retail price. They take care of cleaning the clothes for the next person.)

As someone who believes in an edited wardrobe, I advocate against willy-nilly thrifting things you won’t really wear just because the price is cheap. But if I know something will make me smile every time I put it on, even if I only wear it a half dozen times (or for one special event) – and if I know I’ll be happy to donate it afterwards – it’s worth the thrift.


If you don’t have trouble saying goodbye to a piece after a handful of wears, this approach will let you have fun with your wardrobe and keep you from holding on to any self-imposed wardrobe rules too tightly. If you tend towards a capsule wardrobe ethos, “renting” or “borrowing” select items from the thrift store can also spice up an otherwise static collection of clothes.

It’s a closet catch and release without the environmental impact of fast fashion shopping – or the impact of dry cleaning that Rent the Runway stuff!

What’s your approach to short-term adds to your closet? Is it a fun way to add variety, or does it encourage you to buy stuff you don’t need and won’t wear?

Recent Online Thrift Scores + Online Thrifting Tips

Remember how I swore online thrifting was not for me, but in the same post admitted I had just ordered a pair of pants off of Poshmark? Well, they arrived, along with two other online finds – and unlike the first two times I tried online thrifting (here and here), these fit perfectly and I’m happy with my purchases.

What changed?

I got smarter. Here are my three finds along with some tips for acing online thrifting.

1. Real life references. You’re much closer to guaranteed success if you’re looking for a version of something you’ve already tried on, whether it’s something you spotted at the thrift store or something in your own closet that you’re looking to replace or get in another color.

Last time I went to Sister Thrift, I happened to try on a pair of cream-colored Rock and Republic jeans and fell in love. They were soft like butter on my skin, just the right off-white color for fall and winter, and had enough heft to keep my legs warm in the cold, cold weather. And they were a great skinny fit that would offer another option to my roomier cream corduroys.

The only problem? They were too tight. I could button them just fine, but they squeezed in all the wrong places – I’m not a fan of spray-on legs or pulling in the crotch:

A near miss. (Or a near hit, as Victor Borge would say.)

See that teeny, tiny bit of distressing on the pocket? That was another reason I liked these pants – the distress gave them some textural interest and made me feel like a micro-badass. (“Micro” is how you describe distressing so innocuous that no one at work will notice.)

Since I knew what size was just a smidge too small, and since they fit great length- and waist-wise, I went a-hunting online for the next size up. I figured that the stretch in the fabric would make up for any extra room in the waist. Lo and behold,on my first visit to Poshmark I found a pair in my desired size, and after sitting on it for several days (I was a bit gunshy after my previous failures), I bought ’em:

Hello, lovelies.

One thing I like about Poshmark is the option to make an offer. If something has been up for more than a few days, chances are the seller will be open to negotiating on price a bit. In response to your offer, they can either counteroffer or ignore it; if ignored, the offer expires in 24 hours so you’re not on the hook 6 weeks later for something you no longer want. Thanks to my painfully polite Midwestern upbringing, I’m not much of a bargainer, but the face-saving outs built into this system let you avoid all the awkwardness of telling somebody you’ll pay them less than they’re asking. And if they want to be firm on price, they just won’t offer the “make me an offer” option.

Amateur tip: Make an offer that’s the asking price minus shipping. If the seller accepts, you essentially get free shipping while not gouging their profit too much. After all, this person is making available to you something you either haven’t been able to find in your local thrift store or don’t want to take the time to look for. Throw them a bone.

That being said, online prices mean you’re paying 5 times or more what you’d pay in a thrift store, and there are no returns, so…


2. Only buy what you know you’ll wear, both in terms of fit and style. This means I stay away from certain categories of clothing unless I’ve tried on the exact same item IRL but need a different color or better condition. (Blazers, I’m looking at you – I’ve almost pulled the trigger on a couple of beauties but it’s just too hard to know how a new-to-me blazer will fit in the chest, shoulders, etc.)  I’d also skip pants unless (like above) it’s a brand and fit I know works for me. Just too much room for error in waist size and rise.

Something more forgiving, though, like an open cardigan, is a far less risky proposition. I learned a season or two ago that I am not a cardigan lightweight; no matter how fetching the pattern, I can’t stand layers getting scrunched up under thin, tight-sleeved cardis, plus I can never find a way to button them (or not?) that doesn’t look twee. So I opted for a giant abominable snowman of an oversized cardigan – the kind that fits well in the shoulders but goes down to the hips and is substantial enough to really keep you toasty – and have never looked back. Happily, their roominess also means you can fudge a little when guesstimating re: the fit of an online find.

I currently have one such cardigan in my closet…

Such great colors.

…but went looking for a second, both for variety and for wash days. Because sometimes it’s so dang cold that you are wearing a ginormous cardigan even while you sleep (hello New Hampshire nights).

I knew I wanted one with some good drapery (ha) to keep the silhouette interesting, and maybe some leather trim detail, for color contrast and, again, visual interest. I spent more time scrolling through Poshmark than I would like to admit, and came up with a lusciously thick, taupey-grey knit with caramel leather trim by Abercrombie & Fitch:


The colors are similar to the ones in my other cardigan, which meant it would go with everything that played well with my existing cardigan; and the waterfall instead of shawl collar plus the solid-color-with-trim  instead of a knit pattern would keep it from looking too samey.

And we know how I feel about zipper details:

Who knew you could be so chic, so subtle, so high quality, A&F? You appear to no longer be the debaucherous, obnoxiously overbranded retailer of the malls of my youth.

This cardigan was available in multiple sizes from different sellers, so I got on A&F’s website to check their sizing. I also read every description sellers had posted, and several remarked on how thick and luxurious the knit felt. That’s what I wanted – not some flimsy coverup, but a workhorse that would keep me WARM. My research made me pretty sure I’d love it, and I do.

Amateur tip: for the love of all that is holy, use filters. You get much better results if you use a site’s filters instead of just searching for key words. Not to mention – you know how eBay, ThredUp, and for Pete’s sake even Google’s shopping search results eventually come to an end? Without enough filters, Poshmark’s algorithms will just keep. bringing. you. listings until your eyeballs are ready to pop out of your head. It’s a nefarious plot to fry your brain into spending inordinate amounts of time (and money) on their site, and the only way around it is to tick every box you can find in an attempt to narrow down your search. Sometimes this means doing a search multiple times using different variables, but trust me, your brain will thank you.


3. Shop for specific holes in your closet. The world of online secondhand shopping has exploded in the last few years; there are literally tens of thousands of items for you to peruse on any given site (Poshmark, ThredUp, ReStitch, eBay, Schoola, etc.). It’s also easy to find quality, even designer brands that may be harder to find in a brick-and-mortar thrift store, which means that if you don’t maintain focus, you can end up spending a lot more than you planned on “incredible” deals. (That’s in quotation marks because it’s only incredible if it will really pull its weight in your wardrobe.)

The story of one such wardrobe hole: on the first chilly weekend of fall, I saw a family of three at our holiday fair all sporting plaid flannel shirts.  “It’s the uniform here,” they enthused – “a necessity!” I knew plaid flannel would be right at home in my casual work setting and that I would get a lot of use out of a heavier button down, both over and under other layers.

And I knew which brands to shop for quality. This family was, of course, all wearing L.L. Bean, because – New England. But I found a gorgeous colorway by Lands’ End on Poshmark, and figured that as a native Midwesterner I could sport the Wisconsin-based version of L.L. Bean with integrity:

So. Dang. Snuggly.

Look at those COLORS! Delicious.  I may have worn it two days in a row:

Duck boots + cable knit sweater + plaid flannel; the New Englander transformation is complete.


Last but not least:

4. Learn to sit with your finds before you buy. It’s easy to feel anxious based on how many people have “liked” or are “watching” a particular posting and then get a bad case of trigger finger. But that’s how you end up with pieces you regret.  When you find something you’re tempted to buy right away, use the “like” feature or simply bookmark the page and come back to it after a few days.  If it’s still there and you’re still excited about it, you’ll know it’s not just FOMO clouding your judgment. If it’s not there, fear not; most things you’ll find on these sites are mainstream enough that they’ll resurface at some point, maybe even in a better size or a color you like more.


What tips and lessons learned do you have to share about online thrifting?  What items would you never buy without first trying on?

Thrift Style for Older Women – Part 2

In Part 1 we talked about what to do before you thrift to increase your chances of success – and to make it an enjoyable experience! Now it’s time for the The Main Event – finding great clothes at the thrift store.

  • Concern yourself first and foremost with quality. Nothing makes me sadder than grown women (of any age) wearing shoddy, shlumpy stuff when there’s great, affordable stuff to be found secondhand!
    A big benefit of shopping pre-owned clothes is getting to see whether clothes have worn well or are starting to show their poor construction. Avoid pilling, holes, snags, flimsy/super wrinkly fabric, and items that look misshapen on the hanger (particularly blazers, where poor construction is often obvious right on the rack). Natural fabrics (wool/silk/linen/cotton) are always a good bet, although you still need to check cotton and wool for pilling, which means the fibers used in making the fabric’s yarn were not very long. A little pilling = time to get out your sweater comb/pumice/shaver. A lot = time to put it back on the rack. If you’re not very familiar with how natural or high quality fabrics feel, just check tags on every garment that piques your interest until you start to associate a particular feel with a particular fabric.

    Pro tip: if a clothing label has poor grammar/punctuation, a font that looks like it came off your 1994 Mac LC2, or a font that looks like a 6th grader doodled it in their diary, quality is likely to be poor.

If it looks like these, it’s likely a SKIP:
alfie rose
Source for all three pics
If you find this font RUN AWAY:
  • Reader Vildy commented last week with some great ideas on how to combat bad lighting that can disguise poor quality or the true color of a piece: “The church thrifts that are my favorite have dim yellowed lighting so bad that what you think is brown turns out to be purple” while “some larger stores like Goodwill have glaring unnatural lighting.”  “Take it over to a window” for natural light, she suggests – and take “a small hand mirror [to] check a color against [your] complexion.”  Reading glasses or a pocket flashlight are great “to see size and fabric composition” on peskily small tags.
  • Stuck with wonky “funhouse mirrors“?  Vildy uses that hand mirror to see the rear view.  I’d also suggest stepping out of the dressing room to check things out in a better mirror (sometimes located outside the dressing room) or to ask a fellow thrifter for an unbiased opinion.  Nothing like thrifting camaraderie to help you out!
  • Here’s another tip from Vildy, especially for smaller, independently-owned thrift stores: “Often [store] volunteers miss out on easily repairable damages [due to] that low light coupled with sometimes advanced age – like missing buttons which you’d have to pay to replace or a torn lining inside that you’d have to sew up or moth holes (in plush garments like camel’s hair coats you can tease the pile back through with a needle).”  Many times they “will gladly reduce the price or give it to you for free. The flip side of that is the volunteers are only human and they often have notions of what is much more valuable (‘it came from my daughter and she only buys good things’). I never argue against their preconceived ideas and they give me deals elsewhere.”

Now that we’ve talked quality, on to some other parameters:

  • Unless your body still has its pre-adolescent proportions, skip items sized with odd numbers; they’re designed for the “junior miss” demographic that most of us left behind somewhere in highschool. Even if you are the same weight/height as in high school, odd-number cuts are far less likely to accommodate curves, hips, and breasts.
  • Decide what equals “too short” and avoid it. Refrains I often read on style blogs and comment sections: “I’m done with ‘low-rise’ and ‘crop tops'” or “Why are all the dresses cut up to here??” It goes without saying that what qualifies as “too short” is completely subjective; but if the fabric doesn’t cover what you want covered, move on – even if it’s perfect in every other way. You’ll forever be tugging at/hitching up something, and you deserve clothes that don’t need your attention every 5 minutes.
  • Same with sheer. If you are into camisoles, a sheer layer adds interest via texture, pattern, or color. But if camis aren’t your cup of tea and you don’t particularly want to show off your undergarments, skip it. Read why I gave up sheer here and how 81-year-old blogger Dorrie Jacobson rocks it here.
  • Figure out a color palette. Contrary to popular style blog advice, this does not have to mean picking 3 neutrals and 2 “accent colors” and sticking to them religiously (although if that works for you, great!). The point is to choose a range of colors, big or small, that can mostly be worn together so that you don’t end up with what I call a wardrobe exponent – essentially one-off items that don’t match much of what you already have and therefore require you to buy several other pieces to get workable outfits.
    My best advice for how to create a palette? Learn about color analysis and how saturation, brightness, etc. work. (This post demonstrates how I walk a friend through determining which clothes in her closet hit the same color family. Spoiler: she crafts a wardrobe out of a LOT of different colors and almost no neutrals.) If you are into seasonal analysis (aka the four/twelve seasons) or want to know what colors will make your skin tone sing, google “personal color analysis.” The field has changed a lot since Color Me Beautiful came out; even if you think you know your season it’s worth revisiting, particularly because our season can change as we age.
  • Look for brands that will deliver good quality and good style (most of the time – every brand slips up or has seasons where quality goes south). I keep a list of decent brands I regularly find at the thrift store, but here’s a short list of higher quality brands that cater to grown women, in no particular order: Vince Camuto – Talbots – Banana Republic – Land’s End – Chico’s – Ralph Lauren – NYxDJ – New York & Co. – Willie Smith – Elie Tahari – Arthur S. Levine – Loft – Ann Taylor – Anne Klein.

And remember that your likelihood of success increases if you thrift often.

Thanks, Vildy, for your great suggestions; readers, scroll down to add your own!  Next week I’ll share style and thrift blogs from older women, so keep your eyes peeled.

Thrifting for Kids

Note: none of the pictures loaded in the previously published version of this post, and a few still aren’t coming up.  But now you can get a much better idea what I was talking about re: clothes!  Apologies for the hiccup. 
In the “What would you like to see me cover in a post?” section of my recent reader survey, someone wrote:

“Do you thrift your kid’s wardrobe? My wardrobe is almost entirely thrifted (except underwear and shoes- hard to fit). I’ve got an 18 month old and an almost 4 year old, who, aside from socks and underwear, dress entirely in hand me downs and stuff from Once Upon a Child [kids’ consignment store]. But we’ve now moved 40 minutes from the nearest Once Upon a Child, and I notice that I can’t just roll up to the Goodwill and quickly find a whole season’s worth of clothes, because the selection is strange and there’s zero organization. I would love to hear how you go about clothing your child.”

This question resonated with several of you who commented that you’d like to read about some strategies for thrifting children’s clothing and/or see an update on my kid’s current wardrobe. (You can find the last time I covered it – last winter – here.)

First up: strategies for finding clothing your kid/s in secondhand clothes

General strategies (all applicable to grown up thrifting as well!):

  • Try to stick with one color palette so most/all of your stuff is mix and match.  This palette may be pre-chosen or may develop out of the things you piece together in store.  If you accidentally end up with an “outlier” that doesn’t play well with everything else, remember: jeans/jeggings go with everything.  But:
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative!  YOU get to determine what “goes” together, so don’t restrict yourself to rules about certain colors or prints not going together – if you or your kid love it together, it’s fair game.
    We aimed for legging-like solid-color pants this time around (see below) to keep legs warm and not clash too hard with her printed tops.  We ended up with some heart print pants and some striped pants, though – which turned out to be fun to mix in with patterned tops.  In a pinch I also ended up with slightly baggier pants that look a little funny paired with some of the bigger tops. But the essential I care about – that they not ride up so she doesn’t get cold – was covered by the elasticated ankle.  Done!
  • Also try to stick with a silhouette or two so that none of your finds become standalones that can only be worn with one other item.  Button down shirts probably will look funny with sweatpants so stock up on jeans/chinos…skirts/dresses in cooler weather mean lots of tights…active kids who love skirts might go with leggings or leggings shorts underneath…you get the picture.
    When my kid was tiny I stuck with onesies (with pants pulled up over them as necessary) since standalone shirts were prone to riding up on her wriggly body, then switched to shirt and pants/shorts when she was walking to make diapering easier.
  • Know your kid’s measurements (at least by eyeball).  Brands all have different sizing standards, so only your familiarity with your kid’s frame can tell you whether an item is likely to be too small/short/long/wide.  This is especially handy for when your kid isn’t with you to try things on/there is no place to try things on/online shopping.
  • Create a small (2-3 item) “fancy” capsule for special events – worship services, school performances, weddings/funerals, etc.  This keeps special stuff clean(er) and gives you flexibility to do another silhouette (e.g. my kid rarely wears dresses in ordinary life but has 2-3 she likes to wear on special occasions).
  • Decide your strategy for thrifting ahead.
    Because I live in an area with multiple stellar Goodwills and have limited storage space (and even limited-er willpower), I try NOT to buy items that will fit my kid “someday.”  I stumbled upon this strategy when I realized that I could not predict the rate at which my infant/toddler would grow and thus would only be guesstimating what size she needed for what length/weight of clothes.
    Your mileage may vary – your kids grow more predictably, you have more storage space, you have fewer opportunities to thrift and thus stock up when you find good stuff, you have multiple kids coming along so even if it doesn’t fit kid A in winter it might fit kid B in winter…etc.
  • If you have older kids, particularly ones who care about their clothing, have them help you identify which colors/silhouettes they like before you shop – or better yet, take them with you!

Tips specific to various secondhand contexts:

  • Consignment stores: Our reader question mentioned Once Upon a Child
  • Thrift stores
  • Hand me downs
  • Online 
  • Gifts – both retail and secondhand


And now, my kid’s current wardrobe.

You should know that my mom has saved a BUNCH of my/my sister’s baby clothes.  You should also know that she has one grandchild (my kid), and that one of the ways she loves on her granddaughter is buying her clothes.  This means we start off most seasons with some hand-me-downs and 3-4 new outfits and new pjs (see below for pics).

This means I end up with a sort of mini-capsule at the beginning of the season in a matching(ish) color palette that doesn’t make me want to keel over from pink overload (thanks Mom), to which I then thrifted mostly complementary clothes to get us to a serviceable wardrobe size.  (My mom came thrifting with me over Thanksgiving to get in on the fun! Pics below.)


Here’s what my mom dug out of storage for us for winter – 

Blue zip sweater

red cardigan

My grandmother made these and I love dressing my child in them. Grandmother died before her great grandchild was born but it feels like she is hugging my little girl (and thus me) every time I pull her arms through the sleeves and zip or button her up. /tears/  Plus who else has a rad zip sweater that goes on backwards so your kid’s face is always framed by that sweet little hood that never falls down?


Here’s what my mom gave us (new) for winter:

Owl top:

teal top, jeggings

pink/blue stripe top

polka dot top

Heart pants

The light purple leggings (in the pic with the red sweater) and jeggings ended up going home with a friend by accident when I threw them into a load of her clothes she was washing at our house (bah, broken washing machines).  We’ll get them back this weekend!

It’s been about a month since those pants stowed away in our friend’s laundry.  At the beginning we got along alright without ’em because it was still warm (thank you Atlanta summers extending into November).   But in anticipation of cooler weather, this kerfluffle quickly got me out and thrifting for some new (to us) pants – plus a few extra shirts, because a pink short-sleeved T Rex on the Golden Gate bridge shirt can only be worn under a red cardigan so many times.


Here’s what I thrifted, round 1:

Navy & white striped sweatpant-style pants:

Jeggings (SO many jeggings to choose from) – basically the same as above leggings.

Floral baseball top – *I* would wear this in a big person size.  Great mix of chic + sporty:

Heart stripe top:
Yes this is all pink, but the election had just happened and I felt like sending a message to the world about LOVE.  Also, it’s a 5T (my kid wears a 2T) but looked smallish.  It fits in the body and I cuff the sleeves – remember, it pays to know your kid’s frame!

REI purple puffy coat:
(The hat, shoes, and jeggings are also thrifted)

I KNOW.  This thing looks brand spankin’ new and was $6.  Perfect for colder days here and for our annual wintry trek to the wilds of New England.  I picked up purple mittens at the grocery store and we have hand-me-down hats; I will ask my mother-in-law to keep an eye out for a secondhand snowsuit and we’ll be all set.  Take THAT, Winter!

Her other thrifted winter shoes are these:

If you’re counting, we’re now at 3 pairs of pants (soon to be back up to 5) and 5 long sleeved tops. This is juuuuuuust enough to get us through a week of daycare plus 1 weekend day of “I don’t care that my kid is wearing a shirt that already has paint on it.”  In other words, since I am lazy and try to only do laundry on the weekends, this is not quite enough.

Enter my mother, come to town for Thanksgiving, and game for a trip to Goodwill!

What we thrifted, Round 2:

Dino top:
My kid loves dinos and I love claiming non-traditionally “girl” colors and motifs for my kid via her clothing.  I don’t think she cares yet.

Glitter top:

Sorry the pic isn’t better – it says something about Glitter EVERYWHERE.  Too twee?  I was on the fence about the message but I love the sports jersey look and the color scheme.  It crosses traditionally “boy” colors/design with a traditionally “girl” love of glitter in a way that means any gender could wear it.  Because really, what little kid doesn’t love something designed to be strewn everywhere with glorious abandon so that your parent can’t ever get it out of your hair/off the floor/combed out of the cat?


Then I broke my own rule and let my mom thrift two shortsleeve shirts that will (theoretically) work for my kid next summer: a lion-with-sunglasses top (fun and cute), and a tow truck top (she loves tow trucks and looks great in blue).  My mom is a bad influence.


This month my mom sent us this for Christmas, which we have used as our church/holiday party outfit ad nauseum:


So that completes my kid’s current capsule.

The orange shirt is an outlier, colorwise, but goes just fine with jeggings and can work with the stripe pants and the heart pants (first time out she wore it with the hearts).  The purple pants are also a bit of a color outlier but still go (to my eyes) with the polka dot top, the teal top, the heart top, and in a pinch, the blue/pink stripe top.


TIP: save (or buy) a pair of pants or two that you’ve thought about donating – too worn/too baggy/too short – and take ’em to daycare/preschool/babysitter in case of potty training accidents.


How do you all thrift for the little people in your life?  Scroll down to comment!


PS My sister sent this yesterday for Christmas, so now we have another shirt.  Thanks Seester!


Reader Survey + Thrift Tips

I’ve whipped up a quick survey geared towards helping me understand more of what you want to read here at Thriftshop Chic.  It’s under 10 questions and, depending on how loquacious you want to be, it could easily take you under 2 minutes.

Click here if you’d like to take it – I’d be supremely grateful!

And as a thank you, a quick appetizer of thrifting tips to chew on as you head into the week:

  • Look outside the plus-sized section for plus-size clothes.  They’re often mixed in with everything else.
  • Same goes for maternity clothes – often thrift store employees don’t recognize maternity brands to sort them out.
  • Line for the dressing room?  Wear a close-fitting tank top or undershirt to be able to try on tops in public (thanks Nicole for that tip!)
  • Trying on a dress but don’t want to take your shoes, socks, and pants off again?  Just unbutton and drop trou like you’re using the toilet, then try the dress on over your head.  If your imagination can’t remove the pants from the ensuing visual, well, just go ahead and take ’em off.
  • If you have the luxury of a fitting room with more than one hook, set up a quick system to help you sort your finds: NOs on one hook, YESes on another hook, and MAYBEs on a third hook (or on the YES hook if you only have two hooks).  Another option, particularly if you only have one hook?  As you hang your tryons back on the hook, face all your YESes forward and your NOs backwards, tucking each NO at the back of the batch.

One more link to the survey, if you’re so inclined.

Happy Halloween!  (If my toddler wanted anything to do with putting on a costume, I would’ve gone as Shere Khan with a side of skulls.  You?)


To Stock Up – Or Not?

This post accidentally published yesterday; if you saw it yesterday, please enjoy the same text but with photos!

My thrifting list got something crossed off it recently when I found a replacement for my too-short winter white turtleneck.

Well, technically, I found four replacements.

I’d been looking for a few months (thrifting in the off-season to give myself time to find juuuuust the right piece) and ended up finding the perfect cream turtleneck(s) by Coldwater Creek.  The fit is not too tight (and also not too big – Coldwater Creek runs large), the length will prevent chilly skin exposure, and this shade of white will warm me up instead of washing me out:

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on


The fold lines were still in these babies, so I figured maybe Coldwater Creek had ended up with some leftover stock which they donated to Goodwill.  (I’ve seen this often at Goodwills in Florida and New Hampshire; not as common in Georgia.)

But there were no tags…so maybe someone was really neurotic and bought 4 to stock up and then NEVER. USED. THEM.

Which brings me to my dilemma: to stock up, or not?

I mean, 4 practically brand new tops in a style and color I love and know I will use, at a fraction of their original price.  Tempting.

Having multiples of a staple item means less wear on each individual garment, and it means you always have backups if one gets lost/torn/shrunk/stained.  (Hello child who loves to eat frozen berries and then wipe that cute little face on me.)


But how many backups do you really need?

How many resources do they tie up?  (Not as many if you’re thrifting, but still about $24 for the 4 of these.)

How many other people could use these if I left some on the racks?

And how much do backups promote a fear- or scarcity-based outlook on life?


This last question makes me think of a few illustrations from Marie Kondo‘s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the woman who hoarded 20,000 Q-tips just in case, or the man who stockpiled 60 toothbrushes because they were a good deal.

We’re guilty of this last one, though thankfully on a smaller scale.  Costco toothbrush 10-packs, anyone?  The cost-per-toothbrush was cheap and it’s annoying to find yourself without a toothbrush because your toddler is always carrying them off somewhere…but really, getting a toothbrush from the dentist every 6 months suffices.  (Plus just 1-2 extra per year if we’re sticking with the ADA guidelines.)  Or a miswak stick.

Because what happens when we stock up based on good deals and scarcity is we end up with a toothbrush holder that looks like this:


And we’re STILL using old, busted toothbrushes, in part because it’s much harder to keep track of all those extras and whether they’re in a usable state.  (I recently evacuated half the sock population from the spouse’s drawer for the same reason – JUST. TOO. MANY to keep clean/folded/sorted/screened for holes.)


Look, it’s not pathological to have one backup of a frequently-used item; it’s practical. But what if you had that one backup for every item in your closet?  You’d own DOUBLE the clothes.

You got room in your closet for that?  I sure don’t.

Too many backups also limits your creativity.  I’ve seen doubles and triples of this staple summer shirt in the thrift stores but I refrain from buying, because even though I love that top, there will come a time when I’m ready for something fresh.  If, when that shirt dies, I have two or three more just like it waiting in the wings, the sunk cost will discourage me from evaluating whether it’s still “me” and what else might fit into that slot instead.

And fear not – with mass production these days and, therefore, mass donation, it’s easier than you might assume to find an exact replacement when something you’re not ready to let go bites the dust.  You may even have better luck than with retail, where specific styles are often produced for just one season, then discontinued.


So how many of the four turtlenecks did I end up buying?


Two.  Ha.

I told myself it’s suuuuuch a neutral staple that I’ll never fall out of love with it…but after my proposal to wear nothing but turtlenecks this coming winter, it’s entirely possible I’ll be sick of them by 2017.

On the other hand, there’s always the danger of being drawn on with permanent marker by the small person who lives with me.


Still a work in progress over here, folks.  :)


What’s your take on stocking up?  Do you find you go through garments so quickly you need to replace them?  Or does it clutter up your closet to have extras?  Scroll down to comment!