Strategies for Thrifting Trends

The Friday re-blog a few weeks ago about thrifting runway trends got me thinking about thrifting trends in general.

In some ways, I like to think of thrifting as a second-run theater where all the movies show up 2 months late but the tickets are $1.50 so you don’t mind waiting; plus 2 months is enough time to hear from other moviegoers whether that new blockbuster is really worth your money. (This is how I ended up seeing Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part 1 only last week.)

So it goes with clothing trends–there’s a definite delay in their arrival at your local thrift shop, but you get them for a lot cheaper AND there’s a buffer between you and any short-lived, ill-considered trends (personally I’m thinking of all things neon).  You have some time to let new trends, colors, etc. marinate and decide whether they really fit your style, instead of just succumbing to fashion peer pressure–“everybody’s wearing military parkas, so I must, too!”

Military parkas--a trend I've studiously avoided
Military parkas–a trend I’ve studiously avoided

Full disclosure: I tend to be a late adopter for the reasons stated above plus the fact that sometimes it just takes a while for something to grow on me (slim-cut pants come to mind…), so I’m biased.  You may not be as patient, or you may be more adventurous or spontaneous, or you may just want to be able to do the fashion equivalent of talking about The Martian in the staff lunchroom the Monday after it comes out.  No judgment here!

So if you want to enjoy trends but also shop secondhand, how quickly do trends cycle through the buy-donate-resell cycle–that is, when can you expect to find them in thrift stores?  Well, it varies.  A really popular trend can take awhile to show up on thrift racks because EVERYBODY is buying them and actually wearing them, and the greater the trend’s staying power, the less likely folks will want to donate their own pair (I’m looking at you again, slim-cut pants and skinny jeans–took forEVER for them to show up in thrift stores).  On the other hand, the more popular a certain style, the greater circulation and the greater chance you’ll see it come through eventually, and probably not before the trend has completely jumped the shark.  But it’s a guessing game.

My advice to navigating the trend/thrift rollercoaster?  First, since (almost) everything old is new again, look for donations from a few years (or decades) ago and repurpose those vintage items for today.  I guarantee you that chambray existed before J. Crew picked it up, and flared/wide-leg pants have definitely cycled in and out a few times just since I’ve been paying attention to clothes–which is not counting the bell bottoms of the 60s and 70s.  Thrift stores can be the best places to find those newly-repopularized items because it’s the first place they go after they’ve been evicted from someone’s grandma’s closet or childhood bedroom.  Maxi dresses, cross-body handbags, cashmere sweaters, sequins, velvet, palazzo pants, silk scarves, riding boots…this ain’t their first rodeo.

Second, if you’ve discerned what your style is really about and what colors/cuts/fabrics/detailing are your jam, you can determine, with a certain amount of cool-headedness, whether a trend is something you even care about at all.  If this year’s Pantone color doesn’t do it for you, but you’d buy one of everything in 2013’s color Emerald if given the chance, then avoid this year’s trend and snatch up all the donated Emerald merchandise you can find.  True style is knowing what’s you and wearing it with confidence; if you truly love something but it’s no longer “on trend,” it’ll stick in your wardrobe and become your signature; when people see you wearing it, they won’t think it’s behind the times but rather see it as part of your look.

 

What trends have you skipped–or wished you’d skipped?  What trends have you embraced because you know you’ll love them forever?  Or do you embrace new fashions, using thrifting to add some inexpensive trendiness to your closet?

How to Winterize Your Wardrobe

Way back when, my friend Sheena asked for a post about how to winterize your wardrobe.  Many of you are heading from the pleasant, crisp, colorful wonderland of Fall into the time of nasty winds, chilling rain, and grey skies I like to affectionately call November.  And some of you Northerners have already seen snow (perish the thought!).  So it’s high time to tackle her question.

WINTERIZING your WARDROBE
Ya dig the slightly 70s Winter Wonderland vibe?

When you are creating a capsule wardrobe (read: curating your closet so you own only things you love and wear), one of the benefits is having fewer clothes to clean/maintain/fold/store.  To double down on that benefit, it makes a lot of sense to bridge some of your warmer weather clothes into fall and winter.  Fewer overall items to care for, and fewer $$ out the door!  Read on for my tips on how to make it happen.
Continue reading “How to Winterize Your Wardrobe”

Sunk Costs – or How My Spouse Uses Baseball to Understand Thrifting

In honor of the World Series…Congratulations Royals!!!

Ours is a baseball family–our kid’s first baseball game was at 6 weeks (unless you count the one in utero…) and we all own hats and t-shirts of our respective teams.  We follow the Red Sox and the Cubs (gluttons for punishment, anyone?) and enjoy games live, on tv, on the radio, on our phones…there’s something special about the steady rhythm of pitches, at bats, and innings punctuated by the excitement of incredible sporting moments and the magic of beating long odds (see: Red Sox 2004, 2007, 2013 and Cubbies…well, next year??  Wanh wannnnnh).

What does this have to do with thrifting?  Normally nothing (other than that my and my kid’s Red Sox outfits were both thrifted.  My spouse is very jealous of this).

But a few weeks ago, while watching the Cubs face off against the Cards, the Spouse was talking about the sunk costs of investing in certain players and then feeling like you have to hold on to them even if they’re not doing well, because you already spent a bazillion dollars on their contract.  Rick Porcello’s 4-year, $82.5 million contract extension—partly responsible for Jon Lester now playing for the Cubs—comes to mind.

RICK-PORCELLO

Thank you internets.

 

And then he said, “You should write a post about sunk costs.  With thrifting.”  When I asked for more, he said, “You know, if I bought a $7 pair of pants and they’re not quite right for me, I’ll still hold onto them because I paid $7 for them.”  He then reflected that this might be a principle that applies more concretely to shopping in general (e.g. if you spent $70 on some pants you’d be MUCH more likely not to give them away…), but since we mostly thrift in our house, $7 was his frame of reference.

If you’ve already invested money in something—whether $7, $70, or $170—you’ll be tempted to hold on to that item because it makes you feel like your money is still WORTH something.  But here’s the truth: if ya ain’t wearin’ it, it’s got zero value for ya anyway!

It’s all another way of saying:

Don’t throw good closet space after bad.

List an item you don’t love but are hanging on to for sunk-cost reasons on eBay, ThredUp, or at a consignment store to recover part of that value. Or, use it to create new emotional value for yourself by passing it to a friend whom you know will love it or donating it so that someone else can love it.  Marie Kondo‘s thoughts on this are very helpful in this process: thank a piece for teaching you something (I don’t actually wear that color/style/type of garment; I already have/am enough; I live a different lifestyle than the one in my head…), then free it to go make another thrifter happy.

And now to decide if Lester’s subpar post-season performance is a sunk cost we’re willing to absorb or if it’s time to let him go…ahh, baseball…

 

Have you ever had trouble letting go of something that wasn’t right for you because you paid so much for it?  Does this way of thinking about clothing investments help free you up to let things go?  Scroll down to comment!

 

Closet Anxiety: When Enough is Enough

 

You may recall my recent wedding trip, also known as 48 Hours with no “Luggage.”  What I didn’t share was the process of trying to find a dress to wear.

It’s a problem a lot of people face: you have a wedding/interview/funeral/other special event to attend, something that seems to call for an outfit above and beyond what’s already in your closet.  So you go looking for *just* the right suit, dress, shoes, tie…that special, unique ensemble that says “This event is important to me!  This is different!”  And surely, you think, none of the things you wear on a daily basis could convey that sense of gravitas, right?

My dear friend Sarah (check out her blog here) emailed me recently sharing her experience.  Nod along if you’ve been here—or if reading about bagels makes you hungry:

So I am out of town for a board meeting today (more on that over bagels). Traveled yesterday, meeting today, return tomorrow. And for some reason, I just started freaking out about what I was going to wear. I mean, total and complete freak out. As if my bursting at the seams closet didn’t have a single thing in it.

So, as I work next door to the mall, I went to the mall. I tried on several dresses and pairs of pants and they were all horrible. And I needed to leave because, after 4:10, the traffic is a nightmare, so I left, empty handed.

UGH.  I can just feel the stress sweating off her palms and onto her phone keypad as she wrote this.  I was in a similar situation feeling like I just HAD to find the right wedding guest dress, because the bride in question is incredibly chic and I wanted to rise to the occasion in order to honor her with my own (attempted) chicness.

Plus, it would be the PERFECT occasion to really dress up and experiment outside my normal sartorial style footprint—at $5-7 per dress, you can afford to do that at a thrift store, even if you only wear the dress once and donate it right back.

Continue reading “Closet Anxiety: When Enough is Enough”

Friday Reblog: What’s Wrong with “The Look for Less”

Alison Gary over at Wardrobe Oxygen posted this week about why she doesn’t do “The Look for Less” features on her blog—i.e., taking an outfit that’s on the pricier side and finding low-cost versions of all the pieces involved.  She goes into quality vs. quantity and the differences between higher end and cheap clothing that can make quality stuff worth buying, particularly manufacturing practices that drop the price but significantly affect quality.

A fascinating read, plus it’ll give you yet another reason to try thrifting—you can often get the good stuff for peanuts, and you can definitely get the cheap stuff for peanuts but your $$ go to the cause the thrift store supports, not companies with dodgy labor/manufacturing practices.

Read it here.

Happy Friday, Thrifters!

Ask Leah: Thrifting Workout Gear & Underwear?

Ask me a question! (6)

A few weeks ago reader Whitney asked on my Facebook page:

I’m wondering- what do you do about workout clothes/underwear? I spend a lot of time in both and while I don’t like buying brand new from a lot of the companies, those are items that-when used- just have that “ick” factor I can’t get past.

“Ick” factor is an understandable worry for many folks who have thought about thrifting, whether workout/underclothing or not.  The mantra I share with them is one I borrowed from Bea of Zero Waste Home:

A washed secondhand undergarment is cleaner than a new one from a department store.

Click here or here for some really GROSS/toxic reasons why this is true.  (If you are a true germophobe, the “ick” factor of new clothes may permanently scar you, so it might be best to take my word for it.) Continue reading “Ask Leah: Thrifting Workout Gear & Underwear?”

What I Wore: Turtleneck Weather

This weekend it truly felt like fall.  We had a “cold” front come through—“cold” meaning lows in the 40s and highs in the mid-60s Fahrenheit—so for church on Sunday I busted out the tweed, the turtleneck, the long cardigan, and the fall accessories.  Oh, and socks with my dress shoes—it’s the first time it hasn’t felt sweaty to wear the two together!

I give you our pumpkin, Mr. Morris:IMG_2451

Continue reading “What I Wore: Turtleneck Weather”

Friday Reblog: Thrifting Runway Fashions

Click here for a reblog from Already Pretty via Radical Redneck Diva on thrifting runway trends. It’s the “everything old is new again” approach: if you want a shirt with a pussycat bow (an item of apparel with feminist roots, it turns out!), you best believe they’ll be some originals from the 70s lurking in your local thrift store.  Or a shirt with sleeves too long—yes that’s a thing—easy to find at a thrift store.  Or a jumpsuit, vintage LizSport has got you covered:

$3.99 vintage #lizsport # jumpsuit… This may come home with me. #thriftfinds #lastchancechamblee

A photo posted by LeahLW (@thriftshopchic) on

 

Something not mentioned in the original post: if you are thrifting a current trend with an item more than a season or two old, it’s likely the trend will look, well, not completely current; each time a “classic” look comes around, designers put a fresh spin on it by updating details small and large—lines, colors, an exterior zipper or see-through panel, fabric, etc.
Make your revamped style look “on purpose” by pairing it with other modern-looking pieces that showcase the item without dating the entire outfit—e.g. a pussycat bow blouse with some slim jeans and ankle booties; a well-cut blazer over a retro jumpsuit.  Alternately, if you score a truly vintage garment, you can play up the retro vibe with some funky accessories that hearken back to the same era as your piece—e.g. knee-high boots with your mini dress or high-waisted flares with that pussycat bow.  Either way, give it some thought, and give it a try!

 

What trends have you thrifted?  What made the look work—or crash and burn?  Scroll down to tell us!