A thrift store pitfall is any clothing item that for some compelling reason calls your name but which, after the first trial wear, will molder away in the back of your closet/bureau, never to see the light of day until you have mercy on it and finally donate it back to the same store from whence it came.
How do you avoid thrift pitfalls? By listening to what I like to call your Style Conscience.
It has a sort of minty, magical gleam
As explained here, your style conscience is that little voice inside that tells you how the garment will really be used once in your possession. When properly attended to, it can talk sense into the swooniest of illogical thrifting lusts.
–Fit. Thrift Lust: “This is a little tight, but if I haven’t eaten lunch or I lose a few pounds it’ll work.”
Style Conscience: “This won’t actually be comfortable for more than 10 minutes.”
Find something else that loves your body just as it is.
–Style. Thrift Lust: “What a delicious blue-gray color, it brings out my eyes in this incredible way! Bell sleeves aren’t really my thing but maybe I could wear it under a jacket, or DIY cut them off…”
Style Conscience: “Unless you magically develop sewing skills in the next 10 minutes, No.”
Clothing is meant to be worn, not covered up because you only like 2/3 of your shirt! If you’re like me and can’t even remember how to properly thread a Singer, say no to garments whose style is just too far off base. If you are a sewing ninja, however, get amongst it!
–Trends. Thrift Lust: “High-waisted jeans are in this year, and holy cow I found some in the thrift store already! Let’s get ’em!”
Style Conscience: “You are a child of the 90s when low-rise was queen. This season’s high-waistedness feels about as comfortable to you as that time you were an extra in Mona Lisa Smile and had to wear a girdle.”*
Find something truer to your own sense of comfort.
–Color. Thrift Lust: “I LOVE chartreuse. I want that acidy lemon-lime sweater, yummy!”
Style Conscience: “But you hate how it washes you out and you (after a long, drawn-out fight with me) just got rid of two chartreuse tops you loved to hate to wear.”
Find that color you love but that doesn’t love you in pants or a skirt (away from face-wash-out territory) or paint your bathroom with it, but don’t buy it in items where you won’t be able to unabashedly appreciate it.
Thrift Lust: “Everyone says I look great in that slightly mauvey version of coral–what IS that color called, by the way? Rotting Salmon? Anyway I should buy that, I’ll get tons of compliments.”
Style Conscience: “Who cares? You hate Rotting Salmon, put it back.”
Don’t give in to vanity–how you feel about what you see in the mirror takes priority over everyone else’s flattery.
–Quality. Thrift Lust: “That is the CUTEST dress and I love that cut.”
Style Conscience: “You can tell just by touching it that that’s super cheap fabric and half-assed sewing. You’ll wear it once and it’ll start falling apart.”
Just Say No to poor quality–it always shows, and usually sooner rather than later.
–Repairs/alterations. Thrift Lust: “It’s just a TINY hole/two inches too long on those pants, no one will notice!”
Style Conscience: “You still don’t have sewing skills. Okay, if you need to replace a button to make this work (and the extra button is still attached to that tag inside), or hem tape, then you can get it. Otherwise NO.”
Unless you and your tailor are besties and the repair or alteration is not very costly, you are likely to end up stuck with an unworn garment or one that suddenly went from costing you $3.50 to $35. Yipes.
If all this sounds like it requires more willpower than you currently possess, fear not–listening to your Style Conscience gets easier with time, your confidence building with each pitfall avoided. Just as you should congratulate yourself on those (potentially disappointing) occasions where you leave the thrift shop emptyhanded, you should pat yourself on the back every time you refuse to be seduced by a sub-par garment, no matter how swoon-worthy. Follow your instincts and soon you’ll be thrifting like a pro.**
**Whoa–what if this were a thing? Pro thriftshopping?? Goodbye day job…