Part 2: How To Thrift Well

In Part 1, I committed to using the VICENZI blog to challenge myths and overexposed ideas for sustainability within fashion, to show there is not one *right* approach. Part 2 will cover shopping secondhand, the most sustainable choice when it comes to resource conservation and minimizing waste.

How To Thrift Well

Some friends and I had the pleasure of hosting Good Stuff’s first workshop, How To Thrift Well, in Seaport District NYC earlier in June. We covered our learned and passed-down secrets to building the closet of your dreams, by finding the best vintage, reclaimed, and “remakeable” items to fit your budget and style. You can read more about the purpose on the event page linked previously. Here’s a recap of the discussion, which took new directions based on the attendees’ interesting questions, along with next steps for applying these ideas for your lifestyle.

  • Making your list – thrift shopping is less overwhelming and anxiety-inducing when you go in with a plan or a vision or a singular goal. Make a mood board (or a few) on Pinterest. Keep a running wishlist of dream items in your phone notes or email draft. Take an inventory of your closet – what do you really need (or desperately want) right now? Decide the rules for your day or for each shop – maybe you only want to browse the pants rack, or try on items in shades of red. Adding constraints makes the chaos seem manageable.

  • Fit & Alterations – We talked about how sizing has changed over the years (look up “vanity sizing”) and unfortunately we cannot rely on numbers on tags to tell us if something will fit and flatter. Trying things on is the most efficient way to know for sure, while seeing how an items hangs and feel the fabric against your skin as well. You can almost always enlist a tailor to help you size an item down, and some sleeves or hemlines or even busts have 0.5-1” of room to let out, to size up a smidge. Tailored garments (think blazers or coats with shoulder pads, fully lined) are more complicated to alter and can cost upwards of $80-100 to open and close the lining for a fix. (Hack: If an imperfection like a rip is on the inside lining, you might consider using fabric patching or leaving it as is, depending on the severity of the rip. It will hardly be seen anyway!)

  • Quality – what should we look for in materials and craftsmanship to tell if it’s a well-made piece? What prices should we expect? 
    • Hold sweaters up to the light to look for moth holes (if you buy something with a moth hole, put it in the freezer or steam it immediately when you get home. Repair the hole using darning or visible mending stitching techniques.

  • Refashioning / Remaking – how might we re-envision outdated styles to become something totally new and unique?! Could we mash two garments together to make a brand new one?! (Spoiler alert – yes)

  • Clotheskeeping / Garment Care — read the labels. Use cold water to keep colors and shape, hang or lay flat to dry. No need to wash after every wear. If something seems complicated to clean, consider this in the purchase decision. Is it realistic that you can maintain it given your time and budget constraints?

  • Where to shop – here is a MAP of our favorite insider places for shopping vintage and resale in person.

Further reading:

5 Tips for Creating a Wardrobe That Works for You by Kathy Kearns of THIRD LAW, our workshop co-host

By allison v.

Designer and DIY'er in Detroit by way of NYC

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