Come Thrifting With Me!
Check out my plus size thrift haul – my first ever!
So January is a no-buy. No clothes. No makeup. No personal care, no homewares, no nothing. With one notable exception – in-person thrifting doesn’t count. And that’s deliberate.
You see, I hate thrifting. I get enormously grossed out at thrift stores. The smell, the mess, the whole idea of it gives me the wiggins. Rifling through other people’s old clothes seems like a good way to get lice or some kind of contagious skin disorder. I mean, I actually do know that’s not a logical attitude, but I am a persnickety lady and I hate dirt and disorder and, heck, I am even typing this out eyebrows elevated in horror.
My mom (because she is in all things my polar opposite) lives for thrifting. She will frequently buy items to wear one time and donate back, like Goodwill is her personal wardrobe subscription service. When we’re together she sometimes drags me to thrift stores and invariably they make my skin crawl. Now, I frequently donate clothing to Goodwill, and I am a nice clean person, so I can assume that there must be other nice clean people out there donating nice, clean, perfectly usable clothing items. But still.
I didn’t always feel this way. When I was a teenager I loved to thrift. Back in my punk-rock days my favorite thrift score was a beautiful longline black winter coat that I wore practically everywhere, and it never occured to me that there was anything unclean about it. I am not sure when thrifting went from “awesome” to “ick” in my head, or exactly why. I don’t have any problem buying secondhand from online “vintage” retailers, and that’s just thrifted stuff that someone else has curated, really. So I don’t like thrifting.
…but since everyone keeps going on about
- how bad clothing production is for the environment
- how great a value secondhand clothing is
- how everyone KonMari-ing their homes has led to a glut in charitable donations
…I decided that I would try this one more time, now with a much stronger idea of what I am looking for. Since I have completely revamped my wardrobe in the last year towards a more capsule-like collection, I would be going in with a different mindset—not aimlessly pawing through everything in the place with no idea what I wanted, and quickly getting overwhelmed, but making a precise, surgical strike, and bailing if there was nothing to suit me.
As I reminder, here’s my all-neutral, all the time wardrobe color palette. I was looking for classic pieces in these colors, hopefully in natural fabrics. The pieces needed to fit seamlessly into my existing wardrobe and, naturally, fit me and be in good repair.
I had extremely low hopes, but in the end I made out like the proverbial bandit.
I visited a county Goodwill this time (I recommend this over the city stores, at least here in STL.) It was clean, organized, and the thrift-store smell was not too overwhelming. I started tentatively searching through the racks with my gloves on, but once I saw that the clothing looked mostly clean and in good repair I did relent and take them off. The items in this store were arranged by gender, then by type, then by color. I thought this was a good method rather than organizing by size, because it has to be easier and quicker on the staff, and I personally shop by color, so it made for a quicker way for me to look through the racks. There was a mix of items, naturally, some very old, some more recent. Lots of bargain brands, and a few more high-end pieces. I was surprised by the amount of things that could be considered on-trend (several nice animal print pieces, if you’re a size small.) and the overall non-skeevy-ness of the store. Each rack had a sign on the end that told you the price of the items on that rack, and everything was color coded so that the store could run periodic sales (the day I visited all yellow-tag items were half off, for instance.) I did pick up a few things that ended up stained or torn, but those were the rare exception. It looked as if someone had really taken the time to ensure that the items that made it to the floor were at least worth selling. So here’s what I got!
My Plus Size Thrift Haul
For reference, I am 5’3″ and I wear anything from a size 14 to a 20, depending on the brand.
Structure Linen Blazer – $8.50
My first score was this 100% linen blazer from men’s clothing store Structure. Structure is a now-defunct men’s clothing brand that used to live under the The Limited umbrella. (They eventually re-branded their men’s offering to Express Men.) In the 90s it was very popular in malls, and my brother really liked their clothing. I am not sure what era this blazer is from (I suspect 90s because of how slouchy the fit is) but it was in like-new condition. In fact the pockets were still sewn shut, which indicates to me that it was never, or rarely, worn. Fully lined, with so many delicious inside pockets (men get all the best pockets) this is going to be so perfect and easy in the spring to throw over sundresses or a t-shirt and jeans. A lined linen blazer for $8.50. Literally what.
Cotton Camel Turtleneck –
The next item I picked up was this brand-new, camel-colored 100% cotton turtleneck from the brand Basic Edition (I’d never heard of them, but from an online search it seems that they are sold at Sears and Kmart. Talk about your defunct brands.)
This item was brand new with tags, and you all know how I feel about A) Turtlenecks and B) This color, so this was a no-brainer for me. Normally $3.50, women’s long-sleeved shirts were on sale 50% off, so I paid $1.75. This is not a luxury brand, by any stretch, but it feels like a really nice quality fabric, and a new wardrobe staple like a turtleneck in this color for $1.75 is a steal.
Women’s Polka-Dot Blouse
The next item I found was a women’s 3/4 sleeve polka dot blouse from the brand White Stag. Apparently this is a brand that was founded in 1906, and sold to Wal-Mart in 2003. I am not sure if my item pre or post-dates Wal-Mart (I hope pre, even though Wal-Mart doesn’t get my money in any case.) This is a super-cute blouse in a poly/spandex mix, crinkle-type fabric. Label says women’s size 16/18. I think this is adorable, and I loved the buttons (I remembered to check that none were missing and they were all there.)
It surprises me that this may have been a Wal-Mart brand, and I am glad I didn’t know that when I picked it up, because I would have snobbishly put it back down just because Wal-Mart is
and then I would have missed out on something cute.
J. Jill Cotton Blazer $3.50
The last item I picked up is this lovely J. Jill cotton blazer in a beautiful charcoal gray. J. Jill is one of those brands that I always browse but never buy, mostly because of their price point—blazers there typically start at $129.00. When I saw this brand label I thought it was too good to be true, but nope, I really did score! This was in the plus-size section (the previous two items were in the straight sizes, but I shopped both) and is a little big for me in a 2x, but with this cut and fabric I think a slightly oversized fit is just fine. And for $3.50 I can afford some tailoring if necessary. Like the men’s blazer, the pockets were still sewn shut on this, and it looked barely, if ever, worn.
The Wrap Up
My total bill for the day was $18.50 (I also bought a $2.00 picture frame.) The woman who checked me out was semi-apologetic at the astronomical cost of the men’s blazer (“This is $8.50 you know.”) but I was able to cough up the cash without protest. I came home and gave everything a good wash/Dryel (Both blazers looked recently cleaned so I just freshened them up. I hope I don’t catch a thing.)
I really can’t believe how well I did, and how excited I am about the pieces I bought. I can’t wait to style these pieces into my existing wardrobe, because they’re going to go with SO MUCH that I already have. Here are a few ideas I have, made using the Finery website.
Tell me more!
So what about you? Are you a persnickety second-hand snob like me, or a long time thrift store aficionado? Let me know in the comments – and let me know if you’d like to see a video with me styling these pieces!