Thrifting for Trends

My  shopping ban showed me about my motivations for spending, the value of saving, and how to make $10 go a looooong way. But one truly unexpected ban lesson was this: Thrifting stores are a FANTASTIC place to shop for the current season’s hottest trends. Seems ass-backwards, no? Why would a place peddling secondhand junk be a goldmine for of-the-moment pieces?

Because, friends, nothing is truly new. Designers may present fresh mixtures of colors or pairings of fabrics, and a new shoe shape emerges every so often … but most of the “hot new trends” are only trendy because someone of import SAYS they are. And the bald fact is that someone of import probably said the same thing about 15 years ago.

Everything old is new again. Just think about some of the hippest styles for Spring 2009:

Pegged, pleated slacks: I can tell you right now that the VAST majority of slacks in thrift stores are both pleated and tapered. Ripe for the pegging.

Stacks of big bangles: Snap ‘em up for $0.50 apiece!

Maxi dresses: Anyone heard of the 1970s? Hells, anyone heard of the last two springs? Floor-length summer dresses are plentiful at many thrift emporia.

Destroyed boyfriend jeans: You could pay $300 for a meticulously ruined pair … or $3 for a pair you can ruin in your own special way. Or even $2 for a pre-ruined pair in a size up!

Neon: Helloooooo ’80s! Neon pieces have been languishing unloved in secondhand stores worldwide, just waiting for a resurgence of interest in the 1980s. And now it has finally arrived.

Florals: If you’ve got a pair of scissors and a sewing machine, you can work wonders on the endless floral dresses that crowd the thrift store racks. Blouses and skirts abound, too, in my experience.

Hot pink: Weeellll, any COLOR-based trend will be easy thrift-pickings.

Rompers and jumpsuits: Maybe a bit harder to find than some of the others, but since this is a tricky trend that is likely to fade fast, you’re better off searching around for a cheapie than laying down your dough for something spendy.

I could go on, but I think you get my drift. Whatever the mags are deeming must-haves this season have been thusly deemed in the past, loved for a few sweet months, and abandoned. Take advantage of the cycles of style and thrift for your trendy accents.

Now, we all have our thrifting limits and mine are hoisery and hair/head stuff. I won’t be nabbing my cropped leggings or feather fascinators from ARC’s Value Village. Many people also feel squeamish about thrifting shoes … and although I have no qualms myself, I’ve never successfully thrifted trendy, of-the-moment shoes. Aside from mainstays that cycle in and out – combat boots, platform pumps, and similar – you’re unlikely to find the season’s hottest footwear lining the racks at Salvos.

But if you invest some time and energy in scouring the racks of your local Goodwills, Salvation Armies, and the like, you are almost certain to come up with armloads of trendy pieces for pennies. And while it might be faster to hit Target or Wal-Mart to procure such goodies, thrifting them means you’re giving your dollars to a good cause, helping recycle discarded goods, AND getting a version of a trendy item that no one else within a 100-mile radius is likely to own. You are a donor, a champion of the environment, and a true style original all at once.


Do you thrift for trends, dear readers? Is this all old news? Or, if you’re a thrift fanatic but don’t give a hoot about what’s “hot” and “fresh,” how do your beloved thrift stores serve you best? Are there any other unexpected areas in which thrift stores excel that you’d care to share?

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