First of all, what is the difference between thrifting and second-hand/pre-loved?
When something is sold in a second hand or consignment shop, online or in-store, it’s usually being sold on behalf of a client. The shop has taken on to sell the item for a commission and the original owner is expecting a certain return on the sale.
This is why pre-loved or second-hand clothing usually costs quite a lot more than clothing that is thrifted.
So what is thrifting?
Basically, it’s clothes that have been donated by the owner to a charity. They are not expecting any money from the sale and the profit will go to the charity themselves. Since there isn’t an expectation to make a certain amount, this will keep the price lower.
Of course, if you have a lovely item and know it’s worth a bit of money, you will most likely want something for it. So when you shop second-hand you kind of get served the good stuff on a plate. It will be a lot cheaper than buying it new, but it can still be pretty pricey.
When you go thrifting, it more hit and miss. You can find something absolutely amazing, or you might spend hours and still walk away empty-handed. Some see it as a negative, to me, it’s part of the fun!
There are different items I look for when I go thrifting compared to when I go to a charity shop.
With the latter I can be a little bit lazier, usually, the items will be whole, clean and authenticated. When I thrift I have to be a lot more diligent at really making sure I have examined any clothing properly before I buy it. ( Old sweat stains from the 70s anyone?)
I also have to be prepared for a small input, to get a great output. Like the light blue Eric Bompard cashmere jumper I’m wearing in these photos. I found it for £30, and it’s advertised on their website for £220 – score!
However, it did have a small hole under the arm.
So I got myself a £1 sewing kit from Sainsbury’s and sewed it back up on the bus on my way home. Simples!
As long as we are aware that thrifted clothing takes a bit more time to find and might have a fixable (or non-fixable… watch out for those!) flaw. Then it’s a great way of getting some really amazing items for our timeless sustainable capsule wardrobe.
These are the 5 items I look for when I go thrifting;
Once you know what cashmere feels like on your skin, you don’t even need to actually look at the clothing to find it. I just let my hand run across all the jumpers and stop when I find one that feels right.
There are loads of great cashmere pieces in charity shops and you would miss a trick if you didn’t check the jumper section.
One thing that tends to keep it’s quality really well is jeans. I go for the ones with less stretch since they are more likely to be in better condition. I have found some really amazing Levi’s 501 originals in charity shops. And if the waist is good, but not the length or the style, I cut them off and use them as jeans shorts in the summer.
Most leather pieces will age really well. So it doesn’t matter if they have been used loads already. If anything, they will probably look better for it. However, make sure the leather isn’t dry or crusty and that there are no holes in the seams. Leather pieces are harder to mend. They are also more expensive to have washed, so check linings for sweat stains or general bad smells and don’t buy if it’s broken or if it has a funky odor.
- Silk and satins
Similarly to cashmere, it’s pretty easy, once you get a hang of it, to judge the quality of an item just by touching it. And if you are not sure, check if it has a label. Just like with leather you want to make sure it’s clean, in one piece and not smelly. You can dry-clean delicate fabrics like these, but I wouldn’t risk it when it comes to smells and stains.
Many items in silks or satins tend to be in a classic cut. So I look for dresses, blouses, shirts, and skirts.
- Designer bags
My friend Josefina found a Gucci bag and a Chanel bag for about £5 each in one week when she went thrifting not long ago. She is literally the thrifting queen! Yes, they both needed a bit of leather care and the Chanel bag was missing a tassle. But for £5 you can afford to sort that out.You might wonder why someone would donate bags of that caliber and truth is that not many people always know what it is they have got. The day I die, I will itemize what I have in my closet, so my kids know what to sell and what to give away, it might sound morbid, but a lot of really good finds are there because relatives haven’t done their homework.
Also, there are loads of fakes around in charity shops. So make sure you do your homework!
If you haven’t visited your local charity shop yet. I really suggest you do. After the whole Marie Kondo trend, they are basically overflowing. Lots of people don’t have the patience or time to list things on eBay or sell trough charity shops, and that is when charities and us thrifters win.
So is thrifting dirty and only for those with no money?
I would say that I’m a pretty classy lady. I make a good living, have some great pieces in my wardrobe and can afford to buy most of these items new. However, I’m way too frugal, environmentally conscious and generally clever for that. Why buy something new full price when I can get the exact same thing cheaper and at the same time give an item of clothing a longer life span? Especially when I’m building my own timeless capsule wardrobe.
So are you inspired by my items I look for when I go thrifting? Are you going to give it a go yourself? Or are you already a thrifting queen (or king)?
Photos by Roz Alcazar
Below are some of my favorite items from Oxfam online (affiliate links);