How to become a secondhand superstar
According to SAITSA publications manager Heather Setka, students’ wardrobes are one of the first things to be bumped off their lists of priorities once school resumes. To help address this issue, Setka co-organized SAITSA’s first Clothing Swap with SAITSA office manager Natasha Lundrigan, which was held in Macdonald Hall on Sept. 26. The swap was described as a “recycling initiative” by Setka, who has been secondhand shopping for about 10 years.
In case you didn’t get a chance to peruse the racks at the Clothing Swap – or your interest in thrifting has since been piqued – The Weal has compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you rummage through thrift stores’ racks like a seasoned pro.
Shopping with only a rough idea of what you want to find is a golden rule for Jesse Desmarais, a television editor who shops almost exclusively at secondhand stores such as Value Village. Desmarais advised that secondhand shoppers avoid shopping with a specific idea of what they want their items to look like because an open mind when thrifting can often lead to pleasant and unforeseen surprises.
“A lot of the time, you’ll find stuff that’s different that you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” he said. “Don’t go in there with your mind already made up.”
When in doubt, try it on
While retail shopping offers items in a plethora of sizes for you to choose from, thrifting can become a bit of a challenge once you realize that most of the items on the racks do not make repeat appearances throughout the store. For this reason, Setka advised that you try on any item that catches your eye, regardless of how ugly it may appear initially.
”It may not look good on the rack, but it may surprise you when you put it on,” she said.
Though it may be a contradiction to the mantra of always trying on thrift store items, shopping with a discerning eye is key to scoring secondhand success. Remember that thrift store finds are seldom brand new, and any pieces that catch your eye should be given a once-over and closely scrutinized. Setka suggested that garments should be inspected for missing buttons, malfunctioning zippers and stains. Though some stores may have great return policies, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Bev Jamieson, owner of Urban Thrift, suggested that novice secondhand shoppers set out to score their thrifted finds only when they have time to spare. Because sifting through the mounds of available merchandise can be time-consuming, Jamieson advised that shoppers peruse the racks when time is on their side, so as to avoid any undue frustrations.
“Our store has about 20,000 items and a store like Value Village is around 60 times the size of our store, so it can be easy for shoppers to feel overwhelmed,” he said. “Give it time and be patient because you never know what you’ll find, and it’s definitely worth the extra time and effort.”
Bring a friend
Above all else, Jamieson stressed that thrifting should be an enjoyable experience rather than a daunting chore. Bringing a friend along to provide valuable input on prospective purchases can help to make shopping into an adventure, regardless of how much time is spent in any given store. Entertainment aside, bringing a pal may also be helpful when faced with the obstacle of toting your bags of purchases home.