Thrifting 101: Look Cute Without Going Broke

By Miriam Avila
Buffalo Exchange, Somerville. Photo via flickr (Scoboco).
It’s the beginning of a new semester, and that means spending your weight in gold (or all that cash you got over the holidays) on new books, notebooks, and other necessities.  Although all those gift cards and crisp $20 dollar bills might seem like a lot to spend over winter break, they can disappear fairly quickly once we get back to school. The prices at the bookstore leave little left over for a new kick-ass wardrobe to start off the semester.  Instead, take this as an opportunity to be creative and learn to show off your style without emptying out your pockets.  There are countless ways to do this, but why not start with the cheap college kids standby – thrift stores.
Thrift stores are one of the best ways to feel like you’re getting a new wardrobe without spending the money for one.  Thrift shopping can be a little overwhelming at first, and unlike H&M, there’s no guarantee that everything is cute or even wearable, but the fun comes in finding the hidden treasure among the not-so-much.  Plus, you’ll get tons of hipster cred for thrift store shopping, and here at Emerson, you can never have too much.
So if you’re a thrifting virgin or you just want to get more out of your next trip, here are a few things to remember.
Know your location: There are tons of different thrift stores out there, ranging from the high-end vintage with their carefully curated stock to the stores that require lots of digging to find something worth buying. If well-organized, higher quality stores are more your thing go to places like Buffalo Exchange, Poor Little Rich Girl, and Second Time around which are all fairly selective about what clothes they bring in and make sure all clothing is in good condition. However, they all subsequently charge more. Stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Savers are all less expensive but require a little more skillful hunting.
Keep an open mind: When shopping secondhand, it’s unlikely that you will find exactly what you’re looking for, but that’s part of the adventure. Go into it with a general idea of what you want.  Chunky sweaters, black heels, or a dressy shirt are all easy enough to find. Anything more specific will just set yourself up for disappointment.
Get creative: If you’re particularly crafty (or if you own the emergency sewing kit your mom sent back to school with you) the options for re-using thrifted clothes are endless. Hem a grandma-ish dress or cut it into a skirt, make an infinity scarf out of an old men’s sweater, or just find something with an interesting pattern and use the fabric for something else.
But be selective: That doesn’t mean you should be less strict on the quality of the clothes.  One person’s trash is sometimes is sometimes not your treasure.  If there are any stains, tears, or the clothes are obviously well-worn, I wouldn’t suggest spending your money.  You don’t want to deal with the damage if it isn’t easily fixable.  Also, ask yourself if you’ll actually wear what you’re buying.  Just because the price is cheap doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good buy for you.  Be reasonable!
A few other general things to remember:
·      Don’t give up just because your first try didn’t work out.  Inventory in thrift stores comes and goes fairly quickly, so you never know what you will find the next time around.
·      Look to see when stores have sales or if they give student discounts.  Goodwill in particular has some really great deals.  Every Sunday and Monday clothes with a certain color tag are 50% off.  You can find the calendar with all their sale days here.
·      Bring friends. Thrifting is so much more fun when you get to make Cosby show jokes to them while sifting through the sweater section.  (Bill Cosby, quite possibly, had the best sweater wardrobe in the history of TV.  I secretly would like to own all of them).  Also, your friends won’t hesitate to tell you if something should be left on the rack or if it’s worth buying.
·      Don’t forget to check out the non-clothes parts of the store.  Nothing beats mugs and books for less than a dollar!
Now that you know what to do, go to it and wear your old/new clothes with pride!
If you’re looking for a place to go, here are some of my favorites:
In Allston/Brighton:
Goodwill
965 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA 02215
(near Boston University)
In Davis Square:
Buffalo Exchange
238 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144
Goodwill
230 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144
Between Kendall Square/Inman Square:
Poor Little Rich Girl
121 Hampshire St.
Cambridge, MA 02139
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