It is such a TREAT to welcome Rita from This (Sorta) Old Life to SortaCrunchy today! I am a HUGE (!) fan of Rita's work on her blog, and I know so many of you will be inspired by what she is sharing today:
Like many, I once had a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear.
And then, flirting with minimalism, I decided to participate in Project 333, a minimalist clothing experiment. In the process of living with only 33 items of clothing for 3 months (yes! only 33! for 3 whole months!), I came to realize why I so often had nothing to wear:
- Many things didn’t fit well.
- Many things didn’t look good.
- Many things didn’t feel good.
When I made a pile of all the things that fell into one of those three categories, I saw—suddenly, painfully—that I’d wasted lots and lots of money on “bargains.”
Things that didn’t last.
Things that didn’t love my body.
Things that were almost—but not quite—right.
So, I gave all those not-right things away (because another thing I learned is that almost right just isn't right) and began a whole new relationship with my closet. It would be awesome if I had the resources to give up the idea of bargain-hunting altogether--if I could just buy a few high-quality pieces that fit, feel, and look fabulous. Unfortunately, even with fewer items, I can’t afford to do that. I now shop for quality bargains, which I most often find not in department stores, but in thrift stores--and I want to share with you a few things I've learned about how to find what I think is the good stuff.
Tip #1: Don't waste time looking at the wrong stuff (knits, pants, cotton sweaters).
Not all thrift store clothing is equal. I’m not talking about brands; I’m talking about the kinds of clothing items I shop for in a thrift store. T-shirts and knits are generally a no-go for me (unless the tees are old-school cool and look better faded). Same with many pants. It might just be me, but I’ve never had much luck with finding pants that fit right and don’t look dated. Sweaters are OK, but only a high-quality sweater, usually in wool or cashmere. Cotton sweaters tend to be stretched and faded.
Tip #2: Focus on the good stuff (shoes, jackets, skirts).
I’ve had great luck with finding shoes at thrift stores. I look for high-quality brands with little wear. I just found these Sofft flats for $25.00 (retail is generally closer to $100). I wear these Berne Mev Mary Janes all the time. And my best shoe deal ever--these Doc Martens boots which technically belong to my daughter, but spend more time on my feet than hers. At $60, they were a steal. Jackets are another thrift-store item that wears well. All of my favorite ones are from thrift stores. I wear this Levi's denim jacket ($10) all the time, which was already nicely broken in for me. This Eddie Bauer suede was nearly-brand-new when I picked it up for $25 four years ago. I still wear it all the time. And I love this bright green cord jacket—it’s perfect for both spring and fall. Maybe I'm just a sucker for corduroy, but this white jacket is also a favorite. It's not a high-end piece, but it's got nice details I really like--such as these buttons: Jackets and skirts are sometimes items, but skirts are a frequent purchase. Maybe it’s just that skirts are more forgiving than pants, but I’m always finding skirts that fit well and have lots of wear and style left in them. Simple cotton skirts like these--which are usually about $5 where I live (Portland)--have become my summer uniform. I also find some dressier skirts from time to time. This green one is a bit more expensive—I think it was $18—but it has gorgeous embroidery and sequins. Last spring I found this fully-lined linen BCBG Max Azria skirt for $25, which is great for days I need to be a little more polished for work:
Tip #3: Supplement your quality thrifted items with a few high-quality new pieces.
Because I don’t need a lot of clothing and I can find many of my wardrobe staples through thrifting, I can afford to splurge on a few key pieces that I buy new. Like these Born boots--which I actually got on sale, but would pay every penny of full price for because I wear (and love) them so much. Jeans that fit are another thing I'll pay retail for. It might just be me, but I've had no luck with buying thrift store jeans. When I'm getting much of my wardrobe for less than $20 and I don't need many pairs of pants (I usually have just 3 in any season), I can afford to spend more for jeans that fit my post-babies, post-40 body. (The days when I could look good in just about anything are long gone!)
Tip #4: Fill in the rest with inexpensive pieces.
For the rest (those t-shirts and cotton sweaters I don’t buy at thrift stores), I fill in with inexpensive pieces. I’ve found that the expensive ones really don’t last longer than the cheap ones. They all last about a season and then they're done.
Tip #5: Have fun mixing it all up.
Most days, I’m wearing a mix of thrifted items with favorites. Here are a few of my most-worn outfits this spring: Rita and her life/blogging partner Cane chronicle their adventures in restoring, renewing, revising, and re-doing on their blog, This (sorta) Old Life