The Deals and the Dish on Where You Need to Shop
Nov 12, 2010
04:17 PM
Window Shopping

The Gift of Thrift

The Gift of Thrift

Recently a UW student emailed me and asked me for advice on vintage and thrift-store shopping. She was working on news report that focused on this area, so I provided her with some insight into this type of shopping—which is one of my favorite ways to find one-of-a-kind treasures—usually for a fantastic price. I've bought plenty of items from thrift and consignment stores, no doubt. Read on for my answers to her questions:

What are the benefits of thrift shopping?

-You find one-of-a-kind, unique pieces.
-The thrill of finding something you love.
-Fantastic prices.
-You can find a hot trend at a fraction of the cost.

Why do you think thrift/vintage shopping has increased over the past few years?

The economy has a huge role in this, obviously. People don’t have the disposable income anymore to spend a lot on clothing and accessories. However, having something that's one-of-a-kind is also very important for some people in our mass-produced age. Going to Forever 21 is great, and I shop there, but it’s much more special to also wear something that you love and that you know that no else has. The mass commercialization of designers (like Zac Posen for Target, Vera Wang at Kohl’s) is a positive thing but it’s also something that so many other people can have, too.

Also, the trends from past eras are huge now. Wearing something from the ’50s and ’60s is hot right now—part of that is the Mad Men influence, but so many designers (Prada, Louis Vuitton) showed the ’50s housewife look on their runways for F/W 2010. So, where better to find that—at a vintage store—rather then a repro of the look?

Do you have any tips for thrift or vintage shopping?

-I have learned this the hard way: no matter how good of a deal something is, if you don’t love it, or there’s something about it that you don’t love (and can't change/fix with alterations or don’t want to get alterations, et cetera), don’t buy it. You’ll just have a piece that sits in your closet. If you don't have the time and patience to get something altered or changed (if it doesn't fit right) then I'd recommend not buying it.

-Look at the garment critically. Some things can be fixed: small tears (depending on fabric and location of the tear), taking up/down a hemline, taking in a dress or top and some smaller stains can be removed. Be aware though that the more delicate of the fabric (silk, nylon, beaded pieces) the harder and more challenging it will be to do any alterations unless you know someone who’s really, really good at it. And in some cases really delicate pieces might NOT be able to be altered.

-I'm not saying buy something in terrible condition, but there are frequently things that you can do to alter a garment if you love it and you’re willing to spend the money to do so. And frankly, it can worth your time and money to do so, as long as you know a good tailor/seamstress. Last winter I bought a cocktail dress for $12 at ReThreads on State Street. The dress was too big and the hemline too long, but I knew that could be fixed. I asked a coworker that’s great at alterations if she could work with it, and she took the garment in and hemline up perfectly. I've gotten a lot of compliments when I've worn the dress. (That's me wearing the dress in the photo above to our Best of Madison party. You can see the fun ruffled top part of the dress. Unfortunately the full-length shot of me in the dress, left, is tiny. I actually paired the dress with a vintage gold lion belt, too.)

-Hit up anywhere that has vintage/consignment stuff--I don't tend to shop at St. Vincent de Paul much but I stopped in there in early October and on the Halloween rack there was an amazing vintage short sleeve black sequined dress for $10. I tried it on but it was a bit too big and with the sequins I was a bit wary of getting it altered so I didn't end up buying it. But if you're patient and willing to dig you can find all kinds of stuff—anywhere! I volunteer at the HospiceCare Thrift Store every other week for a couple of hours and have found lots of stuff there, too.


Event: Glitter Workshop Grand Re-Opening and Open House

When: November 13, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Where: The Glitter Workshop, 6138 Mineral Point Rd. (The Homestead Shoppes)

Details: Those who loved The Glitter Workshop back when it was on East Johnson Street will revel in the shop's reopening. This alternative craft store will carry fun crafty items made by local artists, plus kid's items and will host crafting workshops.

More info: 219-5933.

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About This Blog

As Madison Magazine's style editor, Shayna Mace writes the monthly "Window Shopping" column about Madison's coolest store owners, products and shops. She also reports on Madison's most stylish people, chic items she loves, store events and sales, and additional dish in her weekly blog. Her favorite places to check out around town are local boutiques, consignment and vintage shops for one-of-a-kind treasures, new restaurants and bars, and anywhere that affords her the opportunity to meet and talk to Madison's most inspirational (and many times, fashionable!) people.

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