Tag Archives: thrift store

Too Much of a Good, or Bad, Thing

You are getting treated to another look at my local Goodwill Outlet Center courtesy of H&M.  Yesterday the news broke that the Swedish fast fashion giant is opening a store in Asheville.  The way people responded to the news you would have thought the announcement was that ice cream does not have calories.

For some reason Asheville is not content to be the special place we all love.  There has always been the thought that our area of the state was always the last to “get” something new.  For years Asheville pined for Old Navy.  Now we have two.  Then it was Target.  We now have two of those as well.  And just when we thought Trader Joe’s had made life complete, we realized that we don’t have H&M.  Except that now we will.

When you look at the photo of the bins above it becomes obvious that there is no shortage of clothing in Asheville.  I’ve been though the bins enough to confidently say that at least half of the clothes that go into the bins are cheap, fast fashion.  There is an over-abundance of Old Navy, Forever 21, Target and Walmart labels.  The stuff is tired and limp, falling apart at the seams.

I was reminded of a recent post on Business of Fashion, The Trouble with Second-hand Clothes.  The opinion piece focuses on the practice of charity thrift stores selling their rejects to jobbers in Africa.  Huge bundles of clothing are bid on and divided, with it all ending up in the huge second-hand clothing markets of the cities.  It doesn’t sound so bad, but the markets are so popular that the textile and clothing manufacturing industry in Sub-Saharan Africa has all but collapsed.

We all think we are doing the right thing when we send our old clothing off to Goodwill, and compared to sending it to a landfill, we are.  But the only way to stem the tide of rejected clothing is to buy less to start with.  Buy quality clothing that will last longer than one season.  Learn how to mend and remove stains.   Buy second-hand and vintage clothing.  Look for used clothing made from interesting textiles that you can use for sewing projects. Feel free to add to my list in the comments.



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Thrifting Adventures

I had some time to waste yesterday so I went to the local Goodwill clearance center. If you don’t have one in your area, the Goodwill workers throw into these big bins all the stuff they think will not sell in the regular store, plus stuff that has been in the store for a while but has not sold. I usually find vintage fabrics there, but I know a woman who has found some really nice vintage clothing.

Anyway, that woman was there, and she was talking to another woman, both of whom were looking for vintage. The second woman said she had found some great stuff in the bins, including a 1950s Dior couture dress. When I expressed some reservations about that, she said that she had compared her label to that of some experts on-line who had this great label thing! Yes, she was talking about the VFG Label Resource.  What a coincidence!

Anyway, she said the dress was in the car, so she took me out to look. There, in a cute little vintage suticase was a Dior couture little black dress, from around 1959-62 or so. It was just surreal.   In 20 years of thrifting, I can honestly say that I’ve never spotted a piece of vintage couture.
Then this gal procedes to tell me she has a storage building full of designer and vintage stuff she has squirreled away, including a classic Chanel suit (and yes, she’s sure it is the Chanel couture label.)  She even invited over to take a look at all her finds.  That should be fun!

So how did a piece of French couture end up in the bargain bin?   I’m thinking that because the Goodwill sorter did not see a label (it is in the waist)  and the dress was clearly “homemade,” that it went into the bin. Also, on the front there is a flower made from the dress fabric and it is badly smushed.  This dress obviously did not belong in the store on the rack next to the Kathy Lee and the Sag Harbor designer frocks!

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Tiffany at the Thrift Store

Tiffany, as in Tiffany & Co.:

I know some people who have given up on thrift stores. The common complaints are that they are “over-shopped” by eBayers, and that people are more aware of the value of their belongings due to TV shows like Antiques Roadshow, so nice things are no longer being donated. But I’m here to tell you that treasure is still out there, and it is all in how you look for it.

Many people are just overwhelmed by all the random stuff found in thrift stores.

Modern shoppers are used to an orderly system, where a store is divided into departments, and all the items are grouped according to purpose and size. You rarely get that in thrift stores, but there are ways to eliminate some of the clutter in your mind so you can zero in on any exceptional finds.

It really helps to know what you are looking for before you enter the store. I know, you never know what will turn up, but think in categories. Unless you have unlimited time, you just can’t look at every single item. Decide what it is you want most to find and focus on that item or items. Right now, I’m in a vintage fabric mood. So I go to the linens and look for interesting fabrics and vintage patterns. Usually nearby are miscellaneous crafty things, so I look for rick-rack, trim and buttons as well.

Next I turn my attention to the dresses. If the selection is small or if I have plenty of time, I’ll thumb through all of them, if not, I just look at the fabrics. It’s amazing how many really bad sewers spend big $$$ on Liberty fabrics just so they can ruin them. The disastrous results end up in the thrifts, and I look for these sewing projects gone bad so I can use the fabric in my own projects. I then go to the skirts, then the blouses and sweaters.

I always at least glance at the shoes. Most thrifts have them arranged so they are quick and easy to look through. Yesterday I found a pair of 1940s peep-toed spectator pumps in a Salvation Army. The older ones just pop out at you! Then it’s on to the handbags, and a quick look through the scarves.

If you are into decorating, then you might want to finish up in the housewares. For the most part, I rarely fool with looking there, but the two Tiffany mugs were calling out to me. I collect map decorated items, so these caught my eye. If you are collecting retro or vintage housewares such as lamps or appliances, thrift stores can be a great source for them.

Some people go into thrift stores with one item in mind, and they are usually very successful in finding that one thing. My sister loves books, and she thrift shops just for them. She has found some great ones too. Happy shopping!



Posted by Justine:

First off, I know you must *love* that set. What a great find for you!

Secondly, I shop pretty much the same as you do. Although I hit shoes and bags first, then dresses. In the fall and winter I hit sweaters and in the spring and summer it’s skirts. But I almost always do a quick look at the housewares, there’s always something interesting in housewares!

Tuesday, October 28th 2008 @ 5:19 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Hi Justine, Yes, it was a great find. I remember looking at these items in the Tiffany catalog several years ago, and not being able to justify spend $30 each for the mugs!

Thursday, October 30th 2008 @ 5:24 AM

Posted by Hazel Quinn:

I found a huge octagonal Clarice Cliff bowl in our thrift store for $4. The old iris pattern, so unmarked as such.

Clothes wise I go for the feel of fabrics first so go down the rail groping everything. Have some great finds but it’s not like it was. Now it’s mostly classed as ‘vintage’ and hugely expensive.

Saturday, November 1st 2008 @ 10:13 PM



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Treasure Hunt

I’ve been a fan of thrift stores since the early 1980s. Over the past 25 years I’ve found some incredible things in thrifts.  And I’m not one of those people who is always bemoaning the “fact” that there’s no good vintage making its way to thrifts any longer.  The vintage is getting there,  but so are other buyers!

Lately I’ve had very little luck finding older stuff at thrifts.  They are great for craft supplies and fabrics, but I’ve made a lot of visits to my local thrifts and found very little vintage clothing or household accessories.  So I was delighted to find the print above in a thrift shop last week.

It came from a Habitat for Humanity thrift.  I love  their shops.  They don’t carry clothes, but they do have fabrics, patterns and crafting things.  And then there is the occasional 1930s print find.  Still in its original frame, the colors and design are just stunning.

So get out there and find your own special treasure.  Thrifts are good shopping on so many levels.  They keep people’s old junk out of landfills while raising money for worthy causes.  They make it possible for people to afford things that otherwise would be out of their reach financially.  And from time to time, they provide you with just the perfect object, which is usually something you did not know even existed!



Posted by samsara:

What a beautiful nautical scene! What a thrilling find!
Thanks for restoring my faith in the thrifts. It is slim pickings in the Salvation Armies and Goodwills in New York, that’s for sure, though I go regularly and patiently.

Tuesday, May 20th 2008 @ 8:00 AM

Posted by Lizzie Bramlett:

Samsara, I can imagine that you have a bit more competition in NYC than I do here in NC! Happy hunting! Lizzie

Sunday, May 25th 2008 @ 6:45 AM

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