Many people find themselves reluctant faced with the idea of thrift shopping, but this fashion segment can be very rewarding. Thrift shopping is not only about merchandise at low prices, but it’s also about great and unique style, a style that can make you stand out of the crowd, a style that won’t be copied by anybody else.
When we say thrift shopping in North America, the first place that comes to our mind is Value Village. Debbie Wright is a style expert at Value Village, as well a fashion stylist and confidence builder at Project Closet, a fashion consultancy company. I had the pleasure of interviewing Debbie, and in the following she is going to share with us some great tips and ideas on thrift shopping.
Victoria West: How long have you been in this business?
Debbie Wright: I have been in the fashion/wardrobe business for over 25 years; I established my fashion consulting business, Project Closet, in 1997.
VW: How do you acquire and select the merchandise for the store? Do you follow a specific guidance when selecting the merchandise?
DW: Every Value Village store has a nonprofit partner, and those partners ask people in the community to donate gently used items. Value Village pays the nonprofit partners for everything donated to the store. Then, Value Village team members sort through every item and only the highest quality reusable items make it to the floor. Each Value Village has over 100,000 items on the floor at any given time, and they go through roughly 5,000 items every day.
VW: Do people find shopping in a thrift store overwhelming? If yes, what makes them reluctant in becoming Value Village customers?
DW: I do hear from time to time that many people find thrift shopping overwhelming due to the large amount of inventory and selection. Value Village merchandises their inventory by category i.e. jackets, then by size. Merchandising this way makes it easier for the shopper to find great fashion pieces.
I also recommend my THRIFT SHOPPING 101 strategy:
First, shop by choosing a category. For example, jackets. Once in jackets, comb through the different types. Think about what you need a jacket for; meaning do you need a nice blazer for work, a denim jacket to go with a cute dress you just got, or a warm outdoor jacket.
Second, remember that vintage sizes are different. When you are thrift shopping make sure to look at sizes above and below what you normally wear. You might just find a great vintage Chanel piece that is labeled as two sizes too big, but that fits you because of the vintage sizing.
Third, try not to get overwhelmed. Thrift stores, especially Value Village stores, have a lot of merchandise to look through. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothes you can easily change out of.
Finally, keep your eyes open and try on everything. Thrift stores are a creative person’s dream. You have to be willing to try on anything and everything that looks semi-interesting. Let’s say you find a great purple shirt, but it’s a purple you normally wouldn’t wear. You’re reluctant to even try it on, but then you do and you can’t imagine your life without it.
VW: Once they had their first shopping experience at Value Village, do customers tend to come back?
DW: Absolutely, shoppers become addicted to the “hunt.” Thrift shopping is one of the most EXCITING ways to shop. You never know what treasure awaits you at any of the Value Village stores. They add tons of new merchandise to the floor daily. Most customers can’t drive by a store without stopping in to take a quick peak and they LOVE to talk about their finds.
VW: What are the greatest advantages of thrift shopping, aside from the low cost of the merchandise? Why would a fashion consumer become a constant Value Village customer?
DW: There are many advantages of thrift shopping. Having great style does NOT have to cost a lot of money. When you thrift shop, you have an opportunity to shop for high quality classic items like trench coats, black skirts, white blouses and wrap dresses as well as many unique pieces from vintage jewelry to designer shoes. Your style should express your personality and thrift store shopping finds are endless. The styles found often at the malls are all the same. Thrift opens up an avenue of flair and creativity.
VW: Do you shop at Value Village? If yes, can you give us a few examples of some of your greatest finds?
DW: I shop weekly at many of my local Savers stores. Value Village is owned by Savers, Inc. and the stores in most of the US are called Savers. I have found Marc Jacobs classic pumps that were under $30, Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses, and Vintage Chanel handbags. Most recently, I found a David Meister dress and it’s perfect for a Kentucky Derby Show I have – it was only $12.99. I have also found many pairs of designer brand jeans like Citizens of Humanity, and Sevens for All Mankind for $39.99.
VW: Can you share tips on how to build a great style with what Value Village has to offer?
DW: You can stay on trend shopping thrift and I recommend “Making Your Own Mannequin”. When you shop bring pictures of outfits and looks from your favorite, current fashion magazines. They can often be duplicated shopping thrift for much less money.
We also recommend shopping with specific items in mind, for example two new pairs of updated jeans for your wardrobe. Find a pair that fits and flatters your shape today. Choose one darker wash denim that can be dressed up or down and should be a little longer to accommodate a heel. The other pair should be lighter and long enough to wear with flats. Value Village offers a wonderful versatility in your closet.