Hello, dear readers of Great Smitten. While Mrs. Dwight is off frolicking willy-nilly in the Carolinas, flanked by friends and family, she has enlisted me to write a post to keep you occupied. So occupied you will be (if you choose to continue reading).
My name is Sabrina, and I blog over at Fact, Fiction, and Everything in Between. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist. It seemed like such a romantic career to be surrounded by old things that told of days past—items that you unearthed and restored with care. I never became an archaeologist, but I cling to my earlier career dreams by spending my free time wading through thrift stores. Instead of spending my days on digs in the Mediterranean islands, I spend weekends in rural Carolina towns, digging through piles of polyester in search of the perfect 1950s dress or 1970s silk safari blouse for my Etsy shop, seek vintage.
Today, I’m sharing with you my tips on thrifting:
My mom, a thrifting superstar, always said, “If you are looking for something specific, you’ll never find it. Keep an open mind.” If you have “mid-century oval coffee table” on your brain, you’ll never find it. Rather, make frequent trips to various thrift shops in your area and keep your eyes open. You might not find your dream coffee table immediately, but you might find the perfect date-night dress.
Detail of a 1950s lace cocktail dress with a fun back cut-out framed with bow details.
Small-town thrift stores have the best finds. If you live in a larger metro area, take a Saturday trip a little ways out of town to more rural thrift shops. Things will be less picked-over (less competition!) and are often even cheaper than the larger city stores.
Lacy details made this top stand out at the thrift store.
When thrifting for clothes or furniture, be creative. If you’re attracted to the shape of a couch or table but don’t like the material or paint color, remember that couches can be recovered, and tables can be sanded and stained or repainted. The same goes with clothes. A muumuu with a fun print might be overwhelming in its current state, but cropped and hemmed into a tunic, it could make a bohemian tunic.
Touch is everything. I always run my hands over the clothes as I go through racks. I look for certain shapes (Pencil skirts! Always pencil skirts!) and am drawn to tactile fabrics, like silk, wool, tulle, and sequins. The same goes with the accessories sections. I’ve found all of my vintage Coach and Dooney & Burke leather goods that way.
Try things on. Even if it’s only to send a funny camera phone picture to your BFF, if you’re even remotely curious about how a certain dress will look on you, try it on, and you might be surprised. Things often look much better on a body than they do on a hanger.
On the hanger, this dress looked like nothing special. Worn on a body, this makes the perfect summer farmers market dress.
Hand-in-hand with open-mindedness is creativity. I have an obsession with old wooden suitcases, and am always trying to find excuses to buy more. I use three stacked suitcases as a living room side table, and another large suitcase serves as my dress-up box (yes, even grown-ups need dress-up boxes). If you love something (and you have room for it), think of unexpected ways to use it in your home or wardrobe.
$150 couch, $3 coffee table, $15 mirror, $7 lamp (with Urban Outfitters lampshade), $1 bowl filled with apples, $18 total for the three vintage suitcases stacked as a side table.
If you really love something, buy it. Most items at thrift stores are one-of-a-kind. If you hesitate on something you really love, there’s no bigger pain than returning the next day to find out that it’s been sold.
Best of luck in your thrifting adventures, and if you need some help seeking out a vintage find, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or message me on Etsy!