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August 25, 2012

The Gift of Thrift: Tips for Getting Designer Looks Secondhand

The Gift of Thrift: Get Designer Looks Secondhand

Take an image like this one (from Real Simple), pick out the elements you like and then try to find similar pieces at a thrift store. You'll be surprised what you can find!

Some people love the hunt. For others, sifting through secondhand stores is plain overwhelming. Wherever you fall, here are some tips for getting great looks at a great price.

I’ll come right out and admit it: I love thrift stores … OK, I adore them. There’s just something about the feeling of cheating the system that makes all the digging worthwhile. Don’t get me wrong; I love a designer store as well as the next gal. I just prefer visiting them to see what I like so I can find that look elsewhere.

I know I’m not alone in this. There are others like me out there — those who end up with (whoops!) three sets of dishes because Goodwill had a sale, and they look just like something I saw at Anthropologie last week. OK, so we have flaws. But the positive side of possessing what I like to call the “gift of thrift” is that you get the satisfaction of scoring great finds for almost nothing. So, what are the secrets that make the hunt worthwhile? I’m so glad you asked:

1. Know what you like: Before you ever set foot in that thrift store, you have to know a thing or two about your personal style when it comes to your clothes and accessories as well as your home. It helps to browse magazines (I love Real Simple) or websites and intentionally pick out styles you like. Then, you can either mimic those styles with things you find at the thrift store, or you will just be more apt to know something good when you find it.

2. Have an idea of what you’d like to find: Of course you can’t walk into your local Goodwill with a set of specifications on exactly what you want to find (“I’m looking for a silver lamp with a square black shade …”), but you can have an idea about what you want (“I’m looking for a new lamp for my nightstand that wille complement my room.”) Holding loosely to your specifications allows you to see what’s there and let something jump out at you.

3. Look for the potential in everything: This is one of the tricks of the trade. When you’re shopping, surroundings are everything, and this is why expensive stores spend so much time and money on staging. When you see a colorful, vintage dish at a high-end store, it’s surrounded by other beautiful dishes and perhaps set on a tablecloth with a to-die-for pattern. When you see that same dish at your local thrift dive, it will be surrounded by a myriad of old and chipped dishes, and it’s up to you to fill in the blanks and see what it could be.

4. Don’t buy it unless it has a purpose: This is the downfall of every avid thrifter. It might be the most beautiful, amazing and inexpensive find, but if you don’t have a place for it, it will become the most beautiful, amazing and inexpensive piece of clutter sitting in your basement. Exhibit self-control and only buy those things you can actually use.

5. Be realistic: This is another trap of the thrifter. Sometimes we see too much potential in something and we’re not realistic. It’s when I buy a hipster top that I just know is in style … it’s just not my style. With clothes, ask yourself if it’s something you would want to wear today, right now. If not, do what’s tantamount to treason in the thrifting world and simply walk away.



About the Author

Brittany Joy Cooper
Brittany Joy Cooper
Brittany Joy Cooper is a freelance writer, editor and consultant who lives in Nashville, Tenn. A native of Indianapolis and a graduate of Samford University, she spent several years editing a music magazine in Nashville before venturing out on her own. Brittany loves all things magazine, especially Real Simple and Whole Living, and now finds that she spends too much of her spare time looking for great recipes on Pinterest.




  • Rusha

    Don’t forget stores like Habitat Thrift Stores, etc. You’ll be buying something for yourself, but helping others build a home!

  • Rusha

    Don’t forget to look at stores like Habitat for Humanity! You’ll find something for yourself while helping someone build a home!

  • http://www.brittanyjoycooper.com/ Brittany Joy Cooper

    Absolutely! We have a Habitat store in Nashville, and it’s one of the best places to score great finds and help out a great cause at the same time. Good advice!