Frugal Fridays – Build an Expensive Wardrobe for Pennies

Frugal Fridays Build an Expensive Wardrobe for Pennies CradleRockingMama.com

I have a secret.

Once I lost so much weight my clothes were falling off of me, I had to buy new clothes. There was just one little problem: Money. We had none. (At least, not for new clothes!)

Yet I now have a more expensive, quality wardrobe than I’ve had in decades.

And I paid pennies on the dollar for it all!

Almost every stitch of clothing I wear these days comes from thrift stores, and that is one of the best frugal tips I could ever share: shop at thrift stores!

Many of you do this already, and will gleefully share stories of the absolutely gorgeous things you’ve bought for spare change, but a lot of people are put off by thrift stores.

Some people don’t like the idea of wearing “not new” things. Some folks are put off by the musty smell a lot of thrift stores have. Some just hate the idea of having to spend the time digging through a random hodge-podge of garments, not knowing what you’ll find.

Some just don’t really think it’s worth the effort, and so have never tried it.

Well, for all those concerns, I have rebuttals!

Don’t like wearing “not new” things? No problem! I’ve bought MANY items at thrift stores that still have the original purchase tags on them. So only buy things that still have the original tags on them. (As a bonus, you’ll know exactly how much money you saved by shopping thrift!)

Don’t like the smell of thrift stores? Put a dab of tallow with essential oils under your nose before you walk in.

Don’t like digging through the racks? Either narrow down what you’re interested in before you walk in (“today I want to find a pretty dress”, “today I want some new jeans”, etc.) and ONLY dig through those racks, or else set a time limit on how long you’ll look before leaving – whether you’ve found anything or not.

It’s easier to “dig” through seemingly endless racks of individual items when you know there is a limit to how much digging you’ll have to do!

Don’t think it is worth the effort of shopping at thrift stores? Let me educate you on what you can find!

All of these items I purchased in perfect, flawless condition, some with tags still attached.

Coldwater Creek Tank Top CradleRockingMama.com

This is a Coldwater Creek linen tank top I found last summer. Yes, I know it needs ironing! But it really is awesome. Coldwater Creek doesn’t currently have anything exactly like this on their website, but most of their tank tops range from $20-30, and I brought this home for $3.50. SAVINGS $16.50-26.50.

Chicco Tank Top CradleRockingMama.com

This is a Chico tank top I bought two winters ago. I looked online, and it looks an awful lot like this tank that Chico currently sells for $49. Not only did I buy this purple tank that day, but three others in red, blue and black that are identical. I spent $10 for all four of my tank tops. SAVINGS $186.00

Talbot Blouse CradleRockingMama.com

This white cotton blouse from Talbot’s is perfect for summer, and I snatched it up last year for $2.50. A comparable blouse would cost somewhere in the range of $48.65 (sale price) up to $79.50. SAVINGS $46.15-77.00.

Me and Darrel CradleRockingMama.com

One of my best finds ever was the Jones NY Dress. I love this picture, but I know it doesn’t show off the dress very well. I promise it is one of the most flattering, lovely things in my closet! This exact dress is not on their website, but I found one that is comparable in material and detail for $129.00. I bought mine for $8.50. SAVINGS $120.50.

Now, some tips. 

  • Learn to recognize labels. There’s no sense in buying something with a “White Stag” or “Merona” label on it at a thrift store; those are Wal-mart and Target brands, and you can easily buy brand new versions of the item for almost the same price. Look for expensive brands, or boutique labels for things you would normally have to pay a lot of money for.
  • Inspect the item carefully. Once you’ve tried it on and decided it looks good, take it off and inspect it on both the inside and outside of the garment. Make sure there aren’t any un-fixable holes or tears in the fabric, and check for any stains before you walk off. None of those things is necessarily a deal breaker, but you need to know whether it is something you could easily fix or not before you buy.
  • Think “ReFashionista. You may not be much of a seamstress, but you may know one! Figure out your skill level, and/or figure out how much your seamstress charges for alterations. You may find a skirt made out of some gorgeous material that is just too big, or a dress that is dated that could easily be made into a skirt.
  • Head for the toy aisle first. If you’re shopping with munchkins, they are simply not going to have the patience to wait while you sort through racks and racks of clothing. In my experience, heading to the toy aisle, letting the kids pick out a toy they want to play with, and letting them carry it with them while they stay near me as I dig helps extend the length of my thrift store shopping excursions! They don’t always get to take the toy home with them, but they get to play with it while in the store.
  • Let go of your self-image. You may typically wear a size 8. At a thrift store, you may buy items that range from size 4 to size 12. Some things won’t have size labels at all; either they’ve fallen out or the item was handmade to begin with. So be brave and take it all to the dressing room. You never know what’s going to look right on you and at a thrift store you can’t go strictly by the number on the tag.
  • Talk to the employees. Find out what days they typically get new merchandise in, and find out if there are any days they run discounts or specials. May as well get 10% off your $2.50 item, right?

If you’ve never ventured into thrift store territory, be brave – and be prepared to be surprised! It’s a great way to build a very expensive, gorgeous wardrobe for pennies on the dollar.

What’s your best thrift store find?

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