Stahl: Thrifting a soothing experience for stressed sartorial souls

By Samantha Stahl

Like legions of other graduating seniors, I consistently vacillate between a job… Like legions of other graduating seniors, I consistently vacillate between a job search-induced state of panic and an eerily uncharacteristic come-what-may attitude. Worrying about how I’ll support myself after graduation has become a gruesome daily task.

Incidentally, my lack of income creates a Catch-22: There’s nothing that could calm my trajectory-related freakouts quite like a substantial update to my wardrobe. Yet nothing launches me into a bigger frenzy than realizing I haven’t a dime to spend on said wardrobe updates.

As a result, I am left scrounging for the cheapest way to add new clothes to my closet. Enter thrift shopping. Contrary to popular belief, thrift stores are quite the treasure trove. Thrifting is good for more than Halloween costumes and embodying the homeless. However, if either of those are your objectives, thrift stores can come in handy as well.

To a certain breed of germaphobic, polyester blend-fearing types, thrift shopping might be the equivalent of water torture.

A hobby best reserved for those those with the patience of a boyfriend willing to sit through the midnight screening of “Sex and the City 2,” thrifting takes patience and is not for the faint of heart. You have to deal with bad lighting and a diverse mix of fellow shoppers. Once, my friend and I witnessed someone vomiting in the dressing room of our local charity shop. No one said getting cheap clothes was easy.

The feeling of finding something perfect for under $8, however, triggers a special kind of joy that only thrifting can fulfull. If you’re willing to take on the challenge, I have some advice to make your consignment-combing a little more tolerable.

Ever since Urban Outfitters popularized sloppy chic, thrift stores have become a veritable jackpot of steals. I recommend going to Urban first to get ideas, then heading over to Goodwill to scoop everything up for an eighth of the price.

Speaking of steals, ignore the price tags. They’ll encourage you to buy things you don’t need. Looking at the racks with a creative eye is crucial to finding one-of-a-kind pieces — but don’t get carried away. Rhinestones, overzealous use of pleats and printed corduroy should all be avoided. However, I probably would’ve said the same thing about acid wash a few years ago, and now I’m in love with the look. I admire all of you who have a sixth sense for future trends — you’re biologically wired to shop in thrift stores.

Going in a good mood is paramount. For example, I made the mistake of going to Goodwill the other day cranky and uncaffeinated. I passed up a $7 navy Oscar de la Renta blazer because the thought of going to the tailor to have it taken in overwhelmed me.

Learn from my blunder — don’t pass something up just because it doesn’t fit perfectly. However, if the necessary tailoring or dry cleaning is going to end up costing more than buying the item new, don’t bother.

Girls, don’t feel limited to the women’s side of the store. Some of my favorite thrifting finds came from the men’s racks. Button down shirts and sweaters can double as tunics or dresses (depending on how tall you are) and their sequin-free belt selection is far less tacky.

If you’re looking to make money rather than spend it, I also have some recommendations for selling your tuckered-out clothes at consignment stores.

First things first: Accept the fact that you are going to be ripped off. A friend of mine once sold a pair of barely-worn Ugg boots to Plato’s Closet and only got $20. This isn’t a get-rich quick scheme, people. If you want a bucket of money fast, I suggest you track down someone who advised Martha Stewart during her insider trading debacle without getting caught.

Secondly, don’t expect Avalon Exchange to take your hole-filled gym T-shirts and flared jeans you haven’t worn since the seventh grade. Cleaning out your closet is great, but be realistic about what should be taken to the trash and what should simply be donated.

Once you put together a pile that is worth selling, make sure everything is in decent condition. If a button is hanging by a thread or there’s a small hole in the sleeve, fix it. Repair pilling fabric by skimming over rough spots with an old razor. It’s worth taking the extra five minutes to spruce up your merchandise — it vastly raises the likelihood of scoring some cash.

Like most things in life, buying and selling used clothes requires patience, determination and a high tolerance for the smell of mothballs. Happy thrifting, my friends. Search hard enough, and I promise your hard work will pay off.