This post is about that one week when I managed to score about $2,900 worth of designer pieces for $55 – legally. In other words, my best thrifting week ever. If you add in a bargain I found at Marshall’s during the same period, the count goes up to a whopping $3,475 for an out of pocket cost of $90. Care to hear the details? Read on.
Thrifting is a lot like gambling, I imagine.* Instead of money, you invest your time, hoping you’ll hit a jackpot that will make that investment worthwhile. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. When you do, the pay off can be modest … or it can be HUGE. And it’s the unpredictability (and high) of the latter that keeps inveterate (hobby) thrifters going back, again and again. I go through phases with thrifting. There will be months when I don’t go at all, and then periods when I’ll thrift up a storm. I’ve never bothered to do an analysis, but I would bet anything that the cycles depend on the frequency and magnitude of my thrift scores. Such is the power of intermittent positive reinforcement.
Alright, alright, you say; just get to the good stuff already.
For the last few months, I’ve been in the low-frequency part of the cycle – time constraints being the primary reason. Just before my trip to Vancouver, I decided to stop into my nearest Value Village on a lark … and came away with two small-ish prizes: a Rachel Roy dress, and an Anthropologie brand dress. Both were cute, and reasonably priced (about $10 each after a 25% off coupon), but nothing out of the ordinary. The trip did put thrifting closer to the foreground of my mind, though. While in Van, bemoaning the lackluster shopping on and off Robson, I decided to try a little thrifting. There are actually not many options in and around downtown Van, but Kits is just a short bus ride away, and I knew there was a Salvation Army store there. So, off I went.
Let me pause here to note that we don’t seem to have any SA stores here in Edmonton, or if we do, I have no idea where. There used to be one close to my parents’ house, which I still remember fondly as providing my very first thrifting experiences back in the mid-90s. I bought my fair share of 70s polyster pants and plaid shirts there. *ahhh, memories* Anyway, judging from my foray in Vancouver, I would say that SA falls somewhere between Goodwill (lowest) and Value Village (highest) on the price spectrum.
Back to the long story. Since I had my husband and the kids in tow, I literally had about 10 minutes to browse. Given limited time, my go-to sections are always the same: dresses, skirts, and shoes. These are the categories where I’ve had the best luck finding deals, and the sections are usually small enough that a quick scan does not take a long time. Skirts were a bust on this occasion, but a look-see at the dresses did reveal a lovely, floral print Oscar de la Renta dress. The “made in Italy” tag gave me pause, but the dress was a size 12, and I decided to move on. The shoe section was quite large, and though it didn’t look super promising at first, I decided to take a careful look at all 20 feet or so of shelving. A pair of rose gold sandals caught my eye, and when I went in for a closet look, the label gave me a jolt. Giuseppe Zanotti.
I’m not a huge shoe fanatic, but I immediately recognized the name. The shoes were in very good condition, with only minor wear to the soles, and in my size (which is a small miracle). At $20, I knew they were a good deal, so I scooped them up and off I went. Later that day, during nap time, I had a chance to Google my find. (I always do this; it’s part of the fun of bargain-hunting.) The shoes are probably a few seasons old, so they don’t show up in search results, but an eBay listing told me that they originally retailed for around US$600. In Canadian dollars, I’m guessing the price would have been around $700 or so (even before the current currency slump). Not bad, at all.
Out of curiosity (and boredom), I decided to Google the Oscar de la Renta dress as well. I had wondered if it might be a diffusion line product, though the “made in Italy” tag suggested otherwise. What do you know? It turned out to be a dress from the Summer 2012 line (you can tell that from the tag, which said “S12” – the things you learn from the internet!), and originally retailed for over US$1,300. So, let’s say CDN$1,400 – whoa. I told my husband, then and there, that I was going back the next day to get it. This was probably going to be my one chance to own a de la Renta dress, and for $20 (the price tag), I was willing to get it tailored. Luckily, the dress was still there the next day. Not so happily, I noticed that it did have a minor defect: its previous owner had evidently ignored the care instructions, and machine or hand-washed the dress; as a result, the red dye had run slightly in a few spots. It wasn’t very noticeable, but stuff like that bothers me. I hemmed and hawed, and ultimately decided to risk the $20, and try getting the dye out. I was mostly successful, although it’s not a strategy I would generally recommend. If the dye runs had been more numerous or noticeable, it probably wouldn’t have worked. (I used Oxyclean to spot clean, applying it with small cotton balls to the affected areas. The fabric was stretch cotton, and the background colour of the material was white, so I figured this would be safe.)
Sadly, I don’t have a picture of the dress. I had my mom try on the dress, and it fit her beautifully (seriously, almost like it was made for her) so I decided to give it to her rather than get it tailored. It made me really happy to know my mom would be wearing this lovely dress – she totally deserves it.
As you might imagine, my Van thrifting experience totally got me primed for more. A couple of days after I got back, I was having brunch with my mom, and telling her all about our vacation (including its shopping highlights), so I suggested popping in to the VV down the street. My mom loves thrifting as well (though she’s more of a home goods thrifter than anything else), so she agreed. I was pressed for time again, so I did the same tour I always do: shoes-dresses-skirts. The first two categories were busts, and I was about to give up on the third, when my hand rested on some nice wool fabric. I pulled the skirt off the rack, and was more than pleasantly surprised to see the tag: MaxMara, my size, virgin wool/poly lining, $10. Done and done and done. Did I mention the skirt was a gorgeous dark emerald/forest green colour? I’ve been hunting for a pencil skirt in that colour since about 2013 (or whenever J. Crew came out with a version of it). I knew this was a new-ish MaxMara skirt, rather than vintage, both from the cut (not high-waisted as a lot of the 80s styles tend to be), and from the fact that the tag said “made in Poland” – gone are the days when MaxMara made all of its clothes in Italy. (My MaxMara coat is also made in Poland, fwiw.) My Google-fu tells me that a skirt like this retails for around US$300 or more. It’s a great addition to my work skirt collection, and sorely needed because a lot of my older skirts no longer fit as well.
Normally, that would have been the end of my VV trip, except that on this occasion I had the sudden and inexplicable urge to look through the bag racks. Now, you have to understand that I NEVER give these racks a second look usually. Based on my previous experience and my bag preferences (real leather, designer), there aren’t any gems to be found. However, I have come to trust my gut, and when my gut says “look here”, I look. And, lo, there were gems. I know, right? That never happens.
The first gem I found was a beautiful, vintage leather frame bag in pristine condition. The embossing on the leather lining read “Birks”, which is a famous Canadian jeweller. Google was not super enlightening on this point, but it appears that, at some point in the 50s and 60s, Birks may have made bags as well. (If anyone knows more, please leave a comment.) It’s not a bag that I can use every day, but I figured it would be perfect for my annual work Christmas party, weddings, and the like. For $5, totally worth it. Since I don’t know what a bag like this would retail for (or be worth in today’s market), I’m not including it in my total. But it is so purty:
After I found it, my gut was still telling me to keep looking, so I did another pass through the black bags. There, peeking from a sea of pleather, I spotted a familiar zipper pull.
Yes, that’s a Longchamp Roseau bag, and yes, it cost $5. What may not be immediately evident in the photos is that it is in PRISTINE condition. Like, seriously, it looks like it came straight from the store – there is nary a scratch on the hardware. It is so pristine, in fact, that while in the store, I began to doubt whether it was an authentic bag at all. For the price, I was willing to take a risk (seeing a theme here?), so I bought it and took it home where I proceeded to Google-fu my way into authenticating it. As always, eBay and the Purse Forum were helpful resources. I was able to find detailed photos of authentic Roseau bags on eBay, which gave me points of comparison with my bag – all of which checked out. Looking through the Purse Forum threads answered 2 other questions I had: (1) some Roseau bags are made in Tunisia and Mauritius, rather than France (my tag said Tunisia); and (2) the Roseau bag does come in a shiny black leather, which can look almost too plastic to be real. That means I was able to score a US$350 (CDN $400+) bag for $5. I love its minimalist, quirky look; it has a definite 70s/Euro-chic vibe to it, which also makes it quite on-trend, I think.
If all that thrifting craziness wasn’t enough, I had popped into Marshall’s the previous weekend to buy a gift for a friend’s baby, only to come out with a little something for myself as well. That also never happens. *cough* Ahem. That little something was a pair of mustard yellow suede Tod’s loafers (with a cute kitten heel) for $35 (original retail US$575):
If you add everything up, I paid about 2.7% of the retail cost on 5 designer items that are all lovely additions to my (and my mom’s) closet(s). It’s pretty easy to see how this thrifting business can become addictive, yes? I love reading about other people’s thrift adventures (I highly recommend reading the Purse Forum thread of secondhand bargains if you’re similarly inclined), so hit me up with your best stories in the comments.
*I don’t actually gamble.