Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nov 10th - Outfit #10 - A Casual Animal and Some Thrifting Tips

L and I had a nice relaxing day on Saturday: we went for brunch at our favourite diner, then I did some thrifting and he headed off and did his own thing. 

Don't forget to check out Visible Monday over at Patti's "Not Dead Yet Style"! I'll be on holiday tomorrow, but will be back on Tuesday.

I admit I was freezing on the stairs this morning! 
This is my "strange animal" blouse, worn here under a jacket, and not really visible the first time I wore it.

I'm wearing it with the same pants as I wore the other day here, only with the full pant leg unrolled. I really like this pant width.
My comfy walking loafers, last worn with these pants here.

My outer wear is what most people saw me in today. It was a lovely and sunny (but cold!) day, so I bundled up:
An angora "bucket" hat with the brim flipped at the back, my orange raincoat and my fur scarf (cream gloves shoved into pockets. While we lunched, I wore the jacket around my shoulders. I felt very urban.

Blouse (Spenser, consignment), trousers (no label, thrifted), shoes (Two Lips, thrifted), belt (Club Monaco), coat (Bebe, thrifted), hat (thrifted), scarf (Danier Leather, thrifted), gloves (Parkhurst).

I went to the Hospice Thrift Store and the St. Vincent de Paul store. Both are always good for a couple of good scores.

I found a wonderful vintage slip that fits me perfectly.
It was half price! Only $2.00! The label is "Gay Lure" - and no, I'm not kidding.

I found a black half-slip for $3.00 as well:
Blurry, but it's only a half-slip. Not exciting.

What was really exciting, though, was the plethora of royal blue pencil skirts that I tried on at SVdP. I ended up with this one:
What a glorious colour!

It's a wool and cashmere blend. It has a very small waist and full hips - I sat down in it to make sure I'd be able to work at my desk.
I love that length. I am going to have to cram this into my December capsule!

For someone who claimed to have invented the mini skirt (along with Mary Quant in the 60s), this is an awfully long skirt, however, it is indeed by Andre Courreges*! Although he is usually associated with the 60s, he continued to design clothing well into the 80s, and is still around.
My label looks authentic - the skirt's hang loops help support this (source* for labels)
This is from the 80s, I'm positive. It is made in France, and apparently it is Size B. I have no idea what a Size B is, but really, doesn't that just encapsulate all that is silly about women's clothing sizing? I think I will now just tell people I am a Size B. It makes about as much sense as an 6 or a 14. And 6 what? 14 what? Inches? Centimeters? Pounds?
*linking for informational purposes only

Anyway, guess what I paid for a high-end authentic French designer skirt?
Yes, $5.00. Why would I ever buy new? Current Courreges miniskirts sell for 700 Euros new. That's $890.00 Canadian ($889.00 US). Wow...this was certainly not cheap when it was originally purchased!

I know Megan Mae is going to squeal when she sees this purse:
It's solid thick leather, and I love the swing clasp. It's missing the shoulder strap, but I like the smaller handle better anyway. I can't wait to use it for a steampunk look!

It's by Tina of Montreal, a brand I can't find anything about.
It was $5.00 as well. Not bad for real leather!

Some notes on thrifting:

I've had a few commenters lately remarking on my amazing thrift finds, and lamenting that they don't have the same kind of luck, but it's not luck! I have just trained myself to look at clothes really carefully. And here you go: all my secrets for thrift shopping! 

I shop very quickly in thrift stores - it takes me about an hour at the most to do a full small-ish store (a big warehouse store like WIN takes longer). I have a few tests that I've outlined that speed up my searches.

The Feel Test: I've learned to hone in on the good quality composition by feel; I can pull out all the wool and silk from a rack of clothes in seconds. I have come to loathe the feeling of plastic-y fake fabrics.

The Colour Test: For racks of clothes, I scan along the tops of the hangers to see pilling, fading and ugly colours and patterns - that eliminates 90% of them. The tops/skirts/sweaters that jump out to me visually are those that are saturated, non-faded colours and interesting patterns.

The Brand Test: I look at the brand labels of the items that pass the feel test and the colour test. I'll always pull out a Danier Leather item, for example, and if I recognize the brand as being a bit more obscure, I'll take a closer look. I don't bother with anything by mall stores (unless it's a really cool/well-made item that passes all my inspection tests).

The Composition Test: I love clothing made in the Canada, the US, the UK or another non-third-world country. I look for good construction; linings, seams that lay flat, nice embellishment details. I flip items inside out and check the construction, and look for the content label. With all items that I consider purchasing, I will lay them out and visually inspect all seams for ripping, pulling and evenness. I check under arms and down the fronts of shirts and sweaters for holes/snags, pilling and spill stains. Always check the tops of slits in skirts (for tears) and always look at the bottom of zippers to see if the seam is pulling apart. These are all deal breakers for me - I don't sew, I don't get things tailored (I'm lazy), and it's a waste of money for me to buy something damaged.

The Try-On Test: I try on everything that passes the other tests. You never know until you try it on! Sizing is crazy erratic (eg. Size B!??), and you won't know if that vintage size 14 fits until you put it on.

Note: all of these tests work in conjunction. So, for example with my Courreges skirt, I spotted the colour right away, then touched and knew right away that this was a wool or wool blend. I pulled the skirt off the hanger and looked at the label (by this time I was getting excited, but you can't get your hopes up!) and turned the skirt inside out, noting the loops, the lining (faded but not torn), looked at the button (intact) and zipper (original, no stitches pulled at the bottom). I checked the top of the slit (no pulling or tears). I held it up (WTF? Size B?) and thought it might fit, worth a shot for sure! I had two other cobalt blue pencil skirts in my shopping basket that also passed the tests - it was a day for cobalt blue pencil skirts. The other two skirts didn't work; one was too big, and the other didn't fit right. In thrifting, you have to get used to disappointment - things are not going to be in your size, they aren't going to fit, they might be damaged. Just move on...more cool stuff is just waiting to be found!

Shop by Sections: Thrift stores can be daunting. Racks and racks of clothing crammed in willy-nilly. You're lucky if they're sorted by colour, although that does seem to be something that all my thrift stores do. Yay!

I go through shoes pretty quickly. I only look for unusual styles in good materials (leather, primarily). Shoes made out of pleather tend to go hard after a couple of years and are not worth it. Purses are the same. I look for vintage, and open them up and look at the linings, see if there are any labels, and see where they're made, and what they're made of, and for general wear and tear. Again, I look for leather for the most part.

With clothing, I skip jeans and pants, although I'll give them a visual skim to see if there are any unusual colours or patterns. I usually go through every skirt (I'm a bit of a skirt junkie, I admit it), touching them first for fabric. Sweaters and tops are pretty fast, using the feel and colour tests first.

Lastly, I go through the belts and scarves. For belts, I'm only interested in leather (or more Smoking Lily obis, but no such luck today). With scarves, I want silk or wool only. I also go through any jewelry in cases, and look for wear and tear and missing stones. I like seeing a stamp on jewelry, but for unique pieces, that's not essential for me.

And now, the one thing about thrifting that I haven't covered...

The Price: This actually doesn't matter to me that much. If I found a blue pencil skirt that passed all these tests in a department store or boutique and it cost $69.99, I would probably still buy it.

The price is fun for gloating about, but it's not the be-all and end-all, and if you thrift a lot, it can become about "the deal" as you get spoiled by low prices. That's a trap! Don't ever buy an item just because it's a good price if it doesn't pass all these tests!

I hope this has been useful and maybe your next thrift shopping expedition will be a little bit easier. Do you have any shopping secrets you want to share??


  1. Great post! I tend to not have a ton of time to devote to thrifting anymore, so I have a very abbreviated system... Just popped into a Goodwill store yesterday and dropped about sixty bucks.

    Find my size bracket.
    Flip through, not one item at a time, but about 8 hangers at a time, like flipping several pages in a book. That's enough to tell color, pattern, sleeve length, etc.
    If something looks interesting, check the label to verify the size and see if it's a known brand.
    Known brands have the advantage of being fairly consistent in size. I don't generally have a lot of time to try things on. I buy a lot of Talbot's, Ann Taylor, etc, at thrift stores. Knowing my size in these brands is helpful.
    Quick scan for buttons, stains, seams.
    Take 'em home, wash, try on.
    Anything that doesn't fit or look right can then go in a consignment bin, since I was choosy about brand and condition.

  2. All of my slips have been thrifted. You can get so many good full and half slips are VV or other thrift stores. Some people think it's gross but just wash them in hot water and they're fine.

    Thanks for the thrifting tips!

  3. Thanks for your thrifting tips Sheila. Sadly we don't have many good thrift stores near me, just a couple of little ones that occasionally have a good item in amongst the rubbish, but you can "do" them in about 5 minutes each!

    That Courreges skirt is amazing. I'd be over the moon if I ever found anything like that. (I did find some Missoni trousers once!)

  4. words of wisdom from the master! great, great finds! xx

  5. Love the shirt and the orange raincoat. I wish I could find things like this in my thrift shops. They are all amazing items.

  6. Ah the skirt! What a fabulous find. I like to think of myself as an A-, but I think a B would be OK too : > Srsly, I have never heard of that before -- could it be a french "8"?

    Thanks for writing about your thrifting skills, it is much valued!

  7. Don't you look sexy in that first photo! animal becomes you!

  8. Besides being hilarious in the best way, the Strange Animal's colours are perfect on you, and the outfit is fantastic with your orange coat.

    Congrats on the skirt score, zowie! Thanks for taking the time to put together your thrifting tips as well. My shorthand of factors for all manner of shopping is: quality, cut (fit), colour, condition, and cost, and I aim for the sweet spots where those factors converge.

    I'm always pouting about being thrifting-landlocked in a large rural, low-SES area, but this is also about the only limiting factor affecting the way I dress: left to my own devices, my tastes and preferences run more luxe (regardless of what I actually pay for things), but I deliberately dress down some to minimize the resentment barrier which doesn't serve the people I work with.

  9. I often look for things at thrift stores for my sister who is much smaller in size than I and I find a lot of great things for her. We have so few stores around here that carry nice plus size items, so there is little in thrift stores to purchase. I think all of your suggestions are spot on for finding great thrift finds. The blue skirt is fabulous!

  10. Love the animal top!! And your orange coat is stunning!!
    You got some great goodies--can't wait to see how you style the skirt--it is absolutely gorgeous!!

    Great tips--i shop the same way. I know brand wise that tops by JonesNewYork are good qulaity and fit me well. I avoid others like Croft&Barrow becauser i know they won't fit well. I also skim the sizes around mine as you just never know!!!

  11. Wowza you are smokin' in that blouse!

    Also I did squeal! Totally gorgeous bag. Adding a strap shouldn't be too much work if you did decide you wanted one. Something like a nice brass chain or braided leather. Even a nice thrifted belt could work out depending on how the side-pieces are.

    You definitely outlined how I thrift. I go by handfeel and those colors/prints that jump out at me. I've gotten more discriminating with time, but I did get caught up in the Deal for the longest time. Now that I have a lot of wardrobe gaps filled with well fitting pieces I can have some patience while looking for better quality and more unique stuff. I'm still working on finding more "Made in" US/Canada/UK, but the US thrift market is so full of fast-fashion I compromise that more than I like.

    As for sizing, I rarely ever pay attention to labels. I generally know if I hold something up if it is in my size-realm and it if is then it goes to try-on.

  12. I love how well the top goes with your hair-color. And I think you know how deeply I share your affection for slips. Funny name for this one.

    Appreciate your thrifting tips. Learned a thing or two. The only problem I have (which is obvious) is the inability to try things on before buying. With my odd shape, I often have sizing problems which I don't discover until too late. I face the same difficulty with new clothes as well.

  13. I haven't been by in a while, Sheila...but you look great as ever! Love the thrifting tips!

  14. The "brand test" is the #1 reason I don't thrift as much as I used to - the stores closest to me are jammed full of cheap brands! I'll buy from Target & Old Navy new, but never used. They just can't stand up to that kind of wear, & if it cost $8 new, it's not a great bargain at $4 used & about to fall apart. Really disappointing that I no longer find quality goods at the thrifts nearby (& making a long trek means it's not a regular shopping trip).

  15. I love how you thrift shop Sheila , I shop very similarly but I wear larger sizes so I find it not as easy of a task . I also shop for wools and linens for upcycling in my sewing . I go for feel colour and texture too , you would die at the things I cut up , I have found a little church thrift store and they have some lovely designer clothes there too so I made quick work of a couple of Dior skirts .Thank You for sharing your tips , I have found beautiful scarves and handbags that I love for me. Donna

  16. Hi Sheila, I am in complete agreement with EVERYTHING you've outlined here! All of us need to remember what you so wisely said: "Just move on... more cool stuff is just waiting to be found!" This is sometimes hard to be done (I'll lose weight! I'll fix it later! I'll get my SISTER to fix it! It's too cheap to leave here...!), but it's a matter of faith (thrifting faith, that is!) In order to find the RIGHT things, we need to create (or maintain!) SPACE for them. And BTW, if you stop to reflect about it, that little philosophy actually applies to so many areas in life...
    Thanks Sheila for this awesome list: trust me, if you are still relatively new to thrifting, following Sheila's tips will make you golden!
    Teresa (sometimes known as C'estChic!) in Ontario!

  17. Last but not least, I'd add that I will smell the garment, albeit reluctantly. That thrift store smell will go away with cleaning/washing, but that funky vintage under-arm smell? Probably not. I do the same with shoes. Sometimes I'll put back a seemingly great pair of shoes because I smell a hint of mildew.

    1. Replying to this as I was going to add the exact same thing. i once bought a dress at a barain prive, but it smelt of smoke and no amount of washing got rid of the small....

      My tips for thrifting al ways start with the quality of the fabric. Often, stuff just seems to jump out at me.

      Love the animal print, and wearing your coat-on-shoulders is very Parisian!

  18. I have used the tips you listed for over 20 years. I will add one more. the smell test. there are some odors, I have discovered, that just cannot be washed (or dry cleaned) out of garments, no matter how the pass the other tests, they just aren't worth buying

  19. I have to say it again: you rock in trousers too.
    and i need a trench like yours :)
    I have to admit i am a bit jealous of you ability to thrift shop any time you want and also that the shops available in your area offer some really good quality items - that you KNOW how to spot. That blue skirt kicks ass.

  20. Thanks Sheila... you have captured, in words much more eloquent than my own, exactly how I thrift!

    I find it amazing that the common mall items sell for about 50% of the original price at a thrift store - yet the designer items sell 10% or even lower of the original price. It feels great wearing cashmere, silk and beautiful designer leather shoes - looking like a million bucks without going broke!

    Love the purse, the clasp is so unique!

  21. I don't think your top is "strange" but it's definitely sexy. Still giggling over the "Gay Lure" slip - what every girl wants to be, right? :P

    I enjoyed your thrifting tips. I'd add "be patient", "leave it if you don't love it," and "keep lots of Dryel on hand."

  22. Love your thrifting tips, thank you! Most of the time thrifting I'm too put off by the sheer amount of choice and it's nice to have an idea of how a pro goes about it! Have to say I'm guilty of just buying because of price sometimes too - especially at the sales held by the animal shelter, I just grab it all stuff it in a bag as a bag is $5. It's not until I get home that I can try things on, and often they don't fit or I notice a tear I can't fix, so it gets donated back to the shelter later!

  23. This blouse is perfect on you!
    Anne (Playing with Scarves)

  24. Courreges? REALLY! You are, by the way, way too young to even know who he is/was! Lucky and deserving you! So impressed. And thanks so much for the tips. I need um. Our nearest grown-up consignment is 40-ish miles away ... need to make time on trips to the big city. You inspire.

  25. The black slacks look really good on you and rust/orange is your color. Love your shopping tips. I look for color first, label and style of garment next, then I try it on. In the dressing room I check for tears, pills, holes, stains etc. and fit. Deal breakers for me are clothes from Wal-Mart or K-mart or such out of date clothing that they are hopeless. I sew so I can re-fashion. One of my favorite finds are jeans that fit and that I skinny myself, not too tight and too baggy. Went new jean shopping today and was so depressed, I lamented to my husband that I would just go to Idaho Youth Ranch and buy 2 pair for $3.95. Sometimes I do make mistakes, but I just re-donate them and get tax credit.


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