13 Jan Why Don’t You… Go Thrifting Like These New Yorkers?
Why Don’t You’ is my weekly tribute to legendary editor Diana Vreeland who penned a column of the same name for Harper’s Bazaar for 26 years begging, “Don’t just be your ordinary dull self. Why don’t you be ingenious and make yourself into something else?”
I don’t thrift shop, admittedly so. But it’s not for lack of trying. In my last apartment, I loved to walk by the Goodwill on 88th and Second Avenue to see what handbags were in the store’s display window. That’s where associates would put the best of the best and the windows were shoppable every Saturday morning beginning at 9 a.m. I still think about the $40 Dior Saddle Bag I missed out on.
Then there is the vintage Mark Cross bag from the 1970s, that I found inside fashion consultant Suzanne McCoy Fitschen’s vintage showroom during her archive sale last year. But that’s about the extent of it.
I just don’t know where to start. And it’s overwhelming.
I always get inspired, though, when I’m interviewing the someone for ‘5 Style Lessons’ and they tell me their tricks for making the most of their thrifting experience. Keep reading for the best tips gleaned from a few of New York’s finest.
Do Your Research
“Don’t expect to find gold on the first try,” said Kiara Shardé, a fashion writer who works also works at a designer thrift store. “Of course, there is beginner’s luck but just go scope out the scene to get an idea of what you need or what you might be into because it’s time-consuming. A lot of places don’t organize by size or styles but by color. So, look at pictures for references [beforehand]. What time periods are you into? Study the cuts, because the sizing is different that what we’re used to, and go from there.”
“When I go thrift shopping, I always have a plan of what I’m looking for or hoping to find but you kind of just have to pick a row and get started, Shannon Kennard told me, a digital nomad who’s launching a vintage e-commerce business. “Go through everything because you never know what could be hiding behind something. Go through the men’s, the kid’s, the shoes, don’t leave anything unturned. You just never know. You have to be creative too because it might be a men’s vest but you have to see beyond that. It doesn’t mean you still can’t wear it.”
Go to What Draws You
Kiara’s right about the way most vintage stores are laid out. I interviewed Amarcord Vintage Fashion’s owner last summer after he and his wife reopened their Brooklyn location (it’s right next to Catbird!). He told me that to make the store feel welcoming to both newbies and pros, they present the pieces according to color. That way, he told me, your eye is drawn to colors you typically would wear. On either side of the item is a piece that will pair with it for those who need a little bit of help creating an outfit. He referred to it as merchandising like a magazine.
Pay Attention to Details
“I’m not a huge clothing thrifter,” Chinelo Okono told me, a womenswear buyer. “But whenever I go, I shop as though I were shopping in a regular retail store. I want to quality to be nice. The piece needs to look elevated. The tag should still be intact. I have the same standards I use when I shop for regular clothes. It’s not something that I do often but when I do I’m very selective.”
Think About Cost Per Wear
“Growing up my mom was like the Dad on Everybody Hates Chris, if it wasn’t on sale, she was not buying it,” Kiara said. “So it limiting in terms of what I could have but it made me more creative. Buy one or two things that you’re going to love and repeat. If you’re buying for the season, start with the must-haves. Think about cost per wear. Last month, I bought black and white sneakers that could go with everything and a coat. I’ve already worn those like three times.”
Invest in a Tailor
“Everyone should have something old that everyone doesn’t have that you can rework,” Monroe Steele said, a physical therapist and blogger. “I like to shop at the Brooklyn Flea for bags. Clothing is a little harder. Whatever you buy you’ll have to take to the tailor because the sizing was so different back then.”
To help you put all of this good advice to use, I mapped out the best vintage shops in New York City below, from north to south. Enjoy!