Why I Thrift

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Warning:  Text-overload and picture-overload. Read at your own risk.

Throughout this post you'll see pictures of most of the thrifted/secondhand items I have collected over the years. I use "thrifted" for any item that was bought from a thrift store and "secondhand" for hand-me-downs and any items bought from a garage sale or consignment store.

Garage/yard sales are my favorite places to scout out vintage jewelry.


Lately, I've been thinking about what I'm most proud of about my outfits. Was it the unusual combinations I come up with? Was it the self-confidence that I gain when I wear something unexpected that happens to look amazing on me? No, it was the PRICE I paid for the outfit. With every outfit I've worn, I've always done a mental check of how much each item costed me and what the total figure was. I was always proud when it was mostly thrifted or secondhand or, yes, even if I got it on super sale at a gigantic fast-fash retail store. But it made me realize that what mattered most to me in the end was how much (or little) I am spending on my clothes but still managing to put together a decent outfit.


My love of deals and bargains came from my traditional Korean parents. They are the type of people that will do anything just to save a penny. They are frugal and cheap to the max. It was embarrassing when I was little but now I love and admire this trait in them. I had to find this inner frugality gene when my husband and I were first married to make ends meet. Four years later, he's still in school and I have a job but L.A. is an expensive city so we constantly feel like we have no income.

I can't believe I only have 4 pairs of thrifted shoes.. (Read on.)

The first thing to go, of course, is shopping. I was never a big shopper in the first place. But who am I kidding? I have a FASHION blog. I love CLOTHES and SHOES and BAGS and JEWELRY. So thrift shopping and shopping at consignment stores took over. At first it was soooo gross! Ew! Somebody WORE that before. You don't know where it's been! Someone's FEET were in those shoes. (Okay, that one still grosses me out.. I hate feet.) But having little money gave me no choice -- if I wanted "new" clothes, I had to wear someone else's.

Vintage skirts on the left and skirts I made with thrifted fabric on the right.

I learned to be picky with my thrifty/secondhand selections at first. I would only consider items that were new, still had tags on them, or had no signs of wear. (I still do, but anyway..) And then slowly I began to relax with the rules.. A stain on a dress? No problem. I can spot clean it out. Dirty and dusty purses? NBD - I'll wipe it down. Gross shoes? Put them back, sicko.


Now I've come to the point where thrift stores are the ONLY places I want to shop at, especially since living in L.A. where I have to drive an hour to go to the mall. Ummmmm, no thanks from this lazy butt. I've even come to the point where I don't ever want to set foot in a mall again! (Okay, that may be an over exaggeration...) I don't like knowing everyone else will have the same thing as me. It's not like I have some burning desire to be different. Okay, maybe it is. But it's also because thrift stores have a huge variety of items from different eras, styles, places, cultures, etc. and I LOVE variety. One of the things I dislike about today's retail stores is you can tell it has one note and one note only. There's no room for variety or even the thought of something different to combat or even complement the style. It seems so boring to me.

My only two thrifted dresses are blue! Who woulda thought!

I've set a goal for myself to only buy thrifted or secondhand items. I don't know how realistic it is but you guys will have to be my conscience and set me straight! (I think underwear and socks and stuff should be bought new at the store though so don't judge me on that..) I feel like there are already so many mass-produced clothes out there that people are throwing away once the style is soooo yesterday. I think it's wasteful to keep buying new when you can work with what you have got or are given.


I find the easier things for me to thrift are belts, bags, jackets, and skirts. I have an especially hard time with dresses, tops, and pants. Mostly because I don't want to try anything on that hasn't been washed yet.. And I'm naturally picky with the fit of tops and pants anyway. I wish I had the sewing skills of Sarah to modify a big old grandma dress but it takes me seven hours soooo...no.

Belts, belts, belts! My favorite thing to thrift...because you don't need a dirty fitting room to try these on.

With the onslaught of fashion bloggers on the internet, thrifting isn't anything new and there are quite a few extremely talented thrifters out there. One that I especially admire is Jentine from My Edit. She finds the most amazing items and after reading and studying her blog for a couple years, I'm constantly wondering why her gift hasn't transferred over to me yet. Isn't that how it works?


I know this was a super long and boring post but you made it! Consider it a homework assignment you completed that you'll never be accredited for. Now that you've read my rambling thoughts about thrifting, I'd love to know what you think about it and/or what I had to say. Go!

Jackets and blazers. One of my favorite items to thrift! (Check in the little boy's section for blazers!)

P.S. This was inspired by Indiana's post. Please read it if you haven't!

56 comments :

  1. Life as A Southern GirlOctober 18, 2011 at 7:19 AM

    I really enjoyed this post! Although I don't shop at Thrift stores I do like places like T.J. Maxx, Ross, & Marshall's because I always find such great deals. 

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  2. Jentine from My Edit also inspired me to take up thrifting! (That girl is a thrifting genius, and her blog is fun to read).  I'm also trying to only buy "used" clothing. It seems such a waste to buy new stuff when there is so much good stuff at the thrift stores. I still can't get past used shoes and purses for some reason though.  I've had really good luck with going to find something specific (i.e. a polka-dot top) and coming out with what I am looking for (and a bunch more mind you...). I used to think "there can't be anything good at thrift stores, if the item was so good, then why did someone get rid of it?!" Then I realized that I donate clothes all the time that are in great shape but either don't fit me anymore or I've just grown tired of. So I got over my misconception and now I love the thrill of the hunt.

    The only downside that to thrifting is I have this weird hangup and feel guilty. I am very fortunate in my life right now and could afford to buy my clothing new, but when I thrift I feel like I am stealing from people who are down on their luck. I know this is not a very logical thought, and it's not like I clean out the store and there's nothing left for others to buy...

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  3. Crinkle your closetOctober 18, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    I too am a thrifting junkie! 

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  4. I love finding a great item at the thrift store.  Thrifting is one of my favorite pastimes.  My husband and I recently purchased a home, and my goal is to furnish it in only second hand (antiques) and thrift store items.  Except maybe for a couch or mattress.  We will definitely buy those new ;)

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  5. Everytime I read about thrifting I get envious, where I live (Spain) thrift is not an option. There are second hand shops (vintage trendy shops), but they are more expensive than the other shops!  I guess people is not use to buy used things... The only way I have to save money on clothes is not expending it, I am changing my shopping habits to buy less things with better quality that I will wear more and will last longer.

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  6. Thank you for this post! Did you have any good stores to thrift at when you lived in Salt Lake? I live in Ogden, and to my knowledge, the only things in my area are DI. I know sometimes DI can be a gold mine, but I know it takes patience and repeat trips. Either way, thanks for showing us what awesome pieces can be found for less if you stick with it!

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  7. I rarely if ever buy anything new, much less from a mall. I cringe at the mall price tags and just can't bring myself to pay for the cheap, ass produced items. $40 for a shirt? Psh, I can get 2 shirts and 2 dresses for that at the thrift store... better quality ones to boot.

    I really dig thrifting, I feel proud that I saved so much money. It's money I get to spend elsewhere! I agree that underthings should be purchased new though, definitely. And I like to splurge on nice heels with my saved dollars every once in a while, but I own quite a few pairs of thrifted shoes now. Some can be really gross, but others are great, you have just have to watch.

    I own oodles of thrifted dresses. I have a harder time with separates really, but that's a problem for me in general.

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  8. I love to see everyones thrift finds! :) I have a hard time buying thrifted shoes...but otherwise I love second hand. It is such a blessing and be so much fun as well!!

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  9. I love thrifting. I agree, malls are a hug turn off now. I really don't ever have the desire to got to them. After seeing what I can get for $3.50 at Goodwill, how could I ever spend $40 on a button up?
    And blazers are my fave thing to thrift too! I find so many good ones :)

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  10. I love thrifting, I also bought so much stuff at malls and now I get a thrill out of having something so cute & unique on and yet getting it for oh so cheap! Especially if it's designer and you find it at a thrift shop or second hand! Anyways, loved this post, especially this line: "Gross shoes? Put them back, sicko." LOL. You should check out my   blog I also do OOTD's for all my thrifted finds & I also vlog on youtube. You'd love my thrift shop finds videos, yes there are many! :) Hope to see ya there sometime:) 

    Reyna @glamourglory 
    http://www.facebook.com/glamglory

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  11. I have the same desire to thrift more clothes. I think that if you take the time to really look you can find really good quality clothes for a cheap price, but it takes a lot of looking. I usually find myself frustrated when I go thifting. I like to fill gaps in my wardrobe, but thifting isn't a place to find a specific thing, it's a place to experiment & see what you can find. It just doesn't work with my buy strategy sometimes.

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  12. I was introduced to the goldmine of second hand at a young age by my older brother who couldn't afford what he wanted new so he turned to thrift stores, but until about a year ago, due to blogs like this one, I wouldn't have even thought to refashion anything! What had I been mission out on! All those great dresses with awesome patterns and fabrics I passed up because they were too big or frumpy! Now I'm addicted. Everything I see I try to find it's new potential. It's like seeing everything through new eyes! And your blog and others like it help me to see an item not for what it is but for what it can do to improve an outfit!

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  13. I love thrifting, and this year due to big life changes I am also looking to only shop thrift stores or second hand stuff.

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  14. Elaine! You have found some amazing goodies on your thrifting adventures. I also had a lot of hangups about wearing second-hand clothes (and I STILL can't do the shoes thing!), but I tend to stick to vintage shops where I know everything has been cleaned and evaluated for damage, etc. I know that makes the pieces I buy a little pricier, but I find that if I'm patient, I can find dresses and things for under $20 or $10 dollars still. And I LOVE that I'm getting something that NOBODY else will have. I'm with you. I hate wearing something and worrying if someone else (or a hundred others) have the same exact thing. Oh and I totally feel you on the not enjoying mall shopping anymore...the more I go vintage shopping, the more I ONLY want to go vintage shopping. I actually left a mall the other day without buying ANYTHING. A milestone for me, and it made the BF very happy. =) 

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  15. wow you do have an eye for thrifting and i love the story of how it all started. haha and your comment on shoes made me laugh out loud!!

    xo
    http://fashionloveotherdrugs.blogspot.com/

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  16. You have inspired me...I definitely need to treasure hunt a little more!

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  17. you are a thrifting goddess.

    xo
    rachelsayumi.blogspot.com

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  18. I recently re-disovered thrifting. At the moment though all I can get are shirts and coats, thanks to my enormous belly it's still so much fun!
    http://letterkayblog.blogspot.com/

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  19. The only way to shop; cheap, stylish, fun and ethical! Love the tip about blazers in little boy's section, would be great with a post with more thrifting- tricks.

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  20. Coming this week. Check back for more!

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  21. Preach it, Elaine! I spend big money on the basic items that I know I need new like jeans and good shoes. But I tend to love my thrifted stuff more. It's like, "hey, you were rejected, so let me give you more snuggles than my expensive stuff." So weird, but it's true!

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  22. Oh! So your style should magically transfer onto me?!? : )GRIN.
    Your too funny! I love thrift store shopping. I have figured out that I need to be pickier, because before I would pick something up simply because it was cheap. Now I look at the price, and then decided based on how it looks (as well as the price) but the style is more important now. Your blog is such an inspiration! I think that is probably why I like it so much, everything is reasonably priced that you buy! I really can't get into reading someone's blog if they continually post Gucci bags they bought at full price, that's just not me.
    Natasha
    A Modest Fashion Blog:
    www.natashaatkerson.blogspot.com

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  23. Totally not a boring post! It made me wish you were my friend. Can we be friends? I promise I'm not creepy. My husband is in school and I'm working so I can totally relate to a thrift store budget. I get discouraged when I go and find super adorable things and they don't fit. It's encouraging to actually SEE that it's possible. 

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  24. I really liked the honesty in this post. It's so true... I was brought up in a very money conscious family as well and I definitely see the effects of this. It's great because I know not to spend beyond my means and I feel like I win a huge prize every time I snag an item for really cheap (my best find was $15 7FAM jeans at Ross in the clearance section!). 

    I've been on the hunt for a blazer forever and now I just might have to step into the boy's section of thrift shops to find the perfect one!

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  25. Can I come with you for your next thrifting spree? We don't have any thrift stores in Malta. Though I do have a couple of hand-me-downs in my closet.

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  26. Wonderful finds! I agree that it's great to find such a diversity of time periods represented at a clothing store. I would love to score a boys' blazer in a thrift store, but given our climate and casual lifestyle, I suspect that will be hard to find.

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  27. Jennifer LandstromOctober 18, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    I love thrift shopping and consignment store shopping. Actually, most of the clothes I own are either thrifted or bought on super clearance. Being a stay at home mom of two with a husband still in school, I know exactly what you mean about having essentially no income. I'll have to attempt the boy's blazer search myself - wasn't sure if I could pull that one off but it's worth looking into! Love the post as always!

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  28. Actually I really liked this post! I wonder if thrift stores are better in LA, Arizona and Utah.. it sure seems like bloggers from those areas find the coolest stuff- stuff that looks as good as the store or better. The thing is, in Michigan thrift stores usually stock stuff that is UN-wearable.. I.E. those t-shirts that you gave away that are worn to the bone, stained clothes, etc. We have Salvation Army/Goodwill, and anything else will charge you $20+ dollars for something that you can buy brand new for $40.. hmm.

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  29. Last Friday I went thrifting after the longest time and I found out, once again, how awesome it is to feel the thrill of buying something lovely for $3. I felt like a kid at a candy store. Best. Feeling. Ever. :D

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  30. I still have some problems with trying on clothes at thrift stores. I wish I could wash them first (I know they do.. but still) and the fitting rooms are a little ick. But I still like that now that I live in a big city, I can find a lot of thrift stores easily. I like purging so everytime I bring a bag of stuff to donate, I'll have a look at what's around. I find it difficult to find something though. It seems like belts and accessories are the best and the easiest too. I'm considering including more and more thrifting in my shopping. I must admit, mostly because I need to cut down expenses. But also, just like you, I am always so proud when my outfit cost me very little. And in general rule, I almost always buy clothes that are on sale. Except for some basic more essential items like jeans or coats. 

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  31. I liked this post! I think I love just seeing what people have in their closets in general.  In my case, laying out all of the fall clothes I had, like I did last month, really helped show me that I don't need to even thrift anymore, that I have enough clothing to put together new outfits for the next season.

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  32. Very interesting.  I too am a shopaholic on a budget, so I feel your pain (although I have yet to brave a thrift store.  I'm mostly a department store bargain rack kind of girl).  I'm inspired by your passion for putting together unique outfits on the cheap and wish you lots of luck with your mission :)

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  33. What I'd like to see a post on is where in LA you are thrifting! I used to be ok thrifting as a teenager, frequenting Buffalo Exchange and the like (Earth Day sale anyone?) but now the gross factor and the wading through TONS of garbage to find MAYBE one piece worth wearing have gotten the best of me and figure, why waste my time, my stress, AND pay for something that would otherwise just be in the trash when I can buy new on sale.  The only things I could see thrifting are articles that are quality, like new, and originally expensive enough to make it worth it. I have found one shop that is decent (hello $20 J Brand jeans & $35 Marc Jacobs coat), but would love to find more in the LA area.

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  34. Andrea, I actually shared my favorite thrifting joints here!

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  35. yes, yes, yes!!! that's what i pretty much said the whole time i read this. love it so much! :)

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  36. Alice //// VESTIGIAL WINGSOctober 19, 2011 at 12:35 AM

    every time i thrift i'll just thrift for hours..that way when I get home I can just throw everythign into the washing machine and take a long clean shower :) I'm not grossed out by shoes anymore lol i dont know why! I really love to thrift too though. this is a great post, its nice to see how other people approach thrifting! where in LA do you live without a mall for an hour?

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  37. Yeah, I do the same -- just throw everything into the washer right when I get home so I can wear it the next day! Haha!

    I live in Koreatown... No malls unless I get on the freeways, which I already use on my commute so I don't want to spend MORE of my time being stuck in traffic on the weekends.. :/

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  38. Yeah, that's how I constantly feel too. But then once it's all in my closet and I'm running late for work, I wish I had more clothes.. hahaha

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  39. I'm pretty sure they don't wash the clothes... They can't considering how bad some of the clothes' conditions are.... *shudders*

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  40. EXACTLY! (I accidentaly typed EXACRTLY.

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  41. Boo! That stinks!! I say move to L.A., Arizona, or Utah then. ;)

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  42. That's an interesting way to think of it.. For me it's like "Someone got rid of you? Sucks for them because it's mine now!" Hahaha

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  43. Yeah, you definitely have to go in a different mindset. I haven't been in the mood to refashion anything lately so I've been extra picky. Hopefully, when I have more time I'll be able to pick some things up to refashion!

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  44. TOTALLY. I go with an open mind being prepared to find anything and not everything.

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  45. See, I have a problem with dresses in general! I feel like they're so simple and don't need much for them to work that it's too hard for me. Silly, I know.

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  46. Oh, I'm sorry :(:(. Perhaps you should have a swap party with friends? Trade old clothes you guys don't want anymore?

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  47. Ew oh ok. Maybe it depends on the stores. I'll keep thinking they do so I feel allright trying them on hehe. 

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  48. This was a really nice post, and the pics of your thrifted items were just eye candy. I don't have a husband but am a recent grad on her first job right out of school, living alone with bills to pay. I have been trying to switch to my thrifting gear but its been really hard. The only thing I successfully thrifted was a  cute little leather rabbit broach for 99c and some china. I always have problems with sizing at the thrift store, everything seems too big and soon I lose my patience and my skin being to itch for all the dust and am out the door. I am always impressed with other ppl's finds from thrift stores but after this post I am venturing out there again. I live in this amazing neighbourhood with secondhand, vintage store and some thrift stores and I need to take advantage of them. Thanks for this post, it motivated me to keep trying. My wallet, wardrobe and bank account will surely thank me for it later

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  49. I loved this post! I never went thrifting until two years ago when I was visiting my cousin and she took me to a few stores (where I found some great items!), and that's when I discovered how fun it can be: you can buy lots of unique - like you said - items for a fraction of the prices in the mainstream stores. Besides, living sustainably and helping to protect the environment is really important to me - after all, that's what my blog is all about - and I think thrifting is a great way to do just that. I just wish there were more thrift stores where I live, people here don't seem to be too much into them unfortunately.

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  50. I have come to the point where I will buy socks, undies, bras and the like brand new, but everything else is either off a sale / clearance rack or from a thrift store.  My friends and I are also planning a swap party to introduce second hand to the mix.  I have a hard time spending the MSRP for crappy clothes at the mall (or any retailer, really) when I can go to Goodwill and find an awesome French Connection dress for $3.38.  I will shop at places like Ross or TJ Maxx when I want a specific trend or item.  But if they don't have it and I can't find it on a sale rack, it's not coming home with me. I've only been thrifting seriously for a few months but I'm hooked and don't see that changing.  Plus I've gotten some great stuff :o)

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  51. Omg! Thrifting is like finding real treasures, I'm a little jealous cause there are zero stores to thrift where I live, you've gotten amazing stuff, your bag section is to die for!

    Cess O. <3 The Outfit Diaries

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  52. I love thrifting, I also bought so much stuff at malls and now I get a thrill out of having something so cute & unique on and yet getting it for oh so cheap! Especially if it's designer and you find it at a thrift shop or second hand! Anyways, loved this post, especially this line: "Gross shoes? Put them back, sicko." LOL. You should check out my   blog I also do OOTD's for all my thrifted finds & I also vlog on youtube. You'd love my thrift shop finds videos, yes there are many! :) Hope to see ya there sometime:) 

    Reyna @glamourglory 
    http://www.facebook.com/glamglory

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