Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Thrift Tip: Don't Sweat It

If there's one thing I hate about thrifting, it's looking for sweaters. Let me ask you this: have you ever donated or handed-down a sweater that still looked good on you? Probably not. If I had a guess I would say you would donate the sweater with the pills or the little hole on the sleeve, or the one you shrunk in the wash.

You are so busted.

With winter closing in on me with its grip of seasonal depression, I look to cozy sweaters to brighten my (short) days. But finding a good sweater in a thrift store is like finding a golden ticket: there are only about six of them in the store. I'm serious.

With that in mind, I provide for you the following tips for sweater shopping:

1. Disregard all sizing. Most stores are organized either by size, or by color. Size doesn't matter when it comes to secondhand sweaters because the items may have been shrunk in the wash, stretched out on the clothesline, or otherwise deformed in the course of normal wear. Seek out a color or pattern that suits you before worrying about the size.

2. Try it on. When you find something you like, it's worth trying even if you look awkward standing in the aisle in a tank top on a cold day. Tell the gawkers to settle down, because this is important. Unless you actually put the thing on, you will never be sure whether it's long enough to cover your midriff. It's happened, I've been there. Sometimes you find a children's size mixed in with the ladies' sweaters. It's happened. I've been there. It's uncomfortable.

3. Find a happy medium. A sweater with pilling doesn't nix its value completely. A "sweater shaver" device is worth the $10 or $15 in order to keep your current sweaters and your thrifty finds in good shape. Don't go crazy--you'll put a hole in a thin sweater if you press too hard--but don't be afraid to get rid of those annoying pills.

4. Check the label. Is the secondhand price worth it? Getting a bargain-basement sweater for 5 bucks at the thrift store isn't really a bargain when the original price was probably under $20 in the first place. You can really luck out with higher-end brands and get a new look for $5 instead of $40 or $50 or more. Of course, if you fall in love with a piece, go for it. But the thrift store is a great place to buy quality items that will last, so as I always say, don't be shy.

A prime example: I didn't try on the above sweater because I assumed it would be too big for me. I snagged it on a discount day with the intention of passing it along on eBay. But lo and behold, a little extra room doesn't hurt me much here. And it calms some of my fears about wearing yellow.

PS: You've been asking, and you're right: those are my skinny legs hanging out all over the place here at Quarter Life. It is almost creepy that some of you recognize my gangly gams, but well done.

Label: Ann Taylor Loft
Location: Value Village, Hyattsville
Look: Cable 3/4 sweater for every day
Likewise: The white shorts aren't too feasible in the DMV right now, so try layering over a short-sleeved dress shirt.


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