2011-01-14

Thrift Friday (oops). Luxury Hunt.

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Dress and jacket, thrifted. Original post here.

I've been going to thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales for as long as I can remember, but I didn't get very serious about regularly thrifting for clothing until about two years ago. I went a little crazy at first; drunk off cheap prices and endless opportunities, I saw potential in everything and I would come home with huge bags of thrifted clothing, only to donate it back a few months later. I am now much more aware of what is worth bringing home. These are some things to look for to ensure that an item is of good quality and deserves to go from the 'could be interesting' pile in your cart, to the 'yes, honey, I really needed that' pile at home.

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I love this dress. There are times when I am in a huge rush and only have a few minutes to browse (this can also be described as cruelty) and I just check out any interesting material that pops out at me from the rack. When I found this dress however, I was meticulously checking each item, careful not to miss something good. I saw the fabric and thought it was really pretty but it needed a quick inspection before I parted with any cash money.

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Feel. At first, I thought that the dress might be from Zara or h&m because the nude fabric with the tulle overlay looked rather trendy. However, as soon as the dress was in my sweaty little grip, I could feel that it was much better quality. The fabric, including the tulle (which usually feels kinda crunchy) felt very soft to the touch but still substantial. If it feels good, it usually is good.

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Finishings. I knew further that I had hit the jackpot when I looked inside the dress and saw bound seams. This seaming technique is expensive and time-consuming. Looking inside an article of clothing can reveal a lot... Quick indicators of better quality include french seaming, even serging and perfectly matched seams.
It is a real struggle to keep things succinct on my Thrift Thursday posts. There is so much to say about the hand of good quality fabric and nice finishing techniques but if these are a completely foreign concept to you, then a trip to a high end department store like Holt Renfrew or Saks might be a good idea. Bring your smelling salts because it's easy to suffer from sticker shock and it's important to stay alert and learn from what you see and feel. If you can't handle the looks of salespeople measuring your credit card limit based on your shoes (generalization but often true), then check out Filene's Basement, any of the Last Call shops or even the designer finds sections at Winners or TJ Maxx to see quality garments first hand in a more relaxed setting. You may never be able to afford designer clothing new (though their 80% off a 70% off item are a mathematical puzzle and generally a good deal) but you can get more of an idea of what to look for and what to steal from my buggy at a thrift store.

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Tags. My hunch was correct when I saw the side tag of the dress that labelled everything but the tulle, as silk. Natural fibres are a beautiful thing... cashmere, wool, silk, cotton, linen... Even better is finding out that a garment is lined in silk. Lining is a hidden but essential element of many garments... an area that most manufacturers skimp out on. If the lining is a good quality fabric then chances are, the rest of the garment is of even better fabric.
Also, garments manufactured in many parts of Europe, Canada or the United States are often either vintage, higher quality or produced with ethical intentions (lots to debate on that one...) and are worth a second look.

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Brand names. The jackpot was finding the Notte by Marchesa label at the back of the dress.
I buy too many magazines. I have made honest attempts to curb this habit by borrowing them from the library instead, but I have a hard time resisting their glossy magnetism in any check-out line. However, it is through magazines that I am aware of a wide spectrum of brands and their price points. I hope to claim my magazines at tax time as part of my education expenses this year. If you are unaware of the brand name... the tag itself may give clues. Higher quality clothing often has higher quality labelling. Labels are not printed but woven, names are clearly marked (people pay for the prestige of a name so labelling is an important aspect of high end clothing) and the design is sharp and clear. I had never heard of the Notte by Marchesa, but I knew of Marchesa and based on the detail and feel of the tulle flowers to the clean labelling, I could see that this was a winner. Many of you are cooler than me and can do a quick search for brand names on your iphone or crackberry. I had to go home and look online before I could confirm the the dress as a Certified Kick Ass Thrift Deal.

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Final Checkover. Even if all signs point to awesome, you have to give your garment the final once over before you hit the cash. Besides fit, deal breakers include pilling (!!!! that never gets better!!!!), deep stains and unfixable holes. It's also worth taking a second look because you may have fallen to the lure of a name brand without checking for the other signs of quality. I happily carried a quirky Marc Jacobs dress around for an hour until I looked closely and saw unfinished and unmatched seams all over the bust. Either it was a fake or Quality Control was sneaking a smoke in the bathroom on the production line. But it's worth weeding out phoney Marc Jacobs dresses in the search for more Marchesa!

31 comments :

Nadine said...

Great story!

(And I always love seeing your 'double-leopard' outfit in your sidebar. Makes me feel spesh . . )

Anonymous said...

i love thrift thursdays/fridays!

you would love japan. there are so many fantastic finds at the 2ndhand stores here because it's such a consumer-driven society, with malls everywhere, so there is a very high turnover of quality stuff. i'm addicted to scouring the stores! but i really wish for a value village. if i lived in canada, i'd want to go shopping with you but i know we'd fight over the same stuff!

No Guilt Fashion said...

What an amazing find. Great luxury thrifting tips. Events if it is a Friday.
No Guilt Fashion

Artfully Awear said...

Great tips! I was exactly like you at the beginning of my thrifting obsession--buying everything in sight because it was oh so cheap! It does take some time to develop your eye, but the more time you spend thrifting the more great pieces you will find! LOVE this dress!

amanda said...

amazing dress!!!! i love finding big names at the thrift, although it doesn't happen very often. but i never really look inside the garment at the seaming and stuff. i think i'm going to make that a habit because a label i'm not familiar with could end up being a great deal. awesome tips!

Diva Discount said...

I've never found designer clothing on the level of Marchesa while thrifting. Please, master, teach me your secrets! How much did this amazing piece wind up costing you, anyway?

briannelee said...

Jealous! Great thrift find!!!!!!

Aesthetic Alterations said...

Linings are something I miss in clothing in general! To find one nowadays usually means quality immediately. And a silk lining... Oh, my!

the peach chablis said...

Great tips! and even greater find! That dress is splendid.

audrey marie said...

beautiful find! love the dress.

CessOviedo said...

Great advice! That dress was a great thrift! Details on it are so beautiful! ... Loved the first picture, the contrast of your delicate outfit and background looks awesome.

http://blog.cessoviedo.com

God's Favorite Shoes! said...

I surrender my thrifting award to you! Because that find is a kickass find!

BTW, I saw that you are registered for the Style Council in Texas! I will be there! I hope we bump into each other but beware, I snatch things I like from strangers all the times...so dress very ugly...very very very ugly.

You've been warned!

Lizzy said...

beautiful dress and such great information! I love clothes that are just as pretty inside out as they are right side out!!

You look great!

http://restonstyle.blogspot.com

Future Lint said...

I am totally with you - I've been going to thrift stores since high school but only recently have I learned to really rein it in... my "to sew" pile does not need a bunch of weird crap from the thrift store that I'll never get around to fixing. Finding designer stuff and vintage at thrift stores is what keeps me coming back and digging through the crap!

Lindsay Jean said...

Ok now I feel the need to go thrifting. This was so helpful, Jentine! Lots of times I forget to check for quality, and if it looks cute, I'll just buy it. I need to remember to slow down and make sure my hard-earned dollah bills aren't being abused!

lindsayjeanstyle.blogspot.com

Karolina said...

Thank you for your tips! I love reading your stories, especially these about thrifting.

xoxo
Karolina

Bre said...

Thank you SO SO much for posting this. It could not have come at a better time. I have never been a vintage shopper and I went the other day and most things said Gap or American Eagle and to me that was not vintage. They ha some other items which I disregard completely for the simple fact I didn't know the brand. I am going back tomorrow!
Can you give me your two cents about price points when it comes to vintage/ thrift shopping?

Lauren said...

First - You need to patent the acronym CKATD - because I love it and am now going to incorporate it into my everyday lexicon.

Second - You should submit these articles to IFB! There is so much great advice here, it is AWESOME! You now make me feel confident to go to thrift stores, treasure hunt, and inspect the items with confidence, because I now know what to look for!! Thank you so much for this series!

Third - I CAN. NOT. Believe that you found a MARCHESA dress while thrifting - that is not just a CKATD - that is a Certified Kick A** Thrift Deal of the Century!! I am in awe.

Terri said...

Excellent tips that are likely to improve my shopping. I've grown more picky in the past year, but had never thought about a woven label before. Will keep that in mind.

Had also never thought about a clerk sizing up my credit card according to my shoes. That little trick would be SO WRONG in my case.


Oh, and thanks for the comment at Rags.

veronika, tick tock vintage. said...

GIRL. that is amazing! i've found some old LV and dior, nothing as good lookin' (or current) as this. way to go!

liz said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all this invaluable information! I'll be much better equipped next time I thrift! And what a great find!

A.Co said...

GREAT post, I ead the entire thing and what a success story. This dress is so much better WITHOUT the beading (this is THAT dress, right? ;)

A.Co @ A.Co est. 1984

PS - your legs look unreal. Stop it.

sartoriography said...

YOWZA! Can't believe you thrifted a Marchesa! You get some serious cred for finding that baby. Great tips for how you did it, too. I have about the same exact one and it has always served me well.

carrie in az said...

LOVE your thrifting tips! I'm just starting to get into thrifting for things other than halloween costumes and I'm kind of enjoying the hunt :)

My question is, when you bring home an item, do you feel like just taking it to the dry cleaners is good enough to get it clean and any-germ-slash-icky-that may be on there free?

I found some AMAZING blazers (that clearly the pricers didn't know good brands...hello Ann Taylor (and not LOFT) for like 5 bucks but I can't get my mind past the fact that they did come from a GoodWill.

In your infinite thrifting experience, do you think the dry cleaners is sufficient?

Thanks!

emily//thelesserpanda said...

AMAZING score! These are great tips and this is a good post to remind me to look in other places to find good fashionable items :)

Emily//TheLesserPanda

Kiki said...

You give the BEST thrifting advice. I'm actually going tomorrow so thank you!
-kiki
anewoutfitaday.blogspot.com

AsianCajuns (Cath) said...

Amazing!! What a great find. I'm always hoping to find a jewel when I go thrifting, but I don't think I do it often enough. I'm totally inspired to go to the thrift stores tomorrow. You look gorgeous in the dress!

A La Mode et Plus! said...

That is such a gorgeous dress and this post is incredibly helpful!

Emma at Daily Clothes Fix said...

Great post (and great dress). Thanks for sharing those details. There was lots of new information that I will definitely use next time I am going charity shop shopping.

La Historiadora de Moda said...

I really love this feature, your writing style, and that Marchesa dress!

Meg said...

What a fabulous find!! Gorgeous!!

www.meg-land.blogspot.com
xx