Thrift Deal Breakers

As I explained in my last post, I have been having some writer's block. I've been wanting to write about thrift deal breakers for a while but I can't seem to get it together. On top of that, whenever I think of the words 'deal breaker', I automatically start singing Mariah Carey's 'Heartbreaker'. And then I get carried away and think of the video, where evil, miniskirted, dark-haired Mariah and sweet, blond, buxom Mariah tussle on the bathroom floor... (let that be a lesson for you, evil arrives with dark hair and a mini skirt). Then I remember that Jerry O'Connell is in that video and is he still married? Remember when his brother was The Bachelor? I don't remember, I never watch or tweet about that crap, ever... Liar. And Jay-Z... have you seen his baby? That's a lot of hair...
Basically, I end up in the Bermuda Triangle of pop culture. But I survived to tell you about it... and better yet, to write about deal breakers in the thrift store.

My thrift store deal breakers are a list of items I avoid buying, even though it hurts my heart to do so. Life experience has taught me that these things are just never worth it, no matter how much they try to win me over with their charms. If I were to compare thrift store deal breakers to romantic relationship deal breakers, it would as if Matt, with his sense of humour, patience and dimples, turned out to be allergic to cats. Game over, my love, game over...


Missing embellishments.
As you can imagine, this is a hard deal breaker for me to abide by. When I see something sparkly (especially if it's silk), I want to buy it and give it a nice home in my closet. In the past, I would notice that some sequins were missing or a few rhinestones had come loose but with eternal optimism, I would convince myself that I could replace those beads or those paillettes. The problem is finding the exact matching embellishment and replicating the technique to apply the replacements without having it look sloppy or 'home-made'. Also, once one area of embellishment starts to unravel or come loose, it usually sets the trend for the rest of the item. I know it is hard to leave the sparkly behind but if it is not complete, it really isn't worth the effort. And yes, it hurts for me to admit that...


Knits that pill.
I often think it is much wiser to buy sweaters and knits from the thrift store. Not only is it cheaper but because the item has been pre-owned, you get a good idea of what you are buying. So many stores in the mall have these wonderful displays of sweaters; neatly folded, organized by colour and so tempting that you walk out with a bag full. Two washes in, the sweaters are the wrong shape and have some major pilling happening around the arms. And the cycle continues because the next pretty sweater display you see, sucks you in again.
If a sweater in the thrift store has few signs of wear, it is usually a good indication of quality. While a fancy dress may only get worn once and may be in perfect condition at the thrift store, sweaters and knits are usually in high closet rotation. So, if they have been pre-loved and still look nice, that is a good thing.  On the other hand, if a sweater is already starting to pill, it needs to be left behind. You can shave off the pills but it will start again.


Disintegrating Fabric.
The problem with disintegrating fabric is that it often doesn't look so bad to start with, but once it starts to wear down, it goes fast. You need to take the little clues seriously.
The dress above (which was hard to photograph as nicely as I would have wanted) is simultaneously one of my best and one of my worst thrift purchases. It is a vintage dress made of this amazing metallic fabric. It has a great hourglass shape, with a nipped-in waist and the hips are emphasized, in a strangely flattering way, with pockets. The standing collar and sleeves get a thumbs up as well... I love this dress and because I love this dress, I was willing to overlook the fact that the fabric was starting to separate on part of the skirt. I figured I could just fuse the back and wear it very carefully. You know... wear it on a day where I won't be telling any exciting stories that require arm movement.
Then I started to handle the dress and I noticed the beginnings of tiny tears everywhere. The thread weaving through the metallic just gave up and the dress is fraying in multiple areas. Holes along the seam are easily repaired but holes in the body of garment are something to be wary of. Sometimes they can be fixed but especially with vintage garments, the fabric has a lifespan and once it starts to breakdown a little bit, it is a sign that the whole garment is compromised.
And it's sad but I should have left this dress. Now it just reminds me of how awesome it could have been, every time I see it. Maybe I will copy the pattern and make myself a dress in this silhouette, but no one should hold their breathe for that.

These are the hard lessons I learned about falling in and out of love in the thrift store.

What are your deal breakers?


Natasha Fatah said...

Oh wow! Great haul Yen!
Need to go thrifting with you!

~Natasha Fatah~
~Natasha Fatah~

That's My Mama said...

Youre so right! Im the one who tries to convince myself that I will go to a craft store and match up the missing sequins, beads ect...never happens lol

gleeps said...

Great post, Yen! One deal breaker for me is the physical discomfort factor (also known as proper fit). I've come home with fabulous shoes a half-size too small or gorgeous skirts with too-tight waistbands that I've ended up donating because I was miserable in them beyond the first 5 minutes of wear.

Victoria said...

I'm not that much into sequins and rhinestones so here I'm safe :)

Like you I stay away from the pilling knits. I also try to carefully inspect - as far as the store lighting allows - the garment for the stains. It has already happened to me - to buy a nice thing in a pretty good condition and then discover a nasty stain in the most visible place. I feel kind of ashamed to return bargain store items so I just live with this.

I also try to stay away from clothes that need "just a little fitting". I don't sew, maybe only adjust the length. So if it's about width or bad fitting spot - then it's no deal for me.

Anonymous said...

polyester and fake leather. Polyester (especially the thick old kind from the 60s and 70s) makes me sweat and is so uncomfortable for me to wear.
If I am buying a purse or belt or shoes from the thrift store you better believe they must be real leather. otherwise it goes back, no matter how cute. Faux leather thrifted items tend to fall apart real fast, and dont even get me started on gross glue incidents with a fake leather bag.
It saves a lot of time, money and heartache to pick as many natural fibers as possible.
That being said, I totally agree on the sweaters!

E. said...

STAINS! I hate it, but if I see something I love has a stain, even in the hidden under-arm area, I put it back. Not worth it! I also never buy anything that needs more work than a hem. I'm not going to spend more than I bought it for on alterations, and, knowing me, it's more likely to sit in my closet than make the trip to the tailors anyways. Gotta be honest with yourself, right?

Great post :)

Sarah said...

my deal breakers... nowadays, it's anything that needs altered in a major way (I can deal with lifting a hem) because it just won't get done and ends up back in the charity shop whence it came. Also man-made fabrics - I'm trying to wean myself off acrylic/nylon/polyester as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

Shoes in the wrong size and stains.
Though I was REALLY tempted yesterday to buy a pair of men's cowboy boots that were a wee bit big on me. Told myself I could use inserts and thick socks! But after looking at myself in the mirror...ummm... no. HA!


Lindsey A. Turner said...

so true! great tips! Yesterday whole thrifting I picked up a cute leather jacket thinking it was $3.99 since it was in with all the other jackets but then the cashier told me it was really $12.99! Prices that are way to high are definitely deal breakers for me!

Lindsey Turner

D said...

These are really good tips. Just last week I had to put a lovely black silk shirt back on the rack, because it was starting to disintegrate. Sad, sad day.

I also have to screen out lots of dresses and blouses because of styles that I know will annoy me, no matter how pretty they are. I keep finding dresses that have these dang sleeves that always end up with elastic all up in my underarms. HATE it.

kendall said...


let this be the start of the thrift bible.

LOL we can discuss MY insane tactics, in person. haha x

Inez said...

Thanks for the tips. Will really need to abide by those.

newpetite said...

Great tips here! Not much into sequins, so Im safe here but agree with the pilling sweaters and the disintegrating fabric. Another thing for me is the smell!! No matter how many times you wash it, it is hard to get the smell off (I think it stays in my head and associates with that particular item)!

Bibliophiliac said...

As much as I want to be brand blind, I still find myself putting back nice things after checking the label.
Often, it's things I know I can get new at a similar price - Target, Gap, H&M but if my mother-in-law wears the brand...it's going back on the rack.
It's stupid but still a deal/hearbreaker for me.

The Suburb Experiment said...

Fit and fabric. I can't handle things that aren't comfortable, but I still find myself purchasing nipped-in waists and polyester because I really, really like the design. I have a closet of items with vague intentions of selling, but let's face it - listing on Etsy (or anything) is a pain in the ass.

The Suburb Experiment

FutureLint said...

I agree with all your tips! I'm usually willing to try to remove stains and usually successful. But smokey or moth-bally smelling items - somehow it just lingers no matter what I do! And that should go without saying too - no moth eaten holes, no matter how tiny!

Kat said...

These are great tips Yentina! I've enjoyed reading the comments just as much. I was going to say the same thing as newpetite mentioned - smells. I put away a darling leather skirt that was clearly owned by a smoker, but I've taken my chances on a beautiful real fur coat in mint condition and a Joseph Ribkoff jumpsuit in black and gold. I washed the jumpsuit and ran the fur coat in the dryer on no heat with a wad of dryer sheets - to no effect. So I'm chalking this up to lessons learned.

Brianne O'Neil said...

Items that smell like cigarette smoke are a deal breaker for me. I feel like it is really hard to get that smell out.

Anonymous said...

I'm guilty of buying things time after time that just don't fit perfectly . Someone help me !

De Facto Redhead said...

Fit, stains, pilling, fading, and threadbare patches are my deal-breakers. This sounds like a list that would rule out almost everything in a thrift store, but I continue to have faith and am usually rewarded by a great piece found hanging among the sadly stretched-out and misshapen "mall brands." (I recently saw an American Eagle item priced at $17.99 at Value Village. WHAT?!)

Terri said...

You read my mind when you mentioned deconstructing the metallic dress for the pattern. It has such a great profile...and surely you could find a similar metallic fabric.

Elissa said...

Oh my, this is SUCH a great post! I have the spirit of a magpie and have brought home too many sequined and beaded blouses with missing, disintegrating or loose pieces which fall behind me like glitter of a kindergartener's school art project. I always, always regret buying them. But I can't seem to stop.

Think we can start a support group?

Diana said...

I haven't been able to bring myself to thrift pants. I just can't stand the thought of someone else's crotch being that close to mine.

burrito said...

I've wondered about garments in my closet - is there someone I could take it to and have them create a replica... because I know realistically I never will. Is that something you hire a fashion design student to do? A tailor?

I hope you're able to rescue (i.e. replicate) the silver dress, it is fabulous!

Sarah said...

For what it's worth...I think you should absolutely copy that pattern and make a new dress in that silhouette. Wowza!!