Patience is key. I don't know how many times I've had to explain this to people, but it's the truth. Don't get discouraged when you go one time and find nothing, because the find of the century is right around the corner! With that being said, there are also a few things to keep in mind that might be holding you back from finding treasure! Here are some of my favorite tips:
1) Some sections can be a surprise.
In the beginning, I used to discount the lingerie section in my local thrift stores as a place for cast-off and dirty underwear, and who the heck wants that? I also assumed that any lingerie I found would be "sexy" lingerie. You can find both of these things there, but there is also a wealth of other beautiful things! 1950s and 1960s nightgowns are some of the most beautiful pieces of clothing ever made on this Earth. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but believe me and heed my advice, look through the lingerie section. You know where else could have some really amazing things? The kid's section, no lie. The people sorting through clothing don't necessarily know what they're looking at, if it's small enough looking, it's likely to get put over there. I have also learned to not ignore the linens section, you can find beautiful hand-knit Afghan blankets, vintage lace tablecloths (that can double as backdrops if you're a photographer as well), and a bevy of other delights.
2) Look thoughtfully and thoroughly
A lot of people seem to think they're just going to walk in the store and see their holy grail right off the bat. No surprise to the thrifting veterans among us, it takes digging! When going through a rail of clothing, look at every piece. When you become more accustomed to what vintage clothing feels and looks like, it becomes a lot easier to scan more quickly. If you come across something that looks intriguing, stop to inspect it. Does it have any labels/tags on the inside? What does the stitching look like? What do the seams look like? Inspecting your own modern clothes is a good way of knowing when something looks "different." I'll be more extensively covering vintage tags and labels in another post.
3) Does it have a tag on it? Look it up!
I'd say at least 9/10 of you have a smart phone. Use it! If you find something that you're unsure of and maybe the price makes you second-guess just buying it, give it a quick research! If it has a tag/label on it, just punch the company into google with quotes around it, such as "Gunne Sax," "Vanity Fair," "Artemis," etc. If you don't get anything relevant back, try ebay or etsy. Sometimes you're just out of luck, but most often, you'll find it somewhere and it will help you decide whether it's legit vintage or a modern cast-off.
4) If you like it, put a ring on it.
Don't think, "Oh, I'll just buy this another time," because let me tell you, there's likely not going to be another time; I rarely go back to a thrift store and see the same items. If you want it and you have the money, buy it. If it's not something you end up using, you can always re-sell it!
5) Old clothes come from...
And last of all, without being too subtle about it, older clothes from older people. You're not as likely to find vintage in a town with a relatively low elderly population. My absolute favorite thrift stores are usually ones where older clients donate. While I love the occasional goodwill and salvation army trip, I enjoy the smaller thrift stores the most. Not only are they easier to go through quickly, the employees tend to remember you as well. There's the sweetest elderly lady that work at one of my favorite Hospice stores. And while she might not "help" me per se, her comments on my thrifty finds are the best. And if you're nice and polite (which I always strive to be), they're much more likely to give you your unmarked purchase for a bargain!
What are your best thrifting tips?