Formal wear seems to be something most people can’t go without. Whether it be a military spouse searching for ball attire, a teenager looking for the perfect prom dress, brides-to-be on the hunt for the one, or even someone just looking for something spiffy for job interviews, the office, or church on Sunday, thrifting for formal wear will save you tons of money with no loss in quality!
Formal dresses on a thrift store rack are typically ones that have only been worn once or twice. You can find brand new, brand name dresses for less than $50! In most cases, that can be up to 90% off retail price. Look for dresses with imperceptible damage that can easily be repaired like snags at the hemline or missing closures—even a broken zipper can easily be replaced at home if your local seamstress is too busy.
PRO TIP: Consider removing the zipper and installing a lace up back to get the most wear out of your dress! This is stylish and lets you continue to wear your dress even if you lose or gain a few pounds.
Just like dresses, suits can be found in thrift stores for amazing prices and in great quality. Likely to have been worn a few more times than a formal dress, these are made from high quality and durable fabrics more often than not. Again, look for imperceptible damages that can easily be fixed like missing buttons or snags. Find the perfect suit that just doesn’t fit right? Suit jackets and pants are easily tailored in length and girth as the seams generally have a generous allowance to be let out, and taking them in is even easier.
Bridal gowns are typically some of the best thrifts out there. These are pretty much guaranteed to be brand new and only worn once. Look out for the usual snags and missing closures, but also stains because white at a party is basically asking for a stain or two. If you see stains, don’t fret! The dress can be saved numerous ways (YouTube will be your best friend here). If you don’t feel like you can get the stain out, consider dying the dress as a fun DIY project to give new life to it.
PRO TIP: Consider deconstructing the wedding dresses you find for fabric for other projects. Already found your perfect dress? A thrifted dress could be deconstructed to make unique fabric accents in your decor, a matching lingerie set for the day of, or even soft headbands for your flower girls!
Decorating a home can be costly. If you catch yourself debating between living in a sterile home or breaking the bank on decor, take a trip to your local thrift store for unique pieces at affordable prices!
Lamps can be used all over your home—at your bedside, in the living room, in your home office—and they come in so many different styles! Buying lamps from thrift stores means you’ll have more options to mix and match lamp bases and shades to fit your unique style while also saving money. If nothing quite works, remember that lamps are one of the easiest thrifts to paint and even add texture to!
Mirrors can do so much to elevate your decor. The right placement can make a room look bigger, bring in more light, or create a beautiful and functional statement piece. Mirrors are also typically framed in either wood or metal, making them easy to paint or stain for a new look.
3. Glass containers
Glass containers like these come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, which makes them perfect to incorporate into your decor as they are. Use tall bottles for florals, short and wide ones to hold small necessities or trinkets, etc. If you find big enough containers with lids, you can also use these in your pantry to hold dry goods and keep things fresh.
4. Tablecloths and curtains
Because thrift stores sell items that are not trend based or largely seasonal, you can find a variety of styles, textures, and materials for these often overlooked decor items. Tablecloths and curtains both help add color and texture to your home in subtle but powerful ways. Purchasing these from thrift stores is far cheaper than purchasing them new, which means you can buy more for less!
5. Wooden furniture
This almost goes without saying, but wooden furniture is a jackpot of a find at any thrift store! Whether it be a coffee table, dresser, or a headboard, wooden furniture is not only sturdy and long lasting, but also easy to refinish—if it even needs refinishing. You can also easily update anything with drawers by replacing the knobs or pulls.
If you’re an avid reader and love the feel of paper books over new digital forms, browsing for your next read (or 10) at your local thrift shop may be for you! However, thrifting books is very different from shopping for books at a bookstore. Here are our tips for a successful book run!
Tip #1: Don’t make a list of wants.
Books donated to thrift stores are bountiful and widely varied across genres, authors, and publication dates but it is not likely that a thrift store will have a book on your to-be-purchased list. But if you happen to see one, snatch it up fast!
Don’t be afraid to make a list of authors or genres you would like to look for! This will help you guide your search and narrow down your purchases.
Tip #2: Browse all the available books or risk missing out on a great read!
Thrift store book collections are often not organized like bookstores and libraries. You won’t see books sectioned off by genre or alphabetized by the author’s last name. Granted, some categories of books are generally separated like children’s books, cookbooks, and educational books, but that is typically as far as the sorting goes. Browsing the shelves from top to bottom lets you see all of the available titles and find more options for your favorite genres!
Tip # 3: Do at least two sorts before you head to check out.
We recommend sorting through your book selections at least twice. The first sort is done when you pull books from the shelves after your initial browse. The second sort is done after you’ve loaded up your arms/basket/cart with a bunch of “maybe” books—going over your initial prospects will help you narrow down which ones to purchase. After all, you know best what books you won’t be able to put down and which ones will make you struggle to turn the page.
Donating to thrift stores is a great way to be economical and eco-friendly. Not only do you help yourself by getting rid of unwanted items, you help your community by giving those items a second chance with someone else for a reasonable price and the proceeds from sales go on to help others through community programs! Sales from donations can go toward scholarship funds, grant funds, sponsoring community events, and much more! However, not all donations are created equal.
Before you bring a trunk full of donations to your local thrift store, ask yourself a few questions to determine whether your items are acceptable as donations.
Are any of these items unacceptable?
While this can vary from state to state, generally unaccepted items include broken items, threadbare or holey clothes, clothes with large stains, hazardous items, cosmetics, chemicals, and CRT electronics. These items should be trashed or properly recycled when possible. Check with your local thrift store for a complete list of items that are unaccepted. You can view the Fort Drum Thrift Shop’s Unaccepted Items list here.
Would you be happy to find this at a thrift store?
While you might be donating these items because you no longer need or want them, you shouldn’t donate items that you yourself would be unsatisfied with if you bought it at a thrift store tomorrow. This is common with board games and puzzles missing pieces, or damaged video game discs and cartridges that cannot be tested in the store beyond a general once over looking for obvious signs of damage. These items can be recycled or possibly given away for free to someone interested, but they do not belong in your donations pile.
Winter clothes shopping often costs quite a bit of money and may leave you and your wallet feeling stressed by the end of it depending on where you live and what items you need. We at the Fort Drum Thrift Shop are here to help you save money and stay warm with our winter shopping tips!
Why thrift winter clothes?
Winter clothing is generally more expensive than clothing for warmer seasons as it is made with more expensive materials and more material in general. If you live in an area with cold and/or wet winter weather, you’ll also need more layers and weatherproofing than someone that lives in an area with mild and/or dry winters. The more you need, the greater the price tag! Thrifting what you can will help keep that price tag low while also giving clothing a second chance at life in your wardrobe. The environment and your wallet will thank you!
What kinds of winter clothes can I find at thrift stores?
A better question would be what can’t you find! Thrift stores stock all kinds of winter clothes! This list is not comprehensive but can give you a good idea of what you’re likely to find.
Does it snow or rain a lot during winter in your area? Invest in something water resistant. Are winter temperatures mild in your area? You might be better off with fewer layers but with warm materials like sherpa or wool. Remember, your outerwear can be bought bigger than your actual size to make room for comfortable layering!
Tip #2: Shop out of season when possible.
Even thrift stores are subject to seasonal shopping trends, so finding in-demand winter items during winter months can be hard. Plan your winter thrifts out of season in either spring or fall when chances of finding winter clothing are not only higher, but shopping will be less competitive.
Tip #3: Look for neutral colors and stay stylish year after year.
While some prefer comfort and practicality over fashionability, there’s no reason you can’t have it all! Fashion trends come and go and so do color schemes. If you’re worried about staying stylish for years to come, opt for neutral or timeless colors when possible! Black, white, gray, navy, and brown tones are all classic colors that will never go out of style and are easy to pair with other items already in your wardrobe.
MYTH #1: Thrift stores are dirty.
THE FACTS: This is a common misconception because many people walk into a thrift store and expect it to look like a boutique or even a retail chain. In reality, thrift stores operate in all kinds of places! A warehouse may not be as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as a downtown boutique, but the items available for sale should be the real stars of the show anyway! At the end of the day, thrift stores are still businesses and are run as such, which includes regular cleaning and organizing just like any other business.
MYTH #2: Thrift stores only sell items in poor condition.
THE FACTS: Thrift stores carefully vet donations as they come in and only allow items that are in good condition to be sold. For example, the Fort Drum Thrift Shop carefully views all donations at the time of dropoff and will reject items that are unacceptable. It is definitely possible that something can slip through in the vetting process—it happens at thrift stores everywhere—but these are exceptions few and far in between. In reality, you can often find brand new clothing and housewares, gently used books and sporting goods, and more! Even if something looks a little rough around the edges, a thorough cleaning at home can make your finds look brand new again!
MYTH #3: Thrift stores are unorganized or cluttered.
THE FACTS: Thrift stores are actually just as organized as department stores and major retailers; the difference is thrift store racks and shelves are filled with many similar items rather than stacks or rows of the same item. Lots of thrift stores also have signs depicting where you can find what items and, in the case of clothing, what type and sizes.
MYTH #4: Thrift stores are aimed at a specific audience.
THE FACTS: Thrift stores exist to benefit their communities, charities, organizations, etc. Many thrift stores are associated with nonprofits if they are not the nonprofit organization itself. Even if certain demographics are targeted through marketing strategies, there are no shortages of donations at thrift stores! This means that anyone can shop regardless of age, race, religion, economic status or, in the case of the Fort Drum Thrift Shop, military status without fear of taking items from those in greater need or feeling out of place while shopping.
MYTH #5: Thrifting takes too much time.
THE FACTS: Thrifting can take anywhere between a few minutes and several hours if not days depending on what you are looking for and what you are willing to put into a trip. If you are hunting for one specific item, it could take time and possibly multiple trips to find it. This is common for those hunting for vintage items or designer/brand name clothes and accessories. On the other hand, casual thrifters often spend less than an hour browsing for anything that catches their eye. If you have a specific item you are looking for that can be easily spotted, your trip may be even shorter! For example, small kitchen appliances like coffee makers or toasters can easily be spotted on a shelf without having to invest a great deal of time sifting through similar items like with clothing. When in doubt, bring a friend to help you look or ask the staff for assistance!
Sierra currently serves as the Publicity Chairman on the Fort Drum Thrift Shop's Board of Directors. She is a member of our Fort Drum community and an avid thrift shopper herself!