I’ve been a Goodwill regular since I got my first job selling hot dogs and vanilla cokes at Ashworth Drugs in downtown Cary as a fourteen year old. I started making money and buying my own clothes (prior to getting a job, clothes came only at Christmas and the start of a new school year). My mother (you remember? the owner of Becky’s Boutique) taught me about the hidden joys of Goodwill, and I’ve been hooked ever since. In the last 13 years I’ve honed my Goodwill shopping skill, and today I will share some of my tricks with you. I welcome your suggestions, too.
Let me use a recent, real life example from this evening. I was on my way home from work and I decided to swing by the Goodwill near my house. I don’t really care for this one, but lesson number 1: Goodwill, unlike your favorite mall store, has a random selection. Some days you leave empty handed, and others you may find a few treasures.
I haven’t purchased any new clothing items this summer because I’d rather invest in a new kitchen. But the new semester is approaching and I’d like to have a few pieces to amp up my wardrobe and prevent boredom. That leads me to lesson number 2: do not buy clothes at the Goodwill just because you’re bored. This lesson is true for any store. You’ll end up with buyer’s remorse, and you’ll waste your money.
The first step I took this evening was cursory look through the shirt, dress, and jacket sections. I don’t spend much time looking at the clothes, but I do touch the fabric and only pull items that feel like their high(ish) quality. Lesson 3 and 4 be a fabric snob and wash your hands after you shop at the Goodwill. You should practice selective brand loyalty (Lesson 5). I either buy brands that I know to be a certain level of quality -or- I buy unknown brands that use good fabric and/or are lined. Brands to avoid: Old Navy, Target brands, Forever 21, Charlotte Ruse. Generally, if I wouldn’t buy it at the regular store, I won’t buy it at the Goodwill.
I usually pull a number of items to try in the dressing room. I’ve learned from past shopping sprees to stick to my style. You’ll be tempted to “make something work”. Lesson 6: Yes, use your imagination, but be realistic. You’re not going to look cute in an oversized blazer with shoulder pads. I promise. Vintage clothes are especially tricky. Try to envision 1) if you’ll really wear it, and 2) how you can make it look good. Do you have the right shoes, accessories, etc.? Lesson 7: Don’t buy it if you have to buy more clothes to make it look good. You’re defeating the purpose of shopping at the Goodwill.
Toward the end of our spree, you should have tried on a large handful of clothes and narrowed it down to three items if you’re lucky (and sufficiently picky). Here are some things you should put back on the racks before you leave (Lesson 8): athletic wear (unless it has a tag on it), undergarments (goes without saying), tank tops and cotton t-shirts (these are generally worn and are best if purchased new), anything with holes, tears, rips or hemming that isn’t an easy fix, jeans (usually, they’ve conformed to the original owner’s shape and are not worth it -not even Sevens or other expensive brands). And if you have to convince yourself it looks good, just put it back.
So, you’ve heeded my advice and you’re checking out. Naturally, you have a few doubts. Thankfully, the Goodwill has a return policy (who knew?!). Now you can go home and put some outfits together. Lesson 9: Return the items for cash back within 5 days if you can’t make a good outfit.
How do you avoid looking frumpy as a Goodwill shopper? Excellent question. Maybe I am a delusional, frumpy woman. If you share that opinion, then ignore me altogether. If you don’t, follow Lesson 10: To look put together, spend your money on shoes (yes, good shoes), a nice haircut, and a nice purse. You have to have a bit of spice to make a wardrobe with a sizable portion of Goodwill clothes work. Lesson 11: Look through style blogs and make mental notes of the season’s trends (if you’re going to be trendy, may as well only spend $3.75 doing it). Often, you can replicate a look you’ve seen in one of your favorite stores for a fraction of the cost. And last but not least, Lesson 12: Confidence will pull you through when you inevitably mess up and look like Little Edie.
TODAY’S GOODWILL FINDS
A vintage (1970’s) Diane Von Furstenberg plaid top. On trend with the fall 2012 plaid and tartan prints.
It makes me think of this Madewell dress I love
A vintage, pleated midi skirt. Like these little beauties….