[Trendzilla] Digging for Thrift-Store Gold

Never go thrifting with expectations. In fact, if I walk out with anything at all, I’m grateful.

I was never any good at unearthing the vintage gold at secondhand or consignment shops. But that’s only because I’m really, really impatient.

In Orange County (or any semi-metropolitan area), thrift stores are picked over and over again by all sorts of hip kids with sharper eyes and more persistence than me.

See, the thing you and I both know about living here is that everyone and everything tends to look the same. You got your strip malls every quarter-mile down any given non-residential street. Then you got your Blocks, South Coast Plazas and Spectrums. And they all mostly have the same stores, with the same kind of people buying the same kinds of things. Boutiques are tough to come by, and sometimes it really is just easier to head down to H&M for a cheap date dress.

But there are a few things about vintage I’ve learned along the way:

• If you’re looking to get rid of clothing, try reselling some of the still-trendy items to places such as Galaxy Exchange and Buffalo Exchange. Sure, you’ll never get the full original value, but it’s an easy way to make a quick $20 for a bag of clothes you would’ve tossed anyway.

• Look everywhere. Your mom’s closet. Your grandmother’s closet. Thrift stores. Consignment stores. Sometimes even the specialty vintage shops that do all the looking for you will have a decent buy—for a marked-up price. Just keep in mind when you’re shopping at places like these (think Fourth Street in Long Beach) that you’re paying an additional finder’s fee for that really amazing piece. It takes time, tolerance, gasoline and a good eye to unearth vintage goods. eBay has tons of gals who make a fortune doing the same thing, but I’d stick to the stores—bidding sucks.

• Just ’cause it’s old doesn’t mean it looks good.

• But don’t be afraid to experiment, either. Most gently used items won’t look so hot at first glance—sometimes things require some inexpensive alterations, or maybe a belt and proper layering.

• Don’t overdo it.

This last tip is the most important. Mix up the old with some existing pieces from your wardrobe. If you’ve found a particularly retro dress, pair it with a modern cardigan or slim-cut blazer. You don’t want to look like you’re wearing a costume. Or like your grandmother.

This super-cute gal photographed in Long Beach has the right idea: She’s paired a simple, navy shift dress with a teal, brown and tan Missoni-inspired cardigan with gold threads running through it. A pair of awesome heeled loafers (you can probably find their not-nearly-as-cool overpriced modern component at Urban Outfitters) and drawstring leather tote finish the outfit.


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >