Thrift stores have long been praised by fashion mavens and broke college students alike, and our own little subculture has not been immune. For years, scrolling through outfits on both mainstream fashion blogs and daily_lolita alike, I wondered how they did it. A little bit of me died to see that the most amazing parts of an ensemble - a hairpiece here, a necklace there - being tagged, in rundowns, as "thrifted" or "vintage."
"How?!" I would cry, sifting through aisle after aisle at Goodwill. "How did you find these treasures?!"
Well, after a few years of trolling my own thrift stores and vintage or consignment shops, I'm proud to say I've picked up the knack. It's a simple combination of patience, creativity, and knowing where to look, which I'll share with all of my darling readers now!
At least, as much as I can. Part of the aforementioned patience is developing said knack, which takes a bit of time. First of all, research. Research is ALWAYS the first step! A quick Google search will tell you the more popular thrift & consignment shops in your area, and always keep an out for the littler ones around town. More about finding stores will come in the "knowing where to look" section. Another form of very important patience is: always remember that what you're looking for may not be there the first time. I've gone to some of my favorite thrift stores and seeing nothing but crap for weeks, to return and find the item of my dreams awaiting me! However, one time not to be patient is when you find said dream-item. Sometimes if it sits on the shelf for long enough, the management will lower its price or be more willing to haggle for it- but sometimes the next person to enter the store will be looking for the exact same thing! If you're unsure, grab it and carry it around with you while you're looking through the wares. Not only may you see its perfect accoutrement on your perusing, but it will give you time to think through your current wardrobe and decide if you have anything to wear it with, your likeliness of using it, etc.
Creativity is also key. Don't just look at the piece itself, look at fabric, ribbon, lace, or appliques on it. Or, instead of looking at the shape or that oversized T-shirt with the sweet print - look at the cute cutsew it could become! What you find may not be lolita in and of itself, but always go in with an open mind - obviously, it's also good to have a good knowledge & understanding of different styles, cuts, and trends within lolita you're looking to replicate in your own wardrobe. I recommend taking a look at your favorite brand's website before going, just to jog your imagination & stir your creativity. Don't buy it if you don't think you'll use it, though- sure, the fabric may be gorgeous, but you can't even thread a needle, how likely are you to turn it into the perfect ________?
Another big deal is knowing where to look. Like I mentioned earlier, a quick google search will show you the more popular stores in your area, but don't stop there! Explore your town or city and the surrounding ones, and ask around- my favorite thrift stores were both recommended to me by my grandmother. You may also be surprised at where you find these stores! If you live in a Christian-dominated area, many churches have little thrift shops attached or associated with them, whether it's an actual physical outbuilding or basement, or just a flea market in the summer months, so ask around. I also don't think it's weird to call some of the larger churches and ask - sometimes they will only be publicized or announced during services, and I've never been turned away for not being part of the parish! Note: I've never seen thrift stores at other religious organizations, but if you attend or live near a synagogue or mosque, I'm sure it wouldn't be rude to enquire! Also, I'm not frowning upon stand-alone consignment or thrift stores, however, in my experience the best, least-expensive goods come from church stores. I'm also not discouraging Goodwill or other chain thrift shops, I totally recommend them! Especially those with a purpose like Goodwill, where the money goes to a good cause. A tip: Go to the ones in richer areas. It may sound mean, but by going a few towns over from my own, I've seen authentic Coach, Kate Spade, and other big mainstream names - so I'm just sayin'.
Some good items for lolita to look for:
- HATS! I've had amazing luck with hats, mostly in vintage shops. Pillboxes, boaters, huge straw hats, I've seen some lovely ones and just this past holiday picked up some great ones myself, which will be probably be posted to my poupee account very soon!
- Jewelry, especially if you're nervous about germs (though I know most stores have all their good dry-cleaned before sale). Jewelry is good with lolita because too much vintage and it loses the lolita look, and a nice bracelet or necklace can add a bit of old-fashioned glamour to an otherwise overly sweet Angelic Pretty-style coordinate.
- Purses and bags are always good - you can find some cute, whimsical ones that add aforementioned glamour to an outfit.
- Skirts, tops, and dresses will usually need some help to be anything more than casual, but it's definitely doable, so don't let that stop you!
Thrift stores are treasure troves, to be certain, and they can lend the careful lolita's wardrobe many a gem. Remember that succeeding in any thrift store romp is really a matter of practice, so keep these tips in mind, but remember, you have to rely on your own instincts and ideas too! Thrifting really is a skill that comes with practice - so go on, get started! I can't wait to see the lovely vintage pieces you all come up with!
EDIT: New layout! I've been trying to find the right photo to make a custom header since before Miss Lumpy's debut, but the opportunity finally presented itself while visiting family this weekend! What do you guys think?