This week, we continue answering Sunday Source staffers' questions with this one from
Nicole M. Miller, our copy editor.
Q My husband has fantastic luck finding almost-new dress shirts every time we go to a thrift store. What other clothes are easy to find at secondhand shops?
A Many thrift stores are home to good clothes in great condition. How to filter out the dross? Steer clear of the racks of stirrup pants and Bill Cosby sweaters and start your search in the special-occasion section. Most people own cocktail dresses, blazers and (as your husband knows) dress shirts -- they just may not have cause to wear them frequently. When such clothes eventually get dispatched to that big thrift store in the sky, they're often nearly new. Sure, you'll have to hunt a bit for whatever style you prefer, but you'll be off to the right start.
Jewelry, cuff links, scarves and ties also make reliable thrift scores. They're usually in decent condition and, for many shoppers, they're a way to experiment with eccentric colors and vintage styles that might feel too loud or costumey worn head-to-toe.
T-shirts are a mixed bag. You could luck out with an original Van Halen concert tee -- but it'll probably be further past its prime than David Lee Roth. And while many people love secondhand shoes, I'm not one of them: the "ick" factor is, for me, just too high. That said, some are very stylish, especially if you're into retro looks, so buy (or bypass) as you see fit.
Other items tend to be more dicey. Sweaters are often disappointingly droopy and pilled. Pants can also be tough: They demand a more precise fit than either shirts or skirts, but many thrift stores lack dressing rooms (or, at least, any you'd want to spend time in), making it difficult to try before you buy.
Of course, all stores have their good and bad days, dependent as they are upon the fashion sense of whoever decided to clean out their closets that week. You stand the best chance of unearthing a gem if your sense of what you want isn't overly specific. Need a party dress? Great. Need a black, spaghetti-strapped, knee-length party dress? Make for the mall instead.
Wondering how to wear it? E-mail Suzanne D'Amato, Sunday Source's deputy editor and a former fashion writer at Vogue, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and phone number.