How To Thrift Shop like A Brooklyn Hipster, Or Somebody Who Looks Like They Might Be In A Band
I honestly feel like I don’t get enough credit for being as well-dressed as I am. But I AM!
I am so well-dressed, in fact, that a few years ago, at the John Lennon memorial sing-along, I got cornered mid-song by a middle-aged man who interrogated me:
“Hey, don’t I know you?”
“I don’t think so,” I whispered, then got back to singing.
“Aren’t you that girl from that band?”
“I’m not in a band,” I hissed under my breath, annoyed at this guy interrupting the sacred singalong.
“Are you sure you’re not in that band?” he wheedled.
I didn’t respond because, I think I would know if I was that girl in that band!!!
But I can’t blame him for thinking so. My incredible style is always getting me noticed and YOU CAN TOO! Oh yeah, people are always asking me how I find Such Cool Clothes in vintage stores, and here are my top tips for how to dress as cool as me:
Find the ugliest thing on the rack and try it on
Racks and racks on racks on racks. It’s overwhelming. The shortcut is to just filter out all the noise and go for the UGLIEST THING on the rack. “Ugly” is subjective, so let’s be clear. Neon, patterns, sequins, fringe, fur, tie-die, velvet, animal print. When in doubt, ask yourself: “WWFDD- What Would Fran Drescher Do?”
Don’t fall in love with something that’s too damaged
This also doubles as dating advice. HAAAAAAAAAAAAA
But seriously, be realistic about the amount of work you’re willing to put into repairs before buying something that needs a little help. Yeah, you might be able to hem those pants. Or swap out the buttons on that blazer that’s missing a couple. But are you really going to get that shift dress tailored? Mmm-hmm. Gonna replace the zipper in that pair of vintage jeans? Lol don’t think so.
Step away from the sweaters
Vintage sweaters are the leftover sushi of the thrift store: they just don’t hold up. Too pilly, too scratchy (for the most part, there are exceptions, but they are rare). Buy a new sweater.
Size ain’t nothin but a number
Sizing and measurements have changed over time. Some brands use European sizing. Some have their own standards of sizing, and SOME CLOTHES are SO OLD that their size tags got ripped out LONG AGO! You’re gonna have to try everything on, which is time-consuming, but ultimately worth it.
Dress for success
Make it easier on yourself by planning ahead! Wear a “shopping outfit” that is easy to get in and out of: slip-on shoes, a comfy shirt, and loose bottoms. A pro tip: don’t go thrift shopping in a DRESS! Some stores don’t have mirrors IN the dressing room, you’ll change in a small stall and need to come out of your room to check yourself out in a communal mirror. If you have long hair, a tight bun will keep it from getting snagged on buttons and sequins.
Try the neck trick
It doesn’t ALWAYS work, but sometimes it gets you close! There’s an old wives’ tale that the circumference of your neck is half the circumference of your waist. Depending on the time of the month, I can more or less determine whether a pair of pants will fit by wrapping the waistband around my neck! If it doesn’t make it, there’s no way in hell those pants are gonna close. Now, sometimes, they’ll fit my neck and I still can’t get the pants up. It’s an imperfect science at best, and it may not work for everybody, but most of the time it saves me bringing too many pants/skirts into the dressing room and quickly eliminates too-small items. Test it at home by trying it with a pair of pants that fit your waist well!
Turn up the volume
One of the only “conventional fashion tips” I’ve ever found useful is to mix and match the volume of your pieces. For example: if you’re wearing tight jeans, mix it up with a blousy or poofy top. Or, pair a spandex bodysuit with a full skirt or baggy jeans! Baggy on top and baggy on bottom is tricky to pull off (not impossible!) and tight all over is…fine, but buys into the myth that women must take up as little space as possible. I say, be VOLUMINOUS darling! Consider Alicia Silverstone’s outfit on the DVD cover of Clueless: tight slip dress, big coat! It’s Cruella DeVille’s classic look.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a look won’t be built in an hour. Plan on extra shopping time because you need to really dive in to the racks or risk missing that extra-special piece! Most vintage/thrifting emporiums have a “NO RETURNS” policy, so you’ll definitely want to try things on before you buy, and due to limited space, there’s almost always a line at the dressing rooms. If you can, go on a weekday rather than a weekend, when crowds and lines are more common, or on a rainy day, when fewer people go out.
Have fun and experiment!
Try on clothes you think you’d never like! Try on silhouettes you’d normally shy away from! Fabrics you’d normally turn up your nose at! Colors that you wouldn’t think would “suit you.” Vintage stores have a much wider variety than typical retail stores, so here’s your chance to really go all out there!
If you ARE a Brooklyn hipster (or a hipster anywhere in the New York metropolitan area), I strongly recommend these vintage stores, which are among my favorites!
L Train Vintage: great for “normcore,” denim, skirts, and scandalously cheap and truly bizarre finds. Most of my wardrobe comes from L train vintage, including these bodacious red shorts! Pieces average between $3-$10, so this is a great place to keep checking back on new stock! The best (and biggest) branch is on Flushing Ave, which just so happens to be BLOCKS AWAY FROM MY APARTMENT!!!
Beacon’s Closet: the best branch is in Greenpoint/Williamsburg. This chain runs a little more expensive, but you’ll find high-quality (read: still in pretty good shape) on-trend clothes. Great for the occasional truly delicious find, but it’ll come with a price. I actually found this great fluffy striped sweater at the Beacon’s Closet near me! Great condition!
Goodwill: the best one is on 8th street in Greenwich Village! Good for wardrobe staples, like jeans, blouses, sundresses. I got these excellent skinny jeans there on the same trip that I bought the orange cargo pants I’m wearing in the picture above!
Buffalo Exchange: my favorite one is on 26th street in Manhattan! They tend towards more “current” and “trendy” pieces, but you can find an occasional quirky gem, like these green sequined pants which I adore!
“Boutique” vintage stores: you know the ones you’ll find on the UES? Angel Street in Chelsea? The carefully-curated vintage shops? These will have those incredible vintage designer pieces that you’ll drop your entire paycheck on. You can still find good stuff here, like accessories and shoes! I found these gorgeous vintage sunglasses in GREAT condition for $10!
Stella Dallas: Great shoes — buy your Converse here. Huge “men’s” section (note: “men’s” clothing is a construct, but this place seems to cater more towards carrying pants labelled with “men’s sizing” inside, larger gender-neutral hoodies, jackets, and button-downs, and t-shirts). Runs pretty pricey, though.
If you’re a Brooklyn Hipster, tell me where you shop! Or just tell me how cute I am! No, for the last time, I’m not in a band!!!