The Pitfalls (and Pit Stains) of Thrifting

Approximately once a year, I'll go and buy myself 2 new pairs of jeans, a couple pairs of shoes, some new underwear and if the gods are smiling, a new bra (because bra shopping is the worst, right?) Other than those "luxuries", I generally prefer to shop at thrift stores. I get a great selection, I don't spend a lot of money, and there's usually some box full of weirdness that will make a good story to tell over drinks later.

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Of course, thrifting is not without it's challenges. Here's my personal list of the seven deadly sins of thrift store items and how to deal with them...or how to ignore them.

1.) Armpit stains.

Armpit stains are the worst, especially when you didn't realize they were there. Whenever you're looking at something in the thrift store, hold it in the lightest part of the store, and check the armpits. Although there are some methods for removing stains that sometimes work, there's no guarantee. My personal feeling is that it's usually not worth the hassle of trying to remove the stains, so I just don't bother with these clothes. I've spent hours trying to remove armpit stains on a shirt I paid a dollar for.

I don't do that anymore. Our time is valuable and that's stupid. Really, really stupid.

If I accidentally do end up with a shirt with armpit stains, I donate it back (maybe someone else is up to the task!) or I try to use the fabric for another project.

2.) General stains (skirts, folds)

I love giant circle skirts but it seems like once a year I end up picking a skirt that's hiding a giant stain in the folds.

I loved this dress so much. 
I did not love the giant bleach spot on the left hip.  Thankfully, I ended up selling it to someone who could be creative with a good dress gone bad...

She applied some flower appliques and it turned out beautifully!

Big skirts or any piece of clothing that has a lot of folds in the fabric should be spread out and inspected for holes and stains. Otherwise you run the real risk of sitting at home, crying into a pile of clothing, thinking about how much cake you could have bought with the money you spent at the thrift store on a dirty dress.

3.) Dry Clean Only

I actively avoid purchasing "dry clean only" clothing. Lots of people have different reasons for not wanting to dry clean their clothes but mine are pretty simple - I don't have that much money. I need clothes that I can throw in the washer and either hang to dry or throw them in the dryer. Dry cleaning doesn't fit into my schedule and it definitely doesn't fit into my budget.


The few pieces that I do have that are labeled "dry clean only" get the Dryel treatment. Basically, it's a bag that you throw your clothes and what looks like a wet wipe into, throw the whole thing in the dryer, and it freshens up your clothes. It's pretty much amazing. Eventually, dry clean only stuff does need to go to the dry cleaner. But if I can push it off for a while with Dryel, I'm absolutely going to do that. Because money and time.

4.) Moth holes

Moth holes are the worst. They're so teeny tiny that you don't even realize that they're there until it's too late. If you're looking at sweaters or anything that's made out of wool, take it to a window and hold it up and turn it around. The light will shine through any holes in the fabric. If it's lined, try to push the lining out of the way. The light won't shine through the lining because something about solid objects and light and physics or something...

5.) Broken zippers

Zippers should be tested a couple of times. You can always replace a zipper if you're really committed to a piece, but if you're not that great at sewing (like me), it's pretty much a giant pain in the ass. I have sewn a zipper into a dress exactly one time and that's because it was my wedding dress and I was replacing approximately one million buttons. Nobody needs that many buttons on a dress, especially on their wedding day.

I put a zipper in this all by myself. I cried the entire time, and kept stabbing myself with needles, but I finished it and it totally worked and I got married in this thing.

Anyway - I don't like replacing zippers, I don't want to replace zippers, so I check for broken zippers.

6.) Separating Seams, Loose Threads

Separating seams and loose stitching doesn't really bother me - they're generally easy repairs as long as the integrity of the fabric has held up. If the fabric is fraying to the point that it's unraveled past where the original seam was, it might not be worth fixing for the average person. If you can't follow the original seam, you might end up altering the shape of the clothing item and when you wear it you're going to be a "fashion don't."

I was a "fashion don't" for most of my life - trust me, you don't want to be in that club.

Check the seams and flip the item inside out. If it's some loose threads and the fabric is still good, it's an easy fix - usually less than 5 minutes. If it's falling apart and there's a giant hole in the middle, just walk away and don't look back. You have better things to do with your time and money.

7.) Wrong size

I don't try clothes on at thrift stores. I like thrifting, and used clothes don't bother me in the slightest bit. However, I like to wash them before I try them on because I get the creeps when I think about pulling potentially dirty clothes over my hair.

Right. I'm not weird about potentially dirty clothes touching my body, I'm weird about potentially dirty clothes touching my hair. I don't even know what that means. It doesn't even make sense. I didn't even wash my hair today.

It's like not letting the peas touch the mashed potatoes, even though you're going to eat the peas AND the mashed potatoes.

It's weird but it's true, so I don't try on clothes at thrift stores. I also don't try on clothes at other stores. Even new clothes have been tried on by a bunch of people, so the same weird phobia applies.

Of course, not trying on clothes leads to all sorts of sizing issues.

The most important thing to remember is not to trust the labels. Thrift stores are carrying clothing from every decade, from a huge variety of designers, from different cultures, from all across the world. There is no universal size chart when it comes to shopping at thrift stores.

My thrift store size is size 4 to size 2x. I'm currently wearing size 6 jeans with a 1x top. I also took this picture in a bathroom and yes, I felt kind of stupid, but I did it for you. 

Because I love you. And because labels are stupid and don't always tell the truth. (pictures also don't always tell the truth - I totally photoshopped the garbage can out of this picture because it looked like a growth on my butt)

If you can't try clothes on because you're a weirdo like me, hold things up to your body in a mirror, open the waist, open the chest area, check the fabric for stretch, and only trust the size if it's a label you're familiar with.

If you do end up buying something and taking it home and finding that it's absolutely not going to work out for you, use the fabric or donate it back. Your trash is almost sure to be someone else's treasure. 

Hopefully somebody who can sew.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Yes! And test elastic- I hate when I get clothes home with old elastic that is hard to replace!