Vintage and second-hand are the budget fashionista’s (and fashionisto’s) ticket to high fashion at an itty-bitty price. And fortunately Charleston has a plethora of options from which to choose—the usual suspects of Goodwill and the Cancer Research Thrift Store (props for both saving money and helping others) plus the more eclectic varieties of Exchange Factor and the more upscale Culture Vultures. Whichever store you find yourself in, a few tips will guide you to getting the biggest bang for your valued dollar.
Don’t Go In with Expectations: Never go thrifting with the intent of finding something too specific because nine times out of 10 you won’t. Go in with an open mind, the beauty of second-hand is that you can buy an item you wouldn’t usually wear for the sheer fact that it’s so inexpensive. Have fun, try something new.
Look for Trend Adaptations: For example, distressed leather jackets are uber chic for boys and girls, take advantage of quirky trends by going the second hand route. Paying retail for such an item would set you back a month (or more) of paychecks. Rather, keep your eye on the leather section at your friendly-neighborhood thrift store of choice. You’ll find a jacket that is uniquely distressed and incredibly inexpensive. This rule is true of any number of pricey trends—from cocktail dresses to tailored vests, adapt the style with second-hand.
Shop Smart: First, know what you can and cannot fix. Don’t bother with broken zippers or items with tears in the fabric. Be wary of super icky perspiration stains—sometimes vinegar will take these out but you better be sure if it’s a pricer vintage item. Missing buttons and torn seams are easily fixable, even by the most novice of needle wielding fashion plates. Trickier stuff, like resizing, might need a tailors touch; but even that won’t set you back too much. When you get to the register, don’t be afraid to barter. It takes a little practice, but if you can get the price down by even a few dollars you’ve accomplished something.
Additional Notes to Consider:
- Remember, sizes change over time. Whatever size you are in modern clothing won’t be your size in vintage. Don’t get discouraged with you find that you must go up three, even four, sizes up from your regular clothes.
- Keep your eye open for super finds. A friend of mine found a Brooks Brothers tweed blazer at Goodwill for only $10. The same luck can happen to you if you know what to look for. Thrift stores are your best chance for this kind of stuff. People who know designers manage vintage stores while thrift stores usually take anything that comes their way. Use this to your advantage.
- Vintage and second-hand stores are also a treasure trove of unique jewelry, cuff links, and other accessories. Keep your own style in mind as you shop, but don’t be afraid of adding a twist with a unique accessory.
Extras for the Pros…Vintage in Charleston
Exchange Factor – With locations in North Charleston (Rivers Ave) and downtown (Meeting St.) EF is by far the best vintage & second hand spot in town. Expect quirky styles, different colors, and a treasure trove of very fabulous shoes.
Culture Vultures – Located in the chic Avondale district of West Ashley Culture Vultures is a more upscale vintage store that might be out of the budget for the thrifty minded shopper. However, their quality is impeccable and if anything, you should go to just see all the beautiful items. The owner, Lisa Mooer, really knows her stuff about vintage and is an absolute hoot to talk to. CV does, however, have a nice selection of lesser priced items on the sale rack in the back of the store.