If shopping is a sport, then thrift and vintage shopping should be considered an Olympic event. It requires patience, concentration, a keen eye and plenty of practice.
Luckily, there are plenty of venues for training. Secondhand clothing stores abound in the Triangle, offering bargain wares and vintage duds as well as high-end designer consignment merchandise.
But before you head out, become familiar with the types of secondhand stores each with important differences that budding thrift-shoppers should know.
Consign or go thrifty?
Most thrift stores, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, are donation-based and sell items for very low prices, usually to benefit a nonprofit organization.
Independent rapper Macklemore made Goodwill cool after his hit Thrift Shop blew up on the radio and Internet.
I wear your granddads clothes/I look incredible, he says in the chorus. Plus, the prices at thrift stores are a fraction of the price for the same or similar item in a department store, he notes and the thrift store clothes have more character.
Consignment stores are similar. They pay customers for clothes or other items and examine each piece for quality. These stores are slightly more expensive than thrift shops, but still way below department store prices.
Consignment is also more curated, so there is less stuff to dig through.
Lyndsay Herrin, a sales associate at Nora and Nickys Designer Resale in downtown Raleigh, says consignment stores are great for making some money and maybe finding a few new items to keep.
A lot of our consigners, they love our feature of the money they make stays in an account, and they can spend it here or they can get the check, she said.
Nora and Nickys sells items at a third of their retail price, and pays 45 percent of that price to the consigners who sold them the clothes.
I love (resale shopping) because you can get random pieces that somebody else might not have, Herrin said. Where people bring it in from all different places versus just going to one store and shopping their brand. And you get it at a great price.
Vintage shops are also usually higher quality than thrift stores, and carry items that span the decades usually from the 80s or older. Shoppers will find old pieces in like-new condition or repurposed pieces from long ago. These stores have higher prices, though are still relatively inexpensive.
Embrace the experience
A common feature of resale shops is disorganization, but dont get discouraged.
Hoards of decades-old clothes may occupy bowing clothes racks, and tangled handbag straps may hang off walls.
But despite the overwhelming amount of items in the store, it is important to dig through everything to find the treasures, said Jamie Powell of Raleigh, an avid thrift shopper.
Powell wears many trendy hats in Raleighs fashion world. She designs clothing for her brand Revamp using vintage, eco-friendly or recycled materials. She also manages Cat Banjo, a boutique in Raleighs Cameron Village, and is the operations director for Redress Raleigh, a foundation dedicated to promoting eco-friendly fashion and designers.
Since discovering Goodwill in high school, Powell has enjoyed the thrill of the hunt and frequently shops thrift and consignment in the area.
Her favorite clothing to dig for is jeans, but furniture is also great to buy secondhand for those on a budget, she said. For old-school jewelry, shoes and furs, Powell recommends the flea market at the N.C. State Fairgrounds.
Allie Vick, a thrift shop fan who also works at St. John, a high-end fashion boutique in Charlotte, suggests you know what youre looking for before you dive in at a thrift store.
Study the trends. Its really nice to have an idea of what you want when you go to the thrift store because it can be overwhelming, she said. Look in places you wouldnt normally look. A lot of time the workers will stick things in the wrong places.
Powells No. 1 tip: Shopping for thrift outside large cities is a great way to find cool stuff.
Small town random thrift stores will have the best stuff, she said. In a college town like Raleigh, young people will pick everything over.
Patient thrift store digging pays off, though. Vick says she rarely shops even in the higher-end consignment stores now.
Once youve paid $3 for something, its hard to pay $19.99 for a dress, she said. It doesnt seem like a deal.