Monday, March 1

The Rules

Secondhand shopping can be perplexing- where to shop? when to shop? how to shop? It's not the same game as regular shopping. Things are rarely in order by size (and even when they are, they aren't). There are no displays of the season's newest in five colors. There are just racks and racks of mixed up things. To me, that's exciting. It's like being some kind of crazy Archaeologist: if I sift through enough rubble, I just might find a priceless treasure.
But if you head in there thinking, "I just want to grab a pair size 9 and run out", you will be disappointed. You need a plan of attack. Here are the tried and true rules for finding great clothes at great prices. I promise if you follow these rules, your wardrobe can be as Fabulous as mine.

1. Take the Time. And I mean time. Clear an afternoon, find a girlfriend, and wear comfy shoes. You'll save a lot of money, but you must invest time. There is nothing more irritating than having to leave before you get to the skirt section!
2. Touch it. Get a cart, start at the front, and walk down the row slowly, touching each item. I like to slide the hangers by one at a time, as touching so many fabrics can be hard on the skin. But you must look at every single thing! If you want a skirt, look at every skirt; for jeans, touch every pair. If you don't you will miss the really great finds amid all the rubble.
3. Take it. Everything that catches your eye, put it in the cart. I mean it! If the color, fabric, style, or tag makes you look twice- Put it in there! Be open minded and take things even if you have the slightest whim. You are only excused if the item in question is clearly more than 5 sizes difference from your size-- if you are a 2 and it's an obvious 22, okay you're excused. But in many cases, the size marked has no bearing on reality, so ignore that, and put it in the cart! (For example, I'm currently a 7 in jeans. But I have a pair of 7's that are too big, and a pair of 11's that are too tight.)
4. Try it on. Once the cart is so full you can't pile any more on, head for the dressing rooms. (if your cart is not that full- go back and touch more things!) You'll find about one fabulous thing for every 6 you try on, so take as many things as you can fit in there and pile them up. Strip down (I often wear camis or other under-layers that will fit under anything, but keep me from getting quite so naked!) and start trying on everything. Don't deliberate or think too hard- try things quickly, and make decisions quickly. It really isn't that hard to see if you like something- If you do you just know, if you don't, you don't. Which brings us to the last rule:
5. Thin it out. As you try each item, sort it into one of three groups: Yes, No, and Maybe. Or if you prefer: Fabulous!, What was I thinking?, and Hmmm. Your biggest pile should be the No pile (until you get really good at this). When you finish, you should have a small pile of really fantastic things, a huge pile of misfits, and another pile that needs one more look. I like to compare the maybes against the yeses, and see if they hold up to the standard of fabulousness. Usually they end up as Nos too.

It's fun to go with a friend who can help you find the finds and can gag in sympathy at the horrible watermelon-colored vintage polyester pantsuit that you thought (for a fleeting second) might be cool. When you've followed all the rules, you should end up with a few things that you really like that fit you. Be nice to the people who work there- put each item back on the hanger, and Hang the no's up where the rejected things go. Take your new treasures and wander over to housewares Triumphantly.

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