Written and photographed by Allie Kuo
Thrift shopping is not for the faint of heart. Unless you’re going to a curated vintage shop (which, by the way, usually means designer duds that are - yes, beautiful and probably one-of-a-kind but no, not affordable for the average college student’s budget) or know exactly what you’re looking for, I would say it’s something that requires at least 80% of your energy and can’t be done too early in the morning. The endless racks of clothing and accessories, often only roughly sorted by size and category, can be daunting but rewarding.
Boston has plenty of second-hand stores, with a couple of them across the river in Cambridge—The Garment District is probably the most well-known, with two floors of used clothing and plenty of other items to fill your closet. If you’re brave enough, there is an enormous pile of clothing and other fabric-y items on their first floor that is sold by the pound, $1 to $2 a pound depending on the day. But I usually make a beeline for the upstairs section, where you can find a really nice selection of second-hand items, from new Topshop pieces with the label still attached, to an actual poodle skirt from the 60s.
That’s the thing about thrifting—you never know what you’re going to find. But once you start digging, you’ll have an armful of gems that are hopefully super affordable as well. This is what makes it such a perfect place to look for items that are on-trend and won’t cost you a fortune. Fashion is cyclical, so the pieces you see on the runway are probably going to be found on the racks labeled “80s” and “90s”.
I find that jackets and tops are the easiest things to find fit-wise, since bottoms often run the gamut when it comes to sizing. But, that makes it all the more exciting when you find a pair of pants or a dress that fits you perfectly. Even if the size on the tag isn’t what you normally wear (or if there’s not even a tag), still try it on. And make sure to glance at the brand of an item too, because a cheap shirt could be a Forever 21 piece that’s probably not worth buying used.
So now that you’ve got some thrifting basics down, it’s time to tackle some trends for the months ahead:
It seems like high-waisted pants are here to stay, and the one denim look that hasn’t quite faded out yet are high-waisted boyfriend jeans. For 2018, these jeans are headed in a direction that feature more details and fun cuts, and there’s really no better place than a thrift shop to find pants that stand out from all the other mom jeans in the world. Besides the little hiccup in our fashion timeline when low-rise pants were all too popular, high-waisted pants were the norm so there will be no shortage of them. Used denim is wonderful because it has already been broken in, so you don’t have to deal with the stiff fabric only becoming comfortable after lots of washes.
Though I’d like to think that they’re always in trend, denim jackets are another amazing find at thrift shops. There are usually racks dedicated to them, in all sorts of shapes, sizes and washes (not to mention embellishments).
2. Bold prints
Mixed prints and colors are the new black this season. Zara’s latest campaign features a variety of patterns and shades in one look, and this was also seen on the S/S 2018 runways of Marni and Gucci, just to name a few. There is no shortage of funky prints at a thrift shop, especially if you can find pieces from a few decades back. Look for simple prints in bold color combinations, or mix and match patterns and styles if you’re feeling adventurous.
3. Windbreakers and Anoraks
Whether it’s worn as protective outerwear, part of a styled outfit, or even worn over nothing but a sheer dress (like seen on the Oscar de la Renta runway), these jackets are making their way onto the fashion scene. You probably have a picture laying around your house of your parents in these bright plasticky jackets (I know I sure do) and they’re making their return in 2018. At The Garment District there were plenty of these jackets, from a few patriotic red, white and blue pieces (perfect for the Olympics — go team USA!) to other extremely 80s-esque color combinations. Which brings us to our last trend…
4. Neon colors
If you’re sensing a theme here, the 80s and 90s are definitely a pervasive trend that’s probably reaching its peak this year. That’s why it shouldn’t be too hard to find some pops of color to break your wardrobe from its neutral, wintery funk. I think I’ve seen enough black and gray winter jackets to last me a lifetime, and a jacket — perhaps a windbreaker? — in a bright shade would be the perfect buy from a thrift shop to both keep up with the shifting trends and stand out from the crowd.
Models: Alex Johnson and Kori Pluss