Everyone has that friend who thrifts at Savers but looks like she just stepped out of Saks — as if she’s part of a secret shopping society with a mission to score a Chanel handbag for $20.
Thanks to the recession, women who didn’t blink an eye at paying retail for a pair of Manolo Blahniks embraced a cheap chic fashion philosophy. The economy eventually improved, but it turns out high fashion at discount prices is a hard habit to break.
“Once you realize you can get designer clothes at thrift stores, it’s hard to go back,” said Emily Kanz, 34, of Minneapolis.
It helps that the secondhand experience now comprises a wider range of shops — from Goodwill to higher-end resale boutiques like June. Purchases at that Uptown shop are wrapped in tissue paper and tied with a bow. Owner Daune Stinson said secondhand stores also give women more liberties to take risks.
“Women are more likely to buy out of their fashion comfort zone when they don’t have to pay full price,” she said.
The number of secondhand stores have increased nationally by 7 percent in each of the past two years, according to industry reports.
The recession made secondhand “acceptable and even cool,” said Allison Bross-White, the owner of B. Resale, a midpriced Minneapolis shop that’s doubled its sales and space in four years. “There’s a wider mix of customers — from hipsters to career women.”
To prove that personal style doesn’t have to be influenced by a price tag, we challenged three women to style themselves on a dime. Their tastes run the gamut, from thrift stores to boutiques to estate sales.
The vintage vixen
Caitlin Karolczak, 30, Minneapolis
Favorite stores: Second Debut, Hope Chest, My Sister’s Closet, and estate sales and auctions.
Why vintage? “I know whatever I find is special and one-of-a-kind. Quality pieces from another era offer timeless designer style with quality that is hard to find in even modern designer clothes.”
Shopping secrets: “The most unusual finds seem to show up at estate sales. To get first pick you have to be there very early — sometimes waiting in line for hours before the doors open. Then you have to compete with many other shoppers, oftentimes dealers, but it’s worth the effort. Have an idea of what styles and sizes fit you (just by eyeing up the waist, etc.) because you oftentimes can’t try on at a sale.”
Favorite fashion finds: “A pair of antique Ottoman women’s Anteri robes from the estate of a daughter of James J. Hill. Other amazing finds include a vintage Chanel military-inspired dress coat at Second Debut and a chain link mini dress and matching purse by Paco Rabanne purchased at a Tracy Luther Auction.”
What do you look for? “The items I gravitate to are expensive and unusual, adding taste and sophistication to my wardrobe I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.”
Cover look: 1920s floral silk gown, $125, estate of Louise Walker; 1940s prep school jacket, $20, estate sale; 1967 Paco Rabanne metal chain mail purse, Tracy Luther Auctions; vintage sterling silver Taxco bracelet, necklace and ring, $125, H and B Gallery consignment shop; antique diamond ring, estate sale.
Second look: 1950s silk slip, $20, estate sale; 19th-century Ottoman women’s Anteri robe, $300, estate of James J. Hill’s daughter; Whiting and Davis necklace and earrings, $45, Second Debut; vintage metal purse, $20, estate sale; antique diamond ring, estate sale; Gap “Designer Series” booties, $20, Fashion Avenue.
The treasure seeker
Sarah White, 33, Minneapolis
Favorite stores: B. Resale, The Lost and Found, Rewind, June.
Why secondhand? “Shopping secondhand opens up space to get even more creative with my style without breaking my bank or having to be too trendy or stuck in the hipster matrix. I’m also able to sell my wardrobe back and reinvent myself as often as I feel like I need a fresh start.”
Shopping secrets: “A lot of stores post new items on social media, making it easier to spot the prey without having to dig through endless piles.”
Any misconceptions with secondhand shopping? “People think everything is going to stink. Often times, yes, but many store owners are on top of only buying things in good condition and they pay attention to the smell.”
What are the challenges? “Time. I sometimes will leave a store and an hour later some diva comes in and drops off tons of things I’d love. By the time I see them online or make my way back to the shop, everything is gone. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and ladies are hungry for cuteness they can afford. Once in awhile, you get something home and see stains that won’t come out or rips/wear that ruin a piece. Unlike a retail store, you can’t really return used items — what you get is what you get.”
Cover look: Kimono, $18; button-up shirt, $8; Ecote black boots, $26, hood (“Hoods by Marge”), $35, all from B. Resale; black denim, $15, Buffalo Exchange.
Second look: Tabitha capelet blazer, $26, Jeffrey Campbell shoes, $22, both from B. Resale; crop top, $10, thrift store in Brooklyn, N.Y.; skirt, retail.
The thrifty traveler
Emily Kanz, 34, Minneapolis
Favorite stores: Hill-Valley Boutique, Steeple People’s Surplus Store, Savers on Central Avenue, Ragstock Uptown, Bibles for Missions Thrift Center.
Why secondhand? “I love transforming pieces into better versions of what they were — taking a dress and cutting it into a top or cutting sleeves and ruffles off to make pieces more modern. Thrift stores are gold mines for vintage clothes and things you would never find in a department store.”
Shopping secrets: “Small-town thrift stores have some of the most unique, untouched pieces. If you’re traveling internationally, seek out a thrift store. History and culture makes these thrift stores super interesting and worth the time. Ask yourself if the piece is transformable. I have many things professionally altered if I’m unable to do it myself.”
What do you look for? “I look for unexampled necklines and collars on pieces. I also look for prints that are unusual and inspiring. I have even purchased pieces solely for the buttons to use at a different time.”
Favorite secondhand piece: “When I was volunteering in Tanzania, I was in a thrift store and found a cotton, dark purple, floor-length, sleeveless dress with yellow, orange and red embroidered triangles down the length of the side. It’s the first very unique piece that launched my love for eclectic clothing and thrift store shopping.”
Cover look: DKNY silk pants, $9, Steeple People; Dior T-shirt (“I cut the collar of the shirt into a ‘V’ to make it my own.”), Savers on Central Av.; glittery shawl, Urban Outfitters sale; vintage necklace, $5, Belle Weather.
Second look: Vintage floral dress (“I cut off the sleeves and had it tailored to fit.”), Ragstock; belt, Anthropologie sale; Larissa Loden earrings, Hill Valley Boutique.
Aimee Blanchette • 612-673-1715