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If you’re already an avid thrifter, you know that the art of thrifting comes first, and the act of buying comes second. Anything you desire can come from a thrift store. All the things that you need are available at thrift stores. Yet, it’s the experience of discovering a one-of-a-kind item that is cherished by those who’ve turned their backs on retail. Being there at the right time is key, which means going to thrift stores often is imperative. Patrice J. Williams, author of book and blog Looking Fly On A Dime, has made a career out of visiting the right thrift stores at the right time. An artful shopper and stylist, Patrice took a New York minute to catch up with one of our favorite thrift store critics and reveal a few secondhand-fashion secrets and finds. Listen in on their conversation below!
I was thrilled to get an interview with today’s subject, Patrice J. Williams, whose thrifting advice book, Looking Fly on A Dime, is available from Amazon. I found her through her blog of the same name, which features thrifty fashion tips as well as pics of great outfits she’s thrifted in her home base, New York City. She always looks great, so you know she knows what she’s talking about. If you want to start thrifting but aren’t sure how, pick up a copy of her book!
When did you first start thrifting, and why?
My mom tells me I loved thrifting as a child, but I don’t remember that. My first recollection of thrift shopping was my sophomore year of college at Temple University. I needed an outfit for an induction ceremony but had nothing to wear and was too broke to buy something at a department store. I stumbled across a thrift shop and immediately found a brown top and faux suede pencil skirt that was perfect. Since then, I’ve been hooked.
Where do you thrift shop? Specific recommendations in your area would be great!
I love thrifting throughout NYC. The Salvation Army on 46th street is super organized and a place I always find cute dresses and vintage blouses. My go-to shop for a serious bang for my buck is Housing Works in Brooklyn, where you can buy an entire bag of clothing at their Buy the Bag event for $25 per bag. I also recommend Udelco’s Vintage Warehouse in New Jersey where the clothes are organized in bins based on decades and styles.
What are some of your best finds?
One of my favorite finds is an emerald pleated vintage dress. It was less than $10, and I found it in a small town in Ohio, which proves you don’t need to live in a big city to find amazing secondhand goods. My all time favorite piece is a Christian Dior vintage double breasted coat I bought for $23 last year. It’s a statement-making piece that’s perfect for cold New York winters.
What kinds of things do you try to buy used?
I try to buy most things thrifted, besides underwear, of course! Some of my favorite pieces include dresses, vintage blouses and jumpsuits. Also, if there’s a trend I’m on the fence about, I try to find it at a thrift shop and play around with making it work before investing too much money in a trend I might not love or wear for years to come.
Are there any items that are a particularly good deal in your area?
I’ve always found a mixture of everything in the New York tri-state area, but there are amazing deals on vintage secretary and pussybow blouses in particular.
Do you have any general tips for anyone without much thrifting experience? Any warnings?
My best tip for new thrifters would be to have realistic expectations. You’re most likely not going to find the garment of your dreams during the first 10 minutes of your first thrifting trip. But with a bit of patience and repeat visits, you’ll find what you want and need. The only warning would be to avoid buying something just because it’s quirky and/or cheap. You’ll come across a lot of stuff like that, but if you don’t really love it, leave it behind. Otherwise you’ll end up with a closet full of garments you don’t really want, and it’s easy to overspend.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I love thrifting so much I wrote the book on it. Looking Fly on a Dime: How to Find Fabulous Fashion at Any Thrift Shop & Make the Cheap Look Chic breaks down the do’s and don’ts of secondhand style. I really wanted to debunk the myth that thrift shopping is dirty or hard to do. Anyone can thrift!
Thanks so much, Patrice, and happy thrifting!