This is for people who don’t have disposable income, but who will need to look snazzy for an interview. I’m going to assume you can scrounge together fifty bucks, but if you play this right, and you get lucky once or twice, you will see that you can do this for much less.
Google a list of all the thrift stores in your area. Surprised? Welcome to the fashion underground!
The trick to this type of shopping is simple: Keep an open mind because you never know what you are going to find. Unlike department stores, thrift stores generally carry no particular line, have no commitments to designers, and make no special orders. Where they find their items is sometimes part of the mystery. They also have a much shorter chain-of-command which means there could be room for some bargaining. Always check for missing buttons, stains, torn seams, and make sure it fits before you buy. And don’t forget to hit the accessories counter. In particular, look for an attractive watch.
– Not all thrift stores are created equal: thrift, consignment, vintage.
*Privately owned thrift stores are goldmines of the unique: bizarre little shops where a theme or a fashion can dominate the shelves. Sometimes the name will hint at what you are likely to find inside, but most often you will simply have to visit to know if you will find treasure there. The best of the best are the generic thrift stores. Often, these folks do not know or care what is fashionable. Look for shoes and suit jackets – items that you can bet will be marked up anywhere more discerning.
*Consignment shops are going to help you two ways: You are going to find affordably priced clothes in good condition, and you can drop off a few of your own things (records, kitchen kitsch, a Swiss army knife) to make some money. Like thrift stores, consignment shops will generally reflect the personal interests of the owner so don’t write them all off if the first one you visit is not your cup of tea. Some of the thrift stores in my area allow you to exchange items for cash or credit. This is a great way, if they will take your things, to buy something fresh and new (to you). Consignment shops will tend to be a bit more expensive than your generic thrift shop, but they have already parsed through donations and put only what they believe will sell out on the floor making your job a bit simpler.
*Vintage thrift stores are things of beauty: well-maintained antique and retro clothing turns drab into fab. Depending on the age, quality, and demographic of the clothes, vintage can quickly escalate out of our price range. Try to find a shop that is more nostalgic than heirloom and dig through whatever bin has the most stuff in it. This will be a treasure chest of clean, cool shirts, or socks, or hats. If your town doesn’t support a variety of thrift stores I’ve still got you covered.
– Estate Sales; and to a lesser degree, yard and garage sales.
*Now this is really throwing your fashion to the fates. Estate sales are great because we can be generally assured that most of the items for sale are ‘single owner’, but because estate sales generally follow a hospitalization or the death of an elderly person, the clothes are usually outdated: too old to be retro, too new to be vintage. But you have never seen prices like this. These are yard sale prices, moving sale and garage sale prices, and twenty-five cents for a brand new pair of ‘Chucks’ prices. While your chances of finding a full suit are actually pretty good at an estate sale, what you find at the more domestic sales are nominally everyday clothes worn by everyday people. These local, neighborly events are fun to explore, they are great places to meet people, and you just can’t beat the prices.
– Ebay and other online sites.
*Put twenty-five bucks on the table because we’re going to roll the dice on eBay.com! This is like a digital, global yard sale that never closes its’ door. In fact, it is an auction site and you will bid on items against other interested parties. The timer runs out, a winner is declared, and the item is shipped. Besides eBay, there are ‘penny auctions’, and wholesale factory-direct websites. Buying online is fun, simple, and you can get some amazing deals. However, because you cannot try things on, check them for damage, or otherwise ensure that it is the article you want. There are plenty of stories of disappointment regarding online purchases. Be savvy!
– Throw a swap party!
But if you’ve done the legwork, you’ve scoured what your city or town has to offer, and you still don’t have your suit, then it is time to reach out to your friends and suggest a clothing swap party. Or, as the locals here call it, a naked people party! Everyone who attends brings a bag of their clothes. Then you try on clothes, drink wine, listen to music, and tell each other how fabulous you all look. I have several pieces of clothing that I picked up at these type of events and I am still wearing most of them. What can I say, my friends have good taste in clothes. I bet yours do too.