I’d say about 30% of my wardrobe is handmade and another 60% comes from my local thrift shop. If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know I’m a frugal gal, so it will be no surprise that my go-to store is of the secondhand variety. I have always been a thrifter, my mom raised me right! Haha. My kids love the thrift shop too, especially now that they’re often shopping with their own money rather than mine, making them more aware of how much bang they’re getting for their buck. So imagine our delight when we found out this past Saturday was National Thrift Shopping Day! Woot, woot! Our favorite thrift store here where we live is Savers and they marked all their t-shirts down to .99 that day to mark the occasion. We are also very lucky that our particular Savers offers a military discount of 20% off every single day. As an Army family, we are very thankful for your support, Savers!
I got to thinking about how sewing and thrifting go hand in hand, so I’m going to show you my haul from that day, but while I’m at it, I’m going to share with you how I think being a sewer has made me so much better at shopping in general, and specifically at shopping secondhand.
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How Sewing Makes Us Better Thrifters:
We know fabrics.
Fabric content makes a massive difference in how your clothes will wear and wash, so knowing fabric content just by how it feels is a huge bonus when thrift shopping. And feeling fabrics is something sewists are pros at! Also, looking at the tag and seeing words like “viscose”, “nylon” or “linen” is Greek to many shoppers, but people who sew see those words on a regular basis, we know the cost difference between those fabrics and cheaper fabrics, we know which ones are breathable and which are sweaty, and we can tell which clothes are going to wash and wear well, and feel good when we put them on.
This is a viscose dress I thrifted on Saturday (with the tags still on!) The added bonus to knowing fabrics is knowing how to wash them. There are no washing instructions on the tag, but I know better than to put this one in the dryer!
We know fit
Sewing clothing for ourselves gives us a sense of fit that the average shopper does not have. We all know sewists become quite particular about the fit of things over time, judging the fit of every garment that others are wearing, ha! Knowing how clothing is supposed to fit and being able to tell by looking at something whether or not it’s going to work is a skill that sewing develops in a person, for sure.
We know quality
There’s often a reason expensive brands are expensive, and quality has a lot to do with it. Sewers not only know quality fabrics, we know quality techniques and finishes. We study the construction of garments as a hobby, after all, so no one can spot shoddy workmanship quite like us!
This is an Eddie Bauer dress I got as part of my haul. Knowing quality brands when thrifting can really help you avoid purchasing cheap clothes that fall apart after a few wears. This dress is super soft and even the drawstring is high quality. It just feels really good to wear because of how well it’s made, the great fit and the nice, expensive-feeling fabric. (My shoes are White Mountain, similar here).
We know what we like
When you spend your free time sewing your own clothing, you know what looks good and what doesn’t. Part of what people find frustrating or annoying about thrift shopping is that it’s such a hunt, you have to see everything to find the gems. However, when you shop with filters like quality fabrics, favorite brands, and styles you know look good on you, it’s easy to quickly pass over the junk to find the treasures. If I spot a high quality, nice brand sweater, but it has dolman sleeves that I know I don’t look good in, I move right along and remind myself someone else is going to get a real nice sweater because I passed it up.
Denim skirts and t-shirts seem like basics, but not all are created equal and not every jean skirt and not every t-shirt is going to flatter every body. I’m always on the lookout for a perfectly-shaped (for me) skirt and I scored this denim Gap skirt and Nike tee (new with tags and only .99 because of the sale!) as part of my haul on Saturday. (Find similar to my cute pink Nikes slides here).
We can alter and mend
This might be one of the best perks about being a sewing thrift shopper! So many people just give up on their nice clothes when they lose a button or rip a seam. Because we who sew can easily repair those minor flaws, we can score some great clothes for good deals. Also, simple alterations are easy for us to do and we can envision those needed alterations when trying on thrifted clothes. A too-long dress is not problem! Easy fix.
I got this top as part of my haul and it’s from Hollister. Not a store I would walk into to shop without my teen daughters (or with probably, if I’m being honest, haha), but I do love me some embroidery! It’s a little too swingy on me, I think, but I can just take hose side seams in if I decide to.
We know what we’ll actually wear.
I had a friend once assume I have a huge wardrobe and was surprised when I told her I take up the least amount of closet space of anyone in our family. The difference is that I wear absolutely everything I keep, where most women have a closet full of clothes, but wear the same 10 things over and over. Because we spend valuable time making garments, it’s much more of a bummer when you find you never reach for some of them.
When I thrift shop, just like when I plan sewing projects, I consider what I actually wear on a daily basis. That’s why I always look in the tees, pants, hoodies, jackets and activewear sections of my thrift store. I was happy to find these Roxy joggers the other day. They’re nice quality fabric and I wore them all day on Sunday with no stretching out. I have a pair of black linen handmade joggers, but they’re definitely a lightweight Summer fabric. These will fill that hole for Fall!
I could probably write a dozen articles about ways sewing makes me a better fill-in-the-blank. What a great skill we have! Can you think of any other ways that you’re better at shopping because of your sewing life? I would love to hear what you would add to the list!
As for thrifting, I could write a dozen articles on that too. In recent months, we’ve found an Athleta linen jacket, these exact Adidas in like-new condition, Madewell jeans, a Victoria’s Secret swim suit with the tags still on and plenty more. Once you go thrifty, you’ll never go back! Lol, I just made that up, but it’s true.