For those of us who love to shop, it’s always fun to add a level of difficulty to the task. Why head straight to a shopping mall where you can shop in ease and comfort of an impeccably arranged clothing rack when you ca add a bit of spice into your shopping adventure. It’s like we’re super Mario (or Princess Peach), we grew a size bigger after conquering obstacle after obstacle in the world of retail.
Bring on the thrifting game. My thrifting started in high school when girls in my class were flaunting around the coolest little pieces saying “I found this at Value Village for next to nothing.” I couldn’t resist. Of course I’ve made some bad decisions and bought some things that still hang in my closet, waiting for a navy-themed night that will never come but luckily, I’ve learned how to optimize my shopping ability over the years.
Just in case you don’t know what Value Village is (we do have readers from all over the world after all!), it’s a thrift shop (there’s several locations in Ottawa) where you can buy used or gently used clothing, shoes, toys, furniture, etc. It’s a popular shopping destination for people from all walks of life but what you may not also know is this. Contrary to popular belief, Value Village is ACTUALLY NOT a charity; it is a private for-profit entity operating under a unique business model that was exposed in 1987 by the L.A. Times. In fact, it’s a BILLION Dollar family empire! Who knew?
With that in mind, I bring those years of extensive shopping experience and bring you our lessons in THRIFTING 101: TOP 8 TIPS ON HOW TO SHOP AT VALUE VILLAGE:
1. GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME
Thrifting is not an in-and-out situation. You don’t visit a Value Village to pick up a top to throw on on your way to a party. Allocate about 4 hours, if not more, to find yourself the best items. You’re going to spend a good hour and a half looking through racks and more than that trying things on and deciding what’s worth buying. Make an afternoon of it with your girlfriends, to laugh at the ridiculous pieces and to get a second opinion on something you aren’t sure you can pull off.
2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Before you even head anywhere, make sure you’re headed to the right end of town. To find high quality brands and fabrics, check out the Value Village in Orleans or on Merivale road. You should also evaluate your price point, which will determine what kind of store you’re going to. If you’re looking for vintage finds that are easy to spot, head to a vintage consignment shop. Although you’ll be paying for the convenience, you’re bound to find a show stopping piece in less time. If you want to save a few bucks and still find high quality items, albeit with a bit of digging, you should head to Value Village. Although VV has been criticized for jacking up their prices recently, we find that it’s still obviously a cheaper alternative to buying everything brand new from a store in the mall.
3. SHOP WITH A GOAL IN MIND
Shopping for staple items, need more work clothes, or looking for a perfectly unique piece that reflects your inner style goddess? Pick one! Don’t go in with your head in the clouds or you’ll be stuck in the racks for days. Faced with too many decisions, you’ll be overwhelmed and your experience will not be as good. Going in with a clue of what you want, the more specific the better, the more likely you are to find what you’re looking for an leave with a smile and warm feeling of accomplishment. Sections with less to offer like the dress section or the shoe section are easy to add to your list afterwards.
4. DON’T MIND THE SMELL
Depending on where you go, it could hit you the moment you walk in the door. The smell of clothes that need a good wash. I’m here to tell you, that’s all it needs. Don’t be scared, I can’t imagine the treasure trove in Aladdin smelling of sweet roses either, in that dank, dark cave. Sometimes you have to endure to find that spell binding piece that fits you like a glove that you’ll have for years to come. Take it home, wash it, and it’ll be good as new. Plus it won’t shrink or lose its shape because it’s been washed before.
For more photos of shopping adventure at Value Village, visit our Facebook page here.
5. KEEP AN OPEN MIND
You’ve picked a location and you have a goal, now you’re faced with clothes for days. Skim through each piece and make a quick yes or no decision in your mind. Don’t worry, you’re bound to have more no’s than yes’. But sometimes you’re faced with an item that is so crazy and out there that it just might work. Something you’re about to laugh at for being so ridiculous but you feel guilty for not having the courage to pull something like that off. Well who said you couldn’t pull it off? Put that thing in your cart and see how it looks. Value Village is the place to take risks, where you can mix and match things that you’d never thought possible. You are the curator of your style and besides, the mirrors are inside the change rooms and no one will have to see you in it but you.
How many times have I filled my cart till it’s over flowing and walked over to the change rooms with no idea where to start. While you’re finding items, section them into tops, pants and skirts in the cart. It’ll be much easier to create outfits once you’re trying things on. Hang tops on the outside of the cart and pants on the inside so they don’t drag on the floor. Yet you’ll be able to see everything you’ve selected easily and put together outfits while in the change room.
7. BIG SELECTION OF DESIGNER DRESSES
Sometimes hundreds of clothes from varying in style, colour and mood just isn’t enough. Who told you to stick to the women’s section? Value Village is the perfect place to experiment, with so much at your disposal. Finding oversized sweaters or plaid shirts, which are all the rage this year is easiest in the men’s section. It’s fun to experiment with your style and try something new.
8. ABOVE ALL, MAKE SURE IT FITS
Once you’ve got everything selected, prepare yourself for a lot of changing. The easiest way to get through an overflowing cart is to select your favourite things first and toss anything that has the slightest thing wrong with it. If it doesn’t fit, put it in the no pile. If the colour washes you out, say no. If it’s lost its shape, say no. This way you’ll only select the things that are best quality, fit and style for you.
If you can’t make it to an actual Value Village or live far from one, you can also shop at VV online. Did you know that they have a Value Village Pinterest account too? Now that you are prepared for the ultimate shopping challenge, onward young padawan. May the odds be forever in your favour, and many other cliches that involve success.
Best of luck!
ABOUT TAYLOR BOILEAU
Ottawa-based French Canadian Blogger Taylor Boileau is Twenty York Street’s Resident vintage bargain shopping expert. With 10 years experience sifting through racks at Value Village, she’s got all the tips and tricks you need for finding those tags worth scouring the racks for. Taylor describes her style as quirky, bohemian and retro. She loves to mix and match to create a perfectly unique outfit. She’s currently studying public relations at Algonquin College and hopes to make on career copy writing and blogging. Taylor’s interests lie in fashion and beauty, writing and reading fantasy novels, knitting and sewing, as well as social activism, politics and current events.