I'm Stepping Up My Thrifting Game and I'm Taking All of You with Me

Red J. Crew pants for $3? Yes, please.
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Kelly Dougher
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Red J. Crew pants for $3? Yes, please.

One of my goals for 2016 is to be a more ethical shopper. For me, this means cutting back on fast fashion. It's depressingly obvious that fast fashion isn't good for the environment or our fellow humans (or our wallets, if we're being honest). So, in the interest of being a better person and saving a little money, I've decided to get better at thrift shopping this year — and I'm inviting all of you along for the ride.

Every week, I'll visit a local thrift shop or secondhand clothing store keeping any questions or suggestions you guys leave in the comments. In addition to my weekly haul, you can expect styling demonstrations, links to similar items that you can get for yourself if (you want), and — of course — lots of thrifting tips!

I started at my local well-known and well-loved Local Salvation Army thrift store. My number one Salvation Army tip is to only go on half-off day. Every Wednesday, the thrift store in my town marks all the clothes and shoes with certain color price tags marking discounts up to 50% off.  

Tip number two is to go alone or with a friend who won't rush you and to take your time. As you can tell in the above pictures, this sort of thrift store can be overwhelming just by the sheer amount of merchandise. I like to set aside at least an hour; that way I have plenty of time to browse, try things on, and text my sisters the ugliest stuff I find (as well as items I think they'd like).

In my defense, they weren't half-off!

In my defense, they weren't half-off!

I went in with a loose budget in mind: about $20. I came out of the store an hour later with four items for a grand total of about $17. 

Here's what I found: 

Striped Sweater with Gold Zipper Shoulder Detail, $2.50 and  J. Crew Cafe Capri Pants, $3.00

Striped sweater and J. Crew capri pants

Striped sweater and J. Crew capri pants

This sweater was the first item I found. I have this thing for stripes; my eyes just immediately hone in on the nearest striped piece of clothing in any given area and then I have to buy it. You can never have too many striped tops like this because it's a classic that goes with everything. 

Here are a few similar items:

L-R: Asos Curve Striped Sweater With Star Elbow Patch, $38, asos.com; cupcakes and cashmere Elba Striped Sweater with Zipper Detail, $115, shopbop.com; Petit Bateau Knit Striped Sweater, $134, shopbop.com

L-R: Asos Curve Striped Sweater With Star Elbow Patch, $38, asos.com; cupcakes and cashmere Elba Striped Sweater with Zipper Detail, $115, shopbop.com; Petit Bateau Knit Striped Sweater, $134, shopbop.com

The pants were lucky. I usually ignore the pant section but as I was walking by these caught my eye with their bold orange-red hue. When I saw they were J. Crew I was pleased because I can't afford their normal prices (these pants would have been $90 instead of $3!) but every J. Crew item that I've thrifted has held up admirably over the years. The pants are a tad big so I might get them tailored--and now I can afford to do so with the money I saved.

I couldn't find this exact style on their site anymore, but here are a few similar ones:

L-R: Kasper Straight Leg Cropped Pants, $44, macys.com; Patio Pant, $98, jcrew.com; Soft Belted Crop Pant, $75, vincecamuto.com

L-R: Kasper Straight Leg Cropped Pants, $44, macys.com; Patio Pant, $98, jcrew.com; Soft Belted Crop Pant, $75, vincecamuto.com

Shimmery Purple Mini Dress, $5.00

It looks even more sparkly in person. 

It looks even more sparkly in person. 

I love how '90s this dress is. In fact, after Googling the label, I discovered that the brand was quite popular during the '90s. 

A closer look at the label.

A closer look at the label.

These dresses have a similar vibe:

L-R: After Party Vintage Hard Mock Life Dress, $43, nastygal.com; Sparkle High Neck Shift Dress, $40, asos.com; Black Shimmer Cape Dress, $40, shoptiques.com

L-R: After Party Vintage Hard Mock Life Dress, $43, nastygal.com; Sparkle High Neck Shift Dress, $40, asos.com; Black Shimmer Cape Dress, $40, shoptiques.com

Lace-Up Heeled Boots, $7.00

My exact size! 

My exact size! 

These boots are a little different from my usual style these days but I couldn't resist. I like to have a few unexpected items peppering my wardrobe. Looking up the brand, Naturalizer, I discovered that most of their boots range from $100-$200, so I'd say this was a bargain.

I think the Frye boots below are a very close (if pricier) match:

L-R: River Island Real Suede Lace Up Heeled Boot, $146, asos.com; Jeffrey Campbell Topanga Lace Up Suede Boot, $304, nastygal.com; Frye Kendall Leather Lace Up Boot, $358, neimanmarcus.com

L-R: River Island Real Suede Lace Up Heeled Boot, $146, asos.com; Jeffrey Campbell Topanga Lace Up Suede Boot, $304, nastygal.com; Frye Kendall Leather Lace Up Boot, $358, neimanmarcus.com

In case you're wondering how one incorporates random thrift store finds like these into an already existing wardrobe, I'll show you that next! 

The first outfit was easy. Once I had that striped sweater and the red pants in my arms, I knew they would make a great combination. I belted the pants and added a cropped trench coat (which was also a thrift store find ages ago) and leopard print heels. 

I have to admit, this whole outfit is very J. Crew catalogue. 

I have to admit, this whole outfit is very J. Crew catalogue. 

I think this outfit proves that you can wear bold color and prints while still looking professional. And yes, I have no shame in matching my lipstick (MAC Toledo Barbecue) to my pants. 

Next: my new dress. Honestly, this kind of dress doesn't require much styling; you can basically just add a pair of heels and you're set for a night out. Since it was cold out, I chose a black moto-jacket to toughen up the overall look. And since I plan on wearing this dress to go dancing with my friends, I chose sneakers over heels. 

Taking my legs out for some fresh air for the first time in 2016! I even shaved!

Taking my legs out for some fresh air for the first time in 2016! I even shaved!

There's nothing like the cute dress + comfy sneakers combo to keep you out dancing happily all night long. I can't wait to get a million drinks spilled on this dress. 

Finally, let's talk about the boots. These can be a little tricky to style because of their mid-calf height. In the end I decided their vintage vibe would pair well with a flowing midi dress and a long coat. 

I felt like the heroine in a slightly pretentious romantic movie in this outfit.

I felt like the heroine in a slightly pretentious romantic movie in this outfit.

In the upcoming weeks, I plan to visit various other thrift stores such as an independently-owned secondhand clothing store in my town and the local Goodwill. I'm also open to suggestions of thrift/vintage/secondhand stores in eastern PA or even NYC. I'd love it if some of you might like to join my thrifting challenge. Feel free to post pictures of your own thrifting finds in the comments every week! Perhaps I'll feature the best ones.  Finally, if you're not a thrifting pro, are there any questions that you'd like me to tackle in the future?  

Follow Kelly on Instagram for dressing room pictures of the crazier items she tries on but doesn't buy: @goldfish27