Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 3, 2012

Thrift shopping made easy

Galesburg’s Salvation Army: a place of hope, a place of wonder, a place of daunting magnitudes of fur coats and so-called bric-brac.

But Knox students need not be fearful of wading through kitschy treasures to find their perfect one (or 10) — there is a method to the madness.

Step 1: Remember that this is Salvo.As in, this is not a department store. This is not Target. This is not even a clearance rack in Target. Salvo shoppers must enter the store with different expectations: sizes vary in extremes, brand names are almost nowhere to be found and everything is sold as is. This is the free-for-all of shopping, and it calls for a game face.

A fall to winter outfit can be purchased for less than $25 secondhand at the local Salvation Army in town. (Emily Madden/TKS)

Step 2: Be patient. Salvo shoppers know that sifting through racks of shoes and polyester tee shirts and gaudy prom dresses takes time, and usually not less than two hours. Getting bored halfway through means forsaking what could have been the find of the day.

Step 3: Look for shape, texture and patterns. This applies to trend-seekers and the grandma-chic alike. Be aware of what looks good on what body type, and consider playing with proportions. Skinny jeans or leggings on the bottom? Go for that oversized button-up on top, and do not shy away when the tag says that it is a size extra large. The tag is probably lying (see Step 5). Loving the look of sheer fabrics, or the feel of coarser ones? Try them out in unexpected ways — a sweater knit skirt can be a wonderful thing. (But avoid velour in general and anything that says “dry clean only.”) Afraid of horizontal stripes? No need to be. Simply remember this general rule: a smaller print adds volume, and a larger print reduces it. Thus, a sweater with thin stripes placed far apart will not make anyone look fat. Promise.

Step 4: Grab everything. This is perhaps the most essential wisdom that could be imparted in regards to thrift shopping. Even if a Salvo shopper’s feelings are iffy about the caramel-colored parachute pants they have snagged, they will still hold onto them. It is impossible to tell what will or will not work until hitting the dressing room. That being said…

Step 5: Try everything on. We know what they say about people who “assume”. Even if an item looks good on a hanger, even if it is made by a recognizable and trusted brand, even if it is the most perfect complement to this fall’s wardrobe — take it for a test run. There is a reason that stores have dressing rooms and there is a reason that online purchases often come with return shipping labels. We cannot know what it looks like on us until it is actually on us.

Step 6: Consider simple adjustments. A lot of jackets, sweaters, and even simple tee shirts will come with shoulder pads. A lot of dresses will be too long. Thankfully, there are simple solutions that can turn these “almosts” into essentials, and most can be achieved with a pair of scissors. (The indoctrinated may use seam rippers.) Shoulder pads are easily removed, and many fabrics lend themselves well to being hacked away at the hemline. Be aware of fabrics that might fray, either for better or for worse.

A fall to winter outfit can be purchased for less than $25 secondhand at the local Salvation Army in town. (Emily Madden/TKS)

Step 7: Take risks. If that tri-toned snakeskin handbag with gold details is the most fabulous thing ever, buy it. There is no harm in going outside of a comfort zone. Having trouble rationalizing it? Look at the price tag. Instant persuasion. No regrets.

Step 8: If all else fails, check out the weirder stuff. There are aisles and aisles of shot glasses, candlestick holders, hilariously charming wall art, VHS tapes and paperback novels. There are cases and cases of huge bangles, retro sunglasses and even wigs. There are literally thousands of options. Embrace them all.

Chelsea Embree
Chelsea Embree is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in art history. She previously served as co-mosaic editor and as an arts and features reporter for TKS. During the summer of 2013, she served as a content intern at The St. Louis Beacon. Chelsea has studied under former Random House copy chief Sean Mills and taught writing as a teaching assistant for First-Year Preceptorial. An avid blogger, she has written extensively about youth in St. Louis and maintains a lively poetry and nonfiction blog on Tumblr. She is also the director of communications for Mortar Board and co-president of Terpsichore Dance Collective.

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Chelsea Embree
Chelsea Embree is a senior majoring in creative writing and minoring in art history. She previously served as co-mosaic editor and as an arts and features reporter for TKS. During the summer of 2013, she served as a content intern at The St. Louis Beacon. Chelsea has studied under former Random House copy chief Sean Mills and taught writing as a teaching assistant for First-Year Preceptorial. An avid blogger, she has written extensively about youth in St. Louis and maintains a lively poetry and nonfiction blog on Tumblr. She is also the director of communications for Mortar Board and co-president of Terpsichore Dance Collective.




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