Thriftin’: Looking fly on a college budget

Above: a scene from a hipster adaptation of West Side Story

I’ma take your grandpa’s style, I’ma take your grandpa’s style,
No for real – ask your grandpa – can I have his hand-me-downs? (Thank you)

I wear your granddad’s clothes
I look incredible
I’m in this big ass coat
From that thrift shop down the road

Macklemore puts it best in the lyrics above – I will look hot rocking your grannie’s old clothes. Shopping in thrift stores is not only the key to looking good on a low budget, it’s the key to looking good period. You don’t want to be seen wearing clothes that everybody else owns, so ladies, put away that American Apparel Dress, and fellas, let’s ditch your American Eagle T-shirts for a moment and try to rock our style creatively. Just think: a few years down the road you might have a dress code at your job, and even if you don’t, other adults will expect you to dress with self-respect and modesty. So, live it up now and dress like…well…like a chic homeless person.

Faux fur coats, tribal skirts, vintage slacks, and used shoes — I’ve snagged them all, and each item was under $20. The first time I went to a thrift store, I confess I felt a little self conscious. The idea that someone else had worn these clothes kind of skeeved me out, and I didn’t want to look like an old lady from the days of yore, but when the compliments started pouring in after my first thrifted outfit my fashion inhibitions melted away. Here are some ways to save your budget and boost your style on College Hill:

To get this out of the way…
Urban Outfitters is not a thrift store, and despite the fact we all do it, it’s not cool to shop there. Chances are enough people have tried on those skinny jeans that they’re basically secondhand already.

If you’re looking for a very consumer friendly boutique, it’s next to CVS on Thayer Street. NAVA stands for New and Vintage Apparel, and although it can get pricey, I find a lot of really cool stuff there for under $30. They have a wonderful selection of Men’s flannel shirts, as well as new clothing that hearkens back to the era of their vintage pieces. Also, it definitely houses the cleanest clothes of all these thrift shops.

Second Time Around
The rich people thrift store across the street from CVS on Thayer. When your friend-who-owns-a-house-in-the-Hamptons’s Mom gets tired of sporting her “so last season” wardrobe from J.Crew and department stores, she consigns them to this upscale thrift shop. The store policy is all things must be pre-laundered before consignment, but I would wash them when you get home anyway. If you’re one of those ladies like myself who appreciates a 5th Avenue brand name when she sees it, this store is for you. The clothing will be a certain percentage off if it isn’t a new arrival (depending on how long it’s been there), ranging from 20-50%, and the tags are color coded for easy sale browsing. Prices can get steep as well, but it sure as hell beats the original – I will never spend more than $3o for a 100% cashmere sweater now that I shop here. A fair warning to male readers: their guy section is decent but pretty small.

The Vault
Brown’s student and faculty thrift shop. This is a much more economical option than the stores above, as most of the things I have purchased here are under $10, and you can’t beat the convenience of its JWW lobby location. The selection is fairly small, but I highly recommend taking five minutes out of your Tuesdays or Fridays to check them out (particularly the shoes).

RISD (the ultimate thrift store)
On occasion, uber well dressed RISD students will have a yard sale of the clothes they don’t want anymore on the RISD beach by North Main Street. Everything is $5. A pea coat from Topshop for $5. Just think about that for a minute. It’s possible that during the colder months these sacred events are held inside, but I have yet to confirm a location. My advice if you see one – drop everything you’re doing and shop.

The Family Store
It’s that big-ass Salvation Army store all the way over on Pitman St. You’ve probably heard someone who trains at the boathouse talk about this place before. Let me assure you, it’s last but certainly not least. This place is huge and, if I still have my male readers, the male and female sections are of roughly equal size. This place isn’t for thrifting beginners, though. I went there last week and immediately knew I had stepped into a dangerously mature world of second and possibly thirdhand clothing.  It smells weird, the space looks like it was a gardening superstore in a previous life, and you might find yourself in danger of getting shanked.  The whole place made me want to wash my hands because my more neurotic side was afraid I’d contract a disease from trying on all those sketchy clothes.  If you watch out for food stains and have the patience to sort through massive racks of similarly colored clothing, there are dirt cheap ($3 – $10) diamonds in the rough. Warning: do yourself a favor and wash your recently purchased items on “whites”…twice…and enjoy that trek back to campus!

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  1. Mahalia

    There’s also Into the Wardrobe at the end of Brook St. and another one more or less across the street from it.

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