The Thrill of the Thrift

5 years ago by

Photos Kate Berry

I’m sure you guys remember Patricia from her style story earlier this year, during which she introduced us to one of our favorite new concepts, “budget bougie.” Of course, we wanted to learn more (and so did all of you!) so we asked her to elaborate. Behold! A thrifting guide from the queen of the budget bougie herself.


I started thrifting not so much because it was cool, but because it was 2005, I was in high school making minimum wage, Teen Vogue was telling me that vintage was what all the French girls were wearing, and vintage stores, where the merchandise was curated and subsequently marked-up, simply weren’t an option.

Bold, green, and barely seventeen (youth!), I decided that I could do my own curating, thank you very much.

I began perusing local thrift stores to the dismay of my—albeit progressive— horrified Filipino father. Rummaging through donated goods didn’t exactly scream success, the currency of which we were still negotiating as newly landed immigrants to Canada. He imposed a ban.

Little did he know that thrifting would become a sacred family activity ten years down the line, and that the ban, doomed from the beginning, would be short-lived.

Like all nascent thrifters, I started out with less vision than a newly hatched turtle. I grabbed anything and everything that resembled the pieces I was seeing in magazines, with little regard to quality and fit. In my first year of thrifting, I traversed more sartorial genres than Carrie Bradshaw ever did on all six seasons of Sex and the City.

Thankfully, thirteen years of near religious devotion to my favourite budget bougie pastime have allowed me to hone in on a few basic tenets. Here they are for your thrifting pleasure.

atelier dore patricia lagmay how to thrift shop

atelier dore patricia lagmay how to thrift shop

atelier dore patricia lagmay how to thrift shop

Rule #1: Focus on fabric.

The whole point of thrifting is to find quality pieces at a bargain. If you buy something simply because it’s cheap, then one man’s trash has effectively become your own. With fabric being the only part of the garment you can’t change (more on what you can change later), this is the first level of criteria I use to pilfer through what can sometimes feel like endless racks of our past decade’s mistakes.

Rule #2: Fit is important, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.

That’s what a tailor is for. If something is well made but perhaps could use a sharper waistline here, or a shorter hemline there, consider buying it anyways and getting it altered. An inexpensive trip to the seamstress means getting an (almost) custom piece at a fraction of the price.

Rule #3: As the List It guy on HGTV always says—location, location, location.

Downtown thrift stores tend to be picked over. For the really good stuff, go to the suburbs. For the really, really good stuff, go to suburbs with an affluent older demographic (think, where would Bunny MacDougal have donated her goods?).

Rule #4: Visit the men’s and little boys’ sections.

Outside of browsing size sections other than your own (because see Rule #2), I always scour these racks for original versions of pieces womenswear designers often reference (oversized blazers and crisp button-ups for the first, and shrunken tees and worn-in sweatshirts for the second).

Rule #5: Bring snacks!

Because snacks make everything better and all hunters, sartorial or otherwise, are better for them.

And finally, an abridged list of my greatest conquests to keep you motivated:

• Manolo croc mules that were sitting pretty in a San Francisco thrift store for $30
• A vintage Balenciaga dress (very probably from the Cristóbal era) that I found at a Salvation Army for $7
• Two perfect pairs of 90’s 501’s that were going for $2 a piece
• And countless others with nametags you wouldn’t recognize, but with silhouettes I’ll never get rid of (like the little black dress and handbag you see here).

Happy thrifting!


Add yours
  • Patricia’s style is just so perfect- I love the simplicity of it, lack of labels and minimal make up. I used to go to thrift stores a lot- coming from a small town it was either one of two shops where almost everyone bought their clothes, or a thrift store to try and look different. I still have a blue, men’s Dior shirt I bought there (and I still wear it).Nowadays I don’t have smooch time but my mum loves the thrill of a hunt and often gets something for me. Recently it was a button down skirt in the style of Jacket O, which I’ll be wearing with a henley t-shirt and sandals.

  • Caroline April, 2 2019, 9:57 / Reply

    I would add that the only part that cannot be altered in any way is the shoulders.
    So, if you don’t like oversized and don’t feel like the shoulders fit, don’t go for it, because the tailor can’t fix it.

  • You are absolutely right! However god knows how.. this seamstress a good one fixed the shoulders of a velvet YSL Bolero jacket I thrifted for pennies

    Again have Patricia reinstate her IG account. I am a serious thrifter and ga d found stunning everything.

  • Testing

  • Pleeeeezzzzz tell her to reinstate her IG account!!!!!!!! Love love her IG and thrift .. Style..eye… pleeeeezzzzzz?

  • I would add another tip…learn something about sewing. Knowing which alterations are inexpensive and which break the bank are super important. Keep in mind…too big may work but too small…no place to pull fabric from.

    I’ve never thrifted shoes…are there any tips for getting rid of the “eeewwww” factor?

  • I have found tons shoes. Many stunning and new. If I look at them and think ewww then move on . Yr ewww will not change. If it is very lightly worn and you feel ok then use clorox / seventh generation wipes on inside and let them dry. With sneakers they have to be looking new with the insert removable to be washed.

    Also TIP.. dry clean wash immediately upon coming home to take care of lurking moth eggs.

    Patricia G you have a unique eye. Fashion and interiors. IG please??
    From someone who has not bought new in10 years and has a gorgeous high end wardrobe.

  • Jessica April, 2 2019, 8:17 / Reply

    Speaking of Sex and The City, that outfit is a perfect “Charlotte”. Especially the super-bare shoes. The total inverse of the covered-foot, block heeled shoes that have dominated the last few years.

    I know this is a trend – an aesthetic – that is on the way back “in.” I’m just not sure my feet are ready for the tottering after all these years of comfort.

  • Michelle April, 2 2019, 11:01 / Reply

    This article comes right after a visit to Wellington, NZ where I came across a number of good thrift stores. I found a couple of unique and super cool pieces. I was thinking I should resolve to only thrift for a year. I already have a nice wardrobe and wouldn’t mind a) spending less and b) adding items that are a bit different. I’m also keenly aware that constant buying has an impact on our environment. Great article and great style. Thanks!

  • I can not believe that today’s outfit cost so little. It looks very charming and chic. Clean lines and minimalism are my favourite traits.

    Debbie from Luxury Leather Goods

  • So good to see you again, Patricia! Hope to see more of you soon.

  • Nancy Athens GR April, 3 2019, 2:27 / Reply

    From a person that thrifts and hasn’t bought new for a looong time: please post more on the thrifting topic. My coolest find was a pair of sneakers Y3 Rhita all leather

  • Great tips for thrifting! I have found a love for the treasure hunt that comes with thrifting, as I no longer shop at retail stores (as I am on a journey towards zero waste!). I have found such interesting things, and I definitely agree that some locations result in better finds (and prices!) than others! Thanks for sharing!
    -Jenna ?
    Stay in touch? The Chic Cupcake

  • Love it! And the best part is to claim the best spoils for the lowest price.

    My best find ever? I went into my local thrift store looking for a raglan sleeved raincoat. That year there was nothing but trenchcoats in the stores, and belted coats look awful on me. I popped in to see what I could find. Walked out with a Burberry balmacaan in my size for $17!

    I have great luck with shoes too, probably because I have big feet! I often find brand new or almost brand new in my size in amazing brands. Best find was brand new Camper knee high boots for $15 – plus I had a coupon! Found some sharp looking Sigger Morrison flats a few weeks ago for $6 bucks.

    But my sister is the thrifting QUEEN! She has multiple Hermes scarves, all found for a song.

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