Big Fashion at petite prices | How to shop second-hand and proof that it works!

a bit sultry: Print dress: $1.99 Orange belt: $0.99 Dress alteration: $15.00 Total cost: $17.98

By Jacklyn Tran
Northwest Asian Weekly

The door swings open releasing a whiff of the stale air that floats around the treasures I’ve come to search through. The smell is reminiscent of an old closet or forgotten attic. But that doesn’t deter me.

Some may sneer at my mission, but I know the finds that are hidden between the ill-fitted, shoulder-padded blazers and the shrunken, “who on earth would wear that?” sweaters. With enough know-how, I’m confident that I may well come out with a rare find or at least raw materials that can be made into an exceptional piece.

The world I am stepping into contains more than a simple collection of castoffs. Take another glance and one can uncover forgotten items, rich in tradition and reflecting a diversity of ethnicities.

Move along the rows of clothing and stumble upon a traditional Vietnamese ao dai. Shift toward a cluster of home accessories and find a koi fish watercolor painting. Progress along and peruse a multitude of musical instruments and reveal bamboo flute.

a bit flirty: White button-up shirt: $5.99 Gold belt: $2.99 Plaid skirt: $3.99 Skirt alteration: $20.00 Total cost: $32.97

Thrift shops, consignment stores, resale shops, second-hand stores, hospice or charity shops: These places are not only frequented by the frugal and cash-challenged, as some might think. They’re also sought after by collectors, eBayers, environmentalists and creative fashionistas everywhere, each for good reason: to add to an anthology, find and resell goods for profit, or to reduce waste and promote a healthier environment. Others go to rummage through the endless racks, exploring and using their imagination in hopes of restoring an old hat or belt to its glory days.

Each new season brings the latest trends and must-have looks. But who can truly afford to stay stylish all year long?

Luckily, my assignment and determination is to help motivate you all to vamp up your wardrobes this fall without damaging your pocketbook. So, here are some tips and tricks to becoming a fashion plate at a fraction of what you’d think it would cost.

Tip #1

Be patient. You can’t expect to waltz in and find exactly what you’re looking for. Second-hand shopping takes time, maybe even more time than some care to spend. You may find yourself sifting through several items before finding anything that’s right. Therefore, it is not highly recommended for those who describe a shopping trip as a drive to the nearest department store to purchase the exact outfits displayed in the front window.

Tip #2

Get inspired. Flip through the latest fashion magazine. Get a feel for the newest looks and how you can incorporate them to fit your personal style. Make a list or maintain a visual of specific garments and variations of pieces you’d like to have, which would easily fit into your wardrobe.

Tip #3

Don’t forget the accessories! The right necklace, bracelet, scarf or sash is sometimes all you need to make an old outfit brand new again.

Tip #4

Just because it’s not perfect, doesn’t mean it won’t work. Remember, the beauty of second-hand shopping is the low prices! Replacing the funky buttons on a shirt or modifying the longer than desired hemline of a skirt may still be cost-effective. Don’t skip over a less than perfect garment that simply needs a quick mend to make it completely worthwhile. And for those overachievers who are really proactive and have some sewing skills to boot, there’s potential to whittle any misshaped or large garment down to something fitted and chic. Especially with a boundless variety of silhouettes and fabrics to choose from.

Tip #5

Don’t get sucked in. The point of second-hand shopping is to save some money. Just because the nearest top is only $10 doesn’t mean acquiring 10 of them is a good idea. Make sure something is worth buying before picking it up. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a drawer full of inexpensive clothing that remains untouched. Nobody should want that. Even at a bargain price.

Of course, to prove that this all works, I’ve pulled together my own looks (comprised of items found at the local Goodwill) from a personal arsenal of second-hand goodies, in case you’re not convinced. So, may your next second-hand shopping experience be filled with a little bit of digging, some imagination, maybe even some scissors and sewing to produce an outfit that’s fit for a contemporary fashion spread.
Happy hunting! ♦

These looks were made possible by the collaborations of wardrobe stylist Jacklyn Tran, photographer Darren J. Sabino, producer Todd Blubaugh, hair stylist Leah Bautista and makeup artist Christine Aguiling. Visit Darren Sabino’s Web site at

Jacklyn Tran can be reached at

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