In his chart-topping hit “Thrift Shop,” the Seattle rapper Macklemore celebrates the joys of snagging a thrift shop steal:
One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come-up
Thank your granddad for donating that plaid button-up shirt
Thrift stops aren’t just showing up in endearingly goofy rap songs. We published this guide Brooklyn vintage shops a few years back, as well a primer on spots to sell your clothes and cash in on your closet, and thrifting has only grown in popularity since. The National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops estimates that, over the past two years, the number of resale shops in the country has grown approximately 7 percent per year, to around 30,000 stores today.
But resale rewards also come with challenges. Costume designer Isabel Rubio has spent more than 20 years outfitting characters in vintage and thrift store finds from all over the country. She suggests that dedicated thrifters prepare for a day of shopping as they would for a hike. “Number one: take water,” Rubio said. “It’s a lot of dust; it’s a lot of allergens; it’s extremely dry. If you stay there too long you get overwhelmed, you get dehydrated, and then you can’t think.” (Check out more of Rubio’s thifting tips, including bed bug beating strategies, on the BB blog.)
Here are three thrift stores in and around Clinton Hill, and how to get the most out of them. You could make this a thrifty day trip, or hit them individually.
Miss Master’s Closet: For the Budget-Conscious and Vintage Obsessed Miss Master’s Closet, a nearly two-year-old vintage shop on Bedford Avenue in Bed Stuy is spacious and inviting, with worn, burgundy leather couches near the dressing rooms and end tables stacked with magazines and antique paper dolls. Everything is color-coordinated, and racks contain a array of clothing: a lavender lace dress from the 1950s hangs next to a wine-colored Christian Dior wool sweater vest with magenta Swarovski crystals. Each rack of clothing feels curated; nothing is crammed, so customers can easily browse.
Jessica Master, owner, sources almost exclusively from charities and individual sellers and does all the cleaning and repairs herself, which allows her to keep prices low. Most items hover around $30. On a recent visit, one of the most expensive pieces was a navy blue cocktail dress from the 1990s for $95. The store caters to women, but has a rack of men’s fashion and unisex items, like a soft wool argyle sweater from the 1960s for $30. Items are labeled with handwritten tags that include their decades of origin, fabric type and care instructions.
Read on for more shops and more shopping tips.
It’s easy to spot one-of-a-kind bargains at Miss Master’s, but Rubio, who also works on the Late Show with David Letterman, suggests that shoppers be realistic about what they’ll actually wear. “You have a color palette—you have certain colors that you’re drawn to,” Rubio said. “Let’s say you like very soft, earthy colors, and all of a sudden you see this jarring orange, neon blazer that you just have to have. Think about it for just a little bit.”
Miss Master’s Closet, 1070 Bedford Ave., Bed-Stuy
Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, noon to 8pm; closed Tuesday and Wednesday
If You Love the Pursuit: Project Hope Boutique Thrift Sometimes the hunt is part of the fun. A stop at Project Hope Boutique Thrift in Fort Greene feels a bit like a visit to grandma’s attic. The store receives goods through donation only and is brimming with clothing, costume jewelry, stuffed animals, wall hangings and assorted housewares. Navigating the narrow rows, it’s easy to bump into a table that’s crowded with women’s shoes, and the racks are jammed.
Despite the cluttered appearance, the store is well organized by type of garment. A rack labeled “women’s vintage” was particularly well stocked on a recent visit. Unlike Miss Master’s, Project Hope does not tag pieces by era, and some have a few stains, but the prices are lower. An orange paisley dress reminiscent of the 1960s is $16.99, and a moss green kimono dress with a faint lipstick stain on the collar is $17.99. The men’s selection is generous, with dress shirts in the $10 to $15 dollar range; a maroon Brooks Brothers button-up shirt for $15 is wrinkled but is otherwise in good shape. Venture into the basement, where it’s chilly and a bit more cluttered, to find men’s basics. All cotton tee shirts sell for $3.99, and long sleeves are all $5.99.
The pricing can sometimes seem arbitrary. Purple suede Mary Jane shoes looked barely worn and were marked at $17.99; a pair of dirty gray pumps was $15.99. But frequent tag sales knock down prices, and a basement sale during the last week of each month gives customers everything they can cram into a shopping bag for $10.
In a situation where there are a lot of garments of mixed qualities, Rubio suggests that shoppers inspect clothing for stains and loose threads before purchasing. “Check the edges and the seams. Are they threadbare? Are they getting weak?” she said. “If you’re looking at something and it’s so beautiful but it’s delicate, come on. Are you really going to take it and wash it by hand every time and hang it up?”
Project Hope Boutique Thrift, 469 Vanderbilt Ave., Fort Greene
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11am to 7pm; Sunday, 11:30am to 6pm, closed Saturday
Salvation Army, Clinton Hill: For Little Trendsetters The Salvation Army in Clinton Hill looks like an industrial warehouse, with concrete floors and a loading dock that’s twice the size of the entrance, but for anyone in the market for secondhand children’s clothing, it shouldn’t be missed. “The Salvation Army on Quincy Street is one of the best-organized ones I’ve seen,” Rubio said. “It’s wonderful because they’ve sorted it by garment and by color.”
The 10 racks of children’s clothing are no exception and are well labeled by item and gender. A boy’s light blue seersucker blazer was $3.99, and a girl’s royal blue North Face fleece was $8.99. However, nothing is arranged by size, and some patience is required to sift through the racks. With prices so low, it might pay to purchase garments a few sizes too big for children to grow into.
Rubio suggests shoppers arrive with an agenda. There are two large warehouse rooms of clothing, and leafing through even one section can be time-consuming. “Give yourself a time limit,” Rubio said. “‘I’m going to be here 20 minutes. I’m only going to look at the pants.’”
Salvation Army, 22 Quincy St., Clinton Hill
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9am to 5:30pm; closed Sundays
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