A Trip to D.I. - My Thrift Shopping Methods

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lavender cardigan: Banana Republic, $35
Floral top: Old Navy, $3 (several years ago)
Necklace: Icing by Claire's, $5
Navy blue pants: J. Crew brand, $12 (secondhand from My Sister's Closet consignment shop in Spanish Fork, Utah)
Striped socks: TJ Maxx, $4 for pack of two
Leather brogues: Kikit brand, $3 (thrifted at a store in Shelley, Idaho)

As you can clearly see, I took today's pictures in a fitting room, and that fitting room just happens to be located at Deseret Industries in Provo, Utah. Deseret Industries (lovingly nicknamed "D.I.") is a constant throughout the state of Utah (as well as Idaho, from what I know) and nearly always promises great treasures for your thrifting pleasure.

My purpose in visiting D.I. was to find a desk that I can use for both sewing AND writing (hey, if anything wants to last long in this tiny dwelling, it's gotta earn its keep). Mission? Accomplished. But after I found my desk and started glancing at the racks of clothing, I felt rather in-the-mood for thrift shopping. That mood is somewhat rare for me; after all, shopping at a thrift store is very different from shopping at the mall, and it takes a specific mindset to look at each piece one-by-one, efficiently evaluating fabric/fit/condition/style. Here's how I generally approach thrift shopping:

Before I hit the racks
- Grab a cart, even when I don't think I'll need it.
- Make a mental list of the things I'm looking for (tonight, that list included blazers/jackets, colorful heels, and gray skinny jeans).  These are the items that I'll spend special time perusing (i.e. I'll look at each individual blazer in the store), while still keeping an eye out for other items that strike my fancy.

At the racks
- Don't put anything in my cart that I feel iffy about; if it's a 5 out of 10 on the hanger, it's not worth my time in the dressing room.
- Try not to take the listed size too seriously. If something looks like it might fit, don't be thrown off by a tag that says the size is much larger or smaller than what I'm accustomed to.
- If I'm considering something, do a quick scan for stains or imperfections on the garment.

In the dressing room
- Start by trying on each individual item. Divide each piece into a "Definitely not" pile and a "For further consideration" pile.
- When trying things on, pay attention to fit over anything else. I'm not a seamstress, and I have to remind myself of this fact every time I find an amazing thing that's a little too big; while I want to believe that I'll take the time to alter something, the truth is that I won't. This is just something I've learned about myself through the years.
- After everything is split up accordingly, look at each item in the "For further consideration" pile and ask myself these questions: Do I already have something like this? Will this fit into my wardrobe? Can I imagine three or more different outfits that can be created using this piece? Is the price fair? Is this "dry clean only" or "hand wash," and am I willing to put the extra effort into maintaining this piece? Is this item uncomfortable in any way? Do I have too many things of this type (i.e. sweaters, bootcut jeans, brown boots, etc.) already? MOST IMPORTANTLY, do I love this item enough to want to wear it out of the store right now? This last question is really key for me, since my tendency is to buy things I only mildly like as long as the price is cheap, and it's a problematic pattern to continue. Anything that doesn't pass those questions gets moved into the "No" pile.
- Before I make a final decision on what I'm buying, I add up the cost of all the things I'm still considering. Ultimately, my bank statement doesn't care if I spent $40 on one thing or $40 on six things - it's $40 either way. I can't justify spending more than I can afford, even if I'm getting tons of great stuff for that amount, so if the final cost makes me uncomfortable in the slightest, I eliminate whatever I need to.

Here's how it all rolled out tonight: I took 20 items into the dressing room (3 gray jeans, 1 pair of heels, 10 jackets, 5 shirts, 1 half-slip) and bought six of them. The total cost was $29. My method did very well for me tonight! (Note: please excuse the angles and quality of the following pictures - it is what it is.)

Denim jacket (fits me really well, will work marvelously in my wardrobe, incredibly versatile, really a no-brainer - PURCHASED for $7)

All of these jackets were great in terms of quality and style, and had they fit me, I probably would have taken them all home. Each of them had the same problem of being a little too large in the shoulders and waist, which was a bit of a bummer, but if I've learned anything from thrift shopping, it's this: there will always be more clothes (well ... as long as civilization lasts, I suppose). There's no use in fretting over what doesn't work. Just move on to the next.

Tweedy double-breasted jacket (beautiful cut and material, great fit, can be dressed up or down, unlike anything I already own but still a perfect complement to many things in my closet - PURCHASED for $6)

These leather jackets were both awesome - soft, great color and quality, good vintage condition. I spent most of my time trying to decide between the two, making pros/cons lists, but when it came down to it, I decided that if one of them wasn't an incredible standout, I needed to walk away from both. I figure that my ideal leather jacket is out there somewhere, and if I buy a mediocre one now, then I won't feel okay about buying the much-better one when I do come across it. It's a few hours later now, and I don't feel any nagging wish that I'd purchased one of them, so looks like it was the right choice.

These three shirts were cool in many ways, but ultimately, it was tough to see them fitting into my wardrobe. Maybe if I hadn't found anything else I wanted on this trip, or if they'd been part of a "pay $5 for everything you can fit into this bag" deal, I would have purchased one of the shirts as a fun experiment. It just didn't make sense for this visit to D.I.

Green sweater (super-comfy, nice relaxed fit, flattering color, will be a wardrobe staple - PURCHASED for $4)

Blue/white hippie shirt (a real statement piece, good quality, very comfortable, can wear tucked-in or as a tunic, perfect for my earthy self - PURCHASED for $5)

The above purchases total $22. I also bought some genuine suede heels in the prettiest shade of red ($5) and a half-slip ($2). The skinny jeans I picked out were all too small to even fit over my bum, so looks like I'm not the best judge of size in that area! Overall, it was a good day for thrift shopping. Between this trip and my triumphant visit to Junk In My Trunk last week, I think I've hit my quota for the month ... in fact, maybe for the next three months.


  1. DI is my favorite! practically all my clothes come from there :) great advice too!

  2. Thanks, Katherine! Oh man - DI is a wonder. Not all of the locations are great, but then again, this is the first time I've had significant success with clothes at the Provo location, so you never know! =) Any locations in particular that you love? You've got quite the eye for thrifted stuff, from what I've observed on your blog.


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