Do You Hate Clothes Shopping As Much As I Do? You May Not Have To Do It Ever. Again.

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For the better part of my childhood my parents owned a consignment store in Minneapolis. I grew up playing inside the racks of used clothing, reading second-hand books and even today my family dines at a kitchen table that came from our store almost 30 years ago. My point: I am perfectly comfortable around second-hand merchandise.

Where clothes shopping is concerned, I prefer a thrift store over a department store. It’s not just a price thing. I prefer thrift stores because I love the variety of brands, sizes, styles and cuts. The mishmash found in one rack’s span is awesome. But, it’s also work.

It’s enough work that I hadn’t bought a single new piece of clothing in over a year. I knew I needed some things, but it would too much energy for me to spend an afternoon at a thrift store. I could never justify it compared to my other priorities.

A Personal Shopper. At The Thrift Store. For Real.

When a friend told me that she’d worked with a personal shopper at an area thrift store, I was intrigued. And, it was a free service! I added “schedule personal shopper experience” on my to-do list and promptly didn’t do it. Then, said thrift store emailed me and asked if I’d like to try out their service. Score!

Arc Value Village gave me a $50 gift card to use on my first personal shopping experience. I think it was money well spent, because friends, I’m hooked. THIS IS THE WAY TO SHOP FOR CLOTHES. Period. (I don’t scream around here very often, but this is scream-worthy).

  1. I used Arc’s online scheduler to set-up an appointment. You can choose whichever location is most convenient to you.
  2. I completed a short size and style profile that the personal shopper emailed me
  3. I showed up at the scheduled time to a rack of clothing that their shopper picked out for me
  4. I spent 90 minutes trying on professional-type outfits, dresses, casual outfits, single pieces (tops and bottoms I expressed need of in my profile), accessories, shoes and more

My experience was so wonderful that I plan to do this twice per year (you know I’m a rule-oriented person and I create rules for myself to simplify my life. Like “I go clothes shopping in the spring and fall at Arc Value Village with a personal shopper.”)

Some Outfits

Let me show you a few things I tried on with a little commentary about each.

Green pants and bad hair.

This was the first outfit I tried on. I didn’t get it because the pants were too tight and the top too loose. I loved the combination. The t-shirt underneath the cardigan pulled the two pieces together really well. I felt excited about what else Michelle, the personal shopper, had picked out for me.

Nice casual white shirt that I did get.

I appreciated that each outfit Michelle selected for me included accessories. I didn’t get the chunky necklace I am wearing in this photo, but it opened my mind to new jewelry possibilities. (See I am fairly fashion senseless and boring so even though I like new funky things I would rarely think of them myself).

I tried it even though I already figured I wouldn’t like it.

When I shop for clothes I tend to pick things in the same 2 or 3 color families that are all of a similar style. Boring. I enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone a bit and trying things I never would have taken off the rack. That includes this sweater whose collar is so big that it could swallow me whole. The color and underlying sweater (there is a sweater underneath all that collar) were great. It was fun.

$398 Silk Nanette Lepore Designer Dress

For $7 I snagged this silk dress that fit well, but is a crazier pattern than I often wear (to be honest I felt like Elizabeth Ries when I put this one, but I’ll get over it). It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that this is a $398 designer dress by Nanette Lepore. It’s selling for $199 on eBay right now. For real. Now I need some cobalt-colored jewelry and some warmer weather :)

I love this blue dress

When I brought this dress home I told my husband, “if I end up on national TV as a result of the book this winter, then I just might wear this dress.” It’s elegant, the cut is great and it’s flattering on me. I might wear it on local TV over the winter with a black velvet-trimmed bolero that’s hanging in my closet.


All told, I had a blast. I tried on new things. I was pleased with the $80_ in merchandise I brought home. I easily could have spent over $100, but I resisted. It included the two dresses and a lot of things I forgot to take pictures of – whoops! – including some blazers/jackets, necklaces, a really funky belt, a couple of casual tops and some other basic pieces like shells to go under things I already own. I used the $50 that Arc gave me and spent less than $35 myself.

Lessons Learned

I’ve already said that I’m going back. I did learn a few things and will do some things differently next time:

  • I will spend 20 minutes looking through my closet and accessories before I go. I picked up a black shell that is so similar to one I already have that I should’ve skipped it.
  • I will go with a friend. You can schedule a dual appointment where you and a friend have simultaneous appointments. I may have bought different things if I’d had a personal friend along who really knows me. (The personal shopper gave great advice about how things fit and she did an excellent job picking clothes that were in the right ballpark, but a personal friend would have helped me hone in a little more)
  • I will set a firm budget. I didn’t go crazy and overspend, but I easily could have. I think it could be worth bringing cash along, or an Arc gift card, so you are forced to stay within your budget.

If you are interested in setting up your own free appointment, find a time that works for you on Arc Value Village’s calendar. Then please, come back and leave a comment about your experience. I’d love to hear any tips or lessons you learned so that my next experience can be even more productive.


  1. Pam says

    This sounds like a wonderful, time saving idea. Perfect for me with three small children. Thanks for sharing. Was the $50 gift card just for you or is it for everyone who tries the service?

  2. Michele says

    I was just trying to schedule an appointment at the West St. Paul location and there are no openings until January 2013. Must be very popular!

  3. Joyce says

    Sounds like something I would enjoy doing with my mom. Is there a dollar amount they prefer you to spend to make it worth the professional shopper's time and effort? Is it OK with them if you only spend $20?

  4. Karla says

    I just did this service last week. It was totally worth it and I tried on a lot of things that I wouldn't normally choose, but love. She is scheduled pretty far out, but if you like her facebook page, she posts when she has last minute cancelations or open appointments.

  5. Sara says

    I have been looking for this all my life! Is there a fee for the service? I am so fashion broken, I could really use some support!!!

    • says

      You are telling me! It's ingenious. From the store perspective it pays for itself because people tend to buy so much more when they have a personal shopper. Look at me – when I have ever bought $80 worth of clothes in a single trip to Arc? Never. I can't say enough good things about this. It's a brilliant idea.

      • Val says

        It was really fun to see the photos of what you did, and didn't, decide to get. That Ruffled dress was a pretty color but WOW! That was some ruffles! LOVED the blue dress, it is very simple, becoming and flattering, and like you say, would be nice in winter with a black sweater. I watched a segment on Channel 4 about a year ago, when Esme Murphy tried out this service. It sounded like she had also loved, and purchased, quite a few items too. Thanks for posting about this!

  6. says

    Hi everyone! Michelle Dustin here — THE Arc's Value Village Personal Shopper! Thanks so much for all your kind words above! I'm a busy gal and appointments are booked fairly far out — but I assure you, book now, you'll be glad you did! :) Clients RAVE! Please also connect with my Facebook page by searching Arc's Value Village Personal Shopper on Facebook. As Karla mentioned, I post all my cancellations there so it's an easy way to be in-the-know about new openings.

    I look forward to shopping with you all in the near future!

    Thanks again Carrie!

  7. says

    A friend sent me this post because of my belly aching about hating to shop for clothes! I'm scheduled in Jan 2013. Fingers crossed that this could be an answer I've been looking for. Thanks!

  8. says

    OMG!! Carrie – I had the best experience ever with Michelle!! I'll be blogging about my experience and purchases this week. Thank you for sharing this awesome service. Michelle is a wonderful.


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