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).
- I used Arc’s online scheduler to set-up an appointment. You can choose whichever location is most convenient to you.
- I completed a short size and style profile that the personal shopper emailed me
- I showed up at the scheduled time to a rack of clothing that their shopper picked out for me
- 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.”)
Let me show you a few things I tried on with a little commentary about each.
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.
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).
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.
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 :)
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.
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.