Princess Pin Curls: I am a Thrift Shop Queen, not a princess, a queen. I find great mid-century pieces for very good prices all the time. You too can become a thrifty queen, you just need to know where to look. Not all thrift stores are created equal. Some will always have great things and other will very rarely yield anything. I have hunted out the best thrift shops in my area by following these simple rules. I’m not going to give you specific stores or suburbs, just the means to find them yourself.

1. Identify the right suburbs. The best suburbs to investigate are generally those that have an older, middle class, middle-income demographic (not so tricky to identify). These suburbs are filled with people who bought quality clothing and household items in days of old and have looked after them. Many of these people are at an age now where their children have left home, they have retired and they have begun downsizing their homes and possessions by donating them to their favourite charity shop (I’m not being snobby here, I’m just saying that poorer suburbs just don’t seem to have quality items.).

2. Visit shops from a variety of different charities. I find that some people prefer to donate to certain charities such as St. Vincent de Paul, Red Cross, City Mission, Brotherhood of St. Laurent, RSPCA etc. So some stores will receive better donations than others because of these preferences or the location of their charity bins. After a few visits, you will work out which stores have better stock and most variety.

3. Find the hidden shops. Many of my best thrifty finds have been bought from shops that are tucked away in hard to find locations. In my experience the bigger shops with the more prominent locations yield fewer treasures. Look up a charity’s shop locations, many of which are in side streets, small local shops and quiet areas. I guarantee you will find at least two or three in your area that you didn’t even know existed, and chances are other people won’t either.

4. Visit regularly. Once you have identified which shops are the better ones visit regularly. I call on some stores on a weekly basis, others fortnightly and some monthly. The more often you visit, the more chance you have of finding a treasure, or two.

5. Be friendly to the staff. This is ultra-important! I always say a minimum of ‘Hello’ upon arrival and ‘Have a good day’  when I leave the store- even if you don’t find anything that day. Many of these people are volunteers who are quite passionate about their charity and their shop. Show them and the shop respect and you will often be rewarded with lower prices. A smile and friendly disposition will help you too if you want to haggle on pricier items.

6. Chat, chat, chat. Once you’ve become a regular (and you will become a regular if you want to find treasures) you should build a rapport with the assistants. I chat about what I like to wear, or what I’ve recently bought from another shop or about my blog. Now, I am often greeted by a smile and a “This came in the other day and I thought of you…” or “I popped this under the counter for you to look at” or “Did you see this hat/coat/brooch/blouse”. Sometimes these pieces have been appalling (like a white vinyl raincoat), at other times they have been wonderful, like a wine coloured velvet opera coat (tragically, not in my size). Even if you don’t like the item thank them for their kindness and gently decline if it’s not your thing.

7. Take the road less traveled. When you’re on holidays or on a road trip take the scenic route. Get off the highway/interstate and stop off in little country towns. On my last country trip I discovered many beautiful treasures in small country town thrift shops – and the prices were a lot cheaper than what I would have paid in the city.

If you follow these simple rules, and spend a bit of time doing your research, you too can be a Thrift Shop Queen!

Princess Pin Curls is Shauna, who lives in a leafy suburb in Melbourne, Australia. She shares her little home with her two beautiful children, her very own Prince Charming and a fat little doggy named Misty.

Shauna loves all things vintage ; hats, gloves, petticoats,corsets, jewellery, furs, hair accessories, silk flower belts…the list goes on and on. She also love ‘new vintage’- well crafted reproduction pieces.

2 Responses

  1. CherryT

    Great article! I’m finding it increasing difficult to get the elusive “bargain” here in the UK, as most of the charity shops now have managers who are obviously checking out the prices of mid century goods, some of them go for auction/ebay price, some of them go for extortionate prices!

  2. Anne Marie

    Great article with good advice. I’m from the US, however the same rules definitely still apply! Thank you Princess Pin Curls.