Annette Vartanian of 'A Vintage Splendor' shares her top tips for thrifting successfully.

| By Rachael Thompson | Interiors

How to Thrift Shop: Essential Tips from an Expert

Annette Vartanian of 'A Vintage Splendor' shares her top tips for thrifting successfully.

With more of us becoming aware of the impact that our purchases can have on the environment, has come a rising interest in buying used clothes and home décor. Those who are more environmentally conscious are taking the sustainable route to make their wardrobes and homes more stylish, heading to thrift shops to find the goods.

There are many benefits to thrift shopping, including:

  • It encourages the re-use of items that have already been created, therefore decreasing the need for the production of additional items;
  • It generally costs less to purchase items from thrift stores;
  • It allows you to find unique pieces that no one else has;
  • It encourages circularity in the economy.

One of the downfalls of thrifting however is that it can take hours of sorting through things to actually find something decent or something that you like. To save you some time, we've turned to thrifting expert Annette Vartanian of A Vintage Splendor to get all the tips and tricks for a successful thrifting experience and look inside her eclectic home that's filled with secondhand finds.

What are your top tips for successfully thrifting?

Look for potential, not perfection! Do you know how many times someone has stopped me at a thrift store fitting room and said “I saw that on the hanger but didn’t think it would be cute but I love how you belted it” or “I didn’t even think about wearing that dress as a duster!” It happens on the regular and I always tell people to get creative with pieces that have potential. I always look for quality, material, condition and, of course, the color and print! If it’s a maxi dress but doesn’t sit right, I always consider what it would look like as a mini. Or I think about how I can rework extra long pants and turn them into a bandeau and pant set (I’m petite so I can get away with this!).

The same goes for furniture - you can’t change shape or style. Look for furniture with good bones because you can always change the finish of things but you can’t change the quality. You can always change cushions and the upholstery and you can’t beat finding a special piece that needs a little TLC.

What are your favorite things about thrifting?

I started thrifting when I was 12 because I was obsessed with Tom Ford for Gucci and wanted to find pieces that would mimic what I saw in Vogue. Decades later, I like to see what the fashion houses are producing and then hit the flea market or thrift stores to create a look that is all vintage but a nod to the current trends. I love that I’m able to find unique pieces while thrifting but still being super fresh and on trend. I also never want to walk into a room and wear the same outfit as someone else! This is another reason why I prefer thrifting for vintage pieces.

Are there any items you wouldn’t consider buying brand new and would only ever thrift?

Our home is 97% thrifted or vintage! When it comes to buying furniture, vintage is always the first option for me because I love the craftsmanship of pieces built in the '30s-'70s. With just a bit of elbow grease, you can revive a solid wood MCM credenza into a spectacular centrepiece in your home. I also think buying vintage furniture gives your home that truly curated feel that people will simply fall in love with. I also love mixing pieces from decades to keep our home from feeling one-dimensional.

What would you never buy at a thrift store?

I’m certain someone would say they’d never thrift underwear, but have you seen my antique Edwardian underpinnings that I wear on a hot summer day? Or perhaps my vintage silk tap shorts? Both are technically underwear, but I wear them out and they’re the perfect pieces for summertime.

So my answer is I always thrift everything (except fast fashion) I can and then buy new if my search comes up empty.

What are some mistakes people make when thrifting?

Shopping based on the labelled size of a garment or sticking to only one section when shopping. Vintage sizing is very different from modern sizing, so it’s important to know your measurements before you start thrifting. If you love the look and silhouette of an item, try to do a quick measurement and then try it on! If you’re straight sized you can always check to see if pants or skirt will fit your waist by wrapping the waist around your neck.

If they wrap around perfectly — with no excess fabric around your neck — they're sure to fit around your midsection. Another mistake people make is not shopping the entire store. If you love blazers or denim, shop in the men’s department. If you’re petite, shop the kid’s department. If you love slinky slip dresses, shop lingerie!

Where are your favorite stores to thrift from?

I love thrifting at a local charity shop called Huntington Collection in Pasadena. It is a treasure trove for beautiful home décor and furniture as well as vintage designer fashion items. While the prices are a bit higher than a traditional thrift store, the selection is infinitely better!

For more from Annette follow her @vintagesplendor

Photography be Bethany Nauert, Styling Danielle Armstrong.

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