What You Can’t Find at Neiman Marcus or Saks

Here’s another reason to frequent thrift stores: they are one of the few retail experiences that offer the chance to buy an original handmade piece of clothing.

It’s always exciting to come across a beautifully hand knit or hand sewn items. We’ve found countless sweaters made by skilled knitters for men, women and children. They join hand-embroidered and hand-smocked children’s clothing, hand tailored jackets and one-of-a-kind evening dresses, costumes and wedding gowns that we’ve run across in secondhand stores. These items will never be found in fancy department stores or boutiques, and are one of the joys of thrifting. The green silk long blazer (above) might have been a costume, with its shocking pink lining and fabric frog closing. It was $1 at a Goodwill outlet store, and looks dramatic over a black one-piece Vince pantsuit found at a Salvation Army for $8.

Sometimes there will be a personalized label (“Handknit by Nancy”), but the lack of a label is one giveaway that the item is handmade. Hand-stitched hems are a clue that something isn’t mass-produced, as are buttons that are clearly sewn by hand – check the underside.

We found this bright mustard-colored cable knit men’s turtleneck below at the Goodwill store close to the University of Southern California, and guessed that a student from a cold climate de-accessioned it when he hit Los Angeles. We bought it on an all-clothing-is-$3 weekend.

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This gray knit women’s sweater features knitted buttons and two deep asymmetrical (on purpose or not?) pockets. It was $3 at Central Thrift.

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This rust-colored short cape with long fringe and a tie at the neck was also $3 at Central Thrift.

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The vintage 60s-looking coat below, which we snagged for $30 at the Angel View Resale Shop in downtown Palm Springs, was made by a professional, it seems, with bound buttonholes and carefully finished seams. We liked it so much we were happy to use it for the cover of our book, ThriftStyle: The Ultimate Bargain Shopper’s Guide to Smart Fashion. It is a sterling example of turning to resale to find unique bargains.

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