The Art of Thrifting feat. Westley Dimagiba

November 13th, 2012

I’ve been thrift shopping since 2006 and it has become one of my favorite hobbies. I love the hunt, and it can be very rewarding. In fact, I’ve found most of my wardrobe at thrift, goodwill, and secondhand shops – all at ridiculously low prices.

The secret is patience and frequency. Not one day goes by that I don’t check the vintage store in my neighborhood. I’ve also become acquainted with the owners and employees there, who often call me when new duds arrive in my size. Sometimes, too, I’ll let them know about specific items I’m looking for, with the hope that they’ll think of me during their next buying trip.

The following are some of my favorite vintage finds, along with tips from the Articles of Style team on the art of thrifting.

    1. Vintage Layers

    Vintage store items are one in a million. So if you want it, buy it now! Chances are, if you leave it behind it will get scooped and you won’t come across the same piece again.

    This Ralph Lauren lumberjack coat is one of my go-tos for Fall/Winter. To be honest, the sleeves are a touch short, but the body fits just right and I had been looking for a jacket like this for a while. When you’re getting a $300 jacket for $30, you might have to compromise a little.

    Here are some things that can help you determine the quality of a vintage item:

    1. Brand name. I hate to sound like a “label whore” but knowing who manufactured an item gives you an idea of the expected quality. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that non-brand items are low quality. Personally, I have some amazing no-name pieces, like this corduroy waistcoat.

    2. Fabric content. Look for organic fibers (like wool or cotton) and avoid blends with a large amount of synthetic fibers (like polyester and rayon).

    3. Feel it. The “hand” of a cloth can tell you a lot. Generally, the softer and sturdier the fabric, the better it will wear.

    4. Try it on. A well-cut garment can be slim and fitted without being overly restricting.

    5. Check the hardware. If the item has zippers or snaps, give them a test run. Cheap clothes have cheap hardware that “sticks” are breaks.

    Vintage head-to-toe is not easy, but it can be done (see our post on All Vintage Everything). Here everything is secondhand, with the exception of the pants.

    These basket-weave lace-ups are not the highest quality, but I get compliments every time I wear them. Not bad for $30.

    • Spectaculars eyeglasses by Fabulous Fanny’s
    • Red plaid jacket Vintage by Polo Ralph Lauren
    • Beige corduroy vest Vintage
    • Blue denim shirt Vintage
    • Navy blue corduroy pants by JCrew
    • Brown basket weaved shoes Vintage

    2. Bombs Away

    Not every trip will be a successful one, but sometimes you hit the jackpot.

    The moment I tried on this leather bomber, I was in love and didn’t want to take it off. If that feeling doesn’t hit you, skip it because something better will come along. Don’t settle in a vintage shop, they typically have a very high turnover.

    As a friend of mine always says, “If you have to question it, then you don’t really want it.”

    This is a great example of the one-of-a-kind pieces you can only find at vintage shops.

    A shearling-lined leather motorcycle jacket with oversized lapels and a belted waist – it doesn’t get much more unique than that.

    A statement vintage jacket is a great way to ad some personality and edge to a more typical prep-inspired look.

    Don’t forget to keep an eye out for accessories too. I found these awesome leather gloves for like $10 or something like that.

    • Brown leather bomber jacket Vintage by Schott
    • White club collar oxford Vintage
    • Green/Navy rep tie by Rugby
    • Navy striped sweater by GANT Rugger
    • Burgundy corduroys by Levi’s
    • Brown unlined leather driving gloves by Cole Haan
    • Suede chukka boots by Scarpe di Bianco

    3. Grandpa Cardigan

    Making a list before thrifting is a great way to stay organized and avoid aimlessly wandering the unorganized racks of clothing.

    I keep an updated memo of “things to add to my wardrobe” on my phone. It took a few trips, but I was able to snag this chunky shawl cardigan and cross it off my list.

    Don’t forget to properly inspect the items before purchasing, too. Look for stains, moth holes, loose threads, worn out spots, etc.

    Let’s be honest, practically everything in a vintage store smells. After buying second-hand clothing, your first stop should be the dry cleaners, followed by the tailor (if necessary).

    The beauty of vintage clothing is that “they don’t make them like they used to”.

    Clothing used to be made to last. This sweater, for example, is a beast. Made from a heavy, sturdy wool that won’t stretch out and lose its shape over time.

    I like to mix vintage pieces with more modern looking ones, like these awesome kilted boots designed by Ronnie Fieg (as featured here) in collaboration with Sebago.

    • Neutral wool cardigan Vintage
    • Red/navy flannel Vintage by Polo Ralph Lauren
    • White long sleeve henley Vintage
    • Slim olive cargos by Uniqlo
    • Olive/brown argyle socks Vintage
    • Brown leather delancy boot by Ronnie Fieg x Sebago

    4. Fall Festive

    When shopping for a vintage blazer or suit, keep in mind you’ll have to bring it to your tailor.

    It’s not uncommon to spend more at the tailor than in the store. For example, I picked up this Harris Tweed blazer for $10 and spent $50 having it altered (sides taken-in, sleeves tapered, and sleeves shortened).

    With that said, the jacket should be fairly close to fitting – especially in the shoulders and the length of the body. You’re tailor is not a magician and paying him to recut the entire jacket defeats the purpose of finding a good deal.

    Even if the tag is not your size, try it on!

    Sizing varies greatly, depending on the brand, the year it was made, the alterations made by the previous owner, etc.

    Brand new shoes? I know, not vintage.

    Clearance sticker on the box? I know, awesome.

    • Tweed jacket Vintage
    • White shirt by Club Monaco
    • Beige winter jacquard sweater by GANT Rugger
    • White linen pocket square Vintage
    • Faded blue 484 jeans by J.Crew
    • Blue marled socks Vintage
    • Brown/Blue saddle shoes by Florsheim

    5. New Suit, Old Accessories

    Every vintage store has some kind of specialty. I have one spot for outerwear and denim jackets, one for sweaters and knits, one for scarves and ties, etc.

    Don’t forget the accessories! They’re a great way to add a touch of old school character to a sharp, clean look. Here, for example, the suit and shirt are brand new but the tie, pocket square, socks and shoes might be older than I am.

    There are so many tassel loafers in secondhand shops (for $30-50) that I’m not sure why people buy them new. It’s one of those styles that really hasn’t change over the years and actually looks better with a little beat-up character.

    I picked up these at Buffalo Exchange, a quick-turnaround consignment shop in the East Village.

    Finding a pair that’s barely worn is a steal – you’ll probably find yourself wearing them more often than your expensive dress shoes.

    • Navy blue suit
    • Blue gingham shirt by Gant
    • Grey wool tie Vintage
    • Blue/beige plaid pocket square Vintage
    • Blue striped socks Vintage by Tommy Hilfiger
    • Black leather tassel loafers Vintage by Johnston & Murphy

    Good luck hunting and remember, thrifting’s a marathon not a sprint.

    And, while we’re on the topic, this will make you laugh.

    Much love,



    Photography by Alex Crawford


    • http://undefined Dick Lickerson

      That bomber jacket is awesome. I’m gonna keep an eye out.

      • Westley Dimagiba

        I’m actually about to sell it…

    • http://undefined Travis

      I love the sweater you have in Fall Festive. Where is it from?

    • Anthony Coco

      This a necessary read for me, especially since I haven’t gotten into this art as much or consistently as I’ve wanted. This article also reminds me, though, that I have hand me down 3-piece suits and other clothing items from my late grandfather. I need to look through them and maybe something will “suit” me just fine. Thanks for the article.

    • RJ

      Inspired me to go thrifting! I enjoyed reading this. Keep the articles coming Wes!

      p.s. I loved the macklemore link at the end.

      • westley

        Will do man, glad you caught that at the end! hah

    • Fin

      Just get back from thrifting
      I got 4 jacket for $6

    • Guillermo

      Can you name a few of those thrift stores that you visit, and the tailor?

      • Westley Dimagiba

        There’s a great set of vintage stores on 11th street btwn 1st and 2nd avenue Guillermo.

        Our tailor is Franklin at The Tailoring Room and you can find a link to their website on the bottom of our page.

        Thanks for reading!

    • VikFlo

      Great posts, I was always un sure of shopping at thrift stores but this post gave me the push I needed. Westley, I enjoy your posts but lets get more on a regular basis. LOL


      • westley

        lol thanks for the love, I’ll get on here more.

    • Wally

      Really cool post

      This really set off my inner thrifting spark! ‘Thing is, I’m only 5’6 and have a 33’ chest. Would I be able to find clothing to fit my frame?

      • westley

        Of course man, you just have to be patient and know what you’re looking for. I’m of average build and still have to do some searching. When all else fails, go to the tailor!

    • TO

      You guys have the dude not named Pesko from GQ’s “In the Closet” coming up! Just wanna go on record to say that’s awesome, I really liked that feature back when and I am pretty sure Dan did too!

    • pz

      How about sharing some more of the thrift/vintage stores for an out-of-towner like myself? :) (From Toronto, visiting NYC in Dec)

    • cam

      nice first post wes! i do remember dan recommending not to buy things that don’t fit no matter the price. i understand certain items can be tailored but the lumberjack coat you state the sleeves are too short. do you regret the purchase from a functional standpoint?

      • westley

        Thanks Cam, I’ve just come to accept that the sleeves are short… I wouldn’t go as far as to say I regret it. It doesn’t bother me because I saved some money and not everyone will notice or at least I hope not.

    • TimL

      Again. great post Wes. I love the color combo of the first outfit. The reds and blues and tan vest with brown shoes works really well and is a great look for this cooler fall weather.

      I really like the shoes. I have trouble buying thrift shoes and have never done so– yet…. who knows now.

    • mathieu lavoie

      Very nice post. Happy to see I’m not the only one with a list on its phone of item to hunt in thrift store. :-)

      • westley

        It’s the only way to go!

    • Arron

      I thrift everyday and have been for a long. As for my finds I could probably say I have one of the strongest thrift waredeobes of anyone I’ve personally met. In last months I have found a brand new pair of hanover vintage longtips, a brand new pair of cheaney wingtips and also a pair of monkstraps that retail for 600. I’ve noticed thrifting has become more and more popular and only my daily routines I see tons of people trying to resale and make money on things , after watching all those pickets shows. I will say now I would never pay full price for a pair of dress shoes ever considering I find Allen’s Edmonds on a daily basis. If anyone is interested I do sell some clothing. I have a brand new Golden Fleece brooks brothers suit size 42r and a pair if Allen Edmonds loafers size 11

      • neil cummins

        Great post, Good tips – especially the tailoring aspect. I have been thift buying for a few years now and I am lucky to work close to many great shops.
        Keep them post coming – Love the site

    • Alexei

      Where did you get the jacket?

    • J. Lamarr

      Started thrifting about a month ago and my entire checklist of “things to add” has been crossed off since. It’s an amazing hobby that pays off to no end. I live in Las Vegas but I’m originally from Los Angeles and I can’t wait to go thrifting out there. A city as stylish as LA has to have an amazing haul if I’m finding such great stuff in Vegas.

      • westley

        Funny you mention Las Vegas and LA, I spent a few years in San Diego and Las Vegas when I was younger. Couldn’t enjoy the vintage stores then, but the next time I’m out there I’ll check it out. Oh and enjoy some In-n-Out burger for me hah

    • Tim

      Great post…. finally a thrifting theat.

      I love thrifting and have been doing so for the past couple of years. I have a couple of decent stores by me.
      I have about 300 ties for about 5-cents each.
      I bought 25 sports coats for the average of $2.50 each and some nice sweater vests that change my look every day.
      Got some nice trench coats and a really nice camel wool coat for about $6 each.
      Thrifting is the way to go if you don’t have the money for new suits.
      Thanks again.

      Always have everything cleaned for a couple of books and had some tailoring done.

      • Tim

        Sorry about the type-o…

        One thing to remember that fit is everything as Dan and the group has said before. Took me a couple of purchases to realize this when I stopped wearing certain items. If it’s not right then wait until something comes up that is.

        Love this site Dan and have been following for past couple of years. This is what fans have waited for.

        • westley

          5 cent ties and $2.50 sport coats? you have to show me where YOU’RE thrifting! Thanks for the support Tim.

    • TO

      That PRL plaid jacket is exceptional, btw!

      • westley

        thanks man, I was real lucky to find it!

    • TO

      I wish I had a vintage store in my neighbourhood! Awesome Westley, so well articulated. I have developed the same love for thrifting and know the EXACT feeling you’re talking about not wanting to take a piece off. Also, most of my best clothes are thrifted, etc. What an awesome post!

    • Mrjbeee

      Love these thrift posts! Ever since reading one of them on here I’ve become addicted to thrifting! Some pieces people love and cant believe how much ive spent on the actual item. Good stuff. Now if only I could get a good recommendation! Keep it up!

      • westley

        Thrifiting takes patience, but pays off. Saw some of your recent pick ups on Instagram, dope stuff.

        • Andres

          Thanks for the tips. You’ve recently re-awoken my love for vintage/thrift shopping. Also, seems as though along with the quality of materials being better on some older items such as coats the FIT is also better/slimmer.

          • Andres

            Oh and one more thing, I’ve always been weary of buying used shoes because you cant simply throw most of them in the washer, any tips on sanitizing cleaning them (sprays?? Mom always told me to lay them out in the sun for a day ;) but I’m prone to picking up skin irritations.