Ever wonder how you could get your hands on a piece from one of those high-end designer labels like St. John’s, Ferragamo, or Burberry? How about finding more affordable labels like Coach, Nine West or Old Navy at an unbelievably low price? For both, thrift shopping is the way to achieve your goal.

Thrift shopping, frequently referred to as “thrifting,” has become the mainstream, go-to shopping trend from six-figure customers to college students—especially during these difficult economic times. From Northwest Washington to Prince George’s County to Baltimore, shoppers in search of vintage treasures or bargain hunters on the lookout for quality at bargain basement are loading up on great clothes. If you are unfamiliar with the great bargains or thought thrifting offered nothing more than tattered, old pieces of non-descript clothing, you’re in for an inexpensive treat!

“Thrift shopping makes a lot of sense, especially with the economy the way it is right now,” said Michael Collins, manager of the Valley Village Thrift Store in the Govanstown area of Baltimore. “We have something for everybody. We have a lot of women. We have a lot of college students who come in for hoodies and jackets. We have a lot of single parents who shop here. Unfortunately, if you are the sole support, by the time you pay rent and the other bills and buy gas, there’s not much left. They come here for their clothes, but also clothes, shoes and winter coats and school supplies for their children.”

For bargain hunters looking for low-priced treasures, the Value Village thrift store located in Hyattsville near the University of Maryland College Park is the home for fashionistas and vintage clothing lovers who want to express their individuality with one-of-a-kind finds. With a department store-like environment, the store is filled with racks neatly organized into specific sections for contemporary, authentic vintage and outerwear. It’s unusual that you would see them here, but avoid extremely used merchandise containing rips or permanent stains. Those are not good finds. Look for items that are gently-used and check them carefully. The method to successful thrifting is to examine the garments to make sure you are buying something in good condition.

On a recent afternoon, shoppers at Value Village, located at 2277 University Blvd. East in Hyattsville, found designer dresses like an Adrienne Vittadini sweater dress with sequins for $9.99, a scallop-sleeved off-the-shoulder royal blue velvet holiday dress for $4, a floor-length, long sleeved eggplant-colored velvet gown for $5. There were pantsuits, business suits, blouses ranging from cotton to silk, jackets, coats and shoes, most priced at less than the cost of a meal at a fast-food restaurant. There was something for every style, from funky vintage to conservative office.

“My favorite piece is kind of like Chanel inspired,” said Howard University senior Maiah Martin as she browsed the racks at Value Village, showing off a vintage knee-length zip up jacket that sold for $31. She often hits the thrift stores for fall and winter wardrobe additions.

“I feel like my mom had this jacket,” she said. “It’s classic.”

Working professional Marilyn Brown, 68, said she thrifts at Value Village year round. “I used to come here just for the deals, but now I come just for the store’s merchandise,” she said. “One time, was for people who didn’t have , now everybody comes here, Jaguars and all.”

In Washington D.C., treasure seekers that shop can enjoy a fun thrifting experience and find some fabulous bargains at the Georgia Avenue Thrift Store in Northwest. The store, located at 6101 Georgia Avenue NW, has for years been the gold mine location for designer-named merchandise at a great price.

One customer, who wished to remain anonymous so that her friends wouldn’t find out where her treasures came from, called herself the “chief of thrifting” at the Georgia Avenue location. Thrifting, she said, “is like playing the lotto, but winning.”

“I’m here all the time, every other week and I get the best-quality things for cheap,” she said, showing off a shopping basket stuffed with True Religion jeans priced at $6.98, an Ann Taylor LOFT sweater for $3, a J. Crew (a Michelle Obama personal fav) sweater for $3, a pair a vintage Stuart Weitzman loafers for $6, a pair of Ferragamo flats for $5 and a $4 dress made by BCBG Max Azria. Final tally? Only $28!

The Zone thrift store, at 813 Charles Street in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood near downtown Baltimore, features especially nice accessories—belts, purses, etc.—and everything from blouses to jackets—men’s and women’s, business suits and vintage dresses for great prices.

Each thrift store usually has their particular method of pricing. Collins, whose store is located at 5013 York Road in Govanstown, said garments there are assigned a price based on a number of factors including quality, condition, type of care needed and the season the garment would be worn. Finally, the price is calculated at one-fourth of a typical department store price, he said.

The Georgia Avenue Thrift Store gives a 25 percent discount to persons who provide a military identification. On holidays, Value Village in Adelphi offers 50 percent off the ticketed price. In Baltimore, Value Village garments tagged with pink tickets receive a 50 percent discount every Sunday in October for breast cancer awareness.

Collins said his store also provides free clothes to people with vouchers from local community service agencies. “We work with places like Our Daily Bread and the House of Ruth, where families in need get clothing and other things free,” she said. “You get great clothes and you also get a chance to help someone in the community by shopping here.”


Ashley D. Diggs

Special to the AFRO