Your local thrift store may be intimidating from the outside, but it can yield a closet's worth of reusable treasures—if you know what to look for:
- Choose fabrics that are in good condition. Some stains may come out, but don't count on it—and be careful of pieces with holes or tears. Rips along a seam are easy to fix with a needle and thread, but patches that are worn through are harder to repair.
- Don't worry about finding the perfect fit; chances are, you won't. You can take pieces that are too roomy to a tailor, but if you've fallen for something that's too small, check the inside seams before you buy: they'll show you how much fabric can be let out for a bigger size or longer hem.
- Skip the shoe rack. It's tough to find footwear in really great condition, since boots and the like tend to take a beating—and though soles can often be fixed, cracked leather or torn fabrics usually can't.
And don't forget to return the favor by donating your good-condition duds back to the shop when you're finished with them.