Frugal Fashion, Fabulous Finds: Thrift Shopping in the OC

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When you think of Goodwill, you might think of shelves of used toasters, racks of obscure T-shirts, old stuffed animals, and maybe even the clothing you donated last week, as I have. Don’t let your first impression or the store’s notorious aroma deter you from seeking what could be your next favorite item of clothing. Recently, I found a black vintage jumpsuit, denim jacket, faux-fur stole, and several other pieces to use for fabric at the Goodwill store in Costa Mesa. I’ve learned that if you take the time to sift through the racks, you’re often lucky enough to discover a unique item.

Dee Lux: 1500 Adams Ave, Costa Mesa

I had the best shopping experience at Dee Lux in Costa Mesa. It was clean, organized, well-lit and even had good music playing. With The Shins as my soundtrack, I headed straight toward the vintage dresses. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything in my size, but the browsing itself was enjoyable. Instead of the clothing being crammed into the racks like in other used clothing stores, the pieces were manageable so that shopping could be stress-free. Of course, the less chaotic atmosphere meant that the selection isn’t as large as it is in other stores, but I didn’t mind one bit. I expected a place that was so well-kept to have ridiculous prices. Fortunately, I was wrong. For example, all sunglasses were $12. Most of the dresses were under $20. Of course, Dee Lux is no Goodwill, but finding authentic vintage clothing in such a clean environment makes me willing to pay extra. In addition to men and women’s vintage, Dee Lux has some new clothing, but also sells some American Apparel clothing for less than retail price, like raglan pullovers for $21 and hoodies for $30. I recommend stopping by Dee Lux for clothes, shoes, jewelry and even books and kitschy knick-knacks.

Crossroads Trading Co.: 1835 Newport Blvd #B123, Costa Mesa

Like Dee Lux, Crossroads in Costa Mesa sells used and vintage clothing, but most of the items I came across were used clothing from recent years rather than true vintage from decades past. Another factor that distinguishes the two stores was the sheer chaos of the place. The racks were stuffed with so many pieces that the experience was overwhelming. The clothes seemed to be priced by brand; for instance, two similar blazers differed in price by $13 dollars because one was Wet Seal ($12) and the other was Calvin Klein ($25). I found several pieces from contemporary labels like Marc by Marc Jacobs and Betsey Johnson for a fraction of their original cost, but I didn’t actually come across anything I’d like to wear this season. Overall, it was hard to pinpoint the price range at Crossroads due to the variety of labels for sale. Most tops were under $15 and dresses under $20. The men’s section had a great selection of both new and used shoes, like new Converse sneakers for $16.50 and vintage Doc Martens for $18. Men’s jeans and pants were reasonably priced between $10 and $50. If you have enough patience to sort through the mess, you might find some good-as-new fashion for cheap. Crossroads is great if you’re looking for more contemporary clothing for a low price, but don’t expect to find as much vintage as you would in a smaller place like Dee Lux or Swellegant in Newport Beach.

Swellegant Vintage: 3409 Newport Blvd, Newport Beach

Swellegant Vintage sells clothing that’s truly vintage — think mod dresses circa the 1960s, gaudy sequined evening wear from the 1980s, and more. The selection is great if you’re looking for something authentic for a costume party or even something to tailor to present day. Walking into the store was like entering a time machine; the clothes were perfectly preserved and oldies played on the store’s speakers. Although Swellegant is the smallest of the stores I visited, I think it had the most interesting collection of clothing, shoes, accessories, jewelry and home décor. Clothes are marked in sections by time period and style (take their rack of 1980s prom dresses, for example). Like Dee Lux, the store sells a variety of sunglasses for $12 each. Necklaces, my favorites being the chunky safety-pin necklaces from the 1960s, sell for $10. I especially liked the $14 cigarette/ID cases with pictures of pin-ups, Audrey Hepburn and other retro images on the front of each. At Swellegant, clothing is a bit pricier than other used clothing places, but this may be due to the fact most of the items are strictly vintage, with some pieces dating back to the 1950s and possibly even earlier. Swellegant carries an extensive collection of blouses for around $30 and dresses that mostly fell between $30 and $60. At Swellegant, you’re guaranteed to find something that no one else has.

If you want to stand out from the crowd and break free from the mall, visit a used clothing shop, a vintage clothing shop or even a Goodwill store. Once you dedicate some time and patience to your search, you’ll likely encounter a piece that will set you apart from the rest and save you some cash at the same time.

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