Expert Thrifting Tips


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Costume designer Isabelle Rubio offers up her best thrifting tips. Photo: Isabel Rubio

Thrift store shoppers hunt for one-of-a-kind steals. But what if those unique items don’t fit?

Costume designer Isabel Rubio, who we interviewed for today’s story on three great thrift shops, says its wise to stick to items that will only require small alterations that can be done at home, like shortening a hem or cuff. Items that require drastic changes should stay in the store.

“Let’s say you find a Michael Kors suit. If it is two sizes too small, forget it. It’s never going to fit, unless you decide not to eat for two weeks. You can’t make fabric grow,” she said. “Let’s say it’s huge. If it’s more than one size too big, especially when it’s a fitted garment, you’re looking at major alterations. Don’t do it. The tailor will hate you. You’ll never be happy.” Here are some of the other questions Rubio answered for our article about great thrift stores in Brooklyn. Her tips will take your thrift game to another level.

What if I can’t sew?

Rubio recommends that shoppers learn the prices of alterations at their favorite tailor, so they don’t spend too much on the repairs of an inexpensive garment.

That way, she said, “If you’re going to have to take in the back, take in the waist, change a zipper, you know how much it is going to cost.”

What about bed bugs?

Rubio said it can’t hurt to play it safe.

“During the winter it’s great,” she said, “because I buy whatever and I have it in a bag and I stick it in my backyard so that it freezes whatever is in there. And then I wash and clean it right away.”

When it’s too warm to rely on Mother Nature to do the work, Rubio recommends drying cleaning to be sure secondhand finds stay bedbug-free.

“Why take the chance?” she said.

More thrifting tips from Brooklyn Based:

Tips from vintage store owners around Brooklyn.

A guide to thrift stores in Brooklyn.

How to sell your clothes for cash.

A vintage coat buying guide.

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