There was a time when second-hand shopping meant sifting through piles of worn and stained clothing, but these days are long gone. Clothes are no longer passed on primarily because they’re worn out, but for lots of other reasons: frequently changing tastes, impulse buys that didn’t pan out, ill-fitting clothes (as mothers know very well, our bodies change), and unused gifts (lots of items still have tags on them).
The result is that there are heaps of high quality, lovely pieces that are being recirculated, and it is a lot of fun to get in on the game. With so many options are available for scoring unique, good-looking clothing, the fashionistas peruse the second-hand offerings right next to the bargain hunters and the eco-minded (buying second-hand leaves a smaller footprint than buying new) and on as regular a basis.
So what exactly are these options? For those who want a gentle approach to second-hand and love high fashion and the brands that bring it, you can’t get much better than Thrill of the Find (1172 Queen Street East). Clothing in perfect condition is neatly hung in this boutique shop, and the staff helps you get the perfect high fashion find at a fraction of the cost you’d normally pay. There are a lot of beautiful dresses in the shop, along with a slightly imperfect rack for those among us who know our way around a needle and thread.
A little farther east is Gadabout (1300 Queen Street East), an overflowing vintage shop selling all kinds of old things, including some very interesting clothes. Vintage clothing is an important part of Toronto’s fashion scene, and though I don’t belong to this world, I encountered it once at Gadabout when I was shopping for my wedding dress. When trying on a beautiful vintage baby blue knee-length dress with an empire waist and cream trim, I caught the attention of two designers who were shopping there also; they promptly offered their advice for how the dress could be adjusted to be just right. Like Thrill of the Find, Gadabout is not necessarily inexpensive because of how specialized it is (and the designers pointed this out), but it is a good shop carrying a wide range of things, and if you find something you love, you can be quite sure you’ll not find it elsewhere. (And I probably would have gotten married in that baby blue dress (which cost about $200) had my husband not finally confessed that he really would prefer I wear a white one.)
Hands down, my favourite local second-hand haunt is my neighbourhood Value Village (924 Queen Street East). This is your trusty department thrift store – the rectangular shop is stocked with utilitarian shelves and hangers, but there are some treasures among the more mundane offerings, and the prices are cheap (although they are not as cheap as they used to be, due to its increased popularity). Clothing is organized by type (sweater, long-sleeved shirt, skirt) and size, but you are much better off going to browse than looking for anything in particular. I have bought many things that I really like and use here, and my niece bought her prom dress here, confident that she wouldn’t encounter another girl in the same dress.
Do you have any favourite second-hand neighbourhood stores or experiences?