February 1, 2010

Countdown to Value Village’s first 50 percent off sale of 2010!

Everyone loves a great deal – especially during these challenging economical times – and the recent news of Value Village’s next 50% sale has me buzzing with excitement!

{Delightful vintage image of a fellow gal who loves a good day of sale shopping (not to mention polka dot dresses) as much as I do, delivered via mademoiselle therese’s wonderful Flickr stream.}

Though not nearly as publicized this time around as many past sales have been, I got wind of the fact that the next one is going to be held on February 8th, then called to two separate Value Villages, both of which confirmed that the rumours are indeed true. (I would recommend ringing your nearest location – or the one you’re planning to hit – however, just to be certain, especially if you live outside of Canada).

With the doors set to open at the blurry eyed hour of 7am, it’s safe bet to say that many second hand store aficionados and deal hunters nationwide will be clamouring to head indoors from the cold and get their thrifting groove on :)

Value Village typically puts on at least three 50% off events each year (I continually hold onto a glimmer of hope that one day they’ll decide to have such sales on a monthly basis – the likelihood of this happening however, I realize, is rather on the slender side), and in the lead up to one that took place last May, I posted several of my favourite, handy-dandy Value Village shopping tips to help ensure that any day of bargain hunting goes as smoothly as possible.

In addition to those useful hints, today I’m going to share a few more pointers with you that I’ve picked up from a lifetime of second hand shopping, and which have helped to serve me well over the years. I really hope they’ll be beneficial to all of you, too.

♥ ♥ ♥

-Arriving at a big store swarming with crowds of bargain hungry shoppers, bright lights, loud voices, crying kids, ringing cells phones and frazzled employees can quickly become overwhelming! Before you know it you’re wandering through the electronics aisle (suddenly tempted to take home an Atari system, Betamax, or Boombox for no other reason than the pleasant sense of nostalgia such items invoke) and have landed (what feels like) miles away from the women’s clothing department.

Even if you’re planning to make a morning/afternoon/evening/entire Monday out of a hitting a Value Village 50% off day, it doesn’t hurt to plot out a game plan beforehand. In the days leading up to the sale, determine first and foremost your budget, and secondly what it is you’re most hoping to find (for example, at the moment I’m in serious need of some slips, more skirts and pants, a winter coat and boots, and some heavier weight sweaters – and of course, I never pass the dress aisle by without going over it with a fine tooth comb!).

Aim to hit the areas of the store that house the items you’re most looking for first (this can be especially important if you wear a particularly common size of clothing that many other shoppers will also be gunning for).

Going through the pieces in your size range (when I’m at a Value Village, Salvation Army thrift store, Goodwill, or other larger sized second hand clothing store, I always check the area with my current modern clothing size first, then look one or two sizes on either side of that number, then flip through the garments labelled with sizes that correspond to the vintage 40s/50s ones that I best fit, before finally giving some of the other racks a quick once over, just in case a garment was placed (either by an employee or by a fellow customer) in the wrong spot (I’ve actually found a number of lovely pieces over the years that were misfiled, especially in the coat and shoe departments).

Once you’ve covered the main areas that you were hoping to get to and have made however many trips to the fitting rooms are needed to try your bundle of finds on, you can proceed to either head up to the checkout, or to keep looking in other areas of the store (without feeling the pressure to “get what you came here for” taken care of).

Worth noting is that fact that on super busy days like those of the 50% sale, merchandise is continually being tried on by other customers. Some of whom will decide against certain items which in turn then get put back out on the floor. As well, some second hand store continually replenish their merchandise throughout the day, so twenty new blouses in your size could be added to rack while you were in the changing room or a different part of the store. If you’re planning to stick around for a while, it pays to check the racks/aisles you’re most interested in again one last time before calling it a day.

-If clothing is the aim of your game (and let’s face it, isn’t it usually when you head to a big Value Village sale like this?), take a few moments before you leave the house to double check your measurements. Imagine you’re being fitted by a tailor and, while either in the buff or wearing the type of undergarments you normally sport on a day-to-day basis, measure your neck, bust, waist, hips, and inseam (and optionally other areas like your upper arms, too). Jot these numbers down, and if you’re on the prowl for hats and/or gloves as well, measure your head (to determine your hat size, measure your head all the way around directly above the top of your ears) and hands (work out your glove size by measuring your dominant hand [it’s generally a tad larger than you other hand] around the knuckles and palm in inches).

When you head out for your day of shopping fun, bring a flexible (sewing/tailor’s style) tape measure with you, that way, if for whatever reason you’re not able to try a garment on (e.g. the minuscule number of dressing rooms have lines longer than the Great Wall of China, you’re already running an hour late for a date, etc), you can approximate how well it will fit you by quickly measuring the key spots (namely bust, waist and hips, if the garment is longer; inseam length can be very important with trousers, jeans and shorts, too, though such items of clothing can sometimes be tailored to fit you better, so an extra inch or two near the ankles may not be too big of a deal).

-In the same vein, if your closet at home is a mix of sizes, spend a few moments trying on some of your favourite and best fitting garments to determine what (modern) sizes fit you the best both in terms of numerical (for example, size 10) and letter based sizes (e.g. M, XL, etc). This way you’ll know what areas (assuming the second hand store you’re at sorts their garments by tag sizes) of the shop to hit first – an especially important point on days when places like Value Village are jam packed with customers, many of whom will likely be vying for the same size(s) you are.

Likewise, if shoe shopping is on the agenda, be sure to determine before arriving what size (and width) of shoes are most comfortable for you (your feet naturally swell the longer you’re on standing/active on them, so you may wish to measure your shoe size later in the day).

-Keep in mind that the further back in time the garments you’re trying on hail from, the more likely it is that the sizing on their tags/labels is not the same as that of today’s clothing.

While some are quick to point out that Marilyn Monroe was reported to have worn a size 16 during the 1950s, what most fail to acknowledge is that a vintage size 16 is roughly the same – in terms of actual measurements – as a modern American or Canadian size six!

Over the years the size numbers allotted to women’s garments have grown progressively smaller. Thusly one simply cannot use the same sizing system when it comes to vintage and modern pieces (even some of the pieces that I own from the 1980s are labelled as being 1-3 sizes “larger” than the actual numerical size I wear in modern clothes, with pieces from the 40s and 50s, the vintage size is several numbers larger, as is the case for most women).

Generally speaking, as their sizes are often based on measurements in inches (or centimetres, as the case may be), gloves, hats and shoe sizes have not changed terribly much over the last several decades. So if you wear a modern ladies size 7.5 pair of gloves, you will likely find that vintage 7.5 gloves fit you well.

-Check any garment you’re considering buying from top to bottom. We’ve all been there, you spot the perfect shirtwaist dress/ivory hued cardigan/felt circle skirt beckoning you from across the rack, you hurry over, smiling happily, and pounce on your newfound gem, thinking to yourself that you’ve lucked out to no end (how is it possible, you ponder, that no one else has nabbed this stunning piece already?).

However, once you get your prized find inside the changing room, you’re left with a reality as harsh as the fluorescent lighting over head: the garment is flawed.
Sometimes the defect is minor (a fallen hem, missing button, split seam, broken zipper, barely noticeable small stain or hole), and the smile quickly returns to your face as you realize you can definitely still salvage the piece with a little DIY or a trip to your trusty seamstress.

Other times however, the damage is much more substantial, running the gamut from ink stains (remember, prior to 1945 and the introduction of ball point pens/biros, most pens still required one to fill them manually with ink, a potentially messy task for even the most steady handed of souls) to moth holes, visibly noticeable fading or thinning of fabric in certain spots, yellow perspiration marks (which often crop up under the arms and around the neck/collar) to strong odours (everything from mildew to cigarette smoke) that may or may not be able to removed with appropriate laundering.

In certain cases even severally compromised garments can be brought back from the brink of death. Dry cleaners, seamstresses, and the availability today of a plethora of fabric care and stain removal products can go a very long way when it comes to rescuing a seemingly lost item of clothing.

Sometimes however (say for example in the case of a wool skirt that a pack of moths greedily used as their personal buffet for years on end), you have little choice but to come to grips with the fact that the item in question is simply too far gone for it to become part of your wardrobe (of course you can still buy the piece from the standpoint of a clothing collector and hold onto it as the piece of fine art it once was and still is).

While no one likes to have their joy dashed, when at first you don’t succeed, head back out to the racks and keep searching. You located one potentially amazing find, there’s nothing to say that others – in potentially better shape – aren’t waiting to be plucked up by your hands, too.

-Resist the urge to buy needlessly! I know, you’re standing there adding up the sticker prices of the twelve garments in your hand and while $72 doesn’t seem like all that much money for a dozen items, if you already have seven black sweaters at home, do you really need the four others you’re holding right now? Ask yourself if you could better put the same money those tops would cost you to use on something that you (or another member of your household, if you’re shopping for others, too) could use a whole lot more?

Who amongst us hasn’t looked in their closet and realized that they have, for example, fourteen summer dresses, but not a single pair of winter weight trousers? Now might just be the time to look for those pieces that are missing or in need of supplementation in your wardrobe.

♥ ♥ ♥

I wasn’t able to attend the last 50% off event in November, but am keeping my fingers firmly crossed that, so long as my health permits, I’ll be able to head on over to the upcoming sale next Monday, armed with oodles of optimism, handy wipes, comfortable shoes and the unfailing dream that a vintage treasure or two might just be waiting in store for me to discover!

Wishing all of my fellow Value Village sale shoppers a prosperous, fun-filled day brimming with amazing finds!


  1. thanks for the tip! my one annoyance with places like Value Village is that they, like my local Goodwill, don't tend to have much vintage. Now and then I find some cute stuff from the 60s or 70s at Value Village, but usually it's only at Hallowe'en that my local VV puts out a special section of "vintage," which is usually small and not very good condition. Regarding Goodwill, I was horrified to discover they usually bale up anything that looks "old" or "valuable" and send it to a secret location in Toronto to wholesalers. Still, I try to keep the dream alive every time I go that I'm going to hit the vintage jackpot. Thanks a million for these tips. Maybe I can have better luck!

  2. Thanks for all those helpful hints. I'm loving that image you posted today.

  3. Wow, that must be nuts! I love Value Village, it's where I did all my thrifting as a teenager. Sadly there's not one where I now live. Good luck!

  4. This sounds wonderful! I do hope you are able to go and find tons of wonderful vintage goodies :)

  5. Great tips Jessica! Too bad the sale date is the 15th here in the States--I'll be busy with all the "oops, I forgot" Valentine boys at the flower shop. Oh well, I'll just try for the next sale!
    ~Christine H.

  6. Thanks for the lovely tips! I'm such a neurotic shopper. I need so many things, feel as if everything looks horrible, and hardly buy anything. In fact, that happened at lunch at Anthropologie. So unnerving! I suppose I need to devote a day following your tips to balance out my wardrobe. :)Hope you are doing great my dear.

  7. We don't have a Value Village here but I wish you good luck on your expedition! :)

  8. What fun! Good luck in your quest! Can't wait to hear all about it!

  9. Lovely post as always dear:) informative like it

  10. Wonderful tips! I've never made it to a 50% off sale at VV - I'm going to have to call the store in the next town and see if it's on. With a bit of luck, I'll have some new (to me) clothes soon!

  11. Great post! I want to go along and go gooey over the shoes! - and great tips about remembering your feet will swell - I have learnt my lesson with this in the past!

  12. We don't have a Value Village over here but those fantastic tips will be very useful at any type of sale, thank you! xx

  13. I love (and have used) all of your tips! Thank you for sharing when the VV sale is. I too missed the last one in November, but with no early Monday morning classes this term I hope to make it to this one. Good luck with your hunt!
    xo Jennifer