Back to school clothes shopping is always a good time. Except this year, I had to buy clothes to look like an acceptable human in medical school. My school's dress code is pretty casual for going to class (no crazy short shorts though :( ), but I anticipate going to meetings and events where I will need nicer outfits. We also start going to offices/clinics from the beginning of the year so I need work appropriate outfits. I also have to keep in mind that it is Florida, so my usual office wardrobe of long sleeve button downs and long pants is also not the best.
So armed with lots of time and energy, I hit up my local thrift stores to see what they had. I generally shop at Goodwill because that is what I have the most of. Therefore, all the clothes in this haul are $6.99 for dresses, $4.99 for pants and $3.99 for sweaters/tops/jackets.
My first choice was this dress from Anne Klein. I think it's the perfect dress to go under a white coat. Not too short, not too low cut, not too fitted to move around in and I like the print.
My tip with dresses at thrift stores is to try every single dress that meets your criteria. Because you will never know what looks good on you until you try it. I would have never considered Anne Klein a brand I could wear until this dress.
This is a nice light printed dress from White House Black Market. They are actually one of my favorite brands to look for at thrift stores because I always find a bunch of things from them. And they are good quality. Dresses in store go for $100-200 so you're getting a great deal at $6.99.
Always try on multiple sizes at thrift stores. Between different brands, eras, styles, there is probably a range that you could be in. For example, I try on sizes between 00-6, sometimes even an 8 if it's a vintage dress.
I have a weakness for sweaters and cardigans. Not the greatest weakness to have in Florida. So now I have a rule that I will only buy "light" ones. Because you definitely need a cardigan inside with the A/C blasting. This is from Ann Taylor and has a bit of a nautical vibe.
Know your brands/ outlet brands. I generally try not to buy the outlet brands of J Crew, Ann Taylor, Loft and Banana Republic because I find the quality to not be as good. But you have to keep an eye out for tags. For example, Brooks Brothers 365 is an outlet brand, as well as J Crew with dots under the name.
This top was one of my best finds. It's a two layered black Tory Burch blouse with an interesting shape. And the pants are tapered and slightly cropped LOFT pants. I think this outfit is cool in the style sense, temperature sense and professional. Home run for me.
Pants can be rough at thrift stores. There are A LOT of older style pants that are not in fashion anymore. Of course, some styles are cool to rock but I generally try to find more modern fits. To expedite the searching process, I look at brands of each pant rather than style. Generally Express, LOFT, Ann Taylor, Talbots, The Limited and White House Black Market will have more modern styles vs Liz Claiborne, Anne Klein, Jones New York.
This is a 100% silk three quarter length sleeve jack from J Crew with some ruffles. Kind of an odd piece for me, but still seems like it can appropriate in warmer weather because it's very light. The material also gives it an interesting vibe where it can be casual or more formal.
Always take your phone to thrift stores and don't be afraid to google items. A lot of times there are brands I don't know. Or maybe I want to look up the resale value of something if I'm planning on selling it on eBay. As a rule, I do not buy things for the purpose of selling. Because if it doesn't sell I am left with something I can't wear (Hello size 14 Burberry pants sitting in my closet). However, I will buy things that I kind of like but can sell if it doesn't work for me. This is one of those. It was originally $188 at J Crew and would probably do well on Ebay.
This is a A line dress from Madewell with a leather collar. A quick google search put it at $200 on the website so that definitely won me over. It's very comfortable and great for any occasion.
Find a system for searching though the store. The best way to find deals is to look at almost every single piece of clothing, which is time consuming. For example, I skip colors I don't wear and stick to those I like (black, grey, white and beige). This helps me reduce the time spent looking and prevents me from buying things I don't usually wear (Beautiful jewel toned Tibi blouses that I could not see myself in).
This one is kind of a wild card for me. Especially after I said I only look at neutral colors. But sometimes fit is more important than color for me. This is a cool blouse because it is light, not low cut, and has a bit of an asymmetric hem. Short in the front and long in the back. I tend to wear a lot of higher waisted pants so this will work well with my wardrobe. The brand is Soprano, which I have seen at Nordstrom.
These pants were an amazing find. Piazza Sempione is usually a Neiman Marcus brand and these run $400-$600. Plus they had the tags on them. This was another case of where knowing your brands comes in handy. My mom is a huge fan of this designer. However, you can also feel that the quality is miles above the other pants at the thrift store.
Always be on the lookout for things put in the wrong place. That usually means someone left it behind after taking a good look. I found these pants in the dresses section. I also found a bunch of expensive (vince, velvet, all saints) tops hanging in the shorts section once. Like the colors, it helps expedite the searching process. Also. Always look at the go back rack by the fitting room. Tons of nice things people already searched out and then left behind.
I got this dress for a more formal/serious work look. It looks like it may have been a part of a suit/dress combo but I only found the dress. It's a dark charcoal heather. Not too short, not too tight and not low cut while still being cool. The brand is Oleg Cassini who I have never heard of. A quick google search says he was a wedding dress designer to the stars.
Once you go thrift shopping a lot, you can narrow down pieces by feel. Some things feel "expensive". The material is nice, the stitching is flawless, they have that something extra. Like sifting through a row of sweaters and one sticking out to you because it's a beautiful soft cashmere. That's another way to find things quickly, they feel better than those surrounding them. Even if I don't know the brand, I will buy things that feel special.
I thought this dress would be amazing for a special event. It is still pretty conservative, but the pink is fun and the embellishments make it more fancy. The brand is Eliza J, sold at Nordstrom, etc and her dresses are usually around $200. This was another item I bought because of the feel. It felt heavy and the embellishments looked to be very high quality.
Some of my best finds at thrift stores are nicer dresses. I think people tend to wear them once and then donate them because they don't have any events to wear it to. Or something. I have found so many beautiful silk/embroidered/bejeweled pieces that it's ridiculous. Always check for formal/prom/bridesmaid dresses too!
And here is the dress for the first day of classes! Just kidding. This is definitely not part of the med school wardrobe, but there might be a party right? Even though I am a recluse, I could not pass up this lace Nanette Lepore number. It's definitely vintage, but in pristine condition and the lace seems very well made and durable.
My last tip is to have a plan but also be open minded. Have a list of things you're looking for (i.e. black flats, pencils skirts,) but also be open to anything that could come your way. Sometimes it's a pants day for me, other times dresses. Some days I come home with nothing. But thrifting is about the long haul, so do not get frustrated and keep searching!