It’s spring, a season for proms, parties, and weddings. If your pocket is a little pinched, check out the racks at your local thrift stores. Proms gowns, bridesmaid dresses or other special event clothing is often donated after a single wear. That’s why these clothes can be such great bargains. If Cinderella shopped at a thrift store, she wouldn’t have needed a fairy godmother.
Make sure the garment passes the quality test before you try it on, fall in love, and then realize it has a stain the size and shape of Texas.
Check it out
Here’s what to look at when you’re looking over the garments.
- Search for stains. The front is more likely to have stains from food and drink but the back bears some scrutiny too. People usually don’t wear these outfits enough to sweat much, but a quick glance at the underarms for those telltale yellow moons is a good idea. If the gown is dark, check for deodorant residue. If the gown is floor length, look for stains around the hem. While you’re down there, make sure the hem didn’t get torn during the garment’s maiden voyage. Walking in a full-length gown takes some practice.
- Zip it. As a matter of fact, make sure all closures are in good shape. Does the zipper move up and down smoothly or does it catch? Do the hooks hook? Do the ties tie? Also, make sure the seam at the base of the zipper is still intact.
- Does it still have bling? If the dress had sequins, beads, lace or other decorations, make sure these are not hanging by a thread.
- Check the seams. Are they showing the strain? Repairing a ripped or strained seam can be challenging. You might want to toss that one into the discard pile.
While you’re at the thrift store, check out the jewelry, shoes, and cover-ups. You might just find a whole outfit for a fraction of what a new one would cost.
Clean and press it
After you’ve scored the dress of your dreams, check the care label. It probably says dry clean only. You have a couple of options:
- If you feel adventurous, try a home dry cleaning product, such as Dryel. Before you stick your gown in the dryer bag, read the manufacturer’s directions. After the item comes out of the bag, you may need to press a few wrinkles. Check out sites such as eHow for tips on ironing unforgiving fabrics such as satin.
- If you feel like playing it safe, use a dry cleaner. The dry cleaner will clean and press your outfit and even with that bill, you’ll still be dollars ahead.
After the event, have the garment cleaned if you plan to wear it again. If not, you’ve met your goal of looking great for pennies. Donate the garment to a thrift store and let someone else have a turn at looking fabulous.