The Art of Thrifting in Toronto

Thoughts | Sophia Sharp

Sights | Victoria Hong

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Thrifting has become increasingly popular, particularly in the online fashion world, spilling onto the streets of Toronto. It seems as though every time I scroll through Instagram or walk downtown, I see people wearing ‘vintage’ clothing and upcycled pieces. The word ‘vintage’ has been adopted by the Urban Outfitters of the world to describe products inspired by previous fashion eras or trends, which I respect and would still purchase with no resentment. However, the true meaning of the word to me involves finding items that have been genuinely aged, worn, and loved by someone else, originating from a time before the reproduced clothing of fast-fashion items that are presented as ‘vintage’ and sold. The way in which I pay homage to this movement is by finding these pieces in thrift stores and consignment shops, and playing my part in the movement of sustainability. These stores are great because they can appeal to anyone, no matter your budget, style, or preference.

I’ve been thrifting for a couple years now, which started out due to the fact that I had a tragic bank account, and thus little financial means to support my shopping habits and the need to continuously fill my closet. Since then, however, I’ve discovered several thrift stores that not only satisfy my needs, but appeal to the masses who have discovered how to shop like me. If your interest is piqued in learning the ins and outs of thrifting, or you are curious about where to start, here it is! I’d like to disclose that I am no expert, as my knowledge has been passed onto me by other people in my life, but I will say that these are the tricks that have helped me find some amazing pieces that aren’t leaving my closet anytime soon.

Keep an Open Mind!

If you’re going thrifting with the idea that you’ll find brand new items from Forever 21 or Gucci, you might find what you’re looking for, but chances are, you’ll be disappointed. You can find higher priced goods almost anywhere, but the best places to start are consignment stores. As for moderately priced items and more accessible brands, you can find them almost anywhere – you just have to be open to what you may or may not find! Don’t go into a store looking for a blouse you saw online and set your heart on finding it amongst clothing that is generally donated by the public. Instead, look for the brand names you love in every section, or search for similar styles, and you might find something that comes close! I like to walk in with a general idea of what I want, and often come out with items that I wasn’t looking for or expecting to find. Thus, it’s important to remember that you’re shopping in a place that sells previously loved and previously worn items, so keep your mind open to the possibilities.

Keep Price and Quality in Mind!

When I’m thrift shopping, I constantly have to ask myself, “Am I just buying this because it’s cheap?” If you shop with a budget, there’s no shame in that, but also keep in mind that buying a quality item that will last you years will probably save you more money than buying a cheaply-made item that will only last you a couple of wears! So, weigh your options. If you like the piece, assess its quality. Is it worth the price you’re paying? How much wear could you get out of it? Could you buy it elsewhere for a slightly higher price, but receive much higher quality? You want to love the pieces you’re spending your money on!

Plan and Make a Shopping List if You’re on a Budget!

I know this isn’t grocery shopping, so you don’t have to write out an actual checklist, but if you shop on a budget like me, keeping a general idea of what you’re looking for is never a bad plan! I like to keep a mental note in my head of what I already have at home, and what I’ve been wanting for a while. This can act as a general guideline for which sections to search through, as well as some much-needed impulse control. For example, if you really need some new jeans, or you’re inspired to look for some cute shorts for fall, keeping that concept in the forefront of your mind will keep you away from the other sections you don’t need to dive into. It’ll also narrow down your search and limit your shopping cart, saving your bank account in the process.

Make Time for it!

This may seem self-explanatory, but trust me, it’s not. A tip I’ll give you is to, if possible, find time during the week to go shopping. I know we may not all have the time, but most thrift stores have become pretty well-shopped recently, and can get really busy on weekends. If you go during the hours when most people tend to shop, the likelihood that the token pieces have already been scooped up increases, and so does your chance of missing them. I recommend going during the weekdays, mostly because you can shop without the worry that someone will snag the jeans you want before you can get there, and because your thrifting will be mostly uninterrupted.

PATIENCE!

Keep in mind that a thrift shopping trip can get lengthy if you’re searching through a large-format store, so make sure to invest time if you plan on looking through most racks and trying items on. In addition, not every thrift shopping trip you take will come out successful: there are days where I’ve found a gold mine of high-quality pieces from high-end brands, but there are days where I’ve walked out empty handed. So, have some patience whenever you plan to go thrifting, because it’s not always guaranteed that you’ll find amazing pieces. The last tip I will give you is more of a hard suggestion: try things on! Most of these stores don’t accept returns, so I highly recommend you try on items for size and make sure you’re comfortable in them, love them, and can see yourself wearing them before you take them home.

Now that I’ve given you all of my secrets, here’s a list of thrift stores that I love and would be great places for you to try out!

  • F as in Frank– great for sport jackets, athleisure clothing, sneakers, and lots of Nike and Adidas!

  • Kind Exchange– a chain of consignment stores that has a diverse mix of styles, brands, and price points. I found some of my favourite jeans here!

  • The Black Market– I think almost everyone has heard of this place because of its appeal to every shopper. There’s a huge selection of vintage tees, brand name jeans, trendy accessories, and other miscellaneous finds! There’s something here for everyone.

  • Uncle Vintage– they always have a great selection of Kappa pieces, and in the colder seasons, they sell tons of North Face and Patagonia. Much like the Black Market, they have a wide variety of vintage tees, and since most of their clothing can be considered unisex, there’s a piece of athleisure clothing for anyone!

  • Vintage Depot– this store sells items for anywhere from five dollars to upwards of hundreds of dollars. They have an entire section devoted to leather and fur (if you’re into that) and have items that come from and are inspired by almost every era. There are a couple of locations, but my favourites are the one across the street from Uncle Vintage and the one in Kensington Market!

  • Kensington Market – along with Queen Street and some other areas in Toronto, I would say that Kensington Market is a hub for vintage and thrift shopping. Here, I have found some of my favourite jackets, vintage dresses and bags. It’s also home to the best selection of sunglasses, although they aren’t second-hand or vintage. If you don’t go anywhere else, at least stop by Kensington Market, because you never know what you’ll find, and it’s always a fun place to explore.

  • Value Village– every location is a hit or a miss, but Value Village has remained my number one place to go for thrifting. I have found the most beautiful pieces of clothing I own here, and with some patience, you can too. They have any kind of clothing you could want, plus some amazing art and home décor, as long as you are willing to sift through the racks and give it a chance!

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