Thrift store finds spice up wardrobes

Columnist Mark Longacre scours the racks of some second hand stores able to revamp any fall wardrobe. There’s nothing better than the first crisp fall day. Despite the nippy air, the sun keeps you comfortably

Screen shot 2011-10-10 at 6.57.02 PMColumnist Mark Longacre scours the racks of some second hand stores able to revamp any fall wardrobe.

There’s nothing better than the first crisp fall day. Despite the nippy air, the sun keeps you comfortably warm. It’s that wonderful time when you’re perfectly comfortable in a pair of jeans and a sweater, and the perfect time to show your style because you can layer your favorite pieces without hiding them under a jacket.

Unfortunately, being college students with caviar taste on a Ramen budget, we can’t always afford to buy a brand-new wardrobe from a favorite store just because the season changed, no matter how much you hate everything you own. Fortunately, there are a couple ways to expand your wardrobe while still being able to keep food on the table.

One of the easiest things to do is take everything in your closet and lay it out. Then, check out your favorite store, stylish friend or magazine for ideas on how to wear the clothes you already have in a new way. Every season, I look at J.Crew, Nordstrom and GQ to see what new trends are out there and how I can wear the clothes I already have in a new way. The key is to look at everything in your closet and pretend it’s brand new, even if you haven’t worn it in years. You’d be surprised at some of the things you bought in the past when they still look good worn with the right outfit.

Once you have some ideas about the clothes you currently have, go explore the city’s second-hand clothing boutiques.

Philly Aids Thrift on Fifth and Bainbridge streets is a mecca for all things used. I checked it out this past weekend and they have one of almost anything you can think of. While it is second hand, the clothes are in good condition and they cost next to nothing.

Much like the Salvation Army, Philly Aids Thrift thrives on clothing donations and then sells them in order to donate the profits to the Philly Aids Fund. It even makes me, the cynical fashion columnist, feel good to help out an organization in need.

Philly Aids Thrift is an awesome place to check out for  eclectic style, but Second Time Around on 18th and Chestnut streets is the place to shop for high-end second hand clothing. Given that it sells high-end name brand clothing,  prices are high, but still nowhere near retail. Second Time Around only accepts like-new merchandise, so everything is no more than two years old.

Second hand stores are awesome because they carry a wide range of clothing for significantly reduced prices, but the sizes are usually limited. Because they rely on donations, there’s rarely a complete size run of a particular item.

Instead of going to the same stores like Forever 21 and H&M, walk around the city and find a cool boutique. Venture down to South Street or the Gayborhood and bask in the boutiques that ooze individuality. Anyone can go out to a chain and buy something that was manufactured by the thousands, but try looking for something unique to Philly. There are so many boutiques scattered through the city, it’d be hard not to find one for your sense of style.

Shopping with local vendors is beneficial in two ways. Not only are you supporting Philly’s economy, but you’re getting a shopping experience the way it was intended. Boutique owners know their clothes because they made or bought them, unlike national stores that purchase mass quantities of clothes and put them on the shelves as fast as possible.

The coming of fall is an exciting time for fashion because there’s room to showcase style through layers or lack thereof. Instead of shelling out an arm and a leg, keep your limbs and get creative with your wardrobe. Try to wear old things in new ways, or support the local economy if your wallet is feeling particularly fat.

Mark Longacre can be reached at

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