How can the average woman get more bang for her buck when it comes to putting together a stylish wardrobe? Darlene Fadem has discovered the secret. Several years ago, the 57-year-old Las Vegas fashionista started shopping in thrift stores and has never looked back. Darlene has scored some jaw-dropping deals, which she’s gone on to write about in her popular blog, Style 4 Less Vegas.
I got a chance to chat with Darlene about her fashionably affordable style that allows her to test out a variety of different looks. Here’s my interview with this Fabulous After 40 Styleblazer.
Deb: What started you down the path to becoming a thrift shopper?
Darlene: On the way home from spending the day in Santa Fé, my girlfriend asked if I would mind stopping at The Family Thrift Center in Albuquerque. I had donated there on numerous occasions but had never been inside. As I’m wandering around the store, I see a sign that says ‘Better Clothing.’ As I’m going through the rack of clothes…lo and behold, I find a ‘new with tags’ Dolce & Gabbana lace shirt…for $5.99!! I went home and found that it sold online for $175.00. That ONE find changed everything.
Deb: How has thrift shopping changed the way you like to dress?
Darlene: Before I started thrift shopping, I was totally addicted to shopping at White House Black Market. Have you seen their clothes? Beautiful, with just the right amount of bling. Now, I’ve always been a sale shopper, but I took it to the next level and got a job there (for a hot minute) just to get their 40% off employee discount!
Now I find that brand at the thrift store, so my style, which I would describe as classic mixed with the latest trend, hasn’t changed all that much. Actually, I dress better since I started thrifting. All those high-end boutique fashions are crazy affordable at the thrift store.
Deb: What makes a good thrifter?
Darlene: A good thrifter is one that knows her high-end designer labels. If you want clothes from Target or Old Navy, go to those stores and buy them. Don’t buy them at the thrift store.
Deb: Can you offer tips for those just starting out?
Darlene: I wrote a thrifting guide called Label Hunting 101 that you can find on my blog. In it are all my tips for thrifting those high-end labels. My top two tips would be:
#1. Have a list when you go thrifting. Without a direction in mind of what you are looking for, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed and leave without buying anything, and that’s no fun! Lol, Even I have gotten overwhelmed…and I’m a pro!
#2. Shop on a sale day and get an even better deal! Most thrift stores have set days of the week with extra discounts for Seniors, Students, and Military. A lot of thrift stores also have special sale events like 50% off all clothing! Those are the days I shop. Every day of the week, most thrift stores offer at least one color tag at a 50% off price.
As far as mistakes I made when I first started out thrifting…well, it’s easy to get swayed by how inexpensive those designer items are. As a result, I ended up thrifting my husband right out of the closet, BUT I’m happy to report that he’s now back in the closet…waaay back in the corner…with a teeny tiny space. ;-) Now, when I thrift, I’m SUPER selective about what I buy, and I try to donate more things back.
Deb: How important is location?
Darlene: I would have to say location is key. It only stands to reason that you would find better clothing at thrift stores located in the more affluent areas, BUT I have also thrifted some pretty amazing items in less desirable locations…on more than one occasion.
Deb: Have you ever thrift shopped online? Does it work as well?
Darlene: I have never thrift shopped online. I’m all about ‘the thrill of the hunt,’ and online and retail shopping is not all that thrilling. On the other hand, I have sold items to an online consignment store, but I wouldn’t do it again. It’s not worth it.
Deb: What is the best DEAL you have ever scored?
Darlene: EVERY deal is the best deal…until the next one comes along! Lol, My most recent ‘best deal’ was last week from Goodwill. I scored a pair of ‘like new’ Ros Hommerson denim espadrilles for $8.24. That brand retails for around $100.00. But my best score ever, so far, would have to be the $448.00 Nanette Lepore dress that I scored for $3.99! (with tax $4.27)
Deb: How much do you typically spend on an outfit?
Darlene: I can do a head to toe high-end look for around $30.00. Crazy, huh! As far as brands go I find a ton of Chico’s, Michael Kors, J. Crew, Talbot’s, Ann Taylor, NorthFace and Prada at the thrift store, just to name a few.
Deb: Favorite piece of clothing from a thrift store?
Darlene: I scored a pair of black J. Brand jeans at Buffalo Exchange for $38.00 (retail $200.00 ). That is the most I have ever spent on a thrifted item, and they are worth every penny. I LOVE them!
Deb: Do you ever combine thrift store with higher-end fashion?
Darlene: Every time I walk out the door! Lol, My wardrobe was 95% WHBM before I started thrifting, so I’m always mixing their clothes with my thrifted items.
Deb: You must come across some very unusual pieces. What’s been your most interesting find?
Darlene: Two, come to mind. I thrifted a Custo Barcelona (Spain) mixed media sweater. The design is copyright protected. It’s the coolest looking sweater I have ever seen. It retailed new around $150. I paid $8.
The other is a moto-style jacket that I thrifted for $12.99. I had never heard of the designer, Hilton Hollis, but had noted that the fabric was imported from Italy. When I looked him up, I saw that his jackets retail around $500.00! Score!
Deb: What kind of insights has thrifting given you about women and their closets?
Darlene: I’m always amazed by the amount of clothing that I find with the price tag still on it. I think all of us could go in our closet and find something with the price tag still on it that we had every intention of wearing but then never did. I know I can. Unlike men, who hold on to their clothes and wear them forever, women are more likely to donate their clothing when trends change, seasons change, or their lifestyle changes.
Deb: With such low prices, I imagine thrift shopping could become addictive (lol!). Are you addicted?
Darlene: Um…I plead the Fifth, your honor. ;-) Yes, of course, I’m addicted! lol
Deb: What inspired you to start your “Thriftover” service?
Darlene: Honestly, I love to thrift shop, and one can only have so many clothes…closet space and all, so I decided to shop for and show other women how fashionably dressed THEY could be in clothing from their local thrift store! That’s how my business, Thrift Me Over, was born!
Deb: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Darlene: I just want to say if you have never been to a thrift store, I hope that I have inspired you to go, and if you are a seasoned thrifter, don’t settle for just any brand and take the time to hunt for those high-end labels that you deserve.
Deb: Thanks Darlene for sharing your budget-conscious style and thrift store shopping tips with us! Ladies, be sure to visit Darlene’s fabulous blog, Style 4 Less Vegas.
* Photography Credit: Sarah Velez Photography