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Boston's best places to thrift

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Does Macklemore's recent hit "Thrift Shop" have you wanting to peruse the aisles of consignment stores? To some, "thrifting" can be a bit of an overwhelming waste of time, but with the right tips and tricks, thrift shopping can be a fun experience of searching for pieces from the past to bring into your current style. Boston offers a variety of stores and markets for beginners and experts to love. Read on for the best places to thrift and some tips and tricks of the trade.

SOWA Market- The South End

With the warmer weather comes the reopening of the SOWA market. Re-opening on May 6, this market is unique in that it offers a bevy of food trucks, handmade goods and a sprawling space of vintage goods. As you move from stall to stall, the merchandise can vary so take your time.

Buffalo Exchange- Allston

If you're a thrifter looking for more modern pieces, and looking to sell or donate some of your clothes before buying new threads, head to the Buffalo Exchange. This store offers shoppers the chance to sell gently used clothing and shoes, in exchange for store credit. Aside from this program, the store features a variety of brand name dresses, blouses, and great accessories!

The Garment District- Kendall Square, Cambridge

The Garment District is a rite of passage for a novice thrifter and a treasure trove for the experienced shopper. This two-story factory style store offers everything, from a costume shop, men and women's used clothing, vintage clothes (all organized by clothing type), and a pile. That's right, a pile of clothes. Customers are given a large plastic bag and told to dig in! Clothes from the pile cost $1.50 per pound. (The Garment District will also buy gently used clothing for 30% value in cash or 60% value in store credit.)

Salvation Army & Goodwill

While the Salvation Army and Goodwill are traditional examples of great thrift shops, each store offers a variety of goods from housewares to clothing to furniture. With locations all over the Boston area, take your time and spend money for charity while adding a vintage piece to your life.

Boomerangs- Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and Central Square in Cambridge

If you're looking for something unique and want to donate to a good cause at the same time, head to one of Boomerangs three Boston locations. Boomerangs accepts donations and funds AIDS Action's work to help and prevent new HIV infections here in Massachusetts. The store features a variety of quirky clothes, housewares, books and furniture.

Artifaktory Vintage Boutique- Locations on Charles Street in Beacon Hill and in Davis Square

The store space may be small, but the Artifaktory Vintage Boutique is a step back in time. Each store offers one-of-a-kind vintage hats, jewelry, dresses and shoes for women and a selection of clothing for men. While the price can be a bit more than the average thrift store, each piece has been cleaned and repaired before going on the rack. The store clerks are extremely knowledgeable on all types of vintage clothing and can help you find the perfect fascinator or bombshell dress for your next special occasion.

Tips and Tricks

  • Go early - Wake up at the crack of dawn to hit the stores right when they open. This way you'll most likely beat the crowds and feel relaxed sifting through clothes while drinking your morning coffee. (I also find that Sundays are the best, especially when it comes to Good Will type stores! New product is generally added, as well as the announcement of the new sales of the week!)
  • Be ready to sift - If you're the type of person who finds Forever 21 overwhelming, thrift shopping might not be the best option for you. Thrifting is all about sifting through the not so lovely pieces to find that adorable mod dress, bright belt or that perfect handbag. Trust me, finding a piece that you love means so much more, if you had to dig to find it!
  • Narrow down your plan to look for a certain piece or item- If you're the type to get a bit frazzled, make a list! Having a good system allows you to see all of the things that you want without missing things you could love.
  • Know what you're willing to spend - While Salvation Army and Goodwill offer a variety of pieces at low prices, those $2.00 teacups will add up quick! Pick a budget that you're willing to stick to and exceptions are okay as long as the item is something you really love.
  • Check for tears, stains and unpleasant smells - Always look over your possible purchase for any rips, smells or stains. However, keep in mind that some stains and  rips can be fixed!
  • Wash and sterilize everything before you wear it - No matter how much you love it, wash it first! Be careful to pay attention to any care instructions, or if none remain, look into the care of the particular fabric. While dry cleaning may seem expensive it's worth the bill to keep your "new" clothes clean and fresh smelling while avoiding shrinking.
  • Get some, give some- When thrift shopping it's always good to take a look into your closet to see if there are any pieces that no longer fit you, your style, or that haven't been receiving any loving attention. Someone out there could love that cable knit sweater like you never could!
  • Envision that blazer without those shoulder pads - Many dated pieces can be reused and re-purposed in a way that is both modern and completely unique. So cut out those shoulder pads, turn those mom jeans into cutoffs and hem that skirt for a piece that is totally yours.
  • Look at the tags- If you're a serious thrifter for a specific item or just happen to know a bit about vintage clothes, luggage, etc., it's all about the tag! Finding brand and designer name items for a steal is what thrift shopping is all about. Generally these stores don't have the time to look into every brand that comes into the store, and as a result, you can snag pricy items at a huge fraction of the usual cost.
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