On Saturday, I went to the Salvation Army coat sale for the first time. It would have been quite an overwhelming experience if my “thrifting coach,” Patrice J. Williams of Living Fly On A Dime, hadn’t given me some pointers before we began shopping. You see, Patrice has challenged herself to purchase only thrifted, second-hand, or vintage clothing and shoes for a year. She’s four months into her challenge and knows a lot about where and how to thrift. Under her tutelage, I found seven coats and jackets and I paid less than $70 total!Patrice warned me that shoppers get to the Salvation Army early, so we decided to meet at 8 a.m., an hour before the sale opened. I was late, but made it early enough to sneak to the front of the line where she was. There were only about 10 shopping carts, and people will push you out of the way to get one. Luckily, we both were able to snag our own. And then we took off! I was kind of overwhelmed at the selection of coats. There had to have been about 40 racks full of faux and real fur coats, leather coats and jackets, wool coats, and shearling coats for women, men, and children.
My strategy was to grab any coat I thought I liked and try it on later. There were only about five full-length mirrors around the warehouse. So Patrice and I posted ourselves near one that we shared with a mother who was shopping with her teen daughter. We took turns trying on coats. And the teen and I sometimes swapped items that we’d decided wouldn’t work for us.
Patrice gave me some tips to keep in mind when deciding whether to purchase a thrift coat or jacket. She said to check the sleeves, especially at the wrist where there’s the most wear, to make sure there’s no fraying or holes that can’t be repaired. And of course we checked for stains. The cleaners would probably be able to remove a minor stain, but Patrice suspected that a gray stain on a white wool coat was the reason it was donated to the Salvation Army. So she passed. We also made sure to check the linings and button alignment.
The teen shopper gave me a pale blue cropped leather jacket to try, but my shoulders were too bulky. I passed it on to Patrice, and she loved it. The only problem was that the buttons weren’t aligned properly. And this issue was even more noticeable because the jacket buttoned asymmetrically. If Patrice moved the buttons, then she would have been left with holes in the leather, so I suggested she use self-adhering Velcro to close the jacket and keep the buttons where they were.
I ended up purchasing a navy blue real shearling coat, a butterscotch faux mink jacket that looks real, a leopard print faux fur jacket, a vintage leather jacket, a puffer coat, a leather blazer, and a navy cropped leather jacket (bought for a friend that I’m totally willing to keep if she doesn’t want it). The cheapest coat was $6 and the most expensive was $15 — quite a bargain for coats that were in really good condition. Oh, and for some reason, the Salvation Army gave away free 3.4 oz. bottles of Kate Moss perfume. I have no idea what it smells like, but I love anything free.
I carried my haul home in two large Lehman Brothers boat totes, also purchased at the sale. I was pretty convinced that I made some good purchases, but I kept thinking: “Do I really need seven coats when I have enough at home?” But then I rationalized that the coats were so cheap that I wouldn’t mind re-donating them to the Salvation Army when I was done with them. And that’s a win-win for me and the organization.