Tuesday, February 15, 2011



One topic we often receive questions about is clothing- specifically where we find modest and feminine options for girls at an affordable price.

I know, it can be tough. And sewing is not always an option. Even if you have the skill, quite honestly sewing has become cost prohibitive for many. Especially if you have to buy the fabric, pattern, thread and notions. You'd often be better off, from a budget perspective, buying new.

Personally, we rely heavily on our local thrift stores for both clothing and household items. Especially for dresses, you will do well in a thrift environment. Many girls just don't wear skirts or dresses often enough to keep them in their closets. They often seem to be purchased for special occasions, so they remain in good shape.

When I first began to explore thrift stores I thought that I just didn't have good stores in my area, but as I learned more about thrift store shopping, I began to find both where to find the good stores were as well as what to buy (and not buy) used.


To give you a real idea about the prices I am willing to pay, I went into the girl's closet and pulled a few things out. These were all purchased second hand.

From left to right:

Toddler Circo Top $2.50 and Kids Headquarters Skirt $2.50
Bright Blue Cherokee Dress $1.47
Hanna Anderson Tier Dress $1.97
Ralph Lauren Polo Dress $2.47


I have certain guidelines for myself when buying second hand.

1. I prefer the item to be a one piece outfit (preferably a dress). I think that dresses just make life easier overall- you won't have half the outfit hanging in the closet and the other half in the wash- with nothing matching to wear. Also, when buying second hand, dresses are usually less expensive than buying two pieces. Of course, there are times when I just fall in love with a skirt (see that cute little number above on the left with flowers and black tule underneath- oh my!) then I just make myself find something that makes it an outfit before I leave the store. I don't want a lone skirt hanging in the closet forever and not being used.

2. The item cannot be faded or stained. Even second hand items should not be in poor condition. The outfit can be slightly faded, but it generally needs to be church quality when I buy it. That is just me. In my thinking, if I buy four poor quality items, I may as well save the money and buy a new dress on clearance at Land's End. Even second hand price tags add up. But on the other hand, if I buy wisely I can obtain all we need for far under the price of buying new.
3. The item must be very usable. When I first began thrift store shopping I'd just buy up everything denim to be safe- all the denim dresses and skirts went home with me and then I would buy inexpensive t-shirts at Walmart or Target. And still, denim is a really safe bet. Dark denim is not only very durable it also hides spills- a great option if we are planning a long day away from home.
4. Know what I want before I shop. I want to be sure I am caught up on laundry (I use that phrase loosely...) and check in the girl's closets before I shop. I want to identify exactly what we need and don't need before I go.
5. Not t-shirts. I rarely buy plain t-shirts second hand. We wear little white t-shirts under spaghetti straps and such, but they are too similar in price with Walmart or Target not to just buy them new. T-shirts need to have special detailing (like applique flowers) to be a consideration for us to buy them second hand.
More clothing below, again from left to right:

Orange Flower Cherokee Top $2.50, Orange ellemeno Walking Shorts $5.50
Green April Cornell Dress $2.50
Blue Cherokee Polka Dot Dress $2.47
Tan Paris Blues Jacket $3.00 (skirt was a hand down)


Like I mentioned before, I used to think that I just didn't have any good thrift stores in my area, but that wasn't completely true. I only knew about Goodwill and Salvation Army and really- those are rarely the best stores for selection or price in my experience. You'll do okay buying denim items or jackets there, but that is about it.
The only exception to that is if you find a Goodwill in town down the street from a Target. I often find that Target will donate the items that don't sell at clearance prices. I presume they can make more with the write off than going lower than their clearance price (and then there is the marketing impact of reducing the price too low in the store as well). Of course, that is just my theory.
We've often found Target household items, still in their original packaging, or new matching dresses from Target at Goodwill for a fraction of their original cost. But overall, your shopping trip will be more expensive at Goodwill than finding a large thrift store that is seeking to be competitive with other thrift stores.


You will want to search THRIFT on line to find something in your area. Do not limit yourself to the tiny stores or Goodwills. You will likely need to shop in a city- downtown. You are looking for the larger stores that offer daily half off specials, where frequent purchases earn gift certificates. I have yet to find a Goodwill that offers these types of promotions.
For real reviews before you try a new location, try Yelp!
For those of you who are interested in second hand, but want more consistent and newer looking results, try finding a Once Upon a Child in your area. My sister in law jokes that it is named that because each item was worn only once upon a child. In my experience, the quality and price are both good. They have maternity items and children's items up to about age 10.
Buying second hand can be a lot of fun! The kids love finding a purse for 94 cents, new shoes for $2.50 or a new dress for $1.97. It's always an adventure.

If buying items second hand just doesn't seem like your thing, the following avenues have also been helpful to us.
1. Lands End Clearance
2. Laura Ashley dresses at Costco (Spring time- only to size 6X I believe). This link is old, but you can see what the dresses look like.
3. After Easter sales- Target and Burlington Coat Factory

Do you have a favorite place to shop for good deals on modest and feminine clothes at affordable prices? If so, feel free to share!

May you be blessed!


  1. We too love thrifting here! :) Lots of lovely girls' dresses to be found - and they can be so difficult to find new in the stores.

    I just went to Land's End and fell in love with several winter dresses for Saraya. They are well priced, so I went to order a couple - and found the shipping to be too dear. :( $28 shipping cancels out the affordability of the dresses unfortunately! I may need to stick to more local options. :)

    Blessings Rebecca!
    Saminda xx

  2. Hi Rebecca,

    We love to buy second hand. We mainly shop Goodwill because there is one near our grocery store and one near our doctor's office. We have one store in town (Kroger...it's in the midwest) that has coupons for Goodwill on the back of the receipt. I bet there is a store somewhere near you that does that. Maybe you could call your Goodwill and find out? The coupons are usually $1 off $10 or $5 off $25. It's nice to have handy in my purse because if I do happen to make it to the $25 mark then it's a nice savings.

    I agree, sometimes it's just best to buy it new at Walmart! Don't forget Kohl's, though. When you use your Kohl's card and a coupon it's often even cheaper than Walmart's prices! We use the card and coupon then do another transaction where we write a check to pay off the balance we just acquired. The cashiers are very friendly when people do that. They are having a great sale on kid's clothes this week. I'll be adding some good foundation pieces to my kid's wardrobes. Plus I have a 30% off coupon! Woo hoo!

    Anywho...that's what our large family does to save a dime or two. Thanks for sharing your finds! I think I'm going to head on out to Goodwill this week to see what they have!


  3. Yard sales are a great "thrift" sale to add to your list. I love when we hit one where they are just interested in getting rid of it all and the prices are 50 cents and such.

    But the real reason I am commenting is the Goodwill option. This must vary regionally. I live in Southeast Texas. Here they run sales at Goodwill on Sunday and Monday.... 50 CENT sales!!! When we have a need I go after church (they open at 1:00 PM), so I have time to run home, throw together a quick lunch, and leave the kiddos with daddy while I head out to search the sale. Sometimes it is good... others it is not. They also run sales on their books when they have an overabundance at 10 for a dollar (10 cent books have saved me many trips to the library, since we have our own "library at home" now). Most of the time I will not pay full price for the clothing unless it is a special item. Infant clothing is only 99 cents, so I will pay full price for that. Girls dresses in great shape or worth the $3.49 that they charge. Much of the other stuff I want a better bargain on though. I also pretty much follow the same guidelines you listed in your post. It is not worth buying stained items UNLESS you are certain you can remove the stain and the item is in otherwise great shape. You can usually tell if it is the sort of stain that can be removed.

    We also have a great little thrift store here that benefits our local MHMR folks. EVERYTHING in that store is usually under $1... I never even ask price when I go there. I rarely find good children't clothing, but it is a great place for ladies like new clothing. I can makeover my whole wardrobe for about $20, which is great because I am forever having little hands that cover me in stains. ;) Do you purchase yours/your spouses clothing thrift, also? Typically we buy more of our own clothing new because it can be harder to find second hand, especially my husband.

    So glad you posted on this topic. You obviously choose very well because I would have never thougth you thrift shop. (That is a compliment) And I love that you are "real" enough to set me straight in my assumptions. ;)

  4. Love your thoughts on this Rebecca! I'm still trying to figure out the thrift stores in our area...not much I'm afraid. Sounds like I will have to expand my search criteria ;-)

    I do love a good thrift shopping trip..such fun!

    Lots of love,

  5. Hi Saminda! That is so frustrating- hidden shipping costs. Glad you have good thrifting options near you! : )

    Hi Carmen- great tips! I am going to inquire about that at our Goodwill. Yes, Kohls is fantastic. We need to shop there for Faith at times. We love Walmart too, but always need to keep in mind that their fabrics usually shrink quite a bit.

    Shannon, thanks for piping up. You are right, it may be dependant on who is managing the Good will. And thank you for your sweet compliment. You know, I say they are more expensive but I am speaking in relative terms- comparing thrift stores to thrift stores and not retail prices. Goodwill is closer and I recently bought a jacket for one of my daughters there. I paid $6. and thought that was kind of pricy- HA! I am just ruined for retail. : ) Yes, I buy second hand clothing for Tom and I too! Love finding a JJill skirt for $4.97 and a Ann Taylor top for $2.47!

    Sommer- I can look for you when I shop my friend! Send me sizes! : )

  6. GREAT post Rebecca! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and tips!

    Since we're a military family and move around all the time it can be hard to figure out where the good thrift stores are (if there are any), or garage sales. E-bay is my back up, its not as good as local since you have to pay shipping but it can still be better than retail. It really helps when I'm looking for something very specific.

    I do some sewing too (my girls are all wearing dresses/skirts I made for them today with fabric given to me!). The key to making that affordable is watching for the sales on patterns (often as low as 99 cents), reusing the pattern for the various sizes (folding edges over instead of cutting down to size), and finding fabric (and notions) on sale too. I once found fleece on sale for 99 cents a yard, I purchased 11 yards and made enough PJ's for my kids to last for years! I'm at a disadvantage at this assignment since we don't have any great fabric stores here.

  7. Thanks Gabe! Great tips! If you keep your eye out for inexpensive fabric and if you have a favorite pattern that can be used several times (or if you can find them on sale like you suggested) it really brings the cost of sewing down! Saving money just takes patience, doesn't it? : )

  8. I have a goal to make my oldest (she's 12 and almost 5' 6"!) some broomstick style skirts. JoAnn's has a coupon online for $5 off $5. Here's the link:

  9. Thanks Carmen- that's a great coupon!

  10. We call them op-shops in Australia but in my region I don't find many good quality children's clothing on the racks there and certainly not Ralph Lauren! Also it is hard to find cotton items as the op-shops cut them up and sell them to tradesmen for rags! I find most of my girl's dresses at garage sales. I 'pretty up' plain denim skirts and pinafores with lace and trims for clothes that are practical and pretty. I agree with what you say about sewing clothes, so now I only use my machine to embellish or adjust items rather than make them from scratch. I find the best quality clothing at the sales in more affluent suburbs - many are designer, some have been worn once, some still have the original labels on. I also have boys and finding good second-hand clothing for them is not as easy - I guess boys are much harder on their clothes. I have recently discovered here in Australia the online clearance stores that sell designer clothing at vastly reduced prices. I wait for the 80-90 per cent off sales and have recently been able to purchase European designer clothes at Target prices (that is our Target which I suspect is more expensive than in the States) Anyway I'm going to let Saminda know about it as they have had some gorgoeus girl's dresses recently. Hi Saminda!

  11. Hello Ann! I LOVE the idea of embellishing plain denim items. So clever!

    When you talk to Saminda, let her know Lands End has free shipping if she uses FEB17 http://www.freeshipping.org/category/lands-end-free-shipping-code/ but it expires tomorrow.

    For other options for free shipping after that see: http://forum.purseblog.com/deals-and-steals/need-lands-end-free-shipping-code-190209.html

  12. Our local Goodwill is having a 50% off weekend. I think it's Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday, not sure which, but I thought ya'll might want to check your local Goodwills they might be having a sale, too. :)

  13. Hi, just found your blog, snd love them!! This is our first year homeschooling, and I love finding and reading others homeschooling blogs!!

  14. I love op-shops too! It is so difficult to find maternity in op-shops though (maybe that is just my area...). However, today I decided I simply must get some maternity wear as I am struggling to find anything in my closet. I went to all the op-shops in town and found only one skirt that was suitable. It's not even maternity, but a stretch style one. It was in an op-shop down the road from Target. It is brand new (still has tags - priced at $39.95) and I got it for $5.00! What a God-send! I guess this piece of advice may work in the southern hemisphere too ;)

    I agree with Ann - garage sales are great too! By the way Ann, would you like to share the online clearance stores you mentioned?

  15. Hi Rebecca! Over here in eastern PA, where many Menonites live, there is a HUGE thrift store. It's actually a whole strip mall, divided into sections of housewares, books, furniture & clothing. It is run by the Menonites, all by volunteers & all the money goes to relief work in other countries. I drop off donations all the time and then walk in the front door to buy more. Lots of modest clothing for good prices. I wish everyone could have one of these in their neighborhoods. It's called "Care and Share". Oh, and christian music is always being played as you shop. ` Doreen