Q&A Monday: What NOT to Thrift 1
All,  Thrifting

Q&A Monday: What NOT to Thrift

Wannabe Th-uh...Wednesday! Really!
Ooh La La Hoodie Dress

Don’t let the title fool ya!  This week’s Q&A Monday has nothing to do with these guys:

Snarky McSnarkersons
Snarky McSnarkersons

If you were hoping some mean skunk-haired lady and her fay cohort were going to show up and berate you for your fashion choices, I’m sorry (and I think you might have something wrong with you).

Nonono.  This week’s question is:

Q: “What don’t you buy when you go thrifting for future refashions?”

A:  There’s very little that I won’t consider as a future refashion.

But here are a few common clothing maladies that I won’t mess with:


Stains make me all sorts of squeamish and grossed out, especially if they’re of the food or biological variety.

Eeeewww...Someone was a sweaty Betty! :/
Eeeewww…Someone was a sweaty Betty! :/

There are plenty of tricks one can try to remove a pesky stain, but they don’t always work. Unless I’m just absolutely in love with a piece of clothing or I know I’ll be removing the stained part in the refashion, I treat those stains with extreme disdain.


You know what I’m talking about.  Don’t you just hate when your sweaters get those nasty balls of lint all over them?

Take a chill pill
Take a chill pill

So do I.  If the item is really nice other than the pilling, I’ll just take an old razor and shave the pills off (electric clothes shavers are a waste of your time and money, friends).  But usually when I see pilling, it means the garment is of poor fabric quality, overwashed, or both.  Best to stay away from these unless you want to spend hours with your razor and a lint roller every time you want to wash the thing.

Weirdo Smell

Whoa!  What’s that smell????

Kitteh understanz.
Kitteh understanz.

It’s normal for thrift store duds to smell a little weird.  But if your chosen future refash reeks of White Diamonds, gasoline, or some other overpowering stench, you might want to take a pass on it.  Some strong odors are just impossible to get rid of, no matter the number of washings.

Worn Out

This one makes me sad.

Sometimes I stumble upon something that could have been absolutely PERFECT…except it’s just completely worn out.

Even I can't fix this.
Even I can’t fix this.

Unless there’s a part of the fabric you know you can harvest to make a trim, a pocket, or some such, it’s best to move on.  I’ve turned down really well-made designer pieces that were lovely at some point in time, but were just too worn out to save.

It’s okay.  It fulfilled its destiny.

What are your thrifting dealbreakers?


  • nina carr

    Hi Jillian ! Since 98 % of my clothes and household are thrifted, I love your blog. My daughter-in-law is horrified that I do thrift stores. She loves big name brands. Well, I get them at thrift stores. This last year I got a genuine Lladro figurine for $5 on half-price-day. At another place, I got a genuine Coco Chanel scarf.
    I have a Ralph Lauren tee-shirt and bulky, fluffy oversized bath towel. I have a Martha Stewart gravy boat. I have lots of pajamas from Karen Neuburger (my favorite for soft, cozy sleepwear); clothes from Cyntha Crowley, Old Navy, Tommy Hilfiger, Caslon, Chicos, Coldwater Creek, Danskin, etc. Ikea (my favorite store if I am paying full price and want a day-long outing since it is 60 miles away) has many bargains, too. Kitchen brushes were 59 cents last time and came in gorgeous colors, also my inside watering can was only $1.99 and it doesn’t get the grunge of the metal traditional type. And at the Goodwill Outlet, I have found new dish towels from Italy, Scotland, and London that I love. Make sure it is the Outlet though.

    I got some Rockports at a consignment store for $18—they were new in the original box and I love them. The store was in Paradise, CA (I was visiting friends there) and it burned down. So….

    But, also I fear even trying on shoes from thrift stores unless brand new so I go to the Sketchers Outlet that we have here in town (lucky) and then go to their bargain rack. Always find something good. One pair of sneaks are very psycadelic in color, super comfortable and I wore them all over Europe on a trip. I got all kinds of complements on those $20 Sketchers. Still wear them to bang around in. Love them, now on my second pair from the clearance rack and love them as well. For me Sketchers Outlet is terrific because I have had surgery on both feet and shoes can hurt. Also, Sketchers Outlet will give a senior discount, IF you ask for it and so I always do everywhere anyway.

    My rules are simple: wear a crossbody purse that will hold a small water bottle and bring hand sanitizer,
    and kleenex. Have the sanitizer and the kleenex in an outside pocket for easy access.

    Ask about the sales in each place. I just went this week to a book sale held on the last Wed of the month. Books were 10 for $1 and any over 10 were 10 cents each. I came home with 32. I read avidly and I have two couples who don’t live near my deals so I am their lending library. Unless it is a reference book, when both couples have read a book they will pass it on to someone else.

    The Discovery Shoppe (whatever it is called in your state or area is from the Cancer Society so they are all over) has regular sales events that they advertise. I go when they have an event and always find something. They are high end and so the prices are a bit higher, but don’t shy away from high end thrift stores. Bargains are there, too. I recently got a white leather jacket, perfect condition, for $30.

    I take copious notes wherever there is a public speaker: YouTube, church, local college, community civic center—-everywhere. So when I see empty, clean notebooks at thrift stores I get them. I have about a dozen or so now and some I have given away. I am never caught without something to write on. The very small ones can hide in my purse until I need a paper to write on. They cost me 50 cents on half-price day.

    Thanks Jillian for this blog. It is an encouragement and validation.

  • karen bailey

    i am old enough that some vintage items are not going to have good associations for me, the feel of crimpoline , some nylon, rayon, terylene, brushed nylon,etc, just cant.
    oh and some airtex P.E shirt stuff, and some gaberdine. Also some beautiful garments i could not cut up if vintage, they must be preserved like museum exhibits.

  • Cassie M Schoonover

    A soak, and a wash adding distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle should eliminate any icky smells, and if that doesn’t work, some smoke away (i found it at walmart) should do the trick.

    That’s how I kept my car fresh when I worked, and carpooled some smokers.
    Even without allowing them to smoke in my car the smell would seep off their clothes and into my seats, not being a smoker myself I found it especially icky.
    out came a spritzer bottle filled with the distilled white vinegar, and a separate bottle of smoke away.

  • Yasmin Allen

    I find a lot of too small clothes, and if you cut them down the back (or take out the zipper) you can add corset lacing, and it means you can buy all those pretty tops and dresses that were just a bit too small. (I did this with my wedding dress!)

  • Sarita

    Size – I don’t much know how to make something Bigger. One can add as stripe sometimes, but that’s frequently too tricky to be worth the trouble. For tiny people this isn’t a big deal but I have never been smaller than size 12, so I frequently run accross fabulous items that I simply can’t get into. Sometimes these can be turned into cardigans or used for fabric, but most often I simply have to leave them for someone else.

  • Gwen M. Snyder

    Polyester. Just can’t wear it. Makes me sweat. Wool because its scratchy. Linen because it wrinkles so badly. All I’m left with is silk and cotton.

  • krugthethinker

    I wholeheartedly agree! And I have a question for your Q & A series. It’s about dying clothes. I have a super beloved pair of jeans, but they’re about 8 or 9 years old, and they are seriously faded. I was thinking of dying them with navy dye, but I am just wondering, after you dye a garment, does it get special laundry treatment? Do you wash it by hand a few times to make sure no dye is bleeding out or do you just throw it in the wash? Thank you! Rookie Dyer 🙂

  • dancingdaughters

    Good laugh with all the replies. Initially, I was going to post about the yuckiness of thrifted, pre-used underwear (I shudder). Since that has been taken care of I wanted to ask if location of the thrift store yields better goods? I’m not too far away from Hollywood and am considering an expedition.

    • ReFashionista

      Oh yes. Location is important. I know nothing of the LA area, as I’ve never been there. However…go to more off the beaten path places outside of the city. Try wealthy suburbs or rural areas. Those have been my best bets. 🙂

    • jenny_o

      But the first thing they do is humiliate the woman by criticizing her current clothes in the most unkind ways and flinging them in a garbage can. I can’t condone that kind of “help”.

        • ReFashionista

          Let people wear what they want. Those two always seem to give the lady an inverted bob (that will require monthly hair appts to keep up…hard to do if you’re a busy mom), red hair or highlights (which fades really quickly unless it’s constantly redone…once again…not always the best choice for busy ladies), and a wrap dress.

          They all end up looking the same.

          There are no “rules” for fashion. It should be fun. Remember when you were little and got to pick out your own clothes, and how fun that was? That shouldn’t have to go away. You shouldn’t be shamed into conforming to what some “style expert” (groan) thinks looks best on you.

          Self-proclaimed “Style Experts” can all bite me. They’re ruining creative fashion.

          • godzoned (Debbie)

            I got my colours done and will soon have enough money to get my body shape/style done. The colour palette helps me identify what colours look fabulous on me… The body shape/style will help me choose clothing styles that look fabulous on me. A great way and starting point to go by and not restricting. I don’t have to stick to them and I am allowed to break the rules. So style guru’s always go by what they themselves like. It’s a shame really. Each person is an individual.

            • ReFashionista

              I like the idea of getting your colors “done”. It was an outdated practice, but is it coming back? It’s good to know what works for you shape too. A lot of people don’t realize it, but I’m a total pear shape (narrow shoulders, and my bust is 5″ smaller than my hips). It’s good to know how to compliment your shape and coloring. But I’m glad that you agree it’s okay to break the rules and have fun! 🙂

  • Laura

    Think you hit the no’s on the head. The only other thing I avoid….because I don’t know how to fix… is an item that has weird stretch or pucker spots from wear or shrinking. If you have a fix for that I’d like to hear about it. Also I don’t knit so a sweater that has a large hole that I can’t fix….small holes that are near a seam or a not an obvious spot I can fudge.

  • godzoned (Debbie)

    Great post and I agree on your NOT list and the underwear/nightwear thing is just gross!
    As for shoes…. Ones that look mega new and still have new smell only touch my feet – not about to risk foot diseases just cause the shoe looks nice though. I usually stare clear of them myself.

  • jenny_o

    I’m still chuckling over the muddy/greasy/oily/justplaindirty and holey sweatshirt!!!!

    There two kinds of undie-type clothing I’ll buy – nighties and slips. I don’t wear a slip often, but under formal wear it helps smooth out the bumps and make a dress hang well. And nighties? no cooties involved, not even imaginary ones, as long as you wash it just like any other garment you buy.

    Great idea for a post. A different take altogether on how to thrift successfully.

  • Anonymous

    Peroxide with a little Dawn and maybe some baking soda, rub in and let sit for an hour, a few, or over night. Then rinse some and launder. Has gotten out every stain I have ever encountered – thrifted or non-thrifted. Even on fabrics of all colors. It is like magic! So you do not ever be concerned about buying something with a stain unless it is high-priced and not worth the risk, or if it a delicate fabric that you do not want to wash. You will be amazed! Same for smells, and I have a very sensitive nose. I have gotten the most extreme smells with baking soda, the peroxide/Dawn mix, and/or vinegar. If extreme, let it soak for a while in the wash cycle before moving on to the rinse. Have never had to do more than twice, and usually once does the trick. Like I said, I have a very sensitive nose.
    Many of my cheapest and most favorite clothes had stains of some kind, and almost all smelled bad to terrible. It is the nature of thrifting! Part of the adventure!

    • ReFashionista

      Really???? I would think the peroxide would bleach out the clothes…but it doesn’t? That’s cool! I like Oxyclean for getting rid of food or bio (ewwwww) stains. I’ll have to try your method. 🙂

  • Christina Hicks Lutes

    I’m a new reader, and love your ideas. Not such a fan of your opening comment. A derogatory comment about someone’s sexual preference is not called for. And, honestly, have you seen the show? Those people are dressing horribly. You’ve posted some not nice comments about clothing you’ve found that others have tossed into a charity bin. Time to refashion your words 🙁

    • ReFashionista

      Nononono…I wasn’t saying a thing about the guy being gay. Look up the definition for fay. It means elfin and perky.

      I don’t think it’s okay to be mean to anyone for how they choose to dress.

      Didn’t mean to offend.

      • Karine

        I actually find Christina’s comment offensive truth be told. I have seen items on racks- new and old – and thought ‘OMG what the?’ Some fashion is ugly and there is no harm in stating an opinion or truth on it. And the fact that it is in charity bins means that the original owner no longer wanted it for that exact reason – it was ugly and outdated!

    • Mairi

      I’ve read this blog for a long time and I can honestly say that I don’t believe Jillian’s words are ever used to be offensive or judgemental at least not intentionally… and she clearly has a lot of friends of all sorts of persuasions. 🙂 Hope that doesn’t seem rude in return… it’s not intended to be anything other than reassuring! Have a great day!

      • Belinda

        As someone who works for a charity and receives heaps of unwearable clothes donated to us, it is not helpful and only a hindrance to our work. Some items should be thrown out, not dumped on a charity’s doorstep, they are simply leaving rubbish n our doorstep. Just because some people have little money, doesn’t mean they have no dignity or are willing to wear dirty, smelly, completely worn out clothes. I agree with Jillian’s discernment over what not to refashion, and from reading her blog for a while have never seen anything that is intended to offend or put anyone down. She’s just not made that way!

  • judith

    Pills on sweaters doesn’t always mean poor quality. I’m a knitter and sometimes yarns that contain mohair or baby alpaca will pill, especially if it’s a hand knit garment. It’s just the nature of the yarn, super fine, super soft. Like you said, just skim over it with a razor to keep it neat and clean looking.

  • Maureen R.

    I would say … things that are too small. Sometimes I can fix that by adding some fabric here and a bit of fabric there, but generally, that’s way too much work for this fashionista.

  • okgirl

    Totally agree on the underpants! I also pass up things that are too expensive to refashion. A $15 item had better be perfect for me as is, because that’s too much of my clothing budget to mess up in a failed refashion (and we all know it happens sometimes!).

  • seamssewsilly

    UNDERWEAR! I see so many thrift shops with racks of underwear and bras and swimwear and I just get skeeved out! Probably, PJ pants, too, as I fear that someone might have slept commando in them.

What do you think?

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