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Times reporter proves you really can dress for less at local thrift shops
All purchased from different local thrift shops, Brandee paid a grand total of $28 for a bright yellow cardigan, fuchsia linen skirt, American Eagle leopard print flats, a satchel purse and a handbag. The outfit she is wearing including the summer dress, matching handbag and buckle pumps only cost her $31. What a steal! - photo by Tom Reed

With school about to start in a few weeks, many parents and educators alike are out shopping for back-to-school wardrobes.

Although the initial thought may be to head to the mall and department stores, there are hidden gems to be found off the beaten path of retail shopping.

Consignment stores, thrift shops and resale boutiques may specialize in secondhand goods, but shoppers can still find first-rate fashions.

"My roommate in college got me hooked on thrifting," said Shayla Gomez, while shopping in Gainesville on Monday.

"She was from Atlanta, so it was a normal thing for her to do. Being from a smaller town, I wasn’t used to that.

"After our first trip, I was hooked. Now, whenever I need an outfit, I try a thrift store or consignment shop first."

These days, consignment and thrift shopping isn’t just an activity for residents in big cities like Atlanta.Hall County has a number of resale options.

There are places like Cathy’s Closet Consignment Boutique in Oakwood, Next to New Resale Boutique in Gainesville and Designer Treasures on Thompson Bridge Road.

Gateway Thrift Store has three Gainesville locations: one on Atlanta Highway, one on Park Hill Drive and another one on Dawsonville Highway. There are even options like Plato’s Closet on Dawsonville Highway that are geared toward younger consumers.

Before you head out shopping at a resale boutique, here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to get the maximum enjoyment from the fruits of your bargain hunting:

Keep an open mind.

It’s good to have an idea of the type of items you’re looking for — pants, skirts, shoes, etc. — but don’t become too focused on the details.Obsessively searching for a green-plaid button-up shirt may cause you to miss out on the perfectly good orange-striped one that you overlooked on your narrow-minded hunt. It’s a classic case of missing the forest for the trees.

Come prepared.

Since many thrift and consignment stores have strict return polices, you should make sure that you’re 100 percent satisfied with your items before you leave. That means trying things on. To speed up that process, wear clothes that are easy to get out of — think few or no buttons and limited layers.

Investigate with a fine-tooth comb.

Although most shopkeepers are thorough during their intake process, that doesn’t mean you should be lax. If it’s missing a button, has a ripped hem or a hole, don’t buy it if you’re not willing to make the repairs.Also be on the lookout for discoloration and staining — especially in the underarm areas. Speaking of stains, it wouldn’t hurt to bring along a few of those stain remover wipes. No need to bypass a bargain if it can easily be cleaned.

Piece it together.

Just like any other shopping experience, it sometimes takes a greater vision to pull a thrift look together. Sure that shift dress looks a little plain on the rack, but imagine how it will look paired with a pair of ballet flats and the right necklace or bracelets.

Buy now.

Since the stock at resale stores can vary from day to day, if you see something you like, you should go ahead and grab it. It may not be there tomorrow.

Don’t trade style or fit for value.

A bargain is only a bargain if it gets used, or in this case, worn. If it doesn’t fit, you must resist. While an oversized top can be cinched at the waist with a cleverly placed belt, there’s not much you can do with a pair of pants that won’t zip up all the way.If the print on a vest reminds you of grandma’s drapes, chances are it’ll never see the light of day once you get it home. Even though it was a steal at $2, it’s money wasted if it never makes it out of your closet.

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