Thrift Haul 101: Tim Gunn's Top Ten Essentials

Nicole Poole Thrifting New York

The Thrift Store Virgin Chronicles

A fashion icon, Tim Gunn of TV's Project Runway is one of the best things to happen to American fashion in decades. He has impeccable taste to be sure, but coupled with his sincerity and genuine desire to see people looking their best, he’s a rara avis indeed.

Tim Gunn created his list of the Top 10 Essential Elements for women. A wardrobe containing these 10 pieces, will be beautifully simple, polished, and poised for any occasion.

However, not many folks these days can afford to pay retail. I suggest instead of just giving up, conceding to envy; or going into deeper debt, try finding these at a thrift store! Thrift stores are very sustainable and offer a huge value to our community and closets! Check out my custom-tailored tips for each piece, with these you will easily find them in a thrift store which is both Thrifty & Green. In fact, in many cases you can find better quality pieces for a fraction (we're talking thrift store here) of what you would pay at Macy's. We’ve made a video about it with Geneva Carr who you may recognize from TV. Hopefully you enjoyed that on the previous page and here is the list for reference.

    10 Ten Essentials for Every Woman's Wardrobe

  • Number 1

    Basic Black Dress – The basic black dress has been around for a long time. It is often called the “Little Black Dress”, and it’s true that shorter skirts when they hit you in the right place, can be more flattering than a longer hem.

    TIPS: Pull out a few dresses in your size. Weed out the ones that are poorly made. Don’t let little things like broken zippers, fallen hems, or unflattering lengths dissuade you. These are easy and inexpensive fixes. Does the dress fit? Does it hug your curves elegantly? Can you reach, bend over, and sit while wearing it? Is the fabric of good quality? If so, you might have a winner! If not, keep looking. If you don’t find anything, move onto the next item on the list!

  • Number 2

    Trench Coat – The trench coat is one of the pieces that is both classic and currently a hot fashion item. Most any store sells this piece now. You can pick it up in a wide range of lengths.

    TIPS: No, you cannot wear a trench coat three sizes too big for you! I don’t care if it’s a classic Burberry; if you’re a 10 and it’s a 14, it’s not for you. (Though it might be an easy eBay sale.) For women, look for trenches that fall just past the knee. The shoulders should hit at your natural shoulder, the cuffs just below your wrist. Rips and tears at the seams are easy fixes; these on the body of the fabric are not. Is the lining in good condition? Linings can be expensive to replace, but it’s not impossible if it’s the coat of your dreams. Don’t be afraid of bright colors or vintage pieces – if the cut is sharp and looks good on you, it can be a lovely addition to your wardrobe.

  • Number 3

    Dress Pants – Although it doesn’t say black, this is probably what you want to look for. Black is flattering on all figures and goes with everything.

    TIPS: Dress pants are kind of fun to shop for; pull out a few pairs, in black, in your size. Check the fabric for rips, stains or threadbare areas. Ideally, you’ll find a pair of lightweight wool pants that flatter your figure. If you have to do the suck in dance to button them, leave them alone. If they fit in your hips and thighs but are too large in the waist, it’s an easy fix! If they’re just too long, this is also not a problem for your local tailor. If they’re too short, check to see how much fabric is under the hem – often they can be let down.

  • Number 4

    Classic Shirt – The white shirt is a definite classic. But it can also come in many different styles to make it look trendy and not dated or like a man’s piece of clothing. Find one that accentuates your best attributes and minimizes trouble spots. For example, if you have wide shoulders, stay away from large collars.

    TIPS: For a classic shirt, again pull a few options in your size. Shirts right now are fairly fitted, so it may be wise to look for shirts that have a bit of stretch. Weed out the items that have set-in stains at the color or underarms (although a good soak in a solution of Clorox and Biz Stain Fighter will do wonders for white cotton!) If it’s a beautiful shirt but just missing a couple of buttons, that’s no problem. Make sure it fits across the bust and shoulders!

  • Number 5

    Jeans – Everyone has a pair of jeans, but does everyone have a pair of jeans that make them look great? The wider leg, low-rise jean style has been popular (and still is) but a narrower leg is coming back along with a higher waist, which eliminates the unflattering “muffin top” look.

    TIPS: Jeans can be tricky, but not impossible. Look for either white, black or darker rinses, as faded jeans can look awfully faded by the time the shop gets them! Again, find a few pairs in your size, check for rips, tears and stains, then try them on. Tiny back pockets look terrible on everyone, but gaps in the waist and excess length can be easily fixed. Continue on the the next page for the rest of the list.