How to Restore/Revive Yard Sale and Thrift Shop Clothing

It’s yard sale season in North America, where I live. Tons of clothes available dirt-cheap for the careful buyer.

These tips from my old friend Margie Phillips–part of a much longer chapter in The Penny-Pinching Hedonist: How to Live Like Royalty with a Peasant’s Pocketbook on how to buy just about anything very cheaply–can help you reinvigorate clothing you buy at yard sales or thrift shops:

  • Spot remover can often save a garment, though some stains–such as perspiration under the arms–are tough to fix.
  • Clothing can often be easily modified. For example, Margie doesn’t like the feel of a turtleneck, so she snips the neck off along the seam (to minimize unraveling) and uses it as an ear-warming headband while bicycling.
  • Woolen socks with worn out bottoms can be cut to make great under-the-pants-leg warmers–and these, in turn, can make a too-short pair of pants look fashionable.
  • Disguise a pair of pants that fit well in the legs but look awkward in the butt by wearing a long top over it.
  • Broken zippers, elastics, or fasteners can be replaced.
  • If an elastic waistband is too tight, cut a string into the elastic to lengthen the waist.
  • Clothes age with frequent washing. Sometimes a garment can be brushed off and aired out outside.
  • Wash any used purchase before you wear it.
  • Although second-hand shoes are hard to find, since they shape themselves to the previous wearer’s foot, you can often salvage a pair–especially if it’s just a little bit too big–by putting in a thick inner sole.
  • Most dry-clean-only clothes can be hand washed in cold water with wool cleaner. Store brands work fine for most things, but for those fancy Ecuadorian sweaters, use real Woolite in cold water, using the gentle cycle of your washing machine.
  • Combine an old and new garment to make the old one look new.
  • Preserve your fancy duds by wearing old clothes when you don’t need to be dressed up.

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