Only the strongest will survive: A guide to thrifting in Austin
I was once trapped in a thrift store due to heavy rains outside and I realized: “This is how I want to go. Floating to the top, surrounded by other’s garbage, holding up a grandma sweater trying to decide if it will fit me.” See, Austin has a ton of thrift stores, but also a ton of thrift buyers. Finding gems requires a little more decidication than it does in your normal boring city.
To determine the all-hit, no-miss places to thrift, I spent the day scouring Austin for the best finds. Here’s a rundown of what I found, and some tips from my journey that will get you in a high waisted Navajo skirt with matching Lacoste cardigan in no time.
Thriftland (512 West Stassney Lane)
I started the day off at Thirftland, one of my favorite thrift stores in Austin; I always walk away with amazing finds. Warning: this place is cash only. There are also no dressing rooms. This makes for a riskier buys, but the prices are low enough you can chance it (just stay away from the jeans). In order to make the best of my time, I scanned the rows for vintage fabrics. Polyester, nylon and anything worn down and faded are a sign of a potential winner. Colors also can be a dead giveaway. Lime, orange, canary and navy can lead to fruitful finds. (Sadly, everyone looks horrible in canary.)
Finds: I left with a nylon blue shirt from the 70s that fit perfect and had no mystery stains. Hooray!
Thirft Town (5700 Manchaca Road)
Thrift Town is only a few blocks from Thriftland. It has a specific section for vintage clothes—I hate when thrift stores do this. Do you really deserve a glamorous maroon and orange ski vest if you didn’t persevere an hour to find it? Will you even be strong enough to take it off the rack if you haven’t built up your muscles scanning through hanger after hanger? In general, I find Thrift Town just okay for clothes, but stellar for home décor, shoes and miscellany. Women of yesteryear did not typically wear size 9 ½ wides, so I rarely find vintage shoes. That’s just leaves more vintage shoes for you petite girls with pixie haircuts and hot boyfriends to enjoy.
Finds: Nothing, but I can’t stay mad at a place that in the past has blessed me with a set of The Great Muppet Caper glasses and 50s diner chairs.
Goodwill (5734 Manchaca Road)
I find the Lamar and 2222 location the only Goodwill worth visiting, but this one was in the same shopping center as Thrift Town so I stopped in. The problem with Goodwill is that they are too pricey—t makes decisions a lot tougher. Will I even wear this 70s rayon gray cowl neck dress by Jerell of Texas?
Finds: Yeah, probably at least once. It was made in Texas just like Willie Nelson and Chicken Shit Bingo, so I guess I’ll pay ten bucks and give it a try.
Savers (4001South Lamar Boulevard)
On my way up north I hit up the south Savers. I find Savers reliable as long as you’re not looking for furniture. Bonus: all minor holidays have 50% off sales just like Columbus and Martin Luther King would have wanted. I tried on a few tops that didn't work, making sure to check out the return rack outside the dressing room (it’s sometime the easiest place to find a vintage clothes). Your fat ass and small waist might step up to the plate and hit a homerun with that odd shaped 50s skirt someone rejected.
Finds: A couple of framed pictures; a photographed buck in the meadow will make the perfect housewarming gift for a friend. Most importantly, knowing I got a good deal will ease the blow of watching everyone make it to “move-in” level before I do.
The Goodwill Outlet (6505 Burleson Road)
Before entering the Goodwill Outlet you have to ask yourself, “Am I at the point in my life where someone can throw old underwear in my face and I will not flinch?” If you answer yes, then this is the place for you! The Goodwill Outlet is where all their unsold merchandise goes to die. Huge blue bins are lined up while customers are roped off until “Go!” is yelled. The scene is a mayhem that I imagine similar to the Russian good shortages of the 80s. My advice is to throw whatever looks possibly cool into a shopping cart and assess later. Do no waste time contemplating. It could be dangerous. If you’re not fast enough you may suffocate under a pile of Christmas sweaters and bedspreads thrown on top of you.
Finds: A copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends and a vintage Disney toddler pajamas.
Salvation Army (8801 B Research Boulevard)
The Research Blvd Salvation Army is smaller than the South Congress location, but a good alternative for northerners. Salvation Armies are usually cheaper than Goodwill. This one had a tag sale going on (and the south location has half off clothes every Wednesday). While shopping, I heard an old woman shout “Wheee!” when a shirt she liked fit her. She was so happy. I pray I was accidentally looking into a wormhole and seeing myself in the future.
Finds: I left emptied handed but I did gain the knowledge I would still be thrifting way into my 70s and have a husband to push my shopping cart.
Happy thrifting, Austin! Remember, if you don’t like it, you can always try selling it at Buffalo Exchange to a woman with too much eye make-up dressed like 90s-era Michael Jackson.