top of page
  • Amandalina Letterio

5 Rules for thrift shopping

Alexis Venerus is the co-founder and designer of Born Solo Die Solo, a Toronto based clothing label that uses second hand clothes in the construction of its pieces. Alexis says that in her collections, the garments aim to address lessons in enduring history, tradition, death and re-birth. I met Alexis in a business course we both took. I could tell she was a clothing designer almost immediately; she wore layers of intricate clothing and everyday she wore a different pair of funky earrings - each completely different from the last. Her outfits were artistic.

As the class began to learn about one another, Alexis shared her business idea for a recycled clothing label. It was brilliant. "There is a certain feeling when someone asks me if I want to look through their clothing before they donate it. I am interested to see what they decided to get rid of, but also what they held onto," she says to me as we sit at her favourite café, Sam James, in downtown Toronto. "People can develop sentimental attachments to clothing and end up storing something for decades before deciding that it would really be better off in someone else’s life. Often what people finally get rid of is a size they no longer feel comfortable in, or a style they consider dated. To me these garments are an opportunity to find creative ways to wear them," Alexis elaborates. In search of unique garments, she has spent years second hand shopping. "I don't know if I'm ready to ditch the mall," I confess. "I understand," she laughs, "I invested quite a bit of time in becoming efficient at second hand shopping. You can't return to buy a garment if you need to think about it. It might not be there. That led to impulse purchases; sometimes I would be left with clothing I never wore. There is little fun or economic principle in that. So I started to sharpen my shopping skills and overtime I came up with a set of rules for myself, which I hope will help you too. These rules guide my purchasing. Now, everything I buy I end up wearing and enjoying for years and years. That is until I hand it down again, of course."

"Can I share your tips on my blog?" I ask, enthusiastically.

"Haha, absolutely!" She replies.

Here are 5 Tips for Second Hand Shopping with Born Solo Die Solo [with added GIFs from Alexis to make things more fun]:

Try on sizes you wouldn’t normally wear. "When it comes to wearing older pieces, it is important to remember that silhouettes have been very different over the times. Sometimes a larger-sized dress might slink off of your shoulder in just a way that is not sloppy, but instead alluring."


Check the aisle of both genders.

"Some (or maybe most) of my favourite vintage t-shirts have come from the men's aisle. To me, they were filed there for no reason, aside from having a straight silhouette. I love a good screen printed graphic T where the ink is starting to crack and fade! You can’t find them as often in the women’s aisle. Also, men's Jeans… I have had many a pair which I instantly cut into the best shorts. This tip might be harder for men whose fashion codes are traditionally more gender binding. Then again, I went to a concert where the male guitarist was in a dress, converse, uncombed hair. He looked so effortlessly cool; at first, it didn't even dawn on me that he was wearing a floral print. Second hand shopping is about what you can pull off - and you can pull of anything you choose to."


Take a full lap around the store in someone else's shoes.

"You should do this when buying shoes, whether you're second hand shopping, or not. Admittedly, I usually skip this when buying new shoes. I can get so excited when I find a pair I like that I just buy them, and after only a few steps, I find myself in pain. When buying shoes that have already been broken in by another person's feet, it is really important to test them out. Make sure the heel hasn’t worn down crookedly or that the shoes are still intact and there are no tears, rips, or stains on the inner lining. When you get the shoes home, give them a spray or wipe down with an antibacterial product. Especially if they are shoes where your feet will make direct contact."


If the garment is almost ,but just not quite right... DO NOT BUY IT!

"In the past, I have bought a couple of garments and said to myself, 'I can just shorten it/just take in/just replace the buttons,' and after months of procrastination, I end up donating it. Unless you have a proven track record of actually getting the garment altered, don’t fool yourself that you will."


Give yourself time and be patient.

"Unlike shopping in the mall (or online), where everything is catalogued and neatly sorted, a thrift shop can seem be an overwhelming experience. To me, that's the fun part. Looking for something I will like can become a hunt, but, humans evolved from being hunters - it’s in our blood! I pick a cart and load it up with as many things as I think might look good or fit well. Then, I take it to a change room and spend time thinking about each piece. Usually, cutting the pile down 4:1 is a good find ratio. Over time, I have gotten better at deciding what I really will wear and how to leave novel items behind. Now, I can spot good patterns and cuts just by the way a piece looks on the hanger. That only comes only with thrift practice, so get out there, and start hunting!"


To learn more about Born Solo Die Solo and shop the collection, click here:

Follow Born Solo Die Solo on Instagram: @bornsolodiesolo.

bottom of page