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This week’s Nifty Thrifty Lesson:

“Fabrics”

Fabrics are SO important when thrifting.  Since clothes at stores like Goodwill are generally all the same price (i.e. all short sleeved shirts are $3.99 or whatever) it’s important to be able to pick out clothing with high quality fabric that gets you the most for your money.  Plus, higher quality fabrics will last longer, look better longer, and generally just look better than lower quality fabrics!  I’ve been thrifting for so long that I can pick out a synthetic vs. cashmere sweater from across the room, but many people struggle with the difference.  Here are some tips about fabrics, as well as additional info from fabric.com.

Fabrics you should know-

Angora: a material usually in sweaters made out of rabbit fur.  Very soft and cosy.

Cashmere: THE MOST AMAZING SOFT YUMMY FABRIC EVER.  Usually sweaters are made out of it, but you can find it in capes, socks, and blankets too.  Made from goats…if you find something made from this material I would recommend just getting it.  It usually retails for no less than $100.

Chiffon: a light flowy (why is that not a word?) material that is usually used for women’s evening gowns and flowy tops.

Corduroy: a cotton fabric with piles.  Thicker and suitable for fall.  Makes great pants, jackets, and skirts.

Cotton: a great natural everyday fabric.  Just about every type of clothing has been made out of cotton.  It’s really easy to take care of and can come thicker or thinner.

Jersey: a knit fabric that usually makes up dresses and tops.  It’s casual, soft, and has a bit of stretch to it.

Leather: animal skin.  Obviously a huge topic of debate.  I do like leather, and if that offends you, I’m sorry.  Tends to be quite expensive so I would definitely check out any pieces you find that are leather.  Pieces that need to be fairly durable are usually leather: jackets, purses, wallets, and shoes.

Linen: another natural fabric that is a bit more flowy.  Sometimes has a ‘hippie’-ish feel to it.

Mohair: another goat hair fabric that’s soft and cosy and warm.  Sweaters, coats, suits and scarves are usually made out of it.  Also tends to be fairly expensive, but not nearly as expensive as cashmere.

Satin: shiny material usually used for women’s dresses and tops.  Tends to be quite cheap.

Silk: LOVE! Makes up almost any type of clothing and tends to be very expensive.  Some synthetic fabrics can mimic silk so it’s important to check to make sure it’s 100% silk (it will say so on the tag).  I love the feeling of silk and usually buy it when I find it.

Suede: a leather with a soft external feeling.  Can also be faux.  Usually shoes, jackets, and maybe pants.

Tweed: a woolen-y fabric that’s warm.  See the picture to the right!

Wool: we’ve already discussed several types of wool.  I personally don’t like wool besides cashmere because it makes me itchy, but it’s a great warm, waterproof, and heavy duty fabric.

Additional fabrics you should familiarize yourself with:

acrylic-manmade, soft and very washable
nylon-bathing suit type material, little ‘real’ clothing is made from nylon
polyester-often blended with natural fabrics, doesn’t wrinkle easily and is durable
rayon-often substituted for cotton, though it is manmade
spandex-stretchy, tight material used for workout clothes etc. but also found in jeans to give them stretch. LYCRA is a brand  name for spandex

My next tip is…

Be able to recognize a fabric by touch.

This way you won’t have to check the tag of each piece of clothing to find out what it’s made out of.  It takes some time, but it’s really worth it.  The way I shop is usually by flipping through each piece and feeling it to tell what it’s made out of.  Of course I pay attention to other things too, but fabric is a pretty big factor for me.  If I feel something that I like (silk, cashmere, etc.) I pull it out and inspect the other things about it like style, color, etc.

Always check for damaged fabric

Things that end up at thrift stores can be damaged.  Goodwill in particular does a pretty good job of keeping those things that are really ripped up and/or old out of the racks.  If things are damaged, they’ll usually be priced accordingly.  For example, I recently bought a pair of 7 For All Mankind jeans, which are usually marked up to around $15-20, for the ‘regular’ pants price of $7.99 because they had a pretty big tear.  You should always look every piece of clothing over for rips or tears.  If you can sew and love something, I would say buy it and fix it…otherwise, FORGET IT! It’ll sit in your closet and you’ll never get it repaired, never wear it, and end up having wasted your money.  Especially because some fabrics are really hard to fix, like denim.

Avoid fabrics that are really worn.

You can tell if a fabric is really worn (and therefore old/close to tearing itself) if the color is really faded, it’s pilling, or it feels super thin.  There’s no point in spending your money on these items.

Be aware of fabric care

Does it need to be dry cleaned?  Can you just throw it in the dryer?  Almost every piece of clothing will have a tag that explains the care required for it.  Sometimes it’s on the back of the size tag that’s on the back of the neck, and sometimes it’s on a tag closer to the bottom hem of the shirt (or whatever).  I recommend checking these out.  If getting something dry cleaned is going to be an issue for you, it may be better to skip it.  Sometimes it explains the required care in words, and sometimes in symbols.  Here is a chart!

So that’s the lesson on fabrics.  Did I miss anything?  Are there fabrics you wished I’d included in here?  Any tips?  Leave a comment!

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