A “thrift” shopping guide to Philadelphia

Karin Nastawa

It’s new. It’s old. It’s a new-old shirt! Just past Jim’s Steaks on South Street there is a small vintage shop with fluorescent colors splattering the storefront. Inside you’ll find racks filled with the newest fashion craze: t-shirts with old baseball, football, little league and soccer shirts from school and recreation teams around the Philadelphia area.

Cluttered in the back are carefully selected “used” coats, sweaters, skirts and pants, all for marked-up prices. This is just one of Philadelphia’s many vintage shops.

“Vintage” is a term normally misunderstood associated with thrift. However, there is a big difference. So what is that difference, you ask? A vintage shop carries an array of used clothing, some designer labels, some unknown, but all items have been worn and given away only to reappear with a price tag twice the original paid price. Apparently there is a mark-up because the clothing has already been worn. My advice: buy something new at a lower price, lend it to your roommate, have them wear it for a year or so and voila, vintage!

Thrift stores, carry clothing similar to vintage stores, but at much cheaper prices. For example, a few weeks ago, while shopping with my roommate in West Philly, I happened to find a brand new, tags-still-on, Ann Taylor sweater for $3. Three dollars can get you a few beers at happy hour, two slices of pizza or your very own Villanova University pen, but certainly not a sweater … unless you’re at a thrift store. At that same thrift store, I picked up another sweater with a tag still on it from another popular South Street vintage shop. The price tag from the vintage store read $16, but at the thrift store, I was only charged $2.

On the negative side, if you require neat racks and organized sizes, then you should not shop in a thrift store. They are unorganized and quite chaotic. For those who don’t mind bargain hunting and scavenging through haphazardly displayed racks, then there are endless deals at your fingertips.

In the surrounding Philadelphia area, there are countless Salvation Armies, Goodwills and other thrift stores that carry these vintage items, significant savings over vintage shop or purchased new.

For those who are looking for original, trendy, goofy, classic or different clothing, surrounding Philadelphia area thrift shops may just be the new King of Prussia Mall.