A few weeks ago, I proposed an idea to a few members of the StyleCaster team: Hit a bunch of local thrift stores and find the coolest piece of denim you can—one that lines up with your personal style, one that works with other stuff you own, and one that’s as cheap as possible. (As I put it in my initial email: “NO fancy ‘vintage’ stores—straight-up thrift, like Salvation Army, Goodwill, church charity shops, whatever.”)
Selfishly, I was particularly excited for this challenge. Not only is my idea of a good time ransacking every used-clothing store I come across, but at work, we’re aways infusing our content with the idea that individuality is the key to style and how you wear things is more important than how much you spent on them. Sure, we’re all for releasing your inner sybarite from time to time—there’s nothing better than treating yourself to a piece by a designer you truly love, that you know you’re going to proudly use for years to come—but we’re also pro-accessibility in a big, big way.
Our editors–each of whom has a distinct style—were also psyched about this project, and they aced it like I knew they would. There weren’t any restrictions in terms of what the denim had to be: jeans, jackets, shorts, skirts, shirts—hell, even jean cowboy hats reminiscent of Justin Timberlake‘s Great Denim Incident of 2001 were fair game if someone found one. (Spoiler alert: No one did.)
Keep reading to see what we unearthed, how much we paid (every piece turned out to be under $20), and how we chose to style our finds—hopefully this will inspire you to hightail it to your local thrift store this weekend and find a few cool pieces that cost less than the brunch you probably had first.
And, if you haven’t read our other fantastic denim-related content that went up this week (tsk, tsk), why not do it now?
Stylist: Courtney Raniszewski
Makeup: Joanna Simkin
Hair: Evanie for Bumble and Bumble
Keep reading to see what happened when five StyleCaster staffers were sent out into the wild with one specific order: Do not return without a piece of thrift store denim.
Perrie Samotin, Site Director
Item: Express jeans from the '90s
From: The Salvation Army in Manhattan's Midtown West
My idea of a good time is thrift store shopping, so I thought I had this challenge on lock. Then I got to my favorite Salvation Army outpost and realized thrifting under pressure is hard—especially in a store that doesn't have a dressing room.
After shimmying into about 26 pairs of jeans—over the ones I was already wearing—I took a chance on some light-wash, slightly high-waist cropped flares from Express that were so '90s, I'm pretty sure I owned them back in the day.
Here, we styled them with a $28 ribbed Topshop turtleneck and my new gorgeous THP faux fur coat, but I've already worn them three times since the shoot: once with a vintage tee tucked in and sneakers, once with a crew neck knit and the cowboy boots you see here, and once on a Saturday night with a cropped beaded jacket (also from a thrift store!) and a pair of ankle-strap platforms. So, yeah, a pretty good use of $7.
Jasmine Garnsworthy, Editor
Item: Denim jacket
From: Beacon's Closet in Manhattan's Greenwich Village
I’m not really the kind of girl you'll find digging through the racks in thrift stores—I’m all for a bargain, but I usually hunt one down elsewhere. So this challenge was approached with a level of skepticism.
My first stop was a Salvation Army store in Sydney, Australia, where I'd been vacationing. After trying to squeeze into a too-small pair of beautiful, vintage Levi’s—and failing—I left disappointed, as though my cynicism was completely justified.
Round two, however, was successful. Within minutes of walking into Beacon’s Closet back in New York City, I spied a perfectly distressed, faded denim jacket—on the men’s rack, no less. I didn’t even bother trying it on; I spotted the $18.95 price tag, grabbed the piece, and made a beeline for the checkout counter. What a find, right?
Topshop High-Waisted Checkered Skirt, $60; Aritzia Wilfred Huet T-shirt, $55
Rachel Krause, Beauty Editor
Item: Short-sleeve denim shirt
From: Beacon's Closet in Park Slope, Brooklyn
I’m not great at shopping in stores, nor do I particularly love denim on me (I’ve been rotating between the same two pairs of black jeans for about three years), so I was surprised to find a piece that I actually liked—and a shirt, of all things.
I tried on just about every denim jacket and pair of jeans at Beacon’s Closet and hated all of them. Then I found this super-soft Everlane button-up for $14.95. It’s boxy, but I like the way it hangs when it’s tucked into a waistband, and I have the option of wearing it open over dresses too.
It may not be old, but an Everlane top for $14.95 is still a find.
Cady Lang, Social Media Editor
Item: Men's mechanic overalls
From: Urban Jungle in Bushwick, Brooklyn
My wardrobe is basically a seasonal rotation of rompers, dresses, overalls, and jumpsuits. That said, since high school, I’ve been on the hunt for a pair of coveralls, which are basically the OG of one-pieces. Not just any coveralls either: a men’s pair of denim mechanics coveralls. I’d already invested in a “fashion” pair of coveralls cut for a woman, which, much to my dismay, didn’t have the utilitarian, menswear feel that I wanted.
Surveys of my favorite vintage haunts proved fruitless or very, very expensive. I had nearly given up hope of finding a pair of the coveralls I envisioned and had wanly bookmarked a beautiful (but pricey) pair of khaki workman’s coveralls from a vintage Etsy shop, when I happened upon this mechanic’s suit while thrifting in Bushwick.
I dropped the armful of Rocawear jackets and vintage tees I had been hoarding and immediately tried it on. It was perfectly oversize, baggy, and tomboy-ish—all my coverall dreams come true!
True story: I wore it out of store. By far the best $8 I've ever spent.
Cady's coverall dreams came true with this bad boy.
Drew Tillman, Senior Branded Content Manager
Item: Denim tie
From: Monk Thrift in Manhattan's East Village
I thought that finding an interesting piece of denim would be a breeze. It wasn’t. Of course you have to dig to find what you’re looking for at a thrift store, but I quickly realized that the men’s sections are surprisingly small in comparison to what women have available. So after visiting seven stores—East Village; Upper West Side; even Princeton, New Jersey—I finally stumbled into Monk.
It’s a tightly packed little downtown cove with unique clothing and knickknacks where I found not one but two awesome denim ties I can easily wear in a professional or casual setting to give my outfit a little flare (insert emoji of the girl with her arm up and her wrist bent).
A closer look at Drew's $10 tie.