As landfills grow and budgets shrink, many of the world’s conscientious and savvy citizens have turned to thrift shopping as a means for acquiring clothing, furniture, books, and décor. While thrifting has been growing in popularity recently, I’m proud to say buying second-hand items has been a hobby of mine since my early teenage years.
As a professional singer, I’ve found my long-held thrifting skills to be an incredibly useful asset. If you’re a working musician, chances are you have to stick to a tight budget just like me. (Nobody goes into the classical music industry to get rich, after all.) While most things I buy these days come from second-hand stores, there are a few particular items I regularly need as a singer that I especially reserve for thrift store shopping only. If you’re a singer who’s new to thrifting, here’s a list of six items you always want to be on the lookout for when you visit your local thrift store:
Concert Black Look in the closet of any working musician, and you will find a vast array of black clothing for all seasons, styles, and occasions. When I go thrifting, I always keep my eye out for great concert black pieces. Make sure to think outside the box when filling in the gaps of your concert black wardrobe. Maybe you don’t need another dress or pair of black slacks, but how about a black sweater you can layer for spring and fall gigs? Or a stylish black jumpsuit? Don’t shy away from interesting pieces you find. Try on that black cloche, those extravagant, silk opera gloves, or those menswear-inspired black oxfords. Thrift stores are the perfect place to be bold and experiment with your personal style. The lower prices allow you to try some things out without making too much of an investment.
Scarves Singers love their scarves. They keep our throats cozy and warm and can add the perfect amount of dramatic flair we are always craving. Thrift stores are a wonderful place to supplement your scarf collection. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment a little, even with something as simple as scarves. Rather than sticking to your tried-and-true blanket scarf approach, try a classic European look with a silk neckerchief. Pro tip: While Goodwill’s prices have gone up in recent years, most locations still sell scarves for only $0.99. Every time I visit a Goodwill, I always head straight for the scarf rack.
Jewelry Did I mention the singer’s penchant for dramatic flair? Jewelry can be one of the main ways we physically express our artistic style. I find some of my favorite pieces of jewelry at thrift stores, and I save so much money doing it! Another pro tip: invest in some quality jewelry cleaner so that you can restore and sanitize any fabulous second-hand pieces you find.
Concert Gowns Never have I ever bought a full-length concert gown from a retail store, and I get to save a hefty portion of my concert fee because of it! Whenever I go thrifting, I always search the dress racks for concert-appropriate gowns. If you have a special passion for the golden age of opera and vintage fashion, this can be the perfect way to find concert attire you both adore and can afford.
Scores Don’t forget to check out the book section when thrifting as well. While this clotheshorse can more typically be found searching for a great outfit, my mom loves shopping for used books, and she’s always bringing me anthologies and music books she found for $0.50 or less. One of her recent great finds was an anthology of Grieg Lieder for soprano. One day, some lucky student of mine will find herself an expert on Grieg vocal literature!
Trends Thrifting 101: never buy the latest fashion fads from retail stores. If you want to try out a new trend, wait a hot second for it to show up in the thrift stores. Also, trends tend to recycle themselves. There’s not much showing up in fashion that hasn’t appeared in a previous decade. Chances are, you can already find a vintage version of whatever trend has resurfaced. Paying top dollar for trends that will come and go in the blink of an eye wastes both money and our planet’s precious resources. While this advice applies to every thrift shopper, it is especially important for working musicians to take note of. We often deal with smaller budgets, but that shouldn’t mean we have to miss out on fashion trends that interest us. We just have to be smarter about it.
There you have it! My definitive list of items every singer should thrift rather than buy retail. Are there any other things you regularly thrift as a singer you think should be added to this list? I’d love to hear in the comments.