Reader Request: Researching Thrifted Items

researching thrift store brands

Reader Susan had this fantastic question:

How do you go about finding information on thrifted items that seem to have come from nowhere? About a month ago, I thrifted the most wonderful pair of black leggings/slim pants, and I would love to get another pair … but Google as I may, I can’t track down any information about the brand or where it might be sold. The label inside the pants reads “Schmattas 18+”, and that brings up exactly nothing useful in an online search. (At least, I think that’s what it says. What I read as “schmattas” is in some kind of less-than-totally clear font.) The size and care tags are still there, but don’t have any information other than what you’d expect.

I’m not asking you to do my research for me, but if you have any thoughts on how to go about tracking down this kind of information, I’d love to hear them.

I have been in the same boat! Definitely scored a few fabulous thrift store finds from brands that are now defunct – I still find garments from Petite Sophisticate, which went under more than a decade ago – or from small brands that never bothered to establish a web presence. And even in our uber-connected day and age, it can be hard to unearth any helpful details.

Aside from Googling your little heart out, I’d say your main options are to post a photo of the clothing tag to social media and see if it rings any bells within your network, or take the garment to a local tailor to see if she/he recognizes it. Might sound silly, but let me tell you, the depth and breadth of people’s clothing-related knowledge can surprise you. Especially if you hit on a brand that was someone else’s fave back in the day.

You can also poke around eBay and Etsy, where vendors may bury brand names deep in their listings. Google will pull these listings on occasion, but you’ll often have more luck going right to the vendor site. Especially if you have fallen in love with a brand and are hoping to find more garments.

Finally, you can try posting a question to the Vintage Fashion Guild forum or Styleforum’s vintage clothing and accessories thread. You might luck out and connect with a friendly expert who can point you toward more items from the same brand!

Anyone else come up against a mysterious thrifted brand? Tips for researching you’d share with Susan and the rest of us?

Image courtesy Steven Depolo

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3 Responses to “Reader Request: Researching Thrifted Items”

  1. Helen Maciejewski

    it’s also helpful to be able to go beyond a label. Get to know what fabrics you like, what wears and launders well and add to that a bit of knowledge about construction techniques and you can tell quality without knowing the label.

  2. Splomo

    Garments/textiles sold in the US are required to have a label that specifies country of origin, constituent fibers, care instructions, size, and helpfully, a registered ID number that corresponds to the manufacturer or retailer. It’s usually shown as “R/N NNNNN” (five digits). I often whip out my phone in the dressing room at my consignment stores to look up the retailer where the piece was originally sold, especially if I don’t recognize or cannot read the logo, or suspect it’s a designer piece. Good luck!

    Link to official FTC lookup form: https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/textilern/wrnquery$.startup