Thrifting for Trends: Fall/Winter 2012 Edition

I know, I know, it’s still feels like summer in many places. For now. But if you’ve walked into a mall or clicked onto a clothing vendor website recently, you may have noticed that it’s practically Christmas in Retail Land. And besides, if you’re gonna shop for a season, better to do so in advance, am I right? OK, enough caveats.

It’s time, once again, to examine the hot “new” trends for the season, and remind ourselves that fashion recycles EVERYTHING! Here are just a few of the garments, colors, and styles that are trending for fall and winter that you can easily track down at your local thrift and consignment shops:

Bordeaux / Maroon / Burgundy

You’re gonna have to fight me for any thriftable items in this color family. I’ve got a few pieces in my wardrobe, and they get near-constant wear during the cold months. Dark reds are incredibly versatile and work beautifully with neutrals, brighter reds and oranges, navy, pinks, magenta, hunter green … I could go on. As is the case with all color trends, this one will be among the easiest to thrift!


Eeesh. When is military NOT trending? Still, if you’re still searching for that perfect pair of slouchy cargos or ideal military jacket, hit up the charity shops this season. My own military blazer is one of my thrifted staples, and gets year-round wear.


This one may vary a bit by region, but around here everything from snap-front shirts to cowgirl boots can be found at thrift stores. Western-themed items have been trendy for many years, so if regular thrift stores fail you consider hip vintage shops. Prices might be higher than thrift, but they’ll likely be lower than brand new items. AND many vintage pieces were made in a time before fast fashion existed, so they’ll be durable. Look for belts, coats, boots, and shirts with Southwestern accents.

Winter White

From what I’m reading and seeing, this trend could just be “white.” Winter white is an off-white, but designers showed everything from bright white to ivory to cream on the FW12 runways and retailers are following suit. White tops are generally considered to be game in all seasons, but now white blazers, pants, skirts, dresses, and shoes are being shoved beyond the traditional Labor Day cutoff. Again, color trends? Ever so thriftable. Thrift stores are generally lousy with white items – especially non-tops – and minor discoloration can easily be bleached into perfection.


Most of the leather clothing I’ve seen in thrift stores is black, which is perfectly aligned with the dark, modern looks that hit the runways. Black leather pencil skirts, black leather pants, and leather jackets in a variety of hues are generally available in most secondhand and consignment shops. If you’re jonesing for some leather for fall and winter, hit a few thrift shops first!

Sheath dresses

Sheath dresses are the main dress style available in MY local thrift haunts. Many of them are 10+ years old, but sheaths are a classic style that hasn’t mutated all that much over the years, so a 13-year-old dress will look nearly as current as a present-day dress. Especially if accessorized in with modern pieces. Before you plunk down for a brand new sheath, check the racks at a nearby charity shop.

What trendy items will YOU thrift for this season?

Images courtesy (Calvin Klein, Chloe, Burberry Prorsum)

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19 Responses to “Thrifting for Trends: Fall/Winter 2012 Edition”

  1. Cheryl

    Sal, thank you for this. It’s a great reminder that you don’t have to spend a lot to look great. I especially appreciate your comment that items that were made prior to fast fashion can be durable. As for what trendy items I look for when thrifting, I get pleasure from thumbing my nose at the dictatorial nature of the fashion industry by not taking part. I understand that many people do enjoy the trends, and there’s nothing like scoring what you want for just a few bucks.

  2. Sara

    I’m loving the trends this season. Sheath dresses never seem to go out of style and leather pencil skirts…yes please!

  3. E B Snare

    Great article and much-needed – as soon as the new season hits it’s all ‘buy buy buy’ so this is refreshing! I completed a series of trend reports today on my blog where I shopped my wardrobe for autumn trends, including berry and military ( Just wish that more bloggers would look at thrifting, second hand and their own wardrobe for new trends, instead of new purchases straight away.


  4. Liz

    Today I am wearing plaid sheath dress (with leggings because it was chilly this morning) I thrifted a few years ago. Who knew I was so trendy? Plaid seems to be another fall “trend” that never really goes out of style.

  5. JetSetShopper

    I love the IDEA of thrifting but then I go into a thrift store, get a whiff of that musty, old-lady smell and I just can’t!

    • Chris

      That’s the thrift store smell, not particularly an old lady smell. Saying that is not kind or sensitive. Do you tell fat females they have that fat girl smell? Do you tell Italians they always smell like garlic? I doubt it. So why pick on older people? A person’s smell is affected by many things and health is a big one. Have you been around young people who are very ill? They do not smell very good. How about addicts? They often smell awful. How they smell is not high on their list. Old people who do not smoke, do bathe and wash their clothes often, do not drench themselves in cheap scents, and are healthy, do not have a bad smell.

      I suppose ageism will be the last ism to go…

      • anony

        We all know that smell and it is not called “thrift store smell.” I think calling it old lady smell is a very clear way to describe the scent of a thrift store. Most of us know what that smells like. Shouldn’t people be able to use an expression without being accused of age-ism?

        • Chris

          Thrift store smell is what it is regardless of what is the common phrase for it.Think about what the phrase is actually saying. The woman smells awful because she is old. That is not a nice thing to say.

          I don’t go along with everything that falls under political correctness. However, I am not in favor of statements that perpetuate stereotypes and are hurtful. Such comments may be perfectly fine between friends who know and understand each other. But I don’t think they come across very well in a public forum where most participants are unknown to each other.

          BTW, I don’t like the smell in thrift stores either but I will put up with it for the amazing deals I find. I once found a genuine US Navy Men’s heavy 100% wool pea coat. It fit me. It was $4.00. A dry cleaner got the smell out and I have had a fabulous, warm coat for many years now.

  6. Megan Mae

    I love thrifting, but unlike some other commenters – I wish it was a little less popular these days. I’ve seen my favorite thrift store go from goldmine to slimpickings in just a couple of years. I did buy a pair of burgundy boots in anticipation of fall, but they weren’t thrifted and it wasn’t an intentional trend purchase. I think I’ll be shopping my closet more this fall since many of these trends are reruns of past seasons.

  7. Margeax Batts

    I think thrifted leather pants or skirts are tricky–so often they’re stretched out and fit oddly. I think consignment stores are a better bet than out and out thrift-stores, at least here in LA.

  8. Frenchie

    I’ve been looking for a solid navy and a solid brown shift dress. I have over 20 of them in my closet already–mostly patterned (dots, checks, swirls, etc.) and a few solids. I wanted a navy and a brown for their versatility. When I couldn’t find them (in my size–arrgh), I bought fabric (half-price) and am making them–for about $21 each.

    A trend I love come the fall is tartan. I married a Scot, but even before meeting him, I had a love for that classic Black Stewart tartan. Sigh…

    And judging by my collection of scarves–mostly thrifted–I can’t get enough of them! So versatile and so cozy when it’s cold.

  9. Trystan

    I recently spent a week at the beach on vacay, &, as is my tradition, I brought a stack of the latest fashion mags for perusing. In addition to these trends, I also noticed purple, baroque/damask/jacquard prints, & blingy accessories (jewelry, belts, bags) as being tres haute according to those on high.

    Definitely, purple is easy to thrift, & sparkly things can be too. I think the prints may be the hardest one, but then again, it’s also the trend of all these that I haven’t seen filter down to ready-to-wear much either (which is a pity, bec. I adore that type of fabric!).

  10. Christa

    I was at Saver’s today for the sale and bought some good trend items and other fun stuff! I love thrift shopping and even the “smell”.

  11. Angela

    I’m pretty immune to the “ick” factor that some people have about thrifting. I thrift scarves, shoes, even slips. But there’s something about thrifting leather that makes me feel weirded out. The practicality of buying secondhand leather clothing is not lost on me–it’s often one of the best bargains in the whole thrift store since leather clothing is soooo expensive when it’s new–but despite the appeal of the huge savings, I still feel “ick” about it. Do you take all of your thrifted leather pieces to be professionally cleaned before you wear them? Is it expensive? Can it harm the leather? I think I’d feel better about it after getting it cleaned, but I find the cost of cleaning to be rather prohibitive.

  12. Sara

    I was in a thrift store the other day and am still kicking myself because I passed up two items because the line was ridiculously long – one was a white jacket and the other was a plaid sheath dress. Guess where I am heading today? Hoping they are still there! I haven’t found any “good” leather pieces yet – never any in my size – but I continue to look since I know eventually something will show up! Great post!

  13. Cindy p

    I’m an avid thrift shopper. I love it! Love everything about it, its the thrill of the hunt. Actually, the more grungy it is , the better for me. Its like, I’m sure to find some diamonds in the rough, b/c other people thinks its too dingy to shope in these places. Fine stay away, more for me to buy!!!!! I have this one thrift shoppe near my house that I go to at least every day or every other day. I find some awesome things. Its a small store and it takes me no time to run in and scan the place for some really good deals. I find alot of vintage clothes in there, nice vintage, I must add. Also , it was more shoppers in the shoppe today than usual . What were those people doing in my store!? I’m a thrifter for life!!!!!!!!!