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Lansing thrift guide: Where to go and what to get on a thrifting trip

November 11, 2021
<p>Reflection in a mirror of clothes on display at the vintage store Metro Retro in Old Town Lansing, MI on Nov. 9, 2021. </p>

Reflection in a mirror of clothes on display at the vintage store Metro Retro in Old Town Lansing, MI on Nov. 9, 2021.

Photo by Jillian Felton | The State News

With Thanksgiving in about three weeks, now is the time to start the hunt for the perfect holiday wardrobe. Lansing thrift stores are absolutely stuffed with sustainable, fashionable and affordable options to dress you for every holiday event. 

Fast fashion rules the trend cycle, pressuring consumers to purchase more and more to keep up with what’s in style. Prices are low, the quality is cheap and the clothing is often produced unsustainably or unethically. During the holidays, overconsumption is part of the celebration. 

This year, the pressure to be on trend is higher than ever — after a year and half of staying in and rocking loungewear, sequins, corsets, feathers and going all out is back in vogue. 

Keeping up with this pressure can be overwhelming — to wallets and the environment. Luckily, the thrift store is a sustainable way to stay on trend and to stay on a budget. 

There are a few things to keep in mind before hitting the thrift. First, shop in moderation. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean you need it. Bringing a few items to donate every time you thrift is a great way to manage your clothing!

Only buying what you love will leave you with a wardrobe full of clothes that make you feel good about yourself. Additionally, be conscious about what you're buying. Plus sizes can be harder to come by at the thrift store, so if you don’t wear those sizes, leave them for people who do. 

While shopping, there are a few things to keep an eye out for when looking for the perfect piece. First off, the fabric. This information is usually found on a little tag on the clothing. Natural fabrics like cotton, silk, wool and cashmere can be more expensive online or at the mall. However, these high quality fabrics are plentiful and affordable at the thrift.

Another thing to look at is the brand of the clothing. Fast fashion ends up at the thrift all the time, and if you’re looking for something on trend, buying fast fashion secondhand is a great idea. However, if you’re looking for durable classics, brands like Talbots and Levi’s can be great finds. If you’re lucky, you might even find something designer!

Lastly, double check the sizing, and try on your clothes before buying them! Sizing has never been standard, and you can’t always return your clothes to the thrift. Additionally, if you’re shopping vintage, the sizing chart is pretty far off than what we have today. 

St. Vincent De Paul

St. Vincent De Paul is a thrift store that supports charity in Lansing. All proceeds from the thrift store go back into helping the community. At the entrance, there’s a seasonal set up of home decor products that creates an instant homey feeling. 

There’s a decent section of the store devoted to furniture. If your couch was burned last weekend, you can grab a new one at St. Vincent’s for about 20-50 bucks. Wingback armchairs in velvet can be as low as $10, and desks and other furniture of solid wood are reasonably priced, as well. There’s plenty of holiday decor if you’re looking for pieces to add holiday cheer to your house or apartment. 

St. Vincent’s clothing section is organized by color and type of clothing. Clothing is priced individually. There’s a glorious array of clothes; I’ve never not found a piece I loved. The clothes I’ve seen there seem a little older. You won’t find too much discarded fast fashion, rather there’s a higher selection of older, higher quality, well-kept clothes. 

As the weather gets colder, St. Vincent’s has great outerwear options as well. There are beautiful trench coats, corduroy jackets and leather blazers. These range mostly between $10-20.

The best part about St. Vincent’s is their vintage section. There’s plenty of options and sizes, and vintage kids clothes, too. There’s gorgeous dresses, 80’s button ups and old uniform skirts. It’s perfect for sourcing statement pieces and costumes, as well. While most vintage resellers upsell their products, St. Vincent’s vintage is roughly the same pricing as the rest of their clothing depending on the brand. 

They have a few fitting rooms with mirrors if you decide to try things on and the workers are incredibly friendly. Prices are low, the quality and selection are amazing and your purchase goes to helping the community. 

St. Vincent’s is in the Reo Town neighborhood of Lansing. There’s several other cute shops on the street, including other thrift and antique stores. Good Truckin’ Diner across the street has some of the best breakfast in Lansing, and Blue Owl has a location on the street as well. It’s the perfect place to spend a morning thrifting. 

Plato’s Closet

Plato’s Closet is all about selling clothes that are currently on trend. Customers have the chance to sell their clothes to the store, earning cash back on their unwanted but stylish items. 

Throughout the store, there are themed displays of clothes. I’ve seen a cheetah print display, a 70’s display and there’s almost always a rack full of MSU apparel. Clothing is sorted by size and by color, and clothes are priced individually. 

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Pricing at Plato’s Closet is based on the brand of the item. You might see a trendier item for a low price from Shein, or a more outdated but expensive item from Free People. I find this pricing to be hit or miss. 

Sometimes, you can find some amazing deals on stylish clothing that’s barely been worn. However, there’s a lot of clothing at Plato’s that, in my opinion, is much too expensive for what it is. Heavily used or outdated clothing that you might find at a standard thrift store for much cheaper can be extremely overpriced at Plato’s if it’s the right brand.

Additionally, while they do have a lot of trendy, fashionable pieces to choose from, there’s even more clothing filling the racks that feels a bit outdated. Plato’s has plenty of fitting rooms, a seven-day return policy and a text rewards system that lets you earn points for your purchases. 

One of my favorite aspects of Plato’s is their Instagram account. There, they post several articles of clothing daily, and those clothes go up on their online store for purchase. The instagram pieces are usually styled into an outfit, giving followers an idea of how to wear some of their more unique finds. 

Through the account, followers don’t need to spend time and effort sifting through every piece of clothing on the racks, eliminating one of the main drawbacks of thrift shopping. 

Overall, Plato’s Closet is perfect if you’re looking for secondhand clothing that’s on trend. You’ll be able to find stylish pieces for much cheaper than you’d find online, or in the mall, and you’re recycling clothes in the process. Selling your clothes is a great way to keep them out of landfills, and to get some spending money in the process. 

Volunteers of America

There are two Volunteers of America locations in Lansing. Both of them have overwhelmingly large clothing selections, and I’ve rarely left without a find. 

VOA has furniture and decor, but I think their clothing section is what’s worth spending time in. There’s plenty of vintage if you look for it, though it isn’t separated out the way that St. Vincent’s is. 

The racks are color coded, but not size organized. They’re categorized by type of clothing, and pieces are individually priced. Tags are also color coded, and each day a different tag color goes on sale. To get the most bang for your buck, shopping the sale tags is the way to go. A $10 leather jacket could be $3.25, and a $3 shirt could ring up to be less than a dollar. Every last Tuesday of the month, the whole store is 50% off. 

You definitely have to be in the right state of mind before heading to Volunteers of America, because it can feel like an alternate universe, and thus the perfect place to get into the thrifting zone. The Cedar Street location is packed with some of the coolest finds I’ve seen, and it takes a while to look through everything. I’d suggest going into the store with about an hour or two to spare. The other location is absolutely massive, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to look through everything. If you take your time to look around, you’ll definitely walk out with something totally unique. 

Personally, my favorite section is the women’s short sleeve printed button downs. There’s so many prints, colors, textures and sizes. They’re no more than $3, and perfect to throw on over a bikini in the summer, or a turtleneck in the winter. 

There are a few fitting rooms, unique finds and it’s another thrift store that donates back to the community. 

Metro Retro

Metro Retro makes you feel like you’re a New York City Tik Tok influencer showing off their neighborhood thrift. It’s fun, it’s funky, it’s progressive, it’s… a little expensive. But, for curated vintage pieces that are one of a kind and good quality, it’s worth the extra money. 

If you have a theme party to attend, Metro Retro is a go-to. For a Studio 54-themed party, Metro Retro had the Elton John look of our dreams. For a monochromatic cowboy theme, they had the perfect glitzy blue dress. 

Metro Retro has racks of beautiful vintage dresses, reminiscent of something Jess Day would wear on ‘New Girl.’ Precious patterns, soft cottons and classic cuts are easy finds at this thrift store. 

If you’re on the hunt for designer on a budget, Metro Retro should be your first stop in Lansing. The last time I went, they had timeless Christian Dior neckties for $30, the perfect gift for the Gossip Girl lover in your life, or perhaps your dad. 

Metro Retro is not a large space, so it’s easy to take your time looking through their clothes. In addition to clothes, they have a bunch of fun and eclectic jewelry, posters and other knick-knacks. 

While Metro Retro is more expensive than a standard thrift store like VOA or St. Vincent, it’s still more affordable than many vintage stores online. Metro Retro has a fitting room, behind the counter. It’s an absolutely adorable space, right in the middle of Old Town Lansing. There’s an art supply store across the street, and plenty of cute restaurants if you’d want to spend an afternoon thrifting. 

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