Writer Krista Montelpare recounts a recent thrift-by-the-pound sale on the East Coast — and shares three tips for anyone heading to score bulk secondhand buys at similar by-the-pound events
I recently visited the By The Pound Pop Up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. For thrifty shoppers, this is a holy grail event, and one unique to the area.
During a successful first of hopefully many events to come, bargain hunters arrived in droves to search through the piles of secondhand clothing, heaped high on tables, and absent of price tags.
With 3,000 pounds of unsorted clothing carted in from a Canadian supplier, shoppers could purchase any assortment of items — from vintage gems to classic staples — for only $5.99 per pound. To sweeten the deal, the pair also invited individuals at the checkout counter to spin a “Wheel of Deals” to receive a further discount on purchases. (I personally hit the proverbial jackpot with an additional 20 per cent off my basket of goodies.)
No strangers to vintage and secondhand events — Milway hosts The Curio Collective, a large, multi-day, multi-vendor vintage and antique show, and Genge is organizer of The Great Halifax Clothing Swap — the pair married their interests perfectly with The By The Pound Pop Up with sustainable, secondhand, and vintage clothing providing an ideal complement to the need for affordable fashion.
The onsite excitement was palpable for attendees and organizers alike. Ahead of the event, Milway highlighted that the clothing bales were arriving sight unseen, the day of the pop-up. “We truly don't know what to expect! That's the excitement of it! We expect to have a true mix of something for everyone,” she said.
This dynamic contributed to a sense of anticipation for anxious shoppers who joined the lineup prior to the doors opening on the morning of the pop-up.
Here are three things I learned from my first wholesale clothing pop-up:
Unlike estate sales or markets where lining up helps to secure a first look at the items and thus first dibs on the most sought-after purchases, thrift-by-the-pound events follow a different setup.
By virtue of the volume of stock available, expect ongoing replenishment of clothing piles. It’s a logistical necessity but also offers the benefit that repeat or late-arriving customers can arrive to find new stacks to explore, and enjoy an ever-evolving shopping experience.
My thrifting partner and I made it over to By The Pound Pop Up by mid afternoon and each found an armload of great pieces.
“Just try it on.” Let this become your thrifting mantra. Repeat it to yourself each time your eye is drawn to an item that might be labelled differently than what you normally search for on the rack.
If the setup offers clothing grouped by size and gender as an approach to allow for ease of digging, it’s more than okay to search any and all inventory. Rolling up our sleeves to sift is part of the fun of a clothing treasure hunt.
Plus, perusing all the piles at a by-the-pound event means more opportunities to stretch your clothing comfort zone with little risk to your pocketbook.
Often, even without designated change rooms, seasoned thrifters hold no shame with a public dress fitting (and nor should they). Finding a mirror in the space should be adequate enough to slip on a shirt or dress over clothes to get a sense of sizing.
If you’re unsure about what your haul might add up to, By The Pound Pop Up has a loose weight guide template that can give you an idea of weight to keep in mind, regardless of what the per pound price might be.
For example, a T-shirt weighs approximately 0.4 pounds, while a pair of adult jeans are around 1.5 pounds. Heavier items like boots or winter gear might be as high as four pounds or so.
That being said, a piece that is of a thicker or higher quality might increase the price slightly, but it’s likely worth it.
I snagged some GAP pyjama pants, a vintage blue dress, and a pile of baby clothes for my niece, which were all light and inexpensive.
My pièce de résistance was tea length black 100% wool L. L. Bean skirt, significantly heavier than, say, cotton or linen. My friend graciously handed it over when she caught sight of the unbridled envy scrawled across my face. Well worth paying slightly more.
If you have the opportunity to attend either the By The Pound Pop Up event or similar by-the-pound thrifting pop-ups in your area, whether you are a novice shopper or seasoned searcher, definitely check it out.
Pop-up events exemplify thrifters' passion for sustainable style and the importance of outside-the-box opportunities to shop secondhand.
Krista Montelpare is a freelance writer based in Nova Scotia and the founder of vintage shop Cellary.