Goodwill hunting – a thrift fashionista success story

Goodwill hunting – a thrift fashionista success story

The average woman has 19 pairs of shoes at any given time. She wears four pairs regularly and will spend $25,000 on shoes in her lifetime.

Traci Goff, 26, has 60 pairs.

“Wait, maybe 50,” she said doubting her initial estimate. “Well, some are seasonal!”

Known to be a fashion maven throughout the Current Publishing office where she’s a graphic designer, her 5-foot 21?2-inch frame will rock a pencil skirt and a white button-down shirt one day and a layered, bohemian look the next.

“Style is a personal expression of who you are,” Goff said.

Her style is not influenced by celebrities or television, with the exception of AMC’s “Mad Men.”

“I love the 1950s style that’s coming back. Women looked put together then. They were so classy, and the cuts of the clothes they wore were really nice. I think for my body type, it’s really flattering,” Goff said.

Besides pencil and A-line skirts, layers and skinny jeans also work well with her body type. She likes bright, bold colors, too. While she is trendy, especially enjoying bohemian style, she won’t wear a trend unless it works with her shape.

Fashion blogs and people-watching dictate her style more than Peggy and Joan. Goff first discovered the style blog Sweeter Salt and branched out from there, regularly reading other blogs she found, including My Edit, My Style Pill, Atlantic Pacific, Kendi Everyday, District of Chic, Saucy Glossie, Cupcakes & Cashmere, What I Wore, Late Afternoon, Sterling Style and Fore Front Fashion, which she was featured in.

After much thought, Goff can’t pick a favorite outfit. “What I really like is being able to shop in my own closet and come up with different things,” she said.

She does have a favorite piece in her collection: a pair of brown, knee-high, lace-up boots with gold pegs that she loves because of their versatility. When asked where she got the boots, she pauses, smiles and said, “They’re from Goodwill. I bought them six years ago for $7.99.

“Everything is just such a steal,” she said.

She shops at the Goodwill in Windham, near her house. She goes a few times a week to shop and tries to bring unwanted clothes once a month. Growing up, she shopped at the Gap and Old Navy, but was inspired to try Goodwill from her thrifty aunt, who shopped there regularly.

“I started going six or seven years ago and found more with each trip. I’d walk out with a bag of name-brand clothes for $30. I feel smart because I can buy so much for so little and still look cute,” Goff said. “I don’t think anyone ever said, ‘Oh, that looks like it comes from Goodwill,’ ever.”

She cautions that patience is key for a Goodwill trip. It’s not like a department store where you can go in and find a specific thing. “It takes a while, you have to poke through. I always go in with an open mind and about 21?2 hours.”

She starts in the shirts, then hits the sweaters, pants and dresses.

“Actually, that’s a lie,” she said with a smile, “I go to shoes first.”

Her strategy includes grabbing many items that might fit and then trying them all on to see what works. She looks at her favorite fashion blogs before she heads out, observing styles that she likes, hoping to be able to pick up something similar at Goodwill.

Goff has a few tips for the novice thrift-store shopper: Don’t get overwhelmed, and grab anything that catches the eye, regardless of size. Sizes of the past don’t always correlate with sizes of today and anything can be altered by a professional or by adding a belt to anything oversized.

“For a dress at $4.99, even if I only wear it once or twice I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth,” Goff said.

Since she shops almost exclusively at Goodwill, the economy hasn’t affected her style too much.

Through her friend, Laura Serino, author of the blog Fore Front Fashion, Goff heard about Swap Maine, a clothing swap in Portland that recently held its second swap. It’s the brainchild of Portland-based bloggers, where participants bring a bag of unwanted clothes and swap them for a brand new bag filled with others’ unwanted duds. Anything left behind is donated to Goodwill.

This was Goff’s first year participating. She described the scene as hectic and crowded, but with lots of like-minded people, primarily women, similar in age and economic status in attendance. Goff’s mom, Robin, brought brownies, which allowed the pair to get into the swap for free. Inside the event, it was a free-for-all. Their strategy involved Robin holding up an item from the giant laundry bins and Traci nodding her head yes or pinching her face no. Goff left with two pairs of pants, a sweater, blazer and a scarf.

“It was exciting to see people with similar style, who like to thrift. I could grab things they had but didn’t want anymore. I’ll definitely go back again next year.”

Besides her large shoe collection, paired neatly in three long rows on the floor, her closet is color-coded, a task done by her sister Cori.

“It works,” she said “It’s easier to put things together, especially during the week.”

When she has more time, she blasts music, pours a glass of wine and creates impromptu fashion shows for her boyfriend, Chris. She challenges herself to go shopping in her closet and come up with different combinations of clothes and accessories.

“I’ll decide on one thing I want to wear and work around that. I’ve found that you can mix together whatever you want and that’s your own style. As long as you like it, I don’t think it matters.

“Every day is an opportunity to wear something fun and look good. I do it for myself, because I like it and it looks good and I feel good.”

She describes her style in three words: classy, thrifty and fun. She defines the last word as not taking yourself too seriously and putting patterns together that don’t traditionally go with one another, like stripes with a leopard print or polka dots

“Who said you can’t wear pink and red together? You can make it work,” Goff said.

And she believes in white after Labor Day.

Her creativity also translates into vegan cooking and crafting homemade cards. She hopes to expand her sewing skills past hemming and finally use all the dress patterns she’s been saving.

All this thrift talk got me thinking: I’d like to see this style maven and budget fashionista in action, so I made her take me to Goodwill in Windham after our interview.

A little less conversation, a little more action, right?

She went into Goff Goodwill mode: focused, pacing evenly and thoroughly perusing each rack and shelf. It took her about 45 minutes to browse the entire inventory and then she was ready to try on the half-dozen items.

She popped her head out of the dressing room, wearing a strappy green dress. With a quick spin and a smile she said, “I’m wearing this to work tomorrow.”

A new pair of brown boots, a book, plus the aforementioned dress, cost $12 – though her Goodwill saving card (annual cost $15 that, in exchange, takes 10 percent off every order) took the price down to $11.

A good deal, but where the (expletive) is she going to fit another pair of shoes?

Traci Goff shops for steals in the shoe section of Goodwill in
Windham. She’s wearing her favorite item of clothing in her
collection: her versatile brown boots that she bought from Goodwill
six years ago.
Labeled as an “old lady shirt’’ by her boyfriend, Chris, Traci
Goff talks about pairing older-looking pieces, like the shirt
pictured above, with a modern twist.
OMGoff, shoes! Traci Goff’s shoe collection is extensive — but
thrifty. This first pair, of unknown brand, feature a leopard-print
on a cork wedge. She got them at Goodwill for a song.
Traci Goff describes these as her “little old shoes”, but says
they’re quite comfortable and go with a lot of different outfits.
They were another bargain from Goodwill.
This pair of 9-West shoes joined Traci Goff’s collection after
she found them at Goodwill. Again, they’re comfortable to wear and
look good with a variety of clothing.
Traci Goff discovered this pair of Steve Madden high heels at
Kohl’s for a whopping $15. Great shoes don’t have to cost a
Katie Bell is a graphic designer and freelance writer with Current Publishing.

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