Photo: Marta Kierkus.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Fulcrum gives you tips to save money and look fresh this spring

The first time I went shopping at a thrift store, I was looking for an oversized, ugly grandpa sweater.

Yes, this was in fact in 2012, and yes, I did go because of that Macklemore song. For a few years, ugly sweaters were all I bought at thrift stores—until one day, while browsing for my newest Macklemore-esque find, I realized there were about fifty other racks of clothing whose contents weren’t smelly or scratchy. So began my vintage clothing obsession.

When your goal isn’t buying the ugliest thing in the store as an ironic statement piece, however, you have to be a lot more selective and careful.

When shopping for spring thrift clothing, fabric is key. Shop with your hands—don’t be afraid to touch the clothing on the rack and feel the fabric. Look for light, soft, and breathable pieces and try your best to avoid polyesters because you will sweat, and it will be ugly. Especially with delicate materials like silks, always check carefully for pulling and tiny holes in the garment that could grow after a wear or two.

This leads me to my next point—always scrutinize the clothes carefully! Higher-end shops like Ragtime Vintage Clothing on Flora Street and The Clothes Secret on Bank Street will carefully curate their clothes, so you can worry less at places like these, but if you’re shopping at Value Village or the Salvation Army Thrift Store, always check for tears and stains. Make sure to check around hemlines, in the armpits of shirts, and the crotches of pants.

My last big tip is tailoring. If you find a piece that you love but it’s a bit too long or frumpy, tailors are your best bet to get your outfit looking perfect on you. There are tons of tailors in Ottawa, so it’s best to shop around to find your best fit.

In a big city like Ottawa there are a lot of vintage and consignment stores that range in price and style, so it’s easy to find something for everyone.

Ragtime Vintage Clothing specializes in vintage and brand name clothing, whereas The Clothes Secret is more focused on consignment from the latest seasons, so it’s a great bet to save some money and still get the latest styles. Bigger chain thrift stores, like Value Village, have more of a mix of everything, so they are great if you have the time, but can be a bit tedious if you don’t have hours to search through the racks.

If you crave something bigger than a few vintage stores, the holy grail of vintage shopping comes to Ottawa twice a year—the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show. Admission is only $10 and gives you access to thousands of carefully selected vintage pieces. The spring edition is taking place on April 10 at the Shaw Centre, so check it out if you want to discover different Ottawa vendors all in one location.

Now that you’re equipped with the best vintage know-how, go forth and revitalize your spring wardrobe. Sometimes you won’t have the best of luck or you’ll regret a purchase later on, but as the great Macklemore once said, “but shit, it was ninety-nine cents!”


  • Spring 2022: Desiree Nikfardjam Fall 2021: Zofka Svec 2020-2021: Aisling Murphy 2019-2020: Ryan Pepper 2018-2019: Iain Sellers 2017-2018: Ryan Pepper