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How to Salvage a Garage Sale Find

Used Fabric and Clothing Finds at Garage Sales
Always inspect clothes at a garage sale carefully. You never know what you'll walk away with.
Always inspect clothes at a garage sale carefully. You never know what you'll walk away with.
Rebecca Van Ommen/Lifesize/Getty Images

Whether you call it used or vintage, recycling clothing is a way to extend your wardrobe at a fraction of the cost of buying retail. Your finds could be classics that stay pretty much the same from year to year, like that little black dress, silk tank top or cardigan sweater, or you could be into reworking vintage fabrics using your sewing skills. You could even be into waiting out the trends, watching for bellbottoms, stirrup pants or enormous shoulder pads to come back into style. Whatever your motivation, garage sales offer fertile territory for recycling clothing.

Garage sale clothing finds may be in pristine condition, or they may need some work. Read the label instructions and inspect garments carefully before you contemplate a purchase. Don't assume that a tag listing the size of the garment is enough to ensure that it will fit. Ask to try the garment on, and ask the seller about the sizing. The older a women's garment is, the smaller it's likely to be relative to it's published size. Manufacturers have been slowly changing the dimensions of women's clothes, so a perfect size six is larger now than it was 10 years ago. When in doubt, go larger when you buy. It's much easier to alter a garment to fit a smaller body than the other way around [source: Jackson].

Garage sale clothing may need some rehabilitation, and you won't always know before you buy if a spot will come out or not. If you detect soiling and want to risk it, at least ask for an additional discount. There are a number of clothing deal breakers you should be on the lookout for. Inspect wool items for moth activity. It will show as small worn spots or possibly holes. When shopping for winter weather items like coats and jackets, check for perspiration marks on interior linings around the armholes. It's also a good idea to check for wear on the elbows of shirts and jackets and the knees of slacks. While you're at it, test zippers, and make sure that all the buttons on the garment are accounted for.

When you get your finds home, always wash or dry-clean them before you attempt to wear them. Delicates like lace and fine knits should be laundered by hand or by a professional.

Don't leave yet! On the next page, you can find even resources to help you salvage your garage sale finds.