Thrifting in Chicagoland

The moment you first move to Northwestern is the same moment you realize buying clothes on the cheap is a much more involved task than it used to be. With the hefty asking prices of retail stores in downtown Evanston, many people I know have resorted to saving all clothing shopping for special day-trips to Old Orchard or stores in the Loop.

photo- The Uptown Lounge

But fear not, students on a budget, there are a great deal of deals sitting right on your doorstep. Allow me to introduce/re-introduce some of Evanston and North Chicago’s neighborhood thrift stores. You know, those places your mom used to drag you for a “quick stop” that turned into hours (just me?), those places you used to send all those well-loved Barbie dolls and tennis shoes that didn’t fit… Those can be your new best friends, and you hardly even have to travel.

For the quick shopper looking for great deals on designer labels and fashion forward clothing, Crossroads is the place to go. It’s right there on Sherman, across from CVS, which makes it a great option for that awkward mid-day gap between classes. Crossroads makes a point of schooling each and every employee on identifying name brands and current styles, so you’ll never find anything on the rack that looks like it should be worn with a perm and a season disc of Designing Women. But this attention to quality doesn’t cancel out the reasonable prices—I myself recently purchased 2 scarves, a pair of boots, a Fossil tote, a pair of True Religion jeggings , a summer dress on double sale, and a Louis Vuitton wallet for under $60. And, plus size ladies rejoice, the store has started to carry both XL and the occasional double X.

Bonus: if your stylish clothing is taking up too much space in your closet, Crossroads gives cash or store credit for clothes that fit the current or following season. Sell and then shop ‘til you can’t feel your toes.

For a longer day of shopping, you might consider schlepping yourself either to Unique on N Western (the 201 Bus Southbound) for a fun and more hit-or-miss kind of shopping OR to The Brown Elephant in Roger’s Park (201 bus to 22 also Southbound) for more solid finds. Unique has these fantastic sticker days where everything marked with a certain color can be anywhere from 15% to 50% off. When I went, I was more enthralled with their collection of VHS tapes and coffee mugs to give strong attention to the clothing selection, but I’d say you should expect to find mostly useful winter apparel and fantastically ironic shirts, with the occasional vintage or brand name find thrown into the mix. The Brown Elephant, though I haven’t been yet this year, tends to boast more solid finds. They’re a bit  (a tiny bit) more selective, so you’re more likely to find cozy cardigans, cute shoes, and jeans, still on the cheap cheap.

photo- mikefats

For the super thrift-er, the person who wants to spend a full Saturday feeling like an excavator of all things vintage and new, I present my Super Serious Saturday Shopping List, complete with directions. This is in Oldtown/Boystown/Andersonville AKA real Chicago territory:

-Start the journey at the Brown Elephant in Boystown (3651 N Halsted). Then walk or take the 36 Broadway bus North to the Uptown Salvation Army (4315 N Broadway), which is just a hop skip and jump from the Uptown Unique (4445 N Sheridan).

-From Unique you can walk or take the 78 Montrose bus (near the Wilson El stop) and transfer to the 22 Clark bus, which will drop you off in front of the Andersonville Village Discount (4898 N Clark).

-From there it’s just a short walk up the street (or you can take the 22 Clark bus again) to the Andersonville Brown Elephant (5404 N Clark).

This is not a plan for the faint of heart, but it certainly will garner you endless deals, especially if you walk most of it.

Bonus: If you have a car, this is totally drive-able—most of these places have their own parking or there is parking nearby!

This is not even close to an exhaustive list of places you can explore.  There is an endless wealth of used clothing just hanging on racks wishing it could be on your body.

Go, find, enjoy.


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