Retail Intervention: Marissa Ramirez

Thrifting and Me
How to thrift like a college student

By Marissa Ramirez, Environmental Studies Major, Oberlin College

I have been thrifting since high school to fulfill my need to have a unique sense of style that slightly reflected what my own grandma wore. My normal thrifting adventures for clothes included
searching through the vintage section at my local Texas Thrift Store. I always enjoyed finding crazy/interesting garments of years past and wondered how anyone wore these clothes. I also found myself supporting the recycling of clothes considering it takes about 400 gallons of water to make a new cotton t-shirt. Nonetheless, I had developed a new need to thrift that has carried on into my college adventures.

First things first college is expensive: whether you are referring to tuition, books and supplies and even dorm necessities. That’s why people normally seek out scholarships, but what do you turn to for other random essentials? Well, the answer can be found at any local thrift store. They are the perfect place to find random essentials for college. The thrift store is where people send their unwanted goods, but just because they are unwanted doesn’t mean they are useless. It does, however, take some time to browse through collections of stuff, but that is what makes thrifting fun.

What can you possibly find at a thrift store?

Many thrift stores have a wide collection of glassware to choose from. One tip is to look for old mason jars, especially those without lids which are for sure in abundance. These jars can serve as simple but cute storage spaces for anything such as pencils, markers, and brushes.

One of the best things about thrift stores is the ability to find unique and eclectic items, which usually become the best room decor items. Some of these items include vintage cameras which still look nice even if they don’t work, classic alarm clocks which are nice desk decor, and other college essentials you can find at thrift stores include:

  • General office supplies such as staplers, binders, dividers, and book holders
  • Water bottles
  • Luggage cases
  • Kitchen items such as mugs and plates

Sometimes you might even strike a goldmine and find perfectly good electronics. One major reason to take full advantage of the electronics thrift stores have to offer is to reduce the amount of e-waste. E-waste describes discarded electronics that end up in landfill and produce toxic waste. These items include old cell phones, printers, and computers. For example, I found this perfectly good printer which is better than paying for printing at some colleges.


And if you are going off to a college in where there winters are snowy and icy, thrift stores are the perfect place to stock up on warm clothing.
You can never have enough simple long sleeves to layer and keep you warm during the winter. The thrift store is also a perfect place to find great quality clothes for a fraction of the price, for example one of my staples to check for while thrifting is wool sweaters, which are the warmest things ever and are normally expensive when bought new. Other staple I search for a beanies, any gloves and scarves.

These are all pictures from my thrifting adventure with Spare Parts’ Mary Elizabeth Cantu in San Antonio, Texas. I volunteered with Spare Parts over my winter break (January 2017) and the last project of my time with them was to go on a day-long thrift store tour in San Antonio!

Spare Parts was so fortunate with work with Marissa and we look forward to keeping in touch with her!

Retail Intervention: Omar Leos


Omar Leos
Omar Leos

Name: Omar Leos

Title: Theatre Educator

Thoughts on thrifting:
  I started thrift store shopping in college where I always found one-of-a-kind, unique items. I especially shopped for shoes, clothing & artwork for my apartment. Thrift store finds became part of my style. After college, I became a secondary  theatre teacher. I shied  away from selecting period plays to perform  because I could not afford to rent or have costumes made for my student actors. This was very limiting.

Leos at Boysville Thrift Store
Leos at Boysville Thrift Store

My entire 
perceptive changed when I came across Costuming Made Easy: How to Make Theatrical Costumes from Cast-Off Clothing by Barb Rogers at a Texas Educational Theatre Association (TETA) conference. I looked at the book, thought it could be relatively easy & I decided to try some of the techniques out. The first play I created my own costumes for was Lapis Blue Blood Red by Cathy Caplan that takes place during the Italian Renaissance period. Ever since then, I truly believe you don’t have to spend a lot of money or buy anything new for costuming a play. It was empowering & exciting: I combined my love of thrifting with theatre education. Now, I present at theatre conventions & workshops on how to create period costumes from thrift store finds.


How do you thrift like a theatre educator?

Any type of formal, prom or wedding dress can be manipulated to suit your costume need. You can dye dresses and add on the upholstry fabric/bedskirt/etc. to fit the time period for your play.
All types of formal, informal, prom or wedding dress can be manipulated to suit your costume need. You can dye dresses a& add on the upholstery fabric,bedskirt, etc. to fit the time period for your play.
Curtains, upholstery fabric, bed skirts & table cloths can be used for Renaissance, Medieval & Restoration-period costumes. I look for these items first because I can cut & sew pieces to existing clothing items. I always research the type of clothing for every show I’m doing & create a costume “bible.” I find pictures of costumes I’m looking for. Remember: when you go thrift store shopping, you won’t always find the exact costume you’re looking for. I have to constantly remind myself of this. Always be flexible, creative & open to interpretation!
This is an Old Navy summer dress I found at a thrift store. Because I added a lace curtain collar around the neckline & I instantly created a 1930/40’s-style dress. Disclamer: I do not know how to sew. My sewing skills are very minimal. I hand sew & use a glue gun quite a bit.
Always select women’s suits for male period costumes. Why? Women’s pants & jackets are more fitted than men’s. Men’s clothing between the years 1600-1900 generally had higher waists, weren’t baggy & were more tailored to the body. Women’s suits help with this silhouette. It’s another shortcut I use that saves time & money.
I always grab petticoats when I see them at thrift stores because they are cheap (over $100 retail/new)! You can use them for any period piece to make dresses fuller. In West Side Story at Edison High School, we shortened thrift store dresses, added petticoats underneath & presto– we had mambo dresses!
Here’s a picture from our performance Lapis Blue Blood Red by Cathy Caplan. The girl’s costume in the foreground has multiple components. The dark brown sleeveless top is the from a prom dress I dyed. Her skirt is floor-length & velvet. I added a bed skirt and upholstery fabric to the front of the skirt. The white long-sleeved blouse was used as a pirate shirt in another play.
Here’s another costume from the same play. The pants found at a thrift store are women’s Gap khakis that I cropped. The red jacket comes from a women’s skirt suit–I took off the sleeves. Underneath this coat is another black women’s suit jacket that I slit down the sides & then added green table cloth for trim. The ruffled collar is curtain trim we fastened around his neck (it’s a separate piece from the shirt). A leather belt was added on top of the costume (it’s hard to see in this picture) to make the costume more fitted to the actor’s waist.
RETAIL INTERVENTION logo designed by Chris Castillo. Photos courtesy Chris Castillo & Omar Leos.
The thrift store we browsed for this outing was the Boysville Thrift Store. Address: 307 W. Olmos Dr. - San Antonio, 78212
Boysville Thrift Store: 307 W. Olmos Dr. – San Antonio, 78212

Retail Intervention: Chris Castillo


Chris Castillo
Chris Castillo

Name: Chris Castillo

Photographer, nonprofit arts industry receptionist, volunteer archivist, new media artist –

Thoughts on thrifting:
  I’ve been thrifting for almost half of my entire life. I started frequenting thrift stores with my best friend back in high school. I was very interested in the idea of thrift stores’ access to instantaneous history & the commerce of memories. Everything can be so one-of-a-kind. (Well… almost. You can walk into any thrift store & find a Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass record- it’s a thrift store code compliance requirement!)

Tip #1: Never go into a grocery store hungry; Never go into a thrift store hoardy. Make a shopping list. Looking for slacks? Pencil skirt? A French Arcoroc drinking glass? Even a mental list will keep you focused & on track. Of course, when you seek, you shall find that unexpected treasure, but do not become buried in treasures.
Tip #2: Know your sales & sale days. Wednesday mornings can mean two things in my world. $0.25-any-item at Family Thrift Outlet Center, & half price all clothing at Salvation Army on West Ave. When you walk into any store, find the manager’s board (right) that lists that day’s color tag discounts. This might make or break the decision to buy that colorful walkman or point & shoot camera, because you’ll know whether or not all electronics are 50%.
Tip #3: Become familiar with what your stores usually carry. You wouldn’t walk into Walgreens to buy a home theater system. With increased frequency, you will learn that if you need an assortment of vintage greeting cards, your first stop should be the Assistance League Thrift House. If you need furniture, hit up Salvation Army at S. Alamo and S. Flores. This, like any rule, is meant to be broken. You might find a cache of vintage crepe paper- perfect for making crepe paper flower centerpieces- in the midst of a barren, thrift store wasteland! Having a general idea of what stores excel in stocking can save you time & frustration.
How do you thrift like a photographer? I will always keep my eyes peeled for items that can be used in my darkroom, like Pyrex measuring cylinders. I have a soft spot in my heart for fixed-focus, point & shoot cameras. In my last thrift store haul I picked up two point & shoot Vivitars & a nice Yashica camera (see below) like my mentor Joan Frederick used back in the day almost religously. Thrifted props, home decor items, & art can always find their way into photographs.
Point & shoot Vivitars and a Yashica camera
Point & shoot Vivitars and a Yashica camera

spare parts Founder Mary E. Cantu & Castillo
spare parts Founder Mary E. Cantu & Castillo on a thrift store excursion.

Finally, remember  thrifting is part of creative reuse! Cheers!

Additional links & resources:
Rookie magazine’s Thrifting: The Master Class
Danny Seo’s blog on eco-friendly living & crafty ideas
RETAIL INTERVENTION logo designed by Chris Castillo. Photos by Chris Castillo.