How to thrift shop like a boss: a chat with Edmonton style blogger Nicole Ebbesen Rowan

How to thrift shop like a boss: a chat with Edmonton style blogger Nicole Ebbesen Rowan

thrift shopping and Flatter Me Belts

These are all pics of Nicole' Ebbesen Rowan's finds at thrift-shopping mecca Value Village. I was tipped on to her blog, VV Boutique Style, by a Flatter:Me customer - and was super-delighted when I noticed Flatter:Me's around Nicole's waist in some of her "what I wore" posts! As a fellow Edmontonian and long-time thrift shopper myself, I immediately got in touch.

Claire:  First off – besides being thrifting enthusiasts, we’re both members of the Two Last Names Club. I suspected we’d be kindred spirits, but this confirmed it.

Nicole:  I love how you refer to me as an “enthusiast” - a term I prefer over “addict,” though either would be accurate! (We clink Tim Horton’s cups)

Claire:  Value Village is always my first stop when I visit home.   Can you tell me a little about why you started your fabulous thrifting blog, VV Boutique Style?

Nicole:  Like a lot of people, I never thought very highly of thrift shopping. It wasn’t until  August 2012, shortly after my husband lost his job, that my sister invited me for some retail therapy at “VV Boutique” - which I later learned meant Value Village

After a successful first shopping trip, I decided I’d challenge myself to shop entirely second-hand for a year. My sister suggested I blog about my adventure – and now twelve months later, I even scoff at paying full VV prices! 

Claire:  OMGZ VV's 50% off days! They’re like Boxing Day or Black Friday, but with sassy second-hand finds! -Now that you’ve ended your year-long challenge, though, will you continue to shop exclusively second-hand?  Because I know of 4 or 5 belts with your name on them. Wink wink.

Nicole:  Ha! My first regular retail purchase will definitely be another Flatter:Me Belt, if only I can choose a colour (we nod knowingly).  I haven’t exactly determined what my approach will be for the next year, but I do know that I am not done with style blogging or my thrifting focus.

Claire:  There’s an obvious economic plus to shopping second-hand, but you’ve also written about the environmental and community benefits, too – and there’s been so much in the news lately about how “fast fashion” is killing the planet. Does the time investment of hunting for a thrifted gem ever deter you, though?

Nicole:  I hear that complaint all the time and I always say, “Enjoy the hunt!” I love the process as much as the end result - but you do have to be in the right frame of mind, and reasonable expectations never hurt. 

That said, it’s totally possible to do an “express shop” with a goal in mind. If I only have a half-hour and I have my kids with me, I might hit the books (to grab something to keep them occupied), followed by a drive-by of the tops (for the perfect chambray or elusive mustard cardi) en route to the toys. If time allows, I’ll scan over the shoes and bags on my way to the till for a rare gem or something on my hunting list.

Claire:  You wrote a genius guest post on your thrifting strategy for Frugal Edmonton Mama  (Alberta readers, this is a fabulous local blog; check 'er out!). I won’t ask you to repeat yourself – but can you tell our readers more about your “hunting list"?

Nicole:  I keep a Pinterest board full of clothes that I’m inspired by, and I just keep my eye out for similar items. Anyone can make a board, and the side benefit is that the overview helps me learn about my personal esthetic. Thrifting is a great way to play with trends and styles without having much (if anything!) to lose. Like, I just scored some mint-coloured pants for $2.50.

Claire:  Holy patooties. Any special tools in your belt (ha, ha) when you embark on a thrifting mission?

Nicole:  Yup: debit card, VV Super Savers Club Card, latté, and good underwear.

Claire:   Dude - the good underwear.  Like, if the clothes don’t work out, at least you feel put-together between the “yikes” moments.

Nicole:  Exactly. Along the same vein - wearing a skirt and fitted tank facilitates an easy fitting room experience… and even lets you try on shirts in the aisles, if you’re in that kinda mood.

Claire:  Like 50% Off Day, or It’s 30 Below And My Engine Will Freeze In 15 Minutes Day. (The plight of the Edmontonian.) -What do you consider your best thrifted score? Are you like me with your passion for vintage?

Nicole:  I have a few extra special pieces that have earned a spot in the 2012 VV Boutique Style “Hall of Fame” for their brand, quality, price, uniqueness and/or wearability.  Three faves:

  • My Hispanitas shoes – like-new condition, purchased for $3.50 and worth about $200 regular retail at shoe boutiques like Gravity Pope (pictured above, top right).
  • Fossil cross-body bag – great condition, purchased for $5.60 and worth about $120 regular retail.  I have used this bag non-stop since I purchased it.
  • My Frye boots – these are the “banana Frye” boots that retail $330 USD+ !  I didn’t find these at VV Boutique, but bought them second-hand in what can only be described as a dream-come-true fairy tale Kijiji encounter (words you don’t hear every day).

I do enjoy a good vintage score, but I don’t focus on that specifically.  Especially since I learned that “vintage” generally refers to anything older than 20 years, which is, y’know, what I was wearing when I was almost 20 myself.

Claire:  I’m shocked!  I thought we were almost the same age. (Nicole pauses to give Claire a crushing embrace)

Nicole:  Bless you, young one. 

Claire:  I love that thrift shopping doesn’t age-discriminate. My mom and I have been hitting Goodwill together since I was a teenager. Inadvisably tight baby tees for me, poly-blend work pants for her, everybody’s happy. –But I’ve revealed too much. Any last words before we sign off?

Nicole: I think the most important thing besides being realistic about your needs is to be open to possibilities. It’s the possibilities that thrifting offers that makes it so appealing and fun. So joyful, and so hopeful!

Claire:  I’m pretty sure that joy and hope were EXACTLY what I missing the last time I pulled up to a mall. What a great place to end an amazing chat - thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with our readers.

Nicole:  Anytime! 


Nicole Ebbesen Rowan is a style blogger at VV Boutique Style, as well as being a mom and occupational therapist extraordinaire. She's also hireable as a style consultant and thrifting guide.





Thanks to all our readers - especially those who are visiting us from VV Boutique Style! This weekend, enter coupon code NICOLE for free shipping on Bring-It-On Black, the Flatter:Me Nicole's wearing above - and pick your preference of silver or bronze buckle. Thank you for visiting! Active until 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, August 18, 2017.

*** Checking out this vintage blog post from the future? We've re-branded to Unbelts! We recommend our Classic Unbelt in Jet Black with Matte Black hardware or the *new* Intrepid Unbelt in Heathered Slate***