Suited to a tee*

Between college and my early forties I did not thrift much. I also did not shop much. I don’t even remember what I wore in my thirties, and after I went from zero to three kids between the ages of 36 and 38, I don’t even remember getting dressed. But after my twin girls were in pre-school, I raised my head from the haze and it turned out I had nothing to wear. That is when my interest in thrifting re-ignited – I was starting from nowhere and had no idea how to dress so figured I had better start cheap.

Luckily in the interim shows like What Not to Wear and the beginning of fashion blogging had emerged. I dug in and began researching and read tons of thrifting tips. One common tip is that it is not worthwhile to thrift t-shirts.

 In my experience it is worth thrifting tees by designers you like – if they are in excellent condition.

Thrifting guides often counsel against thrifting tees because they are frequently stretched and worn out before they are donated. The cotton blends that make up many tees tends to pill. Furthermore, since they are “just tees” people do not always take care of them the way they do more expensive purchases. But after years of experience, I have realized some tees are worth thrifting.

Maya Negri tee
Maya Negri t-shirt

I would not have looked as this smallish plain tee if it weren’t for the Maya Negri label. Maya Negri is a well regarded Israeli designer and I like a lot of her things. So I perk up an eye when I see her name. Why I took it:

  1. The label itself gives it potential resale value.
  2. In my experience it is worth thrifting tees by designers you like – if they are in excellent condition. Although it may look plain, both the material and subtle differences in design make a big difference, even with t-shirts.
  3. Tees at the thrift store usually cost about $1.25 so it wasn’t a huge risk (see #1)

Tip: be sure to hold all items, particularly knits like tees, up to the light to check for pilling. If a tee is pilling put it back. The material is usually not thick enough to withstand shaving.

Do you buy designer tees (thrifted or otherwise)? Do you find there is a big quality difference between designer tees and their cheaper equivalents? Do you even wear tees? Which are your favorites?

* I looked up the expression to a tee and found it first appeared with that spelling in 1777 in J. Giles Poems. “I’ll tell you where You may be suited to a tee.” source The Phrase Finder


  1. ladywone

    Greetings, I have once again enjoyed your story about why you thrift. I do thrift tee shirts but, the old worn band concert or logo shirts or shirts with quirky sayings. I have the largest collection and I rarely wear them there are just not enough casual events or times that I truly get to enjoy wearing them.

    I never thrifted before I turned 28 I remember because. I lived in Texas and Arizona and I did not need a coat only a light sweater if that. I left the military and the ex at the same time. I am originally from Chicago but had not been back in years. Anyway when I came home I was in a bad way. I came home right after Christmas and 2 days before NYE. Well I was not at all prepared for the Brutal Chicago weather. My sister took me right to the Salvation Army and I bought 2 coats and assorted other winter items and that is when my love affair with thrifting happened. I am now 40 and I have been called a master thrifter.

    I have become such an expert that I have a tiny tiny side “hustle” of purchasing garments for others who appreciate the items I purchase for them. Thank you for letting me share.

    1. Jaime

      Ladywone, I have the same hustle, but I consider it one of the best parts about thrifting! Most of my sister’s clothes are from me, as well as the odd piece that goes to my nieces and friends. And I buy to consign too – not a very lucrative business but it keeps my thrifting budget replenished.

      I bet you have an absolutely amazing concert tee collection!

  2. mamavalveeta03

    Well, no wonder you bought that tee, Jaime…It DOES “fit you to a tee” and you look amazing in it! (LOVE your hair!)

  3. Deborah

    I have to confess I don’t thrift tees. Can I also suggest that while checking it for pilling, also check for tiny holes!! I got a couple of times and that’s why I tend not thirft tshirts anymore 😦

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