Meet two thrifty Madison treasure hunters
Two friends revive used clothes with their stylish skill for thrifting.
When Allison Kelley and Saraid Claxton — better known on Instagram as @heyallie.xo and @sunsetsaraid — go thrifting, they’re on a mission. With roughly 80% of their closets composed of items they’ve found over the years across Madison’s secondhand shops, you could call them experts when they step into such a store.
“Typically, I have a route that I do,” Kelley says regarding her in-store plan of attack. She starts in the sections that will likely yield the most items, things like dresses, shoes and coats. Then she moves on to home goods and then trickier items like blouses. “When I go thrifting I want something that I love. If I don’t love [it], it’s not coming home with me,” she says.
Dane County is home to more than 20 thrift, resale or consignment clothing shops — seven St. Vincent de Paul locations, nine Goodwill locations, three Agrace thrift stores and others including ReThreads, Upshift Swap Shop, The Pink Poodle, Boomerangs Resale Store, Stillgood’s, Good Style Shop, Dane County Humane Society Thrift Store, Happily Ever After Children’s Boutique and ReFind Style.
On Instagram the two bloggers showcase their distinct clothing styles, but both have a flair for vintage finds. Claxton says she’s been thrifting since she was a little kid — she still wears a sweater that she acquired when she was 7 years old. Her clothing interests have changed with the times. In middle school, it was all about popular brands. Then in high school, during the height of popularity for the show “Mad Men,” she searched for cocktail dresses. Now she’s all about bright colors inspired by the fashion of the ’60s, ’70s and ’90s.
Claxton launched her Instagram in 2018 as a way to express her creativity. “I was just getting tired of fast fashion, and I felt like there was just such a focus on that, and that’s not me,” she says. “So I slowly started incorporating more thrifted and vintage pieces into my looks, which has been really fun. It’s so nice to have a group of people that are interested in the same thing as you and being your authentic
self on a platform.”
Kelley feels similarly, as the two are part of a group of thrifters in the Madison community who, in nonpandemic times, would browse the aisles together. Kelley got into thrifting in high school when she would drive from her hometown of Rockford, Illinois, to Madison to shop.
For her, thrifting is about treasure hunting. She especially liked St. Vincent de Paul on Williamson Street, which she calls the “holy grail of thrift shops.”
In high school, Kelley created a blog called Three Dollar Fashion to tie her passions for communications and thrifted fashion together. In college, she stopped the blog, but after going to work in the corporate world she craved a creative outlet, and that’s when “Hey Allie” began.
“I moved to Madison and I never expected to find this amazing group of thrift bloggers that are in the area — the coolest tribe and the coolest partners that we’ve gotten to work with, be it Vinny’s or Goodwill,” Kelley says. “We have a really, really incredible group of thrift bosses here.”
Similar to Claxton, Kelley loves a good vintage piece and continues to add more to her closet. “I always like to say my style is Minnie Mouse goes to a decades-themed New Year’s Eve party,” Kelley says.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, each would go thrifting at least twice a week — now it’s more like once a week or every other week, trying to visit during less busy hours. In addition to in-person shopping, both do online thrifting through Etsy, Poshmark or Depop.
Amid the pandemic, many area stores have changed guidelines. For Kelley and Claxton, the biggest shift is dealing with closed fitting rooms. They’ll bring a tape measure and have their measurements handy to check items they can’t try on. Claxton says that’s made her even more selective in hopes of bringing home the best options.
Ask her to pick a favorite shop and Kelley says it’s like having to choose a favorite child. Both women love different things about each shop. If they had to choose, St. Vinny’s on Willy Street and East Towne Mall’s Goodwill would be on the list. Then the Goodwill and St. Vinny’s locations in Stoughton are, in Claxton’s words, “just perfection.” Kelley agrees: “If I can get down to Stoughton, you know it’s going to be a good day. I always, always score at the Stoughton Vinny’s and Goodwill.”
Since they have been thrifting for such a long time, their closets are filled with gems they’ve found over the years. Kelley spent an entire year buying only secondhand clothes. Many people have asked her how she has the patience for thrifting. She suggests “shifting the mindset from ‘I’ve got to dig through all this old stuff’ to ‘I want to find treasures today.’ ”
Claxton says patience is key — it takes a long time to build a thrifted wardrobe. She creates a list each season with items she’s hoping to find and a list of things she’s always on the lookout to score. For years she searched for the perfect vintage jumpsuit, and when she finally found it, it was the best feeling, she says.
“I just love that you can give clothing items a second life or a second chance,” Claxton says.
For those just starting to build their thrifted closets, Kelley suggests checking every store section, because you never know what people are going to put back in the wrong spot. Claxton recommends focusing on specific areas or items and thinking ahead about what you’re hoping to find. That can make choices less overwhelming and keep you focused and positive that it will be a successful haul.
“You can buy a bunch of things, try it and if you don’t love it you can donate it back [or] resell it,” Kelley says. “That’s what I love most about thrifting — that freedom, that joy that comes with being able to express yourself.”
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