I was headed to my car on the top level of a busy downtown parking structure when I caught a glimpse of Karen Olea mid-photoshoot. Karen wasn’t a stranger. I actually recognized her because I follow her personal blog on Instagram (@karenxolea) which is dedicated to sharing her thrifting tips. The San Diego native documents all of her shopping trips to local shops, including The Salvation Army and AMVETS Thrift Stores — so much so that these stores have actually featured her on local TV segments and online publications.
When I saw her, I knew I’d found a pot of gold. I asked her what her favorite thrift stores were, “I enjoy every thrift store in my neighborhood, but love every Salvation Army store in San Diego, Point Loma being my favorite location. The AMVETS Thrift Store has also been really good these past months.”
Her best thrifting tip: if you want to find the most ample choices and the best deals, go on a weekday. I asked what fueled her passion for thrifting. She explained, “I started thrift shopping at 15, not knowing that it would become a hobby and obsession back then. My mom would pick me up from school and mention that we’d be making a quick detour. Sometimes I’d wait in the car, other times I’d go inside with her. Over the years, I realized that this sets me apart from other fashion bloggers and decided to be more open about where I shop by giving tips and hosting thrift meet-ups.”
That is how Karen has built a steady online following that seeks her advice when it comes to finding perfect second-hand looks on a very friendly budget.
As for her denim ensemble, “I found this outfit at the Point Loma Salvation Army over the course of a year. I found the overalls (Forever 21, $6) one month, and the short sleeve turtleneck (BCBG, $3) a different month. Clutch bag (vintage, $4) was found at AMVETS Thrift Store last month. This outfit was under $15”.
She said on average, an entire thrifted look costs her about $15. Karen’s best thrift store find to date has been her favorite pair of kitten heel boots, which are a staple during fall. Three dollars.