I always considered the vintage tee to be like the gateway drug of secondhand shopping. A once thrift store novice can get pulled in by the allure of faded graphics, frayed collars and thinning, light-as-air t-shirt fabrics. Before she knows it, she has a favorite vintage Levi’s 501s Etsy shop and is arriving to her local flea market at 7am, shopping cart in hand. It won’t be long until she gets into the really hard stuff: Goodwill outlet stores.

My dirty secret.

For this reason, I’m perplexed by the fact that I’ve been thrifting for years but, until recently, didn’t own a single secondhand graphic tee. I know, it should be the first “throwback” item in my arsenal. I’m basically a thrifting failure. So what’s the reason for the t-shirt gap? Fit.

I’m on the petite side, so my frame gets lost in anything too voluminous. For that reason, I lean towards fitted tops tucked into bottoms to help define my shape. The thing with most vintage tees is that they’re in unisex size, so even on the rare occasion that you find an adult XS or S, it’s not a true women’s XS and leaves me feeling like I’m swimming in fabric.

Getting out of the women’s section.

A couple of week’s ago, I was perusing my new local Goodwill store and an idea came to me that I had never considered before: check the children’s section! I’m not usually one to shop where the kids do, but I had heard about girls scoring in the men’s section, so I figured I would give it a shot. What I found, my friends, was a treasure trove of graphic tees in the perfect “shrunken” size that I was looking for.

The t-shirts I found in the Goodwill children’s section not only fit better, but surprisingly, also had graphics that appealed to my aesthetic. A design that’s stamped across your chest should accurately express your personality (at least some part of it), so I was worried that the designs would be too immature or kitschy for my taste. A lot of the rack definitely was, but I found some real gems. As a 1980’s baby who loves pictures, this Polaroid tee definitely speaks to me.

I also finally found a band tee with an artist that I actually listen to! This Jack Johnson red tee makes a simple blazer more approachable for the office, and I know that I’ll be wearing it with cut-off shorts all summer long.

Although not technically a tee, I had similar luck with finding a graphic sweatshirt that feels laidback without looking sloppy. I know that the skull was probably designed to appeal to a 12 year old boy, but I like to think that it’s inspired by Alexander McQueen.

Photos by @sdrpick.

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