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Three thrift store looks for less than $50

Portrait of Dominique Maciejka, Lisa Negron, and Sarafina

Portrait of Dominique Maciejka, Lisa Negron, and Sarafina Bush, in the Newsday Studio wearing clothes they purchased at various thrift shops. (March 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Thomas A. Ferrara

Thrift shopping isn't only about saving cash, it's also about culling unique items from obscurity.

The best thrifters know how to take one great find and build on it. With that in mind, we challenged three avid thrifters to create a head-to-toe ensemble for $50 or less.

"It was a lot of fun to try to put together an outfit," says Sarafina Bush, a costume designer and student at Adelphi University. "I tend to find more interesting, unique pieces at thrift stores for a much better value. I also hate owning things that are exactly the same as everyone else's wardrobe."

For Dominique Maciejka, a personal shopper and stylist, thrift shopping is "a rush," especially finding something really unique before anyone else does. "Everything is one of a kind," she says. "I love the way things were manufactured . . . now things are made and the same quality isn't being put into it."

Lisa Negron, who owns an online thrift store, found a lot of individual items she loved. But putting together an entire outfit was challenging, she says. Her strategy? Shopping at two or three thrift stores each week. "There's always new inventory," Negron says. "I'll spend a few hours to shop for what I want at the prices that I want, because I know I'll be satisfied in the end."

LISA NEGRON, 31, Baldwin

SHOPPED: AMVETS Thrift Store, 1179 Sunrise Hwy., Copiague,

and Salvation Army, 194 Front St., Hempstead

WHAT SHE BOUGHT

* Giorgio Armani navy blazer -- $6.98

* Calvin Klein cream silk blouse -- $5.98

* J. Crew matchstick jeans -- $5.99

* Gold skinny belt -- $1.98

* Multistrand gold and silver metal necklace -- $2.98

* Silver earrings -- $3.98

* Vintage gray clutch with embroidered snakeskin pattern -- $7.99

TOTAL SPENT: $35.88

HER TAKE: Negron says she goes for a classic, high-end look on a budget. She was especially pleased with her jeans: "They actually retail for $119, and I got them for $5.99!" She added her own button to her blazer. "I thought it would give it more pop with the jewelry."

Dominique Maciejka, 28, Nesconset

SHOPPED: Goodwill Industries, 1500 Middle Country Rd., Centereach and Salvation Army, Hempstead

WHAT SHE BOUGHT

* Adolfo II for Saks Fifth Avenue hat -- $4.49

* Old Navy cream cotton shirt with

ruffled cap sleeve -- $4.99

* Black leather polka dot snap belt -- 99 cents

* Cotton/linen cream skirt with plaid silk-screen print -- $4.99

* 1980s mint enamel hoop earrings -- $3.59; costume ring -- $3.59

* Vintage goldtone costume necklace -- $4.49

* Erwin Pearl faux gold chain-link metal bracelet -- 99 cents

* Vintage black wool purse with gold strap -- $5.39

* Lucky black strappy wood wedges -- $13.49

TOTAL SPENT: $47

HER TAKE: She describes the hat as her best find. It's vintage, she says. "I can tell it was made out of felted beaver fur."

SARAFINA BUSH, 23, Garden City

SHOPPED: Savers, 188 Hempstead Tpke., West Hempstead

WHAT SHE BOUGHT

* Lois Snyder Dani Max red blazer from a pantsuit -- $14.99

* Joyce Leslie black jersey belted dress -- $6.99

* Off-black pantyhose -- 99 cents

* Comfort Zone floral embroidered print shoes -- $9.99

* Black leatherlike cord necklace with metal fox charm -- $1.99

* Black and white vintage floral earrings -- $2.99

* Antiqued metal bracelet -- $1.50

TOTAL SPENT: $39.44

HER TAKE: Bush says her best find was the jacket "because it's so unique and it has a lot more detail than most blazers I would find in a regular store."

Take these thrifty tips with you

Sharyne Wolfe, Nassau Community College fashion professor and author of "The Fashionista's Shopping Guide to the Galaxy of Discount New York Fashion" (Create Space, $14.99), offers these tips for shopping thrift stores:

1. Look for natural fibers, such as wool, linen, silk, cotton. If it's made from a quality fabric, it's usually a better garment.

2. Try it on. Designers size differently. One company's size 8 is another company's size 4.

3. Make sure it fits. It's not a deal if you must spend $25 to $50 in alterations.

4. Check for imperfections, like stains and rips. Assess whether the item can be fixed and the cost to clean it before you buy.

5. Don't get discouraged if you leave empty-handed on your first or even second trip. It takes persistence.

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