Hey everyone! If you can’t already tell from my blog, love thrifting and vintage clothes, and have been an avid thrifter since high school. With experience working in a consignment shop, writing about thrifting as a columnist, working closely with vintage stores, and having been around the thrift store block, I’ve got some really useful tips to share about striking second-hand gold. The article below is adapted from a couple my Sparknotes articles, all in one handy blog post that you can refer to at any time. Follow along to get all your thrifting questions answered, and then some!
1. CA$H. Buying used clothing will save you lots of cash because of the highly discounted prices. For students or people on a budget, it’s a great way to be stylish without spending major bucks in retail stores. That way, you can save up for quality pieces that are actually worth their price (Like this VEDA jacket). Some thrift stores have certain sale days where everything you buy is half off. In the same vein, most thrift stores have days where different color tags are discounted. Deals like this make it easy to have great style without breaking the bank.
2. Originality. If you buy from thrift stores, you’ll never walk out of the store and see five other girls wearing the shirt you just bought. Thrift stores have racks and racks full of pieces of all different shapes, sizes, and colors, and no item will be a repeat. This variety makes it easy to cultivate a style truly individual to yourself. It also forces you to think more carefully about what you buy.
3. Sustainability. Buying used clothing is good for the environment! You’re reusing old clothes, keeping them from filling up our landfills. You’re also reducing the environmental cost of manufacturing new clothes. Also, many thrift stores work with charities, and part of your money will go to help those organizations.
4. The thrill of the chase. Perhaps the most fun thing about shopping in thrift stores is the thrill of the hunt. Browsing the racks is exciting. You might not hit the mark every single time, but you’ll learn what techniques work and what don’t when trying to find the perfect pieces. More often than not, you’ll find something unexpected—and the clothes you weren’t looking for usually happen to be the best purchases.
1. How do I find a thrift store? To find local thrift stores in your area, Google your zip code plus “thrift stores,” or refer to these directories:
Sometimes, you’ll go home empty-handed. But don’t give up. Stores put out new merchandise almost every day, as donations come in frequently.
2. When should I go? You can call ahead to check on what discounts the stores are offering. Or you can just walk in and ask a cashier. Thrift stores usually have discounts every day, on certain color tags. They will rotate the color of tags from week to week. For instance, all purple and white tags may be an additional 50% off, and so on. The Salvation Army has a 50%-off sale on all clothing and shoes every single Wednesday. You’ll learn the best days to go thrifting around your area as you start going at regular intervals. Find out the stocking days of thrift stores, and ask about any sales for the future. If you have a flexible schedule, a good time to go shopping is during the week. There will be fewer people in the store, and the merchandise will be less picked over.
3. What should I keep in mind while shopping? Go shopping with an open mind! Your first reaction upon glancing around may be that there’s not much available. But you just have to search through racks of trash to find your treasure. Go through the aisles slowly, as it’s easy to miss something because of the large variety at thrift stores. Oftentimes things get misplaced on racks, or items are not be in size order. Just take your time and have fun. It’s also a good idea to take a basket or shopping cart so you don’t end up carrying around a huge pile of clothes. Also, look for clothes with new tags. Sometimes department stores will drop off their overstock.
Don’t discriminate sections. I look in the little boys’ section for fitted blazers and cropped sweaters, and in the men’s section for flannels and oversized sweaters.
4. How should I pick out clothing? When you make your first round, toss anything that catches your eye in your basket. When you have your selections, inspect the garments for quality. Thrift stores sell things “as-is,” so it’s important to examine your items. A few general rules:
- Check all the seams (you can turn the garment inside out) of the item to make sure nothing is torn. Also check for missing buttons and broken zippers.
- Look for stains or holes. Pass on anything that isn’t easily repairable. Take into account what you can realistically salvage—only you know your skills with a sewing needle.
- Make sure there are no funky odors going on, as a wash may not get them out.
- If the piece has pockets, check them to see there’s nothing hiding inside. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found old grandma snot rags.
- Also, check the fabric content of the garments. Be wary of things that will require special care, such as dry cleaning (unless the piece is uhhh-mazing).
5. What should I look for when I’m trying on? Since most thrift stores don’t take returns, be a stickler about the fit of your pieces. If something is too big or too small, pass on it. You’ll end up buying something that you’ll probably never wear. If you love the print or fit of a skirt or dress, consider modifying it yourself—those hemlines can be taken up easily. Be very selective. It’s easy to binge-buy when the prices are low, but make sure the pieces are ones you really love.
6. What should I buy? Ask yourself why you picked up the piece in the first place. What do you like about it? Will it fit well with other things in your closet? It’s also good to buy things you normally might not purchase to expand your wardrobe and experiment with different styles of clothing.
7. How do I take care of the things I’ve purchased? So you’ve scored all this awesome stuff at the thrift store, and you can’t wait to show it off! But first, make sure you wash everything. This may be obvious, but it’s an important step.
Don’t forget to donate your clothes to shops as well. This makes for an easier time figuring out what to wear, as you won’t have things floating around that you don’t use anymore.
Feel free to drop any questions in my ask box. Did I miss anything? Do you have any secret tips to getting the best thrifted fashion?