5 Thrift-Store Shopping Tips to Thrift Like a Pro
In High School, I spent most of my Tuesdays ($2 Tuesdays baby) at my local Value Village with my best friends. We would dig through every rack, shelf, and bin we could find. We filled our communal cart to the brim with dreamy denim, crazy jackets, and fun florals. We shared our “majors scores” during group try-ons in the dressing rooms. We laughed when we dared to put on 80’s wedding dresses and neon leotards. The dollars and dimes we spent on secondhand clothing were nothing compared to the priceless memories and the thrill of the hunt.
Over the years my dedication to a secondhand lifestyle has grown, and, along the way I’ve even been able to convert “non-believers” into devout thrifters. Whether your thrifting goals are centered around sustainability or just wanting to look super stinking cute on a budget - keep reading for five pro thrifting tips to score some exciting finds on your next thrifting adventure.
For the person that gets overwhelmed:
If you walk into a thrift store and get easily overwhelmed by the seemingly never-ending color-coded racks of clothing, start smaller. Instead of going to your large chain thrift stores, I recommend starting at a smaller “mom and pop” type thrift store that has less stock but is probably curated and easier to find pieces you like. If the idea of still having to search puts you off, try a consignment store! These are curated, organized, clean, and offer a boutique experience for secondhand clothing.
For the person that thinks thrifting is gross:
Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves, put on some gloves, and use plenty of hand sanitizer. BUT - I rarely feel the need to do that. I always pack hand sanitizer with me; however, I’ve found that the vast majority of thrift stores are as clean as can be! Places like Goodwill, Savers, and Value Village are known for being very clean and organized. Whereas stores such as the Goodwill Outlet are known for being a bit chaotic and very dirty, so I would not recommend these for you. But remember, anything you thrift can always be washed or dry cleaned!
For the person that wants more size options:
Thrifting is great for this very reason. People of all shapes and sizes with different styles donate their used clothing for you and me to give a second home to. Whether you’re petite or curvy, I always recommend looking at every section in a thrift store. Yes, this means children’s, women's, and men’s. Often times sizes are all mixed together, so I’m never surprised if I find a great pair of Levis for myself in the boy's sections or a nice silk button up in the men's section. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find a wide range of sizing in clothing from certain decades. Anything from the 50’s and older most likely runs very small due to body trends during this time. It’s not uncommon to find most vintage shoes in size 5’s and dresses with 22-inch waists. However, there are many dedicated vintage buyers that take time to find vintage pieces in sizes medium and up. A simple search on Etsy usually yields a variety of beautiful Betty Draper worthy dresses.
For the person that likes to shop online:
I too am a fan of shopping online for a great retail therapy session. Online marketplaces have been a game-changer for shopping secondhand. Etsy is an oldie but a goody! There is a huge range of products from handmade to vintage clothing. The shop owners are always very responsive and will answer any questions you have about ordering from their page. For more modern pieces, sites like Poshmark and Depop offer trendy pieces at budget-friendly prices. Lastly, Facebook Marketplace has been a goldmine for finding vintage clothing and furniture that hides in the shadows. Many boutiques and stores source on Facebook Marketplace, so if you can beat them to finding the good stuff first, you’re in for a real treat!
For the person who just doesn’t even know where to begin:
A good day of thrifting first involves a stop at your local coffee shop for thrifting fuel. While you’re there make a quick list of items, you’d like to find, and screen shot a few photos for your shopping inspiration. Once you’re all fueled up, I recommend everyone begin with a simple search of “Thrift Stores” on Maps. Find the closest big name thrift stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Value Village, Savers, Americas Thrift Store, etc.) and plan to go to two or three. Once you get to your first location, start in the section, you think most fits your style (women or men). I like to thrift in this order: tanks, tees, blouses, sweaters, jackets, shorts, pants, jeans, suits, dresses, and intimates). I comb through every single item quickly, and if I even remotely like something, I will put it in my cart (let that baby pile up). I like to pick out items that are unique, of quality fabric, or have a classic cut. Also, don’t shop by size! When I say I comb through every rack I mean I go through XS-XXL. A size on a tag doesn’t mean much - especially when it comes to vintage! Once I’ve finished one section, I’ll move onto the next.
After going through all of the clothing, I’ll make my way to shoes, purse, and accessories. Once I’ve gone through the entire store, I make my way to the dressing room to try on everything I’ve found. Keep in mind items you love, but that doesn’t fit perfectly can be hemmed or taken in or sometimes let out to your liking.
And… VOILA! Hopefully, you just had a very successful thrifting trip where you scored some great pieces and helped keep clothing from the landfills!
Do you have any holy grail thrifting tips you swear by? Let’s discuss.