I’ve been working on this article for a long time. As someone who enjoys thrift-shopping tremendously and has gotten quite good at it over the years, I decided to compile the most extensive guide to thrifting, ever!!!
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” – English proverb
If you’re short on cash, need clothes, or just looking to experiment with style on the cheap, second-hand stores are the way to go. There are many misconceptions about thrifting: that it’s dirty, only poor people go there, the clothes are old and worn-out. None of these things are necessarily true – I, for one, consistently find stuff that’s new, like-new, and even with tags still on! Most fashionistas I know enhance their wardrobe with thrift shop and flea market finds, and enjoy looking for hidden treasures.
Thrifting not only helps you save money, but also opens your mind about style and possibilities. Here are some tips on how you can avoid the common mistakes and thrift like a pro!
DO be open-minded. Everything here is one of a kind and has potential if you’re willing to look hard enough.
DON’T expect to walk in and see a bunch of things you like, right away. Thrifting requires digging, so be mentally and physically prepared for it. I find it immensely satisfying to walk out with a Betsey Johnson dress and a cashmere sweater at a fraction of the price after 40 minutes of digging. :)
DON’T expect everything to be clean and perfect. Most things here are pre-owned, which means they’ll need to be laundered or dry-cleaned. Most thriftstores will reject stuff that’s unsellable and downright dirty, so you have nothing to worry about.
DO check for rips, tears, spots or moth holes. Some spots can be dry cleaned, some can’t – it’s a risk that you take while thriftshopping. Take any wool & silk fabrics to dry cleaners immediately – in case of a hidden moth contamination, you don’t want your whole closet to get eaten.
DO factor in dry cleaning costs and/or time spent fixing an item into your decision-making. These are the hidden costs that can really sneak up on you if you’re not careful.
DO find out when your local thrift store gets in new stock – you’ll get first dibs on the best stuff!
If you brought a shopping buddy, DO separate and agree to meet up at the cash register in an hour. The higher your concentration levels, the better the results.
DO go thrift-shopping while traveling. Larger cities like New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles offer amazing second-hand shopping that can’t be beat. Ask what the best places are and go, go, go! One of my favorite places is the Fairfax High School flea market in LA – I found so many cool things!
If you have time, DO open yourself up to experimentation – try new styles, patterns and cuts you wouldn’t normally wear. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
DO skip out on brands like Gap, Old Navy, and Abercrombie & Fitch. You’re here to search for gems, not clothing for the masses!
DO learn how to spot expensive fabrics – the most efficient way to look through racks of stuff without getting overwhelmed. Search for colors and patterns you know you like, and zone out the rest.
DO try everything on if you can. Just because it was only $5 doesn’t mean you want to end up with something that doesn’t fit! (Trust me, I’ve stepped into that hole more than once.)
DO wear easy on/off clothes – flip-flops, a t-shirt and a long skirt with an elastic waist work best. Larger, more established thriftshops like Goodwill will have fitting rooms but smaller places may not; a long skirt allows you to try on pants without flashing strangers. If push comes to shove, you can create a make-shift fitting room by hanging long dresses on racks around you – or ask a friend to hold up a dress while you change in the corner.
DON’T buy it if it doesn’t fit or requires major fixing. I once got a jacket knowing full well it was too big, and it just ended up sitting in my closet until I finally gave up and donated it back to Salvation Army.
NEVER buy something just because it’s cheap. As tempting as it might be to buy that scarf for $2.99, if you’re having doubts, it’s probably not worth it. Leave it for someone who really wants it.
DO donate often – recycling is good for the environment and will make you feel good about not being wasteful!
Deerlings: Do you believe in thrift-shopping? What is your favorite item you found in a second-hand shop? Share your tips with us if you have any!