Hundreds of blogs/vlogs have popped up in the last couple of years featuring incredibly well dressed men and women that buy their clothes at thrift shops. And I’m sure you’re sitting there puzzled, wondering how they seem to find such great pieces in a sea of junk. Well, today’s your lucky day. I’m going to break it down for you and share six of my favorite tips and tricks to successful thrifting. I consider myself to be quite the expert since I’ve been thrifting since before thrifting was cool. I grew up with an incredibly cheap mother so when everyone else headed off to the mall to go school shopping we headed to the closest Goodwill. I hated it as a kid, but now I am so grateful to her (and my equally cheap daddy) for showing me how to sift through the crap to get to the gold. So let’s get started with my six favorite tips and tricks. At the end I’ll also show you some of my favorite thrifting finds!
1. Choose your thrift store wisely
I can’t stress this one enough. Not all thrift stores are created equal. Try to focus on thrift stores in more affluent areas. That’s not to say that you need to avoid all low-income community thrift stores but if you’re looking to find a great bargain on a really quality piece you want to try to go to a community where the neighbors would have actually owned that item. The designer stuff will be in the more affluent areas, but if you’re looking for something cool and different then pretty much any store will do.
2. Look for quality, not necessarily brands
This is something my father taught me. When looking for clothes and shoes at thrift stores make sure you feel and read! Really feel the fabric to check for quality and always read the tags! You know you’re getting a good deal on a sweater if the fabric is Cashmere, Wool, or Merino Wool. Anything else, keep on moving. Shoes should always be 100% leather with wood or leather soles. Sometimes these fabrics come standard with more high quality brands but not always. Don’t be a brand snob; if it’s a beautiful garment with quality fabric snatch it up.
3. Look for key pieces
I’ve bought pretty much everything at a thrift shop at one time or another (except under garments) but I try to stick to my key pieces: blazers, dresses, blouses, and (sometimes) shoes. These are the kinds of items that would cost me $50 and up in a traditional store so by thrifting them I save upwards of $40 on each item. Have a plan when you come in. Don’t just expect to browse the whole store (unless you have all day). Decide what you’re going to look for then take your time and really go through the inventory. Plus, I know this is a cliché but they just don’t make clothes like they used to. My pieces are twice the quality at a fraction of the price.
4. Don’t be afraid to haggle
Remember, this is not a traditional store. If you think the price is too high offer a price that you think is fair. Also, take advantage of all discounts. Often times they’ll have discounts on a particular color on certain days. Take advantage of all military and student discounts as well.
5. Shop often
Not every thrifting trip will be successful. Failure comes with the territory. Inventory is replaced quickly in thrift stores so check back often for new deals. I like to peruse my favorite thrift stores at least once a week. If I had more time I’d probably go more often. It doesn’t have to be a long trip, just 10-15 minutes every time just to get a sense of what’s there.
6. Don’t be afraid to tailor
One of the biggest downfalls of thrift stores is that they generally don’t have multiple sizes. If you find a piece that you really like that doesn’t quite fit don’t be afraid to tailor it. You’re going to have to thoroughly clean everything you get anyway so spend the extra couple bucks to make sure it fits beautifully. You’re saving so much money on the garment you mind as well use some of the extra to make it perfect.
(from left to right) Assorted earrings all under $2 each, Nine West Leather Combat Boots, Emporio Armani Cranberry Suede Loafers, Pendelton 100% Wool Tan Jacket.
I wore the Armani Loafers almost daily when I first got them so I’m sure they look a little worn but I definitely got my money’s worth!