My Top 10 Tips for Thrift Store Shopping (Fashion Edition)
- Scope out the area. If you are looking for brand names and designer tags shop at thrift stores in high-income areas. One of my favorite thrift stores to shop at for clothing is in a neighborhood with million dollar homes nearby. These ladies like to stay up with the latest trends and often donate gently used items after just one season. If you are a teen or college student wanting to find younger styles, shop at thrift stores near college campuses. When students move around they’re always “lightening the load”. Also, if you love more of the retro, vintage fashions, shop near retirement communities. My grandma used to take me into “Sals” (her nickname for Salvation Army) near her retirement community and we always found some amazing vintage stuff!
- Don’t go with a plan. Thrifting is about the journey so ditch the plan and enjoy the surprise finds. Hire a babysitter (kids are the biggest thrifting buzz kill), and block out an afternoon for thrifting fun. Plan on perusing and don’t be focused on a specific item or you might be disappointed (thrifting is a hit or miss) and you might miss out on all the other great stuff hiding on the racks.
- Be dressed for success. Wear leggings and a tank top under a loose fitting tunic or dress for quick changes. Often the dressing rooms are in shambles (doors don’t lock, stuff everywhere, etc.) or they’re just full so trying on stuff in the aisles may be necessary. If you’re trying on shoes, nylon booties should be worn to prevent any yuckies from transferring to your little feet.
- Go alone. This may sound greedy but I like to do my thrifting alone. I can move faster and I don’t have to fight over my great finds with anyone! The worst feeling is to stare down your friend over a vintage Valentino scarf that’s going for 50 cents!
- Thrift on weekdays. Hit up your thrift stores on a weekday afternoon if possible. Weekends tend to get CRAZY and the extra people leave chaos in their wake. Thrifting takes a lot of time and patience to sort through all the “rough” to find those “diamonds” and the rush of weekends can feel nerve-wracking and force you to walk out empty-handed or with a bunch of stuff you don’t really like. Also, typically thrift stores run their specials on weekdays so call ahead or check online if you want to get a double-steal.
- Examine items carefully. Before you try things on examine each item carefully for any rips, frays, missing buttons, stains, pit marks, or other blemishes. But keep in mind some of these things can be easily fixed so don’t be too discriminating if you really love something and it’s a great price. I have bought quite a few brand-name shirts and cardigans that have simply had missing buttons. Also, if you find an issue you’re confident can be fixed, haggle! They very well could knock even more off the price for “damaged” items.
- Bring cash. Some thrift stores don’t accept checks and credit cards so bring cash if you’re unsure of the stores policy. Also, dealing in cash will help you stick to a budget because it’s like my husband says, “A great price still ain’t FREE!”.
- Create a clothing FLOW in your closet. To cut down on a cluttered and overflowing closet, prior to thrifting, go through your clothes and find items that you don’t wear anymore (come on, you don’t REALLY wear those tie-dyed t’s anymore). Bag them and bring them with you to donate. Not only does this help the “circle of clothing life” but it will open up space for your new stuff.
- GET CREATIVE! Develop an eye for repurposing and upcycling. For example, you like the print on a dress but hate the shoulder pads and weird neckline. Can you cut in off at the waist and make it into a skirt? Or what about those espadrilles with the broken buckle? Can you swap out the buckle for ribbon ties? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself all through your thrifting journey. But keep in mind there is a cap on how much work you want to be doing for the price. A $10 dress isn’t really a $10 dress when you put $20 extra of new notions and fabric to it and 18 hours of extra work. There are plenty of FANTASTIC resources for ideas on repurposing and upcycling clothing. Here are a few I found just to get the wheels turning: http://craftingagreenworld.com/2008/05/23/girl-reconstructed-upcycling-old-clothes
10. HAVE FUN!!! Enjoy the journey and have fun! Try on all kinds of things that you wouldn’t normally pick and think outside of the box. Oh and DO NOT miss out on the accessories! Purses, scarves, hats, jewelry, belts… you can find some amazing things! And DON’T FORGET, when you get home with all your new finds, always wash before you wear and spray any shoes with disinfectant spray.