Tips for first-time thrifters

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Thrifted denim coat, blue skirt, graphic dress, patterned T, and burgundy sandals

Finding great clothes at thrift stores is a popular hobby. Any hint of shame that used to surround buying second-hand clothing is long gone. Now, buying used is all about finding unique pieces from all eras and in all sorts of styles — at a great price.

Thrifting can be overwhelming though, so I’ve put together a few tips for people who are new to it. If you’re a seasoned thrifter, I hope you find some useful ideas too.

Be patient. When shopping in a thrift store, give yourself time to scour the racks. Hidden gems will be mixed in among the castaways and it might take time to find them. If you’re in a hurry, you’ll end up frustrated.

Go during off-peak hours. If the store is crowded, it will be harder to take your time and look through the racks. You might have to wait for a fitting room too. So do yourself a favor and skip thrifting during peak hours.

Have an open mind. If you go to a thrift store looking for a fitted white top or pleated green skirt, you’re bound to be disappointed. Unlike the mall, there’s no guarantee you’ll find what you’re looking for. Plus, if you’re focused on finding a specific item, you’ll miss other deals waiting in the mix. Look through the racks and see what jumps out at you.

Look for quality. Yes, there’s a lot of junk in thrift stores. But there are quality pieces too. Keep an eye out for fabrics like silk, linen, and cotton. Certain brands are known for quality too, so if you know your brands, you’ll know what’s worth buying — and you’ll have an idea of what the garment cost new and how much you’re saving.

Ignore sizes. Numbers don’t matter as long as it fits. Vintage clothing runs small and European sizes are different than U.S. sizes, so numbers can be misleading.

Consider alterations. If you find the perfect pair of pants but they’re too big, you might want to buy them anyway and take them in. Likewise, you can breathe new life into an out-of-date calf-length skirt by shortening it to above the knee. Unless you have sewing skills, add the cost of alterations to the price of the item and make sure it’s still a good deal. Shoulder pads can be snipped out quickly, but hemming the sleeves of a blazer could require a pro.

Look for sales. Even thrift stores have sales. Look for the sale racks or ask about daily or weekly specials. Goodwill, for example, has different colored price tags, and on certain days of the week, certain tag colors will be on sale.

Try things on. Most thrift stores I’ve been to have fitting rooms. It’s worth your time to try things on. The best deal in the world isn’t a deal if it doesn’t fit — or doesn’t flatter.

Inspect. It’s a given that you’ll take your purchases home and wash them, but you can’t always fix damaged items. Look for stains, snags, fraying edges, and general wear and tear. A missing button can be replaced, but pen or lipstick might not wash out.

Have fun. This goes without saying, but thrifting shouldn’t stress you out. It’s about finding a one-of-a-kind item at a great price and adding pizzazz to your wardrobe. So get out there, have fun, and know when you’ve had enough.

Supporting thrift shops is a great way to recycle clothing, and you’re usually supporting a charity or nonprofit. Prices vary though; just because it’s at a thrift shop doesn’t mean it’s a deal. But when you find something you love, and you get it for a song, you’ll be hooked — just like I am.

Do you shop second-hand? What are your secrets and tips for thrifting success?

About the author
Jean White is the author of the style blog Jean of All Trades (www.jeanofalltrades.com), where she writes about personal style, including her interest in DIY projects, thrifting, and remixing.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you go thrifting, and you’ll be sure to walk away with treasures, such as an adorable collarless cardigan for the office or a flirty floral dress!

6 Responses to “Tips for first-time thrifters”

  1. Lynn Says:

    These are all great tips, Jean! I would add: Do NOT go thrifting on Senior Discount day (unless you are a Senior Citizen!).

  2. Jean Says:

    That’s a good tip – I bet it’s busy then. Although, for seniors, getting an extra discount is a good thing.

  3. Shannon Says:

    This is an awesome set of tips. I love Jean’s style. Thanks!

  4. Maggie Li Says:

    All great tips! when I shop for jewellery I look for nice beads not just for style,took them apart and create something I like. Love your style!

  5. Jean Says:

    I’m glad you like the post! Maggie, your tips are great too. taking apart–and reassembling–jewelry is so creative! Never thought about it.

  6. Laura Says:

    I love thrifting and the unique finds that I make. I would also add that you should go back regularly because new items come in all the time and sometimes you may have missed something. I have about three shops that I visit when I am near them and have a bit of extra time. Even if I was just there last week.
    Cheers,
    Laura

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