Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for! Finally I’ve started my thrift shopping blog series. I originally was going to only make one post, but I love thrifting so much I’ve realized I have a LOT to say about it. Today I’m starting out with all of my insider tips and tricks for how I thrift shop! This post is a little more word heavy and informative, but up next I will be doing a thrifted lookbook with tons of photos of how I wear my thrifted/vintage clothes! I hope this is helpful for all of you wondering how I thrift shop!
- keep an open mind
I had to put this tip first because it is by far the best advice I can give to anyone who wants to start thrifting. I will sometimes bring a friend thrifting for their first time and they will get really frustrated/disappointed very quickly because they don’t find something amazing right away. I think many people go into a thrift shop thinking they’re going to pull out some high quality, perfect condition, designer item right off the bat. The truth is you most likely won’t, and pieces like that only come every once and a while. You will have much better luck if you aren’t looking for perfect off-the-rack looking items and instead be open to some different/unique pieces that you maybe normally wouldn’t go for. An open and creative mindset is key, but at the same time thrifting isn’t everyone’s style and it may just not be your thing. You won’t know until you try!
- have an idea of what you’re looking for
This might sound like a bit of a contradiction to my last tip, but you do need to go into the thrift shop with some idea of what you’re looking for. This doesn’t mean you should have a super specific perfect item in mind, because you are more than likely not going to find it– you’d be better off hitting the mall. But some thrift shops are HUGE and have tons of random stuff in them, so in order to not get overwhelmed, you need to narrow it down for yourself somehow. What I mean is you should have some general ideas to help focus your search. Have in mind some colors or patterns you really like– maybe you’re loving red right now and you also dig the polka dot trend– so these items will pop out at you right away. You can also narrow by style: I’ve been looking for a lot of vintage high waisted jeans to cut into shorts for summer, so I’ve been spending more time in the jean section lately. You also could just have in mind that you could use some more t-shirts or a cool jacket and that will help your search a bit.
- get a cart
I can’t stress this enough– if you want to be a legit thrifter, you need to get yourself a shopping cart right off the bat. This doesn’t mean you’re going to buy everything in your cart, not even close. I always recommend pulling out a ton of items and stacking them up in your cart, even throwing in some things you’re iffy about. You never know what might work out, so just go for anything that catches your eye and put it in there. Don’t worry about size quite yet, unless it just looks ridiculously small or large. I’ll go into trying things on/narrowing down your cart later.
- check every section
Ladies, NEVER EVER skip the men’s section!!! If you’re going thrifting, you really have to be open to wearing both men’s and women’s clothing. Some of the best items I find are in the men’s section– specifically sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets and tshirts. I spend basically equal amount of time in the men’s and women’s section at the thrift. I love me some androgynous clothing and also men’s things are just comfier sometimes! Aside from the men’s section, I would also quickly check over the little boy’s and girls sections, because sometimes the sizing works for adults too or things get mixed in there that actually aren’t even for kids. Also, definitely don’t forget to look at the shoes, bags, and belts because sometimes you can find really nice accessories at the thrift too.
- get creative
A LOT the time when I buy something at the thrift, I don’t wear it the way it was probably originally intended to be worn. Sometimes you have to think of unique ways to style certain pieces or ways to rework them to work for you. For example, a ton of the tops I buy I will simply crop so that they work better for my style/look more trendy. I also buy a lot of button up shirts, but I never wear them buttoned all the way, I’ll usually tie them up at the bottom or wear them off the shoulder. Sometimes jeans I find are too big so I have to make them work in a paperbag style with a belt, or I decide to cut them off into shorts or rip them up. One time I accidentally bought a fuzzy coat with ears (not joking, like weird teddy bear ears) on the hood, but instead of trashing it I realized I could simply just cut the ears off. Also, if you have something that just fits a little odd and might need a bit of a hem or to be taken in slightly, these are easy alterations anyone who knows basic sewing should be able to do for you and can be really worthwhile changes. Knowing how to rework items is a HUGE part of thrifting and makes it more fun too.
- don’t look at every single item or dwell too long
Please please please don’t stare at every single shirt on every single rack one by one when you go thrifting. You will quite literally go insane if you try to look at every item. There’s a couple ways I do this, depending on my mood. I’ve seen some thrifters speed-check the racks, where they flip super super quickly through the items and only stop every once and a while if something really catches their eye. This way you kind of see everything but you don’t look too closely at all, also flipping through super fast makes you feel really cool when you get good at it. Secondly, once you get really thrifty, you might even be able to spot good things just by scanning the rack with your eyes. Never do I actually flip through the jeans anymore, I’ve literally trained myself to spot some nice vintage Levi’s literally just by looking at the rack. On the same note, don’t spend too much time in one section. Sometimes you start to go crazy looking at all of the dang t-shirts because they all start to look the same, and that’s when you should just accept defeat for the time being and move onto the next section.
- do your research
Obviously this is a little more advanced, but the reason I know so much about thrifting is honestly because I watch thrifting videos/shop for vintage items constantly. Knowing what type of vintage items are worth the money and are being resold for a lot is very helpful. You may not be looking to resell, but if you find the same item that you see people reselling for 10 times what you’d be buying it for then you know it’s probably a good find. It’s also good to do your research on brands. For example, the brand Kappa is super huge in vintage clothes right now. I would never know this if I didn’t watch YouTube or go on Depop, but if I found a Kappa item at my thrift shop, it’d be worth a pretty penny. Knowing what brands are worth a little more money is super helpful, as well as doing some research on how to spot fake vs. real designer items could also definitely come in handy one day in case you happen to find something designer.
- looking for vintage
Going along with the tip above, it may be helpful to be able to spot what vintage items look like. I personally like finding vintage items because some of them are very rare and unique and aren’t easy to find anywhere else, which makes them special to me. Not everything at a thrift shop is vintage– a lot of the things there will be newer items that people just decided to get rid of. I’ll admit, some vintage things can just be old and gross and crappy. Just because it’s “vintage” doesn’t make it cool, and it really depends on your style sometimes too. I’ve found it helpful to look at tags on things to figure out how old it is. For example, more papery tags are definitely a sign of vintage clothes! (This is a little hard for me to explain so I recommend doing some research on this on your own/looking on YouTube for a better idea of what I’m talking about).
- trying things on
When you go thrifting, you absolutely must be prepared to try things on. First of all, you cannot trust size tags. The sizing on vintage items was totally different back in the day compared to how sizes work now. Items that have been washed and worn will also shrink/stretch so you can’t even really trust modern labels either. I know for a fact that in older jeans I need to sometimes size up 3 or 4 sizes even when the waist measurement marked on the jean doesn’t match my actual waist, especially because they often have no stretch to them. Secondly, some items are just going to fit really weird and there’s no way to know how they’ll look until you try them on. You literally never know until you try. Also, if you have a heaping cart, trying things on will probably cut your pile in half if not more. Don’t feel upset or bad if things don’t fit, they honestly just might be weird fits or styles and it just wasn’t meant to be.
- narrowing down your pile/ is it worth it?
After the dressing rooms, you’ll most likely need to make some final cuts for what you want to buy. If you had a budget in mind going into the thrifting trip, keep that in mind. I’ve learned over time to pass on some pretty nice items just because I can tell they’re overpriced/ not worth the money. I can tell when some things are just bad quality and will fall apart on me, or if I might be able to find something really similar another time for a better price. I tend to hold onto and buy the more unique items that I know will be tough to find again and pass on generic ones I can find anytime. Another thing to consider is just if you will ever actually wear the item. Of course you have to do this when you buy anything, but think about where/when/what outfits you can wear the items with. If you don’t see yourself wearing it much, it might not be worth it. Also, always check for holes/stains/obvious issues– typically if I see one of these things I just pass on the item because it usually isn’t worth the repair. I’m pretty brutal when I’m narrowing down my final choices. I only get things when I really, really like them. If I’m iffy about it at all, I most often just put it back.
- bringing a friend
There’s a lot of pros and cons when it comes to bringing friends thrifting. I personally find it to be a lot more fun to be able to chat with friends when you’re looking through the racks, and being able to pick things out and show them to each other and joke about some of the hideous/funny things you find while you’re looking. Sometimes my friends find awesome things that I would normally miss and I find things for them, which is also super helpful. At the same time, going alone is also good to help you go at your own pace, focus better, relax, and pick things out without other opinions. Friends can be both good and bad for judgments– sometimes friends don’t totally get your style or might make you feel bad about something you really like which could ruin it for you. But sometimes they can give you honest and helpful advice about whether something is cool/worth buying or not. Also, I haven’t experienced this, but I would be wary about possibly fighting over super dope items with friends. If both of you spot a really amazing designer handbag at the very same time, you could be screwed… try not to lose friendships at the thrift shop.
- wash it when you get home
This may seem painfully obvious, but I’m pretty sure a shit ton of people never wash their thrifted clothes before wearing them (I had a conversation with my local Salvation Army worker about this the other day and I guess it happens a lot). I used to be grossed out even just walking in a thrift shop because I felt dirty, but I got over that and realized it really isn’t that bad and most of the items are obviously quite clean. Still, please go home and wash your finds before you wear them out, just to be sure!
- practice makes perfect
If you haven’t noticed throughout this post, it’s pretty clear that a lot of what I know about thrifting can’t just be taught but took a lot of practice and learning from experience. Not that I’m proud of it, but at one point this semester I was going thrift shopping at least once sometimes twice a week every week, so I’ve had my practice. I think it’s really important to realize not every thrift trip will be a great one. You have to go in pretty relaxed with no expectations, because sometimes you will find a ton and it’s really nice but other times you just need to accept that you didn’t find anything that day. Going a lot of different times and to different locations is the best way to be successful at thrifting. The best part about it (and in my opinion what makes it addictive) is that thrifting is kind of like betting– you never know when you’re really going to get lucky!
good luck and happy thrifting!
Let me know if you guys take this advice and try it out yourself! Tell me what you thought of this post, comment/ask questions, and let me know if you would like to see more thrifting posts as well!