Thrifting ain’t (always) easy, but it can be: 7 thrift and vintage shopping tips and tricks


Fashion editor Francesca Bond showing off a partially thrifted outfit at Hoyt Lake.

Francesca Bond, Fashion Editor

*Cue Thrift Shop by Macklemore*

I’ve been wanting to write a thrift shop guide for a while, so here it goes! Anyone who knows me knows I love thrift shopping. I scored this cashmere Diane Von Furstenberg dress for 6 dollars a couple weeks ago and then I looked it up online when I got home and found it’s retail value was $400. I was pretty pumped to say the least! You won’t find deals like that every time but when you do, it feels pretty rewarding.

Not only is thrifting great for the environment and your wallet, but it’s the best way to have an awesome wardrobe full of unique pieces that no one else will probably have. I get lots of my clothes from second-hand shops, and I’m going to share some of my best tips and a general guide for thrift shopping. So whether you’re a master thrifter or a complete novice, there will be something in this for you.

There are two main kinds of secondhand shops:

  • Chain Thrift Stores: These are stores like Salvation Army, Goodwill and AMVETS. There is a stigma around these stores that they are gross or dirty, and I’m here to totally put that view out of your mind. Yes, it’s not like shopping at Saks, but it’s not all that bad. The bottom line is these stores are filled with ALL kinds of things, so you’ll probably have to spend a lot of time digging through racks. But once you’ve come up with a bunch of unique, vintage, or designer pieces for super cheap prices, you’ll never go back. Plus these stores usually use their money for good causes. PROS: cheapest option, lots to look through, usually has good sales. CONS: fluorescent lighting, tiny changing rooms, usually need to dedicate a long amount of time to it.
  • Consignment Boutiques: These are like thrift stores where someone has already done the work for you and now you can just look at the best of the used clothes and decide what you like from there. These stores are located all over the place, but my favorite local one is Second Chic. These are usually independently run stores where people sell their clothes to the store, and they either receive commission once the item is sold or is paid a small amount upon selling it. This is a good way to get a few bucks for your designer item. These stores are wonderful for vintage finds, good brands, and newer items, but a little bit of the fun of scoring a great deal is taken out of it. Not to mention the prices are significantly higher at these stores than the larger thrift shops. PROS: supporting local business, can sell own clothes there, less time required to find something amazing, better luck. CONS: more expensive, less of a hunt.

Now that we’ve gone over the major thrifting differences, let’s get onto my tips!

  1. Keep an open mind: This is my number one tip I’ve always told friends and family. So many people say they don’t like wearing people’s old clothes, and they think it’s dirty. It’s not dirty! Wash them and that problem is solved. Also, keep an open mind when picking out clothing too. Not too open, because you don’t want to buy something you’ll never wear, something I’ve done all too often while thrifting. But the easiest way to try out a new style is to only spend a few dollars on it at the thrift store.
  2. Pretend you found it at your favorite store: I started doing this a few years ago and it seriously changed how I approached shopping. I pictured that I found the item at Free People, would I want it then? If the answer was yes, I knew I must get it.
  3. Start with what you’re most interested in: I usually start at the dresses because it tends to be a smaller section and easier to look through. Then I go to sweaters and blouses, skirts, then home goods. Pants shopping has always been hard for me while thrifting and usually at the large stores, there are aisles upon aisles of jeans so I don’t bother looking at those unless I really need to find a pair.
  4. Check the rack by the dressing rooms: People usually put back really cute items here, so always make sure to check it out!
  5. Don’t neglect the home goods: Most of the items are garbage, not going to lie. However, you only need one awesome thing to make it successful, and I’ve gotten beautiful plates, home decor, and kitchen items from this section! It’s always worth a look-over.
  6. Look for sales: The Salvation Army usually discounts one color tag every week. The colors of their tags depend on which week the item was donated, so there are all sorts of different colors. After a few weeks, the clothes that are still there are discounted half-off. There is usually a board at the front of the store saying which tag is on sale. Goodwill does something similar, and also offers student and senior discounts.
  7. Try everything on: This is a shopping rule in general, but definitely follow this while secondhand shopping. It’s too easy to grab a million things you think are cute and then feel too lazy to try them on, but you definitely don’t want to clutter your closet with used clothes you’ll never wear. Try it on, and picture different outfits you’ll wear with it. Do one better and even create those outfits when you go home, and snap a pic so you remember to wear it!

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