How To Thrift Shop For Clothes

By Laura Fiebert | Updated: June 6, 2022

    I’m not cheap or super frugal; I just love the thrill of thrifting. It’s all about the hunt. It’s finding that designer top for seven bucks or getting a compliment on an outfit that costs under $30 (accessories and all).

    I love selecting different styles and finding hidden treasures or finding a dress with a Bloomingdale tag for $169 and getting it for $12. True story. I’m kind of obsessed with thrift stores. It has gotten to the point where my friends don’t bother asking where I get things anymore. So let me teach you how to thrift shop for clothes.

    Looking Great Doesn’t Cost A Lot.

    I’m so glad that shopping in thrift shops has become more socially accepted in the last few years. Thank you, Macklemore. You have spread the good word.

    I’ve had a few awesome friends who introduced me to shopping in second-hand stores, and I am glad they did. I get bored with my clothes, and I’m usually over it after one season. So when I’m only spending five bucks on a shirt, I don’t feel compelled to hoard it in my closet for years to come.

    After lots of practice and many stupid purchases, I consider myself a second-hand fashion professional and thrift store whore.

    Can You Handle It?

    I want to help people find great deals, but this is not for everyone. Thrift store shopping requires a lot of rummaging, which can be super time-consuming and exhausting. It would help if you had patience and determination. The stores are sometimes crowded, and the professional thrifters can be brutal.

    Things are not organized by size or color. It’s just rack and racks of unorganized clothes. If you’re a sales rack shopper, you will probably be fine. But, yes, sometimes things will smell a little musty or weird.

    Thrift stores could be dirty, but most of them are not. You have to do your homework and find the good ones. For example, I used to go to the thrift stores on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

    I would find quality items that were barely worn. The stores were well organized and had a ton of designer stuff. In conclusion, if you’re a germaphobe with no patience, thrift store shopping is not for you.

    Where To Start

    I just go into a store to browse and see if I can find anything I like most of the time. However, if you’re a beginner, I suggest starting by looking for a specific item. It will be less overwhelming.

    If you want jeans, head straight to that section, and that’s it. Keep an eye out for sales. Many thrift stores have different colored tags, and each day a particular color will be half price. You can find some fantastic deals. Once, I purchased a pair of J Brand pants for under six bucks on sale!

    Before you head to the dressing room, check to see the item limit. Most places aren’t too strict on this, but on a busy day, they will be. Wear clothes that you can quickly try on top of and use the mirrors around the store if there is a long dressing room line.

    My New Technique

    I have found myself starting to buy things that were a good deal and fit well, but after bringing them home, I realized I had nothing to go with them. So they either never got worn, or I would have to buy something else to wear with it.

    To make my visits more successful, I have been finding outfits on Pinterest and trying to recreate them. Here is an example. I will continue posting my finds on the site for inspiration!

    Check, Double Check, and Check Again

    First and foremost, just because it’s a good deal doesn’t mean you need to buy it. Try on everything. These are second-hand, so even if a dress says grande on the tag, the previous owner may have shrunk it or altered it, so now it’s more medium.

    Besides a good fit, make sure it’s in good condition. Check for stains, tears, broken zippers, or missing pieces. I can’t tell you how many times I grabbed something off the rack and brought it home to find out there was something wrong with it.

    Most places have no return policies. You walk out with it; it’s yours forever. I hate having to hand wash or dry clean things, so I usually avoid dry clean only items. If you like me, check the washing instructions. Then, of course, wash the clothes before you wear them.

    If you put them in the freezer for a few hours, it kills bed bugs. I don’t know how true it is, but it makes me feel better.

    It Will Get Easier

    As you visit the thrift store more, you will find it much easier to spot things you like without doing too much digging. For example, I can spot fabrics and textures I like just by glancing at a rack.

    I have even gotten better at trying things on. Within 30 seconds of having it on, I can decide if it’s worth it for me to buy. This prevents people from huffing and puffing outside the dressing room door because I’m taking too long. People have yelled at me before. Oops! I’m telling you, some of those professionals are intense.

    You will eventually know what days and times are best to shop and what kind of clothes they have. Depending on the neighborhood, the clothing selection will be different. So give thrifting a shot and have fun! Send me all your deals and steals! I would love to see them.