5 Thrifting Tips I Live By & Some of My Favorite Finds
Hey hey buds! So I feel like this post is way way overdue but I decided I wanted to go ahead and write it for this week’s blog post. It’s ironic because I’ve been actually trying to avoid thrifting and buying clothes in general (just to cleanse my coset and figure out what I want my style to look like) BUT because I’ve been on this little mini shopping cleanse, it’s actually making me more mindful about how I shop (whether it’s at thrift stores or not). So, while I’m attempting to avoid shopping for the next month or so, I encourage you to take some tips I’ve learned in the 5+ years of thrifting and how I managed to basically have essentially 70% of my closet completely from thrift or second-hand stores.
The benefits of including thrifting to your regular shopping routine are endless. It’s cheap, it’s supporting sustainable fashion habits and lets you explore more unique pieces to add to your wardrobe. But it can also be overwhelming at first, and it honestly took me a little while to really get the hang of it. My mom basically raised me on visiting thrift stores and the main reason I couldn’t’ get completely all on board at first was because I was still figuring out my style, and thought that the only way to be “fashionable” was to look like everyone else. But once I got that out of my head, I was more than on board - I was completely hooked.
Maybe you’ve heard this from other fashion/thrifting gurus in the past, but it’s really true that you should go into a thrifting trip with a bit of a blueprint in hand. I already knew about this trick way back in the day as a pre-teen when my mom and I used to go thrifting all the time. And to this day whenever we go she tells me, “Arbela, when you enter these stores, think of what you exactly want in your head — maybe even say it out loud and then you’ll find it.” I definitely used to laugh at this advice back when I was a too-cool-for-school 14-year old, but now it’s become a ritual, every time I enter a store like this. It’s a good thing to plan a bit ahead and not go into a thrift store completely blind because a.) these stores have a crazy amount of stuff and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and b.) it keeps your mind open.
The way I take my mom’s advice to the next level is by not only thinking of what I want in my head, but even keeping a couple screenshots/saved images on my phone of the items. This will literally give you ideas either while you’re in the store or before you enter it. One of the biggest things people tell me is that everything they find at thrift stores they feel like is just not what they’re looking for, but that’s exactly why you need to look at an example first, and then go from there. At a regular “mainstream” store, they’re specifically marketing the items to you front and center, the ones they know are on trend right now and will catch your eye. I mean think about it: trends that are popular now, weren’t even invented or popularized at one point, but it’s when we started seeing them styled in certain ways, that’s when we really fell in love with those pieces. So when it comes to thrifting, you have to do the work for yourself, because the store isn’t going to spoon feed you what you want. But hey, that’s how you get your creative juices flowing!
So figure out what you like. Make a Pinterest board, follow your favorite fashion or vintage style Instagrammers and create a mood board so you know exactly what you want to find when you go into that store. For example, on my Pinterest I have a big folder just for styling tips and inspirations, but also some separate ones for the Fall, Spring, etc.
2. Style it in your head
Kind of piggy backing off of tip #1, it’s also important to also make sure that what you’re getting is definitely something you will wear. That’s why what I’ve been learning that when going shopping anywhere, it’s important to have some kind of inventory in your head of what you already have in your closet. Thrift stores are often a treasure trove of interesting, unique items that can become very tempting to buy everything insight. And the price is definitely an added bonus. So, when you catch your eye on an item, instead of just letting the 75 cent tag swoop you off your feet, think about how you’re going to style it. Here’s some questions to ask yourself first:
Can I style this with at least three other items that I already have in my closet?
Do I own anything similar to this? And if I do, is it still different enough to have two versions of a similar style?
Can I think of three outfits right here on the spot that I can put together with what I have at home?
Which shoes / bags / accessories will go with this?
Do I have a lot of this pattern / color already in my closet?
With this, it’s very important to always try things on if you can. The thrift store that I usually go to does not have dressing rooms unfortunately, however I still find a way around it by just wearing leggings and trying on certain things (usually pants and bottoms) in the aisles. Either way, use some of the mirrors to at least put the piece against your body to see how you feel about it.
3. Small Flaws Aren’t Always a Dealbreaker
Now obviously, the biggest con of going thrifting is that often times the items aren’t in perfect condition. But me being the bright optimist I am, I really think that usually the flaws aren’t so huge that you can’t get the item completely. Just use your better judgement, if the stain looks unsalvageable or the rip is too big to sew up, then it’s obviously not worth it. However, there’s always a way around it. I’m not an expert sewer by any means, but even I can figure out how to hem a pair of pants by asking my friends or mom, or even looking it up on YouTube — and that did happen with these gorgeous pink wide leg power pants that I just had to have.
And when there’s a stain or something like that, you can always work around it by covering it with a funky broche or pin, or even sewing on an interesting patch if it goes with the piece. I think it’s also pretty exciting to find a piece that is already probably unique because it’s at a thrift store, and then you make it even more one-of-a-kind by adding your own flare or adjustment to it.
4. Look in the Non-Obvious Aisles
Thrift stores can be overwhelming, and depending on which ones you go into, it may be organized differently (either by type of clothing, by color, etc). My advice is to try your best to look through everything. Start with the sections that catch your eye, but if you still come on short, check the aisles you maybe wouldn’t first think to check. Random aisles like Maternity, or even the pajama section may have something interesting you overlooked.
5. Go out of your comfort zone
This is my number one tip on not only having a successful thrifting trip, but also an enjoyable one; it’s by simply going out of your comfort zone. The way I see it, you can get basics like simple t-shirts or a staple item anywhere (and there’s no shame in getting it at the thrift store, because a bargain is a bargain) HOWEVER, I highly urge anyone stepping into a thrift store to use it as an opportunity to use your comfort zone fashion-wise. Why? Because thrift stores are treasure troves of both vintage and modern pieces that would usually cost you an arm and a leg online or at vintage store, so why not try out that funky jacket, multi-colored skirt for $5 before you make the investment? Why not try out that trend that you’ve been seeing in magazines but haven’t exactly tried out yet? I am learning that it’s bad to just buy every piece of clothing you even like a little bit at a thrift store, because that will inevitably lead to over-cluttering. But with that being said, if you see something and it really inspires you and it’s calling your name — just get it!
There is no need to have that “I don’t think I can pull this off” attitude when you go int a thrift store, because it’s a place where you should be looking for things that stand out and that are different. That’s ultimately one of my favorite things about these stores; we live in a world where we’re constantly being told what trends are supposed to be, what we’re supposed to wear and how to wear it because of what’s “in” or because of our body types. In a thrift store, I let all those societal influences fly out the window. I just look at what inspires me, see if I can make it work with something at home and I go for it. Thrifting will always have a special place in my life, and I’m glad I’m still learning new ways to find the best items at these stores.
Favorite Places to Thrift (In Person and Online)
Value World (Local, Cleveland)
Salvation Army (Nationwide)
My Closet, Etc (Online shop)
Depop (Buy, sell, trade app)
I do have more places that I find second hand, beautiful vintage and thrifted pieces online, but I’ll save that for a future blog post!