Thrifting Tips

17 Sep

These Thrifting Tips originally appeared last week on my column Vegan Vogue I write for I Eat Grass. If you haven’t stopped by I Eat Grass yet, be sure to do so!

{image credit: www.gingerandthegeek.com}

One of my absolute favorite ways to shop is thrifting. There are so many benefits to finding clothing and accessories second hand. It’s a great way to find really unique items that no one else has, a way to save money, and most importantly makes a global impact being you are purchasing second hand. It’s by far one of the most eco-friendly ways to shop.

When I was in high school, my favorite thrift store had a “bag sale” once a month. The way it would work is you’d bring a paper grocery bag, and as much as you could shove into it was only five dollars. While this was awesome and amazingly cheap, my mother wanted to kill me because my closet was packed to the gills. Plus I’d wind up mostly completely impractical items. A 1970’s mint green polyester mother of the bride dress gown sticks out in my mind as being my worst offender. Sure, I thought it was cool but where the hell was I going to wear it? I think I wore it for Halloween.

As a result of these realizations, through the years I’ve created a few rules I now follow when I thrift. If you are a novice thrifter who gets intimidated by the lack of curation in a thrift store, these tips should definitely help your next thrifting experience.

{image credit: www.sammydvintage.com}

Always Thrift With a Plan

I never, ever step foot into a thrift store without a basic idea of items I’m looking for. In general, after I clean out my closet (you can find my tutorial on how to do so here) I’ll create a shopping list of items I either need to replace, or would like to add to my wardrobe based on trends currently in season.

Believe it or not, it’s totally viable to shop current trends second-hand. A great example right now is the fall 2012 color of the season, oxblood (basically, a deep maroon). If you wanted to participate in this trend, you just add “anything oxblood” as a bullet point on your shopping list.

Never, ever step into a thrift store without this list. You’ll just wind up with a lot of cool yet impractical items you’ll never wear. You don’t need a 1970’s polyester gown.

Start Pulling

Once you’ve arrived at the thrift store armed with your list, attack the racks and start pulling items that meet the requirements of what you listed. Need a new blazer? Pull a few options. A pair of red pants? Look and pull those. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to find what’s on your list, because you are specifically looking for them. It makes the unorganized racks of a thrift store much more manageable. I’ll never forget last August when I stepped into a Goodwill with red skinny jeans being on the top of my list. Upon five minutes of searching the racks, I miraculously found a perfect, brand new pair that fit me like a glove. They were only $6.

Even if the item is a size or two larger than you usually wear, I suggest pulling it at this stage. You can always get it altered and it still would only cost a fraction of what it would new, but be custom fit.

While having the list is important, it’s not 100% necessary to follow it to the letter. If you spot something you love, still pull it. This especially goes for things that suit your “trademark” looks, or “completer” pieces we often forget to shop for, like vests, cardigan sweaters or blazers. For me, if I spot anything leopard I always grab it. Anyone who follows my blog knows I have way more leopard in my closet than I know what to do with. Thrifting after all should be fun and the thrill of the hunt is part of the experience!

One important tip is to only pull the number of items you can bring into the dressing room at a time. It always sucks having to leave half of what you pulled on another rack only to come out and find another thrifter snagged them while you were trying stuff on (because they were no longer buried in the racks among mom jeans and easy to find). I’ll usually do multiple pulls and dressing room shifts until I feel I’ve exhausted the thrift store’s inventory for what I’m looking for.


{image credit: www.sheilaephemera.blogspot.com}

Try On Your Finds

Now it’s time to try on your garments. While doing this, inspect the item for damage, as well as give it a good smell. Always keep the following in mind:

  • Does it fit perfectly? And if not is it something a tailor can easily alter for you? This is why I suggested even pulling a size or so larger. If a pair of jeans for example costs you $5 at a thrift store and will cost you $20 to get altered, you’ll have a pair of jeans that fit you like a glove and look like you spent 4 times what you actually did on them.
  • Does the color look good on you. If not, pass. This goes for all shopping, not just thrifting, and should be followed regardless of trend.
  • Does it smell overwhelmingly musty? If so, pass. No amount of washings and dry cleaning will get rid of that.
  • Is it damaged? And if so are you willing to get it mended, and would it justify the cost to do so?
  • Will it work with at least two other items you already own? Again, this goes for standard shopping as well as thrifting.


{image credit: www.thesaged.com}

Following this plan will not only make your next thrifting experience more productive, but more enjoyable. If you are a thrifting virgin, also keep the following in mind.

  • When selecting a thrift store to target, consider the neighborhood the store is located. If your goal is to find quality mainstream items, target stores in affluent neighborhoods. For example, my favorite place to thrift in New York City is the Upper East Side. If you are looking for vintage or unique finds, the more rural you go the better.
  • Be prepared to have to dig in a thrift store. Garments usually are not organized. You may get lucky and find a store that’s organized by either garment type or color, but most are not. This is why you go in with the list, it makes it easier to manage.
  • If you can, bring a friend. It’s always better to have a second opinion while trying on your pulls. It also helps to have someone who can stay with your finds while you try stuff on to avoid other shoppers poaching. Plus it’s always more fun to shop with friends!

Are you a thrifter? Please share your tips in the comments!

Vegan Vogue is a lifestyle and style column focusing on all things in vogue and vegan. More tips from Corrie Feld can be found at her website Brooklyn Bliss. Follow her on Twitter @CorrieFeld

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5 Responses to “Thrifting Tips”

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