How to Thrift for Clothing Like a Boss
People often tell me that they’re intimidated by thrift shopping, or they don’t know where to go, or even how to look for items. They see others wearing amazingly creative thrifted outfits but feel like they just can’t do it themselves. I am here to tell you that anyone can do it! Last week I completed the 30 Day Thrifted Fashion Challenge, and I learned so much in that time, and I wanted to share all of the tips and tricks I have for thrifting clothing with you today. In addition to what I already knew and used when I shopped, I picked up so many new ideas from several people who joined me in this challenge and today I want to pass all of that knowledge on to you. It’s my firm belief that shopping thrifted is the best option for your budget, and it lessens our footprint on the earth, and you get a huge variety. By the end of reading this post, you will have the confidence you need, and you will know how to thrift for clothing like a boss. Get your reusable shopping bag ready, because we are going thrifting!
Where to Shop for Used Clothing
Large Chain Thrift Stores
Emmy and I do a lot of shopping at large chain thrift stores like Goodwill. I will say that each Goodwill is a unique experience! While I think that these big chains can be pretty obvious, I’ve definitely got some ideas on how to shop at these stores. First of all, pay attention to your surroundings. We travel to a couple of Goodwills that are generally in “wealthy” parts of town. I know that the people who are donating there are more likely to be donating name brands, and are more likely to be paying dry cleaners to take great care of their clothes. Secondly, find out their schedules. Most of the people who are employed in these shops are super nice if you talk to them and are in often. Chat them up and find out what days they put new stuff out on the floor, or what they they think is best to shop. They’re usually more than happy to share! For those of you who are local to me and want to know my favorite places, I am more than happy to share. I love the Goodwill on Marketplace as well as the one on Battleground. Both of those are large and I almost never leave empty-handed. I scored this outfit at the one on Battleground.
I have also heard great things about the Salvation Army Select on Elm St (and it’s in a great section of town, Irving Park). I went one time and didn’t happen to find anything, but I plan to go back again.
Locally Owned Thrift Stores
Locally owned thrift shops are like little secret hidden gems that often only the locals know about. I don’t yet have any here in Greensboro that I love for clothing, but I will update this post if I find any. When I was in Hilton Head in January, a local girl I met at the HGTV dream home was happy to fill me in on the best places to thrift on the island. She told us about one shop in particular that ended up being a gem! I never would have found this fabulous shop if it hadn’t been for a local filling me in. I found two of my new favorite pieces there, these tops you can see below.
If you are new to an area, or even if you’re not and you’re just new to thrifting, ask around. People are generally happy to share the hidden gems with you. And if they aren’t happy to share, you don’t need them in your life. 😉 Community over competition, people!
Consignment Shops & Sales
Consignment shops are basically just a step up from thrift shops because the owners of these shops and sales generally go through the items and make sure they are good enough and stylish enough to resell. The prices may be slightly more than buying straight from a thrift shop, but they’re clean and in great shape. You generally don’t need to check for holes or stains, which is a nice perk. Maybe that sounds silly, but it’s true! Emmy and I also hit up a consignment shop when we were in Hilton Head, and I tried on this vintage mallard cardigan that was cashmere from Scotland and only $8 but she pretty much hated it so I passed. I thought it was fun though! I always love quirky vintage cardigans… brings out the book nerd homebody in me. Not that she needs bringing out.
There are a lot of kids consignment shops around and seasonal consignment sales pop up, often at local churches. You can often find these events on facebook by searching, and then because you searched or liked one, more will pop up on your feed. Some people find that annoying, but I honestly find it helpful. That’s how I learned of the consignment sales I went to this past spring and fall to shop for Wilder. You can also search for consignment shops on google or facebook, and sometimes it takes going to a few before you find your favorites. If you’re local to Greensboro, I love Be Kind Kids, where they have a great selection of clothing, adorable storefront, and a super friendly staff. They have their finger on the pulse of what’s trendy and their selection reflects that. Just look at their adorable store window.
Plato’s Closet is another great chain that isn’t necessarily consignment but they sell gently used clothing that others have sold to them. (You can sell your own clothes to them!) Again, everything has been vetted and is in great shape. I’ve actually not yet been to a Plato’s Closet, but have heard great things and can’t wait to check out my local shop.
Instagram is an amazing place to find clothing resellers, especially that of vintage clothing. I also know several large accounts that create a secondary account to clean out their closets! I have actually bought a few pieces that way. The best way to search for these sellers is through hashtags such as #vintagefashion #secondhandfashion #shopresponsibly #sustainablefashion #ebayreseller #thriftshopindo #onlinethriftshopping #secondhandclothes #thriftingfinds #slowfashion #resell #resale #onlinethriftstore #resellerlife #reselling #secondbranded and so many more! Often those resellers will ship their items, and you usually just comment to buy. One of my favorite resellers for vintage is Lora at Our Village Goods. She has such a great eye and finds some really special pieces. She’s also recently started doing auctions in her stories which are super fun! I got this vintage Pendleton top from her.
Facebook marketplace is a go-to for me when I am looking for particular items of clothing for Wilder, but I also check there for brandname boots for myself, as well as vintage clothing. Searching is so easy, and you can select the mileage radius you are willing to travel from your location. Typically sellers are willing to meet you somewhere which helps keep it safe, too.
There are several online resellers these days, some that have been around a while such as Ebay and Etsy, and some that are newer to the scene such as Poshmark and Thredup. I honestly don’t use ebay too much. Etsy I find is perfect for those special vintage pieces, but it can be pricey. I haven’t yet used Thredup, but I am a huge fan of Poshmark! The prices and selection they offer are amazing! Emmy and I actually started our own little shop there to help her clean out her own closet. I will soon be adding to it with some of my own things I need to let go of. I have not yet purchased through Poshmark, but we had out first sale, and they make the process SO easy by providing the shipping label. Shipping things is always my worst nightmare, so that was a lifesaver.
Swaps with Friends
Invite a group of friends over and ask them to bring clothes they don’t wear anymore so you can all have a swap! Everyone leaves with new items at no cost. What’s leftover can easily be donated. I can’t think of a better, free way to spend a night in with my girlfriends!
How to Shop for Used Clothing
Shop Often & Know When
When shopping used clothing, it really can be hit or miss. The key is patience. You may go to a thrift shop once, not find a thing, and think, well it’s not for me. However, if you go frequently, you are sure to have days where you walk out with 20 items! Frequency is crucial! Also, often shops have certain days where “new” merchandise hits the floor. Ask the store employees what the best days to hit their stores are. I have often found that Sundays are great days because Saturday loads of people are dropping off donations. Sometimes stores operate on an actual schedule though, so it’s good to be in the know.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
Do the neighborhoods surrounding the shop look really nice? If so, chances are the items in the shop will reflect that. The people making donations to it are in close proximity, and if they have nice things, the shop will have nice things. I always look on a map to see what part of town a thrift shop is in before exploring, or if I am visiting a nice area, I will check to see if they have any thrift shops nearby, like I did in Hilton Head.
Bring a Buddy
On the occasion that I thrift shop for clothing alone, I tend to get overwhelmed and bored and leave empty handed. Having a friend with me helps keep me excited, and we often find things for one another. The experience is so much more fun, and we are able to tackle more of the store by dividing and conquering. My friend is usually Emmy, but she totally gets my style, and I sometimes get hers. (Teenagers are hard!) Tania, who participated in the challenge, suggested having your friend pick things for you, or picking things for each other to try on. She found some great items she never would have thought to pick up and try on that way! Emmy knows I love J. Crew fashions, and she found this sweater for me. I might not have seen it on my own.
Think Outside of the Box
Think beyond the section you think you would shop in, and that goes for sex as well as sizing. Often in those larger thrift shops, people move things around and sizes get thrown around, or juniors and ladies are mixed (and hello, I might wear a S in ladies, but give me a L in juniors any day!). Throw sizing out the window and just look for things that speak to you.
Also don’t forget to check the mens section for great finds. Of course, you can shop for your partner in life, but you can also shop for YOU here. Monica found this amazing mens S shirt from Everlane at a thrift shop near her. I don’t know about you, but I adore her style and would definitely wear that shirt.
I actually found a sweatshirt once in the boys section once that I loved. It was an XL and had black bears on gray background and it fit me, so I brought it home. No shame in that!Don’t pay much attention to sizes.
Thinking outside of the box also means, thinking outside of what you would “normally wear.” As Ann who did the 30 day thrifted fashion challenge stated, “I just went shopping with a shopping with a friend today and came home with some shoes and a faux fur vest that I would never buy at a retail store. Thrifting is a great way to try new styles for a low cost.” When items are such a low cost, you can get outside of your comfort zone and explore new and exciting styles!
Shop Off Season
It’s easy to go into a store and think of what you need now, but I highly recommend when thrifting to just keep an open mind when it comes to season. Often in the winter it’s hard to find cute sweaters because everyone else is looking for them. In the summer time, you might not want to think about wearing sweaters, but you’re bound to find a greater selection because no one else is shopping them. This statement goes for shopping online resellers as well. In addition to a better selection, you can also often score a much better deal off season.
Always Check Your Item
Sometimes items are donated because they have stains or holes. Check your piece rigorously before you buy it. Also, I recommend smelling it… even if you think you look like a weirdo smelling a thrift shop shirt, you will thank me later. 😉 Goodwill likes to douse everything with febreeze, and I am pretty sensitive to smell, so I am constantly smelling items and making sure they don’t smell like pets or smoke underneath the smell of dryer sheets.
Sometimes if items have stains or holes, you can finagle a better price, and do what my friend Danielle does, and upcycle them into something amazing! She sells her found fashions here. As she stated in this post, “when life gives you stains, put a patch on it!”
I truly hope that you picked up some new tips from this post, and if there’s anything I left unanswered, feel free to shoot me an email ([email protected]) or drop me a comment!