One of the only things keeping me sane through COVID (though we have no real place to go) has been experimenting with putting outfits together and really branching out when it comes to my style, how I approach clothes, and how I FEEL in clothes more importantly.
If you know me, you know I LIVE for thrifting... the hunt! In the present, nearly 90% of my closet is thrifted (shoes, belts, tops, dresses, hats...everything), and I love that it is filled with one-of-a-kind pieces that no-one else I know has, that also allow my to feel confident and have fun when getting dressed everyday.
I love how unique and timeless the pieces I have found are, and how many decades and styles I can live in through my clothing! My family has thrifted most of my life, but for some, thrifting is a brand new concept. I thought I would share with you a few tips and tricks that I have learned through my adventures shopping secondhand, in hopes that you can go and have some fun while making the most of secondhand fashion!
Set a budget.
Though thrifting can be a great alternative to the bill that comes with buying fast fashion in large amounts, it is VERY easy to get carried away in a store where most items run from $3 to $10 on average. “How can I not, it’s only three dollars.” That mindset can also lead to things adding up, so this is what I do.
I usually set a budget of $20, $40, or $60 depending on how much extra cash I have to spend that month, and I make decisions on purchasing items based on that budget. Setting a budget can help you stay on track financially, but can also make you a ruthless decision maker when it comes to what items you DEFINITELY want to add to your wardrobe and won’t find anywhere else, vs. the items that are only “okay” or things you have multiples of already.
Plus... leaving with multiple items for under your set budget... an even better feeling and mega win!
Read reviews before you leave.
Some thrift stores will leave you more fulfilled than others based on the pricing, selection, and atmosphere. Be sure to jump online and check out reviews for the thrift stores in your area before leaving to check them out. I have found these to be helpful and for the most part very accurate.
Go in without expectations.
Because there is always a different selection of items in a thrift store, and nearly no duplicates, it is best that you don’t set your expectations to high when it comes to finding something specific.
I have definitely left bummed out in the past when I had a “plan” and didn’t find what I was looking for. It can be so much more fun and fulfilling when you head in with an open mind and no agenda. Let the thrift Gods lead you to the perfect items for you!
Check the tags.
Grabbing vintage items for just a couple of dollars is the most fun! The tags on vintage items are usually a dead giveaway. Look for ones that look worn or older, or that you don’t recognize and then use your phone to search for those brands. You’d be surprised how much some of the vintage pieces are worth vs. what you will pay, as well as how old some of the pieces are and what great quality and shape they are still in. Remember, most everything old is new again!
But DO go with some inspiration.
Pinterest is the best tool you can use if you are a thrifter. I am guilty of spending hours on Pinterest, looking through photos of styles I want to try, or those staple items I want to search for and add to my wardrobe.
My style varies based on my mood, but linked below is where I keep my inspiration photos for all the different things I’ll be looking for when I pop into the thrift stores this year. Feel free to check it out!
Bonus Tip: If you have found a piece at the thrift store but you aren’t sure how to style it, type in the name of that article of clothing followed by the word “outfit.” I have tried so many new ways to style certain pieces by looking at what others have done, and searching for potential outfit ideas has also helped me make decisions on whether or not to buy items or not.
Don’t limit your search to the women’s section.
Broaden your horizons! I have found so many great items in the mens section, that I would never have found flipping through the ladies section. I feel like you will almost always luck out (especially if you are inspired by a more grunge or masculine style) with pieces like denim jackets, flannel shirts, graphic/band t-shirts, and quarter zip sweaters in the mens department. I also recommend searching through the men’s jeans! I have lucked out finding some great mom style, vintage Levi’s jeans that have been a perfect fit. Sometimes the men get the style advantage in those categories!
And DEFINITELY don’t limit yourself to one size.
Knowing what size you are is great, but can also be limiting when looking through sections at a thrift store. For this reason, I always explore the two sizes above my own on top of my actual size.
I usually where a medium or large, but will always look to the extra large or even the 2X sections for shirts I can wear oversized, tucked in, dresses I can belt up, or extra comfy loungewear. Some of these pieces end up being my favorites, and I would have missed them if I didn’t really browse.
Pay attention to sale dates, and sign up for rewards programs.
One of my favorite thrift stores to visit is the Savers in my area, and on top of their super reasonable pricing, I LOVE their rewards program. If you sign up they will send you emails with exclusive member deals (I LIVE for a 50% clothing day). Savers also sets a 50% off discount for a certain colored tag on most days of the week, and if you are a member, every $100 you spend, you get a 20% off your entire purchase coupon. I love being able to bundle my 20% on top of the color tag discounts. WE LIVE FOR A BARGAIN.
Basics are your friend.
A common road block for people when putting outfits together is not having the right basics for layering. There was a point in time where all of my tops had a print or a stripe on them - and it made it SO hard to make an outfit look the way I wanted, or find jackets and other layering pieces that went with them.
I am in no way shunning the stripe or the polka dot (I still have quite a few of those as well as a ton of florals (my favorite)), but I do suggest grabbing some solid tops and bottoms in numerous styles, in colors like white, black, tan, or even army green. These colors allow you to build on an outfit with things like a printed blazer or jacket, a fun shoe, some chunky jewelry, etc. without there being any clash or inconvenience. Basics usually run pretty cheap at a thrift store as well, with things like t-shirts and long sleeve crew necks or turtlenecks coming in as low as $2 in my area!
Plus... basics tend to be some of the most comfortable pieces you own, and I am ALL over comfort.
Grab the pieces that push you out of your comfort zone.
A usual boho/neutral/even preppy girl style-wise myself, I live for the days that I can throw on a leather blazer, a rock and roll t-shirt, combat boots, or a Victorian style dress.
Trying something new or out of the ordinary may lead you to a style you never thought would suit you. I have fallen in love with some of my comfort zone crushers, and I recommend having some fun with your clothes - super rewarding!
You have your basics now, right? The staples in neutral or solid colors that will let you build on an outfit. So proud. But... now it’s time to accessorize.
Some of my personal favorites to search for second hand (because the vintage finds are PERFECTION and the prices speak for themselves) are shoes, purses, and earrings. I’m not sure about all of you, but without earrings on, I feel naked. Right now I am loving a chunky vintage gold hoop. And handbags and shoes... don’t get me started. Again, if you are more minimal on the side of clothes, a fun pair of shoes or a different handbag can change or elevate a whole look. Thrift stores carry it all!
Fill the cart, then weed it out.
Kind of like it, but not sure? Throw it in the cart. A bit pricy, and not sure? Throw it in the cart. Will it fit? Throw it in the cart.Think your sister might love it? Throw it in the cart.
Part of the thrill of thrifting is that almost all the pieces in the store are one-of-a-kind. Who will find it first?! This also means that if you leave items behind while being indecisive, there is a chance someone else might snag it before you decide you actually do want to take it home. That makes for a sad thrifter.
My strategy is to throw in all the hell yes items, AND all the maybe items too. I take my time going through all of the sections and then I park the cart in front of a mirror or a dressing room and weed out the items that I can live without, from the items that I know need to come home with me forever.
I hardly ever leave a thrift store feeling regret since I started doing this. It gives you time to think of the individual items and decide if they are right for you. Highly recommend.
I hope that these tips prove helpful for you the next time you are out at a thrift store, or are exploring second-hand and sustainable shopping for the very first time! I frequent at the thrift stores in my area and am constantly rotating pieces in and out of my wardrobe; it really is so much fun, and for the most part, totally guilt free!
I would love to do another post here, or share with you all on instagram all of the amazing things I have in my closet that have been bought secondhand, and would also love to see your finds as well! What are your favorites? What deal could you not pass up?! Post them over on Facebook or Instagram where the whole community can see them, and until then...