I (Jessica) am a self-proclaimed failure at thrift store shopping. So, I have a few things to learn from Rena’s tips today. Maybe you do, too.
Confession: About 80% of my wardrobe was bought from a thrift store. If you’ve never been thrift store or consignment/resale shopping, I really recommend it. I will warn you that your hands will feel dirty and gross afterwards, but the treasures you find will be totally worth it. People have told me that they don’t like wearing things that are used, but I like to think of them as “previously loved”.
Here are some tips to think about and to help make your thrift shopping a success:
1. If possible, wear specific clothing to go shopping.
Not all thrift stores have dressing rooms, so sometimes it is a good idea to wear clothing that will be easy to try clothes on over. A neutral colored tank top works well to try on sweaters and shirts, a skirt to try pants on under and slip-on shoes that are easy to take on and off.
Unfortunately you most likely won’t be able to return items, so it is important to know it fits you really well before you purchase. If there are no mirrors, go ahead and have a friend (or one of your offspring) shoot a picture of you.
2.When you go in, start in the area of the item you most desire.
Depending on the size of the thrift store, you might not get to everything. That’s why it’s a good idea to start with the item of clothing you would most like to purchase (shirts, dresses, etc.).
3. Go in with an open mind, not something specific.
I’ve always heard that the higher your expectations, the more likely you will be disappointed. It’s highly unlikely that if you are looking for a “forest green cardigan from GAP with 3/4 length sleeves” that you will find it. Instead, just look through the cardigans and hope to find something else that might fit in your wardrobe.
You also might be surprised with the amount of things that you find that you WEREN’T looking for. So, being ready for anything is your best best.
4. Look through the clothes quickly.
Because you probably have a lot of ground to cover, it’s best if you skim the clothes quickly by looking at the fabric and colors and only stopping when you see something that pleases you.
5. Don’t be afraid to try on sizes that aren’t yours.
Because most of these clothes have been owned before, there is the chance that the item has been shrunk or stretched out, so feel free to try on sizes that are close to your size. I am a size 12, but have clothes that are size 10 and size 14.
This could also have a lot to do with the manufacturers’ not having consistent sizing. If you hold it up to yourself in the store and it looks like it would fit, go ahead and try it on.
This also applies to shoes. In my wardrobe, I have shoes from 7 1/2 to 9. Just make sure to TRY IT ON!
6. Stick with brand names.
I wouldn’t consider myself a “label fiend”, but when I come across something in a thrift store that I like, I ALWAYS look at the tag. This gives me an idea of what size it should be to fit me, what the fabric is made out of, and how well it is made. Get to know your brands as far as ones that might come from Ross, Target, Gap, Old Navy or Nordstrom because you are most likely to encounter these.
This is not to say that if you find something that doesn’t have a brand on it, don’t get it, but just be wary of the way it is made. I have found some cool, possibly homemade things before. In this instance, judge how the fabric feels and how it fits you.
7. Look for wear and tear & be honest about whether you would wear it a lot.
Look the item over carefully for any rips, snags, or material that looks like it could pill easily. Discerning the wear and tear will help you decide how much you like it and if you want to keep it. Also, make sure that it’s something that you would wear often and be a good addition to your wardrobe. Don’t just buy it because it is a good deal.
It is helpful to shop with a friend in these instances to give you honest opinions about your purchases. It is also a good idea to check the tag for the care of an item, such as if it needs to be dry-cleaned.
8. Know what works on your body type.
If you know that you look horrible in pencil skirts or cropped jackets, it’s probably not a good use of your time to bother trying it on. Go ahead and skip these items.
If it’s an item you are unsure of, it could be a good idea to try it on because you could be surprised to find a new style that works for your body. Don’t bother with items that don’t fit you really well or aren’t comfortable.
9. Think about how you could accessorize or fit the item into your wardrobe.
While I shop, I hold items up and make outfits with them in my head. If I see a pretty cowl neck sweater, I think “this would look great with a denim skirt and knee-high boots”. This will help you decide whether or not to purchase an item.
10. Don’t get discouraged, be consistent.
Thrift store shopping is hit or miss, so some shopping trips might seem like failures. But there will be those amazing finds that you get, that will make the search totally worth it.
When you do start finding a lot of great deals, beware! It’ll get super addicting! You will want to go all the time to see what you can find.
Some other tips include: taking cash with you AND checking store hours before you head out, since thrift/consignment store hours aren’t always the same as normal stores.
How do YOU make thrifting a winning experience?
Rena, aka “the girl with the smile”, is an optimistic style blogger in San Diego. Learning about fashion through trial & error (high school years were pretty awkward), she loves fashion and the ability to create a look and boost self-confidence through clothing. Since Rena lives with all men (husband and two sons), she needed an outlet for her fashion knowledge, so she started the blog The Girl with the Smile.