How to thrift shop like a pro

Thrift stores have a lot of hidden gems. but how can you find the really good stuff in Goodwill?

Whether you’re interested in reducing clothing waste or simply finding a great deal, thrift shopping is an excellent alternative to traditional shopping. But with rows and rows of clothes, all in various conditions, the store may feel more like the wild west. And while some are destined to find gold, others come up flat. Here’s my top eight tips for making the most out of your thrifting prospects. 

1. Try everything on.

Just because the tag says an eight does not mean it’s an eight. Clothes in thrift stores come from all different places and from all different times meaning the number on the tag is basically meaningless. Beyond this, these clothes were people’s personal items, worn, distressed or tailored, they lived a life far beyond what was once on the tag. 

2. Pay attention to fabrics.

Buying cheap does not mean you have to skimp on quality. The type of fabric used in a garment can be your key to test its overall quality. With many unknown brands at the thrift store this is sometimes all you have. I like to look specifically for high quality silks, natural cottons, structured denim and wool. 

3. Go beyond your section.

Whether it is because someone placed an item in the wrong place, or you found out you look really good in men’s jeans, the thrift store is your place to test the limits of the clothes. Some of my favorite finds are actually from the kid’s section. 

4. Find your thrift store staples.

Going through an entire thrift store is a time-consuming task and it can be nice to have your own shorthand to fall back on, especially when you are starting to lose confidence in your thrifting abilities. For me these staples are graphic t-shirts, baggy sweaters and silk blouses. I know I will almost always be able to find these pieces, and I won’t leave the thrift store empty handed. 

5. Accept the clothes you just can’t find.

A thrift store isn’t a magical land with gold on every street corner. Going in with very specific mindsets of finding the perfect fitting pairs of Levi 501s can leave you missing the real steals that are in the store. Keep an open mind and recognize you won’t always be able to find exactly what you’re looking for, but you can surprise yourself. 

6. Embrace the DIY.

Clothes at the thrift store are usually one of a kind and one size only. Learning how to do simple hems and alterations can open up your closet to many more combinations found at the thrift store. Even learning simple alterations, like cropping and distressing can completely alter a piece. 

7. Be respectful.

Although it can be fun to try on the wackiest clothes you can find and laugh about how ugly they are with your friends, for a lot of people shopping around you, this is their only option. Be respectful of them and their time. Clean up after yourself and be aware of the impact you can have. 

8. Think outside the box.

No other stores will have the same diversity of style, design, age or wear. Take advantage of this and find some truly unique pieces. 


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