Best Ways to Successfully Shop at Any Thrift Store
Insider Thrift Shopping Tips
The last time I attended New York fashion week, I knew the city would be crawling with fashion bloggers hungry for Manhattan throw-away’s. By that same logic, I knew the selection at any thrift store would be picked over. So I had to be smarter than the average bear by knowing where to look and more importantly, what would be overlooked. The best way to do that is to glance at racks off to the corners or edges of the store and look at the fabrics.
Most Important Factor is Fabric
Fabric is a key element in Thrift store shopping. If you have ever seen runway clothing upclose and personal and had a chance to feel it, you can tell right away that it is of a higher caliber. It hangs and feels different, thicker, more plush. You can tell the fast fashion from the rest quickly. Designer fabric also often keeps its shape much better than its less-expensive counterparts. Not to mention people typically treat their more splurg-y high priced pieces with more care and therefore they stay in great condition. The vintage Dior’s and Louis Vuitton’s can last longer which is one reason people buy them in the first place. Plus they’re just assembled with more care and attention by expert tailors. So once you see a nice looking fabric, pull the piece out of the rack to really look at it.
Rules of Hanger Appeal
Once you have the piece in your hands, hold it up and see the shape, and movement of the piece. This also tells you a lot about the item. How a piece moves on your hanger is similar to how it will move on your body. A stiff cotton will be uncomfortable and can make you look boxy if it doesn’t fit well. While a slinky polyester can grab your skin and hang uncomfortably on you while making you sweat and smell. I’m not telling you what to buy, but if the tag has a lot of man-made synthetics, you might want to avoid it if comfort is at all an interest to you.
Does It Fit Now
Finally it doesn’t matter how nice a piece is, if it doesn’t fit WELL, don’t buy it. I capitalized “well,” because it must! If it’s too tight, toss it back. If it’s too loose, determine if you can get it tailored. Often times suiting alterations like shoulder adjustments are in the hundreds of dollars and aren’t worth it. While a button down shirt can be darted easily and cheaply if it is too large in the body.
Also, don’t tell yourself, “I love it and will lose 10 lbs to fit into it.” This won’t happen. You won’t wear it and it will go in the trash or back to another thrift store. Waste of money and closet space. Buy for your body right now.
Bed Bugs or Bust
This is a real thing and happens more than retail employees will tell you. These clothes are coming from people’s homes, picked up off their floors, and pulled off their bodies. So bedbugs can, and are, at times a real problem. I always examine each piece of clothing in great detail before I bring it home with me but even my decent vision can’t see beg bug eggs or any other microorganisms I’d just rather avoid. So, “from the plastic shopping bag, into the washing machine” is a good motto to have. Wash that sh*t as soon as you get home. Don’t take chances.
Lastly here are some helpful and perhaps obvious thrift shopping tips from when I would personal shop with friends and clients.
- Make sure to visit often to see when new deliveries hit the floor.
- Like I mentioned earlier, always check the sides and back racks. That’s where the gold is hidden.
- Bring water… it may be a long day and clothing stores are notoriously dry.
- Clothing is sometimes tossed for a reason. Check for holes, and other issues like a third armhole etc.
- If you do see a stain or other fixable marks, ask for a discount. Chances are they’ll give it to you.
- Check the thrift store website and social media channels before shopping. Many times they will have half price days, or other events promoted.
- Think ahead. Shopping at the end of Summer for next year is another way to get great deals because all the summer merchandise will be marked down. You just have to wait six months to wear it.
- Always think about the demographic of the people living around the thrift store. Typically wealthier areas will have great finds and more designer brands.
Photos by Rhonda Watson