Saturday, February 7, 2015

10 tips on how to thrift shop for clothing

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
Ready for some second-hand shopping? Here are my personal thrift store shopping tips, to help you find what you're looking for :-)
10 tips on how to thrift shop for clothing
10 tips on how to thrift shop for clothing


1) Start with your neighborhood

First thing first, where do you find thrift stores?

Start by scouting out all the thrift stores in your area. Then write down your favorites and visit them as often as you can. Many stores put out new clothing every day, so by visiting them more often you increase your odds of finding something good! :-)
Looking for second-hand clothes - Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: / ilyashapovalov - 123RF Stock Photo

If you live in the US, you might want to check out 'The Thrift Shopper' that lets you locate the thrift shops in your city easily.

Fill out your postal code or city/state, and it will generate information like store name, shopping hours and reviews :-)

2) Where's the good stuff?

From my own experience, you'll find nicer items in the upscale neighborhoods. When people earn more, the threshold is lower to throw away nice clothing and they can afford nicer things.
Looking at vintage bags in Grunerlokka, Oslo
Looking at vintage bags in
Grunerlokka, Oslo

I've been to several thrift stores here in Oslo, and the amount of good clothing varies a lot and depends highly on which 'side' of the city I'm hunting second-hand. I sometimes find designer brands and better-looking clothes on the west side of the city.

Another way of finding nice second-hand is to read reviews online, or talk to friends or acquaintances who enjoy thrifting :-)

3) Good timing

When do you usually clean out your closet? During the holidays or before the season changes, right?

People clean out their closets in the holidays and sometimes during vacations, since they have more time on their hands. It means that you should be visiting the thrift shops right after New Year's Eve, early spring (the spring clean) and late summer/early fall.

It's not that you won't find anything outside the 'hot seasons', but I personally think that the variety in clothing is better :-)

Read: Cleaning out the closet - why bother?

4) Patience is a virtue 

Don't expect to find something on the first try! :-)

My experience is that with thrift store shopping, you can't do it half way. Shopping for second-hand demands at least the same dedication as with shopping for new clothes, if not more. Sometimes you'll find something, and sometimes you don't.

5) What do you need?

Write down or picture in your head what you're looking for.

Trust me, going thrift store shopping will become boring if you don't have something in mind, unless you just want to look for something cute.

In many cases you should identify what you need, so you'll know where to start looking. Going thrifting can be overwhelming, and in most cases it requires patience and a lot of digging! ;-)

Read: Five questions you need to ask yourself before considering going shopping.
A pile of purses and handbags at a flea market in Oslo
How to thrift shop? Do some digging when you go thrifting!

6) The Right Mode

Shopping for second-hand clothing is a sport. You need to be tenacious and flexible. It's like when I'm working out with my boyfriend and he constantly tells me that I have to step into a 'beast mode' before I lift the weight. Hahaha.

Well, bring out the 'hunting mode', 'scavenging mode' or whatever you want to call it, before stepping out of the house :-)

7) Dress for second-hand shopping

The same principle applies when you go shopping for new clothes - dress down. You'll save time by wearing fewer and smarter clothes because you can easily slip in and out.

Simplify your outfit and wear leggings (instead of jeans), cardigan (instead of a jumper), ordinary sneakers (instead of Converse or similar lace-up sneakers).

Read: The pros and cons of following the latest fast fashion trend.

8) A quick checklist when you think you've hit the jackpot

How is the color?

There's nothing more frustrating than bringing home a top you thought was black. The garment was probably black when it was new, but in its current condition, the color might have faded away and it's more grayish than blackish. You just couldn't see it because of the bad lighting in the store. 

Maybe I'm color blind, but I sometimes find it difficult to differentiate between black and very dark blue/gray.

So, be sure to check the garment's color in daylight. This alone is a good reason to shop during the day!
At a thrift store Fretex trying out  a jumper
At a thrift store Fretex trying out
a jumper

Checked the armpits?

Most of the clothing that is sold at thrift stores have gone through a selection process, but I still have experienced that some of the clothes I've looked at had holes or tearing in the armpit. The damage could have been done by some clumsy costumers...

Are there too many loose threads? Any stains? Missing buttons? Remember to look inside of the garment.

You shouldn't reject a garment just because some buttons are missing. You can always remove the remaining buttons and replace them with new ones. A set of nicer buttons that you can buy at a hobby store or flea market. You don't have to be handy to pull this through :-)

Does it need extra stitching? New heels? 

When it comes to purses and bags, you should check the stitching around the handle. If you find some nice high heels, always check the heels. Do they need new heel tips?

If the heels are generally worn out, they can be replaced with new ones by a shoe maker. Have in mind that there's always a reason for why the bags or shoes were donated. Somebody out there wasn't satisfied enough.

Buying second-hand shoes? What brand is it? 

I'm asking because cheap shoes in general aren't comfortable to wear when they are new. They're not exactly more comfortable to wear when they end up in the thrift store. The original owner probably got rid of the shoes for this reason.

Shoes from designer brands are fine, because they are typically of high-quality.

Read: Tips for flea market shopping.

9) Don't be afraid to alter the clothes if they're too big

Always try the garment on! If a coat, dress or a pair of jeans seems a bit large, you should consider taking it to the tailor. Anything can be done with the right touch!

Or if you're handy with the sewing machine, you can alter it yourself! :-)

10) After the purchase

Clean the clothing when you get home, and take the clothes to the tailor right away to avoid any future procrastination.

I bought a vintage bag last year at the local market, that needed some extra stitching. It took me maybe two months before I FINALLY took it to the tailor. I know, it's so easy to think that you'll do it 'tomorrow'. As they say in Spanish: 'mañana, mañana'. 

Yeah right ;-)


Continue to read:
What are the differences between vintage and second-hand clothes?

Summary of Sweatshop web-series.


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