So... what is a thrift store exactly ?
Now, as I mentioned here, where I live 'thrift stores' are generally not known as thrift stores. Instead they are usually referred to as 'op-shops' (as in opportunity shop) or second-hand stores (which is essentially what they are). They may also be referred to as a charity shop as many are often run to benefit churches or to help fund thing such as 'Lifeline' which offer services such as crisis support and suicide hotlines. There are also places called 'Recycled' clothing stores or advertise themselves as selling vintage goods (however, I would think that 'vintage' stores are more expensive then your generic thrift store).
Okay, so let me get this straight, a thrift store sells second-hand goods ?
It seems like you've got the gist of it. With this said, some thrift stores also sell new goods. The larger chains in my part of the world not only receive stock from closed-down stores but also receive stock from open clothing stores for whatever reason. For example, at the moment Lifeline has a huge selection of brand new garden ornaments (tags still attached) and the Salvation Army had a selection of cute floral strapless dresses from the shop 'Ice'.
So you buy items that have already been worn by other people ? Isn't that kind of gross ?
1. Thrift stores do not just sell clothing. They sell books, cd's, jewellery, furniture, toys, video games etc. If buying clothing there is not your cup of tea, you can still shop at thrift stores for other goods.
2. Before you have images of hideously stained items run through your head, I have never, ever come across an item like this. When shopping at a thrift store, keep in mind that the goods are second hand so if they are gently worn this is quite usual. While I usually only shop at chain thrift stores, I have never come across a "grotty" item, just as I have never come across one at the smaller thrift stores.
With this said, thrifted clothing is not always in perfect condition, even if it's new with the tags attached. For example, I brought one the (new) floral dresses that were at Salvation Army which zipped up at the back. The zipper had begun to come unstitched - obviously the reason that the shop had donated a handful of them). However, with a few stitches from my mum the zipper was made much stronger then originally.
3. I would also probably advise that if you buy clothing from a second hand store, just throw it in the wash before you wear it. It's common sense.
Right then, so I can buy clothes & other stuff there ... is it cheap ?
Essentially yes. The prices range depending on the location of the store, the chain if applicable (for example, I find that Salvation Army is more expensive then Lifeline and that Anglicare, a church-run thrift store is usually around Salvation Army prices, or a bit more) and the condition of the clothing.
It also depends on who is pricing the items. For instance, I use to avoid Lifeline because there was someone there who was pricing higher then I agree with, but now they seem to be back to 'normal'.
To give you an example of the kind of prices to expect, some photographs (you can also see a few recent floral finds, I posted here):
This is the new 'Ice' dress from the Salvation Army that I've mentioned a few times. It set me back around $6 - $8 dollars. The only issue with them was the zipper, already explained.
These shoes were from the Anglicare and set me back $10.90. They were in really good condition, except were missing two buttons. They came with a spare button so I decided to add one button to the shoe missing two and remove one button from the shoe with all of them, so they were even. I never would have considered these shoes at a store. They're from Verali who at the moment are changing a min of $50 for their flats, so I am left to assume that these shoes probably cost more then that.
This blazer is from Lifeline and in perfect condition, setting me back only $5. It's by Rockmans and judging by their online shop which shows plain button up blouses for $50, I am left to assume that new it would have cost at least that.
Woolblend cardigan from Katie's which set me back $4. They sell cardigan's online for about $50 but don't have anything quite similar enough to this for me to make a comparison. My mother ensures me that the fact it's 'woolblend' means it's definitely of a reasonable quality. Has one tiny pull in the sleeve which is so small that I didn't notice it until after a few wears (possibly meaning that I caused it).
Lace backed dress from Lifeline, from memory set me back about $4. I'm actually embarrassed to admit that's from Supre, a store that I haven't set foot in since I was about 15 (think obnoxious / offensive, loud music, shorter / tighter = better mentality). This find has convinced me that I should probably give the store another chance since they were okay for 'basics'.
Okay, so I really want to start thrifting now but I'm worried that my friends will judge me for wearing 'pre-loved' clothes.
Firstly, as cliché as it is for me to say, a proper friend shouldn't really care where you get your clothing from. Of course, this is the real world and people can and will judge you (even the people who aren't suppose to). I'll be the first to admit that I also felt like this and only in the last year have overcome this due to acceptance displayed by people close to me (last two paragraphs here). Now, these are your clothes and you do not have to tell people where you got them from, so feel uncomfortable then just don't.
If you feel the need to offer some sort of answer, but don't want to reveal that it's thrifted you could simply offer the brand of the item (if the label is there etc) or say you've had it sitting around in your wardrobe for ages / inherited it off an older sister / brother / whatever.
Whatever your choice, remember that it's your body and you are entitled to buy clothes to clothe it from wherever you want.
Where can I thrift ?
I live in NSW, Australia so if you are from there then I suggest trying out Lifeline, Vinnies, Salvation Army or Anglicare. As far as I know these stores are Australia wide and you can search for ones in your area on the website. Just googling the term 'second hand' or 'thrift' etc and your state should reveal some good places for you, google maps is pretty useful for it to. Apart from that I suggest looking at online communities. I've also heard 'Goodwill' mentioned a lot, so try seeing if there is one near you!
Where can I find other thrifters online ?
To be honest I've only just started to explore the online community myself. At the moment I follow 'My Fairy Thrift Mother' on tumblr who often reblogs peoples thrift finds / queries / posts about places they shop etc. I also follow 'fythrifting' and 'thrift hauls'. If you know any good places be sure to let me know in a comment!
Edit: Click here to read five handy thrifting tips.