1. Have an open mind
This may seem obvious to some but it is essential for an enjoyable, successful thrifting session. Thrifting isn’t quite like shopping in a ‘proper’ shop when everything is laid out neatly, comes in multiple sizes, full of all the latest ‘hot trends’, where you can just walk to one section and pluck something off the rack. My favourite thrift store organises all the shirts by colour (ie. all the red on one rack etc) and then has all the skirts together, all the shorts together, all the denim together, all the heavy jackets together etc. Everything is also tightly packed so when I go there I don’t simply look at the colours I like, I look at everything because there are always hidden gems hiding away and this is important to remember.
Pull things out of racks and inspect them. If you like the detail in them then sling them over your arm or into your basket so you can appraise them properly at the end. When you pick up an item and absolutely love it but see that it’s a size too big, don’t put it down straight away. Not only do some shops have weird sizing (ie. I thrifted a pair of XL shorts that only just fit me while I’m usually a small or medium fit) but there are various ways to wear an item of clothing rather than just the way it is intended. Perhaps an oversized graphic shirt may be ideal to pair with tights to create the appearance of a dress, or just for a lazy day at home.
So yes, don’t dismiss things straight away.
2. Try everything on.
This again may seem obvious as it’s something you would probably also do in a “normal” store, however, it’s even more important in a thrift store. It’s very easy to pick up a unique piece and think that it’s absolutely amazing for whatever reason and then get home, put it on and be very confused as to why you look like you’re wearing a potato sack. It’s just as easy to put back a piece that you don’t think would be very attractive that if you had tried on, you would have fallen in love with.
When you try something on, don’t just stand there and stare at yourself in the mirror, twirl, inspect yourself from every angle. Try folding the hem up to make a dress shorter, or folding the sleeves up on a shirt or blazer. Tuck in a blouse or button it up all the way, pull something at the back to make it tighter. The idea is to find a way to wear something that flatters you and is something you would want to wear. This leads me to my next point:
3. Wear one of your staple items or something comfortable.
When you try on something it can be very difficult to imagine what it looks like when paired with another piece of clothing. If I know I am going to go thrifting I try and wear an item of clothing that I would most likely pair what I buy with (ie. my favourite shorts which get worn with everything). Even if the colours don’t match while you’re trying something on, it makes it easier to see the kind of style you might achieve.
On the other hand, it can also be useful to wear something comfortable and easy to take off / put on while thrifting. I have never been to a thrift store with more than 2 unisex changing rooms (as in little boxes enclosed by curtains and with a mirror inside), and very tiny thrift stores may not have any at all. If you are unable to use a change room for whatever reason, you may still be able to inspect some items of clothing in a mirror / reflective surface. Now, I’m not encouraging to people to get their gear off in the middle of a shop, but if you’re wearing something light (ie. tights or just a plain t shirt), it would be quite easy to try something on over the top of that.
4. Inspect everything before you buy it.
In second hand stores a majority of things are second hand (fancy that!). This means that it is quite possible they have signs of wear and tear, whether it is a missing button, a few stitches coming loose or a stain. Some things aren’t identifiable at a first glance so make so you have a reasonable look before you purchase it. For example, the other day I picked up this cute floral silk sundress which was a lot cheaper than the similar dresses nearby. Confused, yet happy with my find I went to put it with my “try on” pile only to notice a yellow stain across the white front. While it wasn’t hugely noticeable, it was obviously there. Sad, I decided to put it back.
Some things are repairable, particularly if you have basic sewing skills. With that said, try & check for:
- Buttons (missing, whether they are loose, if they have spare buttons attached etc).
- Seams (if they’re coming undone, this includes the crotch).
- Stains (especially the front, sleeves and underarms of shirts / dresses, the knees of pants, and the behind of pants / skirts / dresses).
- Faults (sticky or broken zippers etc).
- Other damage (ie. pulls, rips and tears, areas of the fabric worn thin etc).
Obviously this is not an exclusive list, rather the most obvious things I can think of. If you can think of any more obvious things feel free to drop me a comment.
5. Don’t just buy something because it’s cheap.
I am so guilty of this that it’s not funny. I pick up something that I found agreeable for whatever reason, but don’t really know if I want to buy it but then see the price tag, make a face like ‘O_O’ and add it into my buying pile. Just because something is cheap does not mean you have to buy it. It’s a depressing feeling to open your wardrobe and see a bunch of clothes, but not anything you want to wear. It’s even more depressing when you donate a shirt that you thrifted and haven’t worn, back to the place you thrifted it from.
If you feel you really have to buy something because it’s cheap (I know the feeling, dw), at least make sure that it something you can see yourself wearing and looks nice on you. Buying that neon green sequin mini dress for $2 may seem like a good idea at the time, but when you get home I can almost guarantee you’ll be feeling buyers remorse.
I’d also suggest you be wary if you’re like me and pick up an item and think ‘Oh, with a few minor modifications this would be amazing. Plus it’s really cheap, score!’. Unless you’re particularly dedicated / motivated, it’s going to sit on your ‘to-do’ pile for a long, long time, possibly forever.