How To Thrift Like a Pro

How To Thrift Like a Pro

I’m not exactly sure how to start talking about thrifting. I wasn’t really sure “thrifting” was an actual word, but it’s in Urban Dictionary so I guess that counts. Urban Dictionary defines thrifting as: When one visits several different thrift shops, second-hand shops, and vintage clothing stores in the hopes of buying several items of cheap and unusual clothing and other items. One usually does this with friends. And that is definitely me! I go in search of cheap and unusual clothing. Even in my earlier days shopping at the mall I wanted things that not everyone would like or wear. I always tried to be and look different.

Then I was introduced to thrifting and that was a game changer. Granted I was extremely late to the thrifting party compared to others, but I’m making up for lost time. Thrifting has taken my personal style to a whole new level and for that I am super grateful! Not really sure how to explain it really. Finding such unique pieces pushes your creativity as to how to style it. For the most part there are no mannequins or sales people to assist you so you are on your own to create the outfit. But enough about me let’s talk tips! These tips I’ve learned the hard way and want to spare you some of the trouble.

Game Plan

When I go into a thrift store I do not look at every piece. That would take forever.  I typically know what I am looking for. I like dresses, skirts, vests, long sleeve blouses and blazers ok maybe the entire store don’t judge.  I scan the racks looking for interesting colors or prints anything that catches my eye. I do the same thing for skirts and blazers again I only scan looking for anything interesting prints, colors or textures.  I only scan so if it doesn’t jump out at me I move on. I do thoroughly look through the dresses because you never know where a jumpsuit could be hiding (I’m a jump suit addict guilty as charged) then I hit the jewelry then I’m DONE!

Thrift stores have great costume jewelry. I find the smaller church thrift stores have the best selection. Check the pieces for missing stones, working clasps, clip on backs, etc. If you are buying clip ons make sure they actually clip I bought a piar that did not clip securely and fell off so into the trash they went. Oh another tip I don’t discriminate when it comes to thrift stores. I am an equal opportunity thrifter. If it says thrift store I try it at least once. You name it I shop it. Big stores, small stores, etc. don’t be afraid to venture out.

Having a strategy is key especially if you are new to thrifting or it could seem overwhelming at first. Don’t go in with a specific item in mind.  Seriously!  Some items like a black blazer I’m sure you will find in a visit or two.  But specific things you have to be patient!  I wanted a purple blazer for two years before I found one that was the right size, color, shape etc. that I was looking for.

Buttons, Stains and Holes Oh My

I can speak from experience on this next tip. Examine your pieces THOROUGHLY before you pay for them. Check the buttons, check all the seams: shoulders, back, bust, hips, side seams, etc. I have brought home pieces with a hole in the shoulder that could not be repaired and I was crushed when I noticed it. So again into the trash it went. If an item is beaded or has sequins ensure the beading and sequins are intact. Really look at the behind area, zipper, neckline and under arms specifically with those types of garments. Those tend to be priced higher as well so spend the extra time inspecting those.

While you are inspecting your pieces check for stain especially in the front from spills while people eat. It really does happen all the time folks so really look. Some stains can come out with a little Dawn dish soap (yes, it’s a miracle) or some oxy clean spray but ones you aren’t sure of it’s a gamble and that’s your call. Depending on the price I tend to take that gamble!

Whiff thrifted shoes and pieces that tend to reek of musty odors. If the garment smells old or has any sort of smell, pass on it! It’s not worth taking the chance, even if you do have a bottle of Febreeze at home.  One time there was this AMAZING dress that I had to have and it smelled so bad. I went to try it on I took a deep breath and held my breath and started to slip it over my head then stopped it smelled that bad. I had to pass. There are ways to get out smells but typically it’s not worth the fuss.


Inspect all pieces of hardware on a piece before purchase, including zippers, buttons, hook & eyes, snaps and anything else that could potentially need replacing. I recently purchased a pair of shorts for $.80 yes that’s right 80 cents and didn’t notice the zipper wouldn’t stay up. The new zipper only cost $15 so it wasn’t awful but lesson learned inspect everything!

What to Wear

I wear leggings and a shirt so I can easily try on clothing in the aisles.  Most places will not let you bring your cart into the fitting room so I try on as I go to narrow my choices easily!

Sorting Your Finds

As I’m trying on my finds I make two piles one I actually lOVE and the second is a maybe pile. Whittle down your purchases before you head to the register. If something is in the maybe pile and is a good deal or super on sale it may make its way over to the LOVE pile.


I fell into this next trap and that’s why it’s a tip. When I first started thrifting several years ago I was majorly sucked in by how cheap everything was that I literally bought everything. Well as you can imagine my closet was bursting at the seams so I heed this warning do not buy it just because it’s $4.00 or $.50 really ask yourself is this special? Do I really love this piece? Because you can easily go crazy and end up with way too much stuff like me!

Final Thoughts

Go often!  Thrift stores receive merchandise DAILY so new fresh merchandise will be available. I hit a rotation every few weeks.

Know the store sale days – like 50% days!  Salvation Army does half price Wednesdays and will do big sales on Holidays like Labor Day and Memorial Day.  Smaller thrift stores will do things like $.50 week or 60% off. So get familiar with the sale days it can really pay off.

When you shop thrift stores you may have to shop out of season.  I read this once and it makes sense people get rid of what they do not want at the end of the season.  I buy numerous sweaters in the spring/summer. Crazy but true!

I think the moral of this thrifting story is just buy what you like. Avoid buying everything you like! LOL Because as I’ve previously stated you will love everything at the cheap prices and will go nuts the first few times. I hope my tips helped and Happy Thrifting!

Photos: Alex Murg

Categories: Style Series

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