How to Thrift Store Shop for clothing:

FACT: Thrifting can be overwhelming:

What store do I choose?
Once inside, where do I start?
When should I go?
Do I need cash?

Because those thoughts can flood your brain, its understandable why many of you just don’t do it all. BUT if you don’t do it all, then you are missing out on a really invigorating shopping experience.

I like to think of it as treasure hunting.Every time I go to a thrift store I walk away with an amazing, unexpected find, at a remarkably bargain of a price. Best of all…it’s recycling!

I started thrifting because I love fashion, but could never afford (without going into debt) to buy trendy and designer clothing. I learned from an old friend who was a fashion stylist and another friend who used to work at a thrift
store how to navigate them successfully.


Before you even go into a thrift store you need to establish why you are going. (At least if you are a newbie.) This will prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated. The best way to do that is to list what you need.
If I don’t have something in particular that I am looking for, like a brown cardigan or sequins dress, then my strategy is to hit up certain things that I know that I will always need, like flowy work blouses.

Here’s my personal list of things that I always check when shopping at a thrift store:
But I do recommend that you skip out on buying lingerie, bathing suits…you know items that get really personal.

Research thrift stores in your area. Each one offers something different. I categorize the in three ways: pure thrift, general thrift, and boutique thrift.

Pure Thrift: usually bigger, warehouse stores.

Sorted only by sections like women’s blouse and men’s blazers. And also sorted by colors. Some even just have big piles of clothes that you have to dig through. They are generally not sorted by brands or quality, so this is where you really can treasure hunt and really find “gold.” This type of thrift store is my preference. I find top brand names, clothing with tags on it, etc. Because they are minimally sorted, the prices are usually the cheapest. But you have to thoroughly check for quality, flaws, weird stains, etc.
In the Southeast, Value Village is the best example. Also, Goodwill Warehouse’s (not to be confused with standard Goodwill Stores)
Other thrift stores are sorted a little more. I call these general thrift stores.

You are familiar with their names mostly because of the charity they serve.
These places have less selection and the prices can be about 100 percent higher
and are conting
ent on the brand name. Meaning, a dress that cost $4 at Value
Village can cost anywhere between $5 and $10 depending on the brand name.
Examples of these thrift stores are Goodwill and the Salvation Army.

Next we have boutique thrift stores.

Usually, these places also offer consignment items. (*Stay tuned for post on how
to shop and sell at consignment stores.) Wanna know how the owners of these
stores stock their shelves? They basically shop Pure Thrift Stores (see above).
These stores don’t take donations unless they are top label brand names in mint
condition, and most of the time, if it’s in that’s the case, they will either
flat out buy it or co
nsign it for you. So for all of their work, you can expect,
cha-ching, higher prices for second-hand clothing.
In your area, you can google “boutique or designer thrift store”. Consignment usually comes up next to the stores, but I just explained why above.

Step#3Once you determine which store type (see Step#2), research the nuances about that store. Does it have sale days? Does it open early? Is there a day that they get fresh shipment and stock the shelves? Do they have dressing rooms? Doing these extra steps will help you save more money and have an efficient shopping trip.

More tips before you enter:

    • If you can, go early. Some thrift stores open as early at 7:30 am.

    • If possible, choose a sale day or a restocking day.

    • Dress comfortable…so you can
      easily try on clothes.
      *Even if there are no dressing rooms, if you wear
      comfortable clothes you can easily throw on items in the isle, run to the mirror
      to see if works for you.

    • Expect to spend a couple of hours shopping, at
      least. Prepare for that.

    • Do you shop with friend?
      *I personally do better alone. I need to concentrate. If with friend, make sure they know the time that it will take. Also, what’s their purpose: to help dig or be secondeye. Make sure you know because it’s not a typical shopping trip.

Now, you’re ready to go inside.
Step#4Once inside:
1. Get cart if you can.
2. Pick a section…for newbies, I say look for just try two. For example, long skirts and blazers.
3. Then go through that section piece by piece. Touch them all! As you get better, you’ll go faster, and take on more sections. Remember you’re digging for treasures, and the best treasures are usually hidden. So dig, dig, dig!
4. Try on and make sure you like the looks you’ve selected. If you’re going vintage, are the sleeves from the ‘80’s? Do you like the look after all when it’s on your body? Is the number size that you know fits you too small after all? Is it ill-fitting? Can it be tailored?
Trying on clothes is essential, especially in a thrift store. Again, if you don’t like it when you get home, you know that you won’t wear it and it will just eventually be donated back.

Now, let me dispel a myth.
“It’s a thrift store, so I shouldn’t have high expectations on quality and condition.”Absolutely not! Why would anyone ever want to put on trash? You don’t have to settle for that. I only buy things that are perfect for what I need at thrift stores. If it’s not, I put it back.
You don’t have to resolve for less than wonderful: bad stains, tears, smells, etc.
Now, if it is something you really love, like a great leather coat and you think that you can work with the imperfection, then buy it. You have to weigh the blemish to see if it is fixable, cleanable or mendable…or if it is something that you can live with. If it is something that you can fix, how easy is that challenge? Do you want to send it to a tailor? Well then how much will that cost you? Weigh the costs, if it’s not worth it, then leave it alone! Walk away. You won’t wear it and will end up donating it back.

My example: I am pretty handy with sewing simple projects, but I happened upon a
sequins dress made in the ‘80’s. I almost passed on it, but a friend that was
with me said…”You better not.” Now that I think about it, I should’ve bought all
the sequins I saw that day…and there was a lot. I got the dress for $5. I spent
$50 to shorten the hem. It was worth it, because sequins is impossible for the
novice to work with, and I didn’t want to ruin the dress. The dress was my New
Years Eve dress and it was amazing!

With that…Thirft stores are great places you can take fashion risks, with minimal costs and potential loss. You can pull an inspiration outfit online or just happen upon something funky. Buy it and work with it at home. If it doesn’t work out…oh well…it only cost you a few bucks, right? Now it’s time to donate it back.

My thing is that I love to repurpose outfits. Many of my shopping trips have been just to pick up things to repurpose. I may like the texture (leather), or the pattern of a dress (but plan to turn it into a blouse), I may find a dress but it’s too long, so I’ll shorten the hem; the same with sleeves. *Stay tuned for upcoming posts and videos on how to repurpose things.

For families...
Probably the best secret is taking advantage of thrift stores. Little kids, especially babies, get very little wear out of their c
lothing. So scour the thrift stores for everything from packaged onesies to baby formal wear. You can find designer jeans and many things with tags still on.

Now that you have your big bag of goods. Next…what to when you get home….

*Check my thrift store challenge video on my show Charlotte Today.


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