Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thrifting Tips 2: Finding the Good Stuff

So we're in the store. Now is the moment that most first time thrift shoppers get overwhelmed, but I'm here to help.
Shopping second hand doesn't mean you have to be looking for vintage. I don't always buy vintage when I'm in a thrift shop. These tips are for anyone looking for quality items to add to their wardrobe for less money than buying retail.

1. Bring your wish list.
    Remember the list we made yesterday before we went shopping? Bring it with you! It's a physical reminder of the things you really need in your wardrobe and it will help you get started when you are feeling overwhelmed. Is a new pair of shoes on your list? Head to the shoe section and start hunting.

2. Don't rush.
    You will miss things if you rush. Take your time, touch and look at everything on a rack. Walk around the store several times and look at each area from different perspectives. I can't tell you how many times I've found something amazing I missed the on the first walk through walking back through a section and seeing it from a different angle. Things get jammed in and tucked away in weird places in a thrift shop.
    You will also need time to search through bins. Dig in, you might be missing treasure if you only sift through the top layers like everyone else. 

3. Familiarize yourself with quality fabrics.
    Learn what silk, cashmere, velvet, quality cotton and other high end fabrics feel and look like. I shop 50% with my eyes and 50% with my fingertips. I run my hands over everything on the rack while I look and let what I see and feel inform what I take off the rack to inspect further.
    If you are a first time shopper with little experience in textiles shop this way too. Feel every item while you scan the rack. If something feel luxurious have a closer look at it. Check to see if there is a tag inside with a content list. Even if you don't buy it you're learning what these quality fabrics feel like. 

4. Inspect your finds for stains and rips.
    When you do find something you like take a good look at it. Inspect the fabric and seams for rips and stains. Look on the inside, check the hem, check the armpits for stains.
    Learn what can be fixed and what is better left on the rack. Unfortunately, sometimes learning what  can and cannot be fixed must be about trial and error. I have bought things in the past I thought I could repair, but sadly couldn't - that's the way the thrifting cookie crumbles.
    Fallen hems and split seams are easy to remedy, even for a novice seamstress. Missing buttons can be trickier, sometimes there is a spare on the inside, but usually it requires finding a completely new set of buttons. Leave behind items with thinning fabric, or worse, holes in the fabric.
    And if you aren't the kind of person who will repair something, don't buy it! Be honest with yourself - you're not doing yourself or your wallet any favours by taking home something that needs work only to let it languish in your closet while you let the guilt eat away at you. There are many like-new garments and sometimes items with the tags attached at the thrift store.
    If you are someone who is willing to do repairs I will deal with caring for items that need mending and talk about spot removal in detail in a few days.  

5. If you like it don't let it go. 
    When you get in the store grab a cart or a basket right off the bat. You will need it to hold your loot while you shop. If you like something hang on to it even if you're not sure you're going to buy it. There is only one in the store and someone else may grab it if you leave it on the rack while you ponder your decision.

6. If you're a lady, check the menswear section too!
    I've bought menswear on several occasions to alter it for myself. Men's jackets - if small enough - can be great finds. Suspenders, belts and even hats can all be great additions to a gal's wardrobe. 
    My brother wears vintage and I keep an eye out for stuff he'd like on my travels too. 

7. Try everything on.
    Once you've been through the store and your basket is filled head to the change room and try everything on. This is another great way to narrow down your choices - if it doesn't fit or doesn't look fabulous on you don't buy it. 

8. Get picky. 
    After I try everything on I try and narrow down my choices some more if I still have a lot of items in the 'yes' pile. The goal is to have a fabulous wardrobe full of quality items that make me feel fantastic, not to hoard everything that fits.
    At this stage I have another look at everything in my basket and ask myself some questions:
  • Do I already own something similar to this? Is this one better - could it replace the one I have? Getting dressed in the morning becomes overwhelming when you have too many of same thing. I don't need another black t-shirt. But if this one is better than the one at home I commit to getting rid of the old one and buy the new one. 
  • Will this item work with existing pieces in my wardrobe? Similar to the last point, there is no point buying something you have nothing to wear with no matter how fabulous you look in it. It makes your closet disjointed and makes getting dressed a chore because your clothing doesn't co-ordinate.
  • If yes, how many different outfits could be made with the addition of this item to my closet? If the item in question does match several pieces in your closet try and visualize how many different ways you could wear it. The more ways you can wear a piece the bigger bang for the buck you get from the item.
  • Do I like this item so much I would pay full price in a retail store for this it? Don't buy something just because it's cheap. I don't buy anything I wouldn't consider buying new at full price. 
  • Is this something on your wish list? If it is, it fits and you love it, buy it! No brainer. 
  • Be honest with yourself - will I actually wear this and do I feel great in it? If the answer is no or even if I'm on the fence I don't take it home. Period.
    The longer I shop the quicker I am assessing a new potential addition. Practice makes perfect. 

9. Visit frequently.
    I firmly believe that part of the reason I'm so "lucky" in thrift shopping is because I go often. I can't tell you that there is a magical formula for the number of visits in a certain time period to guarantee great finds, but when I'm in serious need of something and have some cash to spend on it I go once a week or more if I have time. Other times I'm cash poor or don't need anything desperately, so I go less frequently.
    With some time you will learn when your favourite stores put out stock and when is the best time to visit.

Tomorrow I will talk specifically about how to spot vintage items in a thrift store.

Check out the rest of this series:



  1. thanks for the tips. No 7 Try everything on is really importent for me

  2. Fantastic series! I know follow pretty much all of these, it is always good to read about others tips.

  3. This series is fantastic! I am definitely guilty of rushing my way through shops. I'll have to try to slow down and pay a little more attention in the future.

  4. Stellar advice!!! One thing that I always check for with garments that are missing buttons is if I can move the existing ones around in a configuration that would hide the missing button(s) or style the piece (e.g., tuck a blouse that has a button or two missing just at the very button into my skirt or pants) so as to camouflage the fact that there's a MIA button.

    ♥ Jessica

  5. Great advice but I do have an exception to the "don't buy something just because it's cheap" rule. Cheap clothes can be a great opportunity to try wearing something outside your comfort zone. If it doesn't work out you haven't lost much and if it works out, yay!, you've expanded your style.


I always love to hear feedback from readers!

Check back or sign up for follow up comments! I do my best to answer all of your comments and questions right here!

Thanks for sharing!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...