Monday, January 13, 2014

Thrifting Tips: Where to Start?

It's about time I post about this. I've got 15+ years of thrift shopping under my belt and I buy 90% of my clothes second hand so I'd like to think I know a thing or two about it.

What has kept me from doing a post like this is the abundance of good advice on the subject from other bloggers. But what I realized is that I love to read and re-read posts on the same subject from different points of view, so what the hell.

One of the things I get asked the most is "That skirt/top/necklace/whateveritisthatI'mwearing is great! Where did you get it?" 9 times out of 10 I've bought it second hand. The next question that usually follows my response of "Thanks, it bought it second hand" is: "Can I go shopping with you?" So now I'm posting my own advice on the subject right here for you to peruse, refer to and enjoy!

If you'd like to successfully shop second hand there are a few things to keep in mind before you even grace the doors of a store - a shopping strategy if you will. These tips will hopefully help keep you from being overwhelmed, which seems to be every new thrift shoppers main complaint.

1. Find a thrift store. 
    Easy for me to say right? But this is truly the first step. How are you going to shop unless you have somewhere to do it?
    I would start by asking for recommendations from people you know who thrift shop. Second hand shopping doesn't have the bad rap that it did 15 years ago and a lot more people are doing it these days. Google is also your friend. And if you're old school: the yellow pages. 
    I find new places to shop by keeping my eyes peeled while I'm out and about. This doesn't necessarily mean that I stop in the minute I see a new store, I'm often on my way somewhere else when I spot a new shop, so I take a note in my iPhone and do my best to visit at a later date. 
    I believe every shop is worth at least a few visits before I decide whether it's good or not. Try to visit every month or so to let the stock change up. If after 2 or 3 visits the shop is still filled with junk I stop going. 
   I also usually avoid shops near universities, large malls or shopping districts - all the hipsters have picked them over. 
   If you're looking for vintage, I think the best vintage at the cheapest prices are found in the out of the way shops in suburban areas and in rural towns.
   And don't forget to hit up the local thrift shop if you are travelling. I often skip the mall and head straight to the local second hand store when I'm away from home. 

2. Dress to impress.
    Or shop, rather. I have been known on occasion to wear heels and a dress thrift shopping, but I don't recommend it. You're better off wearing comfortable shoes and separates.
    Wear shoes you can easily slip on and off, like flats, sneakers or pull on boots.
    I'd also recommend wearing separates. It means you'll have something to wear with that top or bottom that you're trying on. Thinner separates, weather permitting, will also give you a leg up.  Sometimes I get lazy and don't want to try things on in the fitting room, so I pull them on over my clothes in the aisle and wearing something thin means you'll have a better idea of how it fits.
    Bring a bag with a shoulder strap. You'll need your hands free to shop.

3.  Have a budget.
    I know this sounds silly if you're shopping second hand, but it can be easy to buy a lot and overspend because everything is cheap. When I started shopping second hand I would get over-zealous, bring way too much home and spend waaaay too much money. And more often than not most of what I'd buy would just end up hanging up in my closet unworn. So I started shopping with a budget. I found it helps me cut the wheat from the shaft. I only take home the things I really love and leave the things I feel so-so about behind.
    You don't need much. $20-30 can buy you a lot.

4. Know what you're looking for, but also be open to what comes your way.
    Having focus and knowing what you're looking for in a thrift shop (especially a large one) can help keep you from buying things you don't need. The simplest way to do this is to evaluate your closet before a trip. What are you missing in your wardrobe?
    Being the A-type personality that I am, I keep a small written list in my wallet of the items I need to flesh out my closet (i.e: red skinny belt, black mid length skirt, navy flats etc…). When I feel overwhelmed or don't know where to start I get out the list.
    On the other hand, once you're in the store don't get too married to your list either. Let the "thrifting gods" guide you. If you come across a fabulous jacket that you absolutely love, fits like a glove and you know you would get a lot of wear out of, but isn't on your list buy it anyway! Some of my favourite pieces are ones that the universe has dropped into my lap.

And that's just to start! We haven't even walked into a store yet…
Tomorrow I'll post some tips on finding quality items and keeping focused while you're at the store.

Check out the rest of this series:



  1. Great primer, Lisa. Like you, I get almost all my clothes at thrift-shops. And there definitely is a learning-curve. In the beginning, I floundered around like a tyro. Now, I attack the racks like a pro.

    All of your points are accurate and helpful. One thing that differs between us is your ability to try stuff on in the store. I can't do that and envy the opportunity you have. The way I make up for this is to carefully check the stretchiness of material which is the biggest determinant of whether something will later fit me at home.

  2. Wonderful introduction to this subject, dear Lisa. It's great that you wanted to share your own wisdom gleaned from a decade and a half of thrifting with us. I completely agree that it doesn't matter if this - or any subject - has been covered extensively before. If you want to write about it from your own viewpoint, by all means go for it!

    ♥ Jessica


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