Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thrifting Tips

One of the questions I'm asked the most is how I have such luck thrifting. As you will find out, it's a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill & having a plan & the right eye. Hopefully these tips will help you get on the right foot if you are a new thrifter, or refine your skills if you have been thrifting for a while! If you have any further questions, feel free to head over to my Formspring & ask away!
1. Be picky
When I first started thrifting, I had a bad habit of taking home anything that was vintage & in decent condition, or anything that was from a brand/store I liked. I figured it was such a good deal & I couldn't pass it by! This is NOT the way to go! Yes, things are only a few dollars at a thrift store, but those dollars will add up quickly if you fill your cart with items that you don't truly want or need. Don't get things just because they are cheap.. inspect the quality, fit, & style!
2. Be inspired before you shop
Ok guys, I'm really letting the ball out on this one. One of my biggest tips/ secrets! Maybe it's not so secret, but I've found every time I do this I am successful. Go on Lookbook, Chictopia, your favorite blogs, a street style site, etc. before you go thrifting! I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. If I go thrifting & I'm feeling drab & uninspired, most likely I will come home with nothing. However, once I peruse this sites and have a feel looks I'm going for and a few key pieces I will be on the lookout for, I almost always find something similar.
3. Be open-minded
This is related to the tip above. See a dress on a blogger you love? Chances are, you aren't going to find an exact match at a thrift store. So be open-minded! Was it plaid? How about going for a plaid button-up (there are tons to choose from in almost any thrift store) & matching skirt? Or what about those new lace-up boots we are seeing everywhere this season? Combat boots were huge in the 90s and I found the perfect pair for $3.
4. Go during the week
If you are anything like me, you cannot shop with insane crowds. Thrift stores are already cramped & there is not much moving room between aisles (especially when the ladies have the huge carts they refuse to move no matter how much they see you struggling to get by!). I always try to go on a day like Tuesday, which is an unlikely shopping day. There will be more stock & many times I will be the only one in the store besides the employees! Some people suggest going during a specific time, but I don't think that matters as much. Most thrift stores restock throughout the day.
5. Go often!
The most common thing I see in new thrifters is that they go once or twice, don't find anything, get discouraged, and don't go again. MISTAKE! You will not always find something, especially in the beginning! You will develop an eye for the right pieces, it takes time. But one of the biggest keys is to go as often as you can (this is why it's important to be picky, you don't want to walk out with tons of items every time, either). One of my favorite finds (a handmade leather satchel from the 70s) was found in a thrift store right by my house that feels like it's never restocked , but I go once or twice a week because every now and then I will find a treasure.
6. Sale days are your friend!
Some people will not agree with this statement and say everything will be picked over, but this is the one day where time is important and I am always one of the people who gets there 10 minutes early to wait in line! Around here, Wednesdays are Family Day at the Salvation Army, meaning 50% off. We have 3 in Virginia Beach, and I have developed the perfect system. One of the stores will let you in the browse about 30 minutes early, so by the time I'm done browsing, I check out and am able to make it to the next store only about 5 minutes after they open, and after that I head to the third store.
7. Use Google Maps
When I first started thrifted, I relied on the two or three thrift stores that were close, and it took me a few weeks to expand my horizons. Use Google Maps! You can search "thrift stores" and it will show you the locations of all local thrift stores, and that way you can plan out your thrifting days based on what stores are closely clustered, or en route to each other. This will save you time & precious gas money!
8. Know what sections to head to first
The first section I always make a bee line for is the bags. If there is a nice vintage bag, it will probably be snagged pretty quickly. Next, I go for the dresses, because I usually can have pretty good luck & dresses are what I wear the most! Then, if I'm looking for something specific like a trench coat, I go to that section, etc. I almost always go to shoes last because they are a pain to carry around & I'm not much of a fan of shopping carts, but that's just me, although sometimes I don't mind the hand held carts.
9. Try things on
Proper fit is very important! I can't tell you how many times I've fallen in love with a dress but tried it on & the fit was completely awful. Eventually, you will  be able to tell if something will fit you/how it will look by just looking at the garment, but this takes time! I always try on pants, regardless of if I can tell they will fit or not, because sometimes they will be unflattering.
8. Take your time
When I feel rushed, I end up buying things I will regret later or nothing at all. I'm a lot pickier and am just not in the right mindset.  Things can be very scattered in thrift stores, and there have been so many times when I've found an amazing dress in the men's section or a vintage bathing suit in the tank top section. Literally dig through the entire store! Don't miss anything.
10. Have fun!
The second you begin to think of thrifting as a chore or a hassle, you won't have any luck. I consider thrifting a hobby (and necessity) and it's a thrill for me to try to make an outfit for $12 total. It's an art form and it's not for everyone, but thrifting can be extremely rewarding, and your wallet will thank you!


  1. thanks for all of the tips! I've always been intimidated by thrifting and the one time I went I had no clue what I was doing. Most girls get a bit secretive about the process so thank you for sharing. There's a cute charity shop down the street from me in Edinburgh, so now I can go!

  2. These tips are AMAZING! You did an incredible job with this post. As you know, I began thrifting a little while ago (inspired by you!) and got discouraged because of my lack of being able to find anything good 95% of the time....but this post is so encouraging that I'm going to go thrifting today after class!

  3. oh great post! thanks for all the great tips :) x

  4. Such great tips Brittany! Even though I have to go thrifting all the time for the shop, it's always good to be reminded of these things! I'll have to bookmark it for later :]

  5. These are great tips, Brittany! Some times I get disappointed after looking for long period of hours for things that are worth buying and not find anything, but I know patience is a virtue though =)