I've spent more time inside of thrift stores in the past year than I have in any other kind of store. Here are my top tips to help you get the most of your trip to the thrift store.
1. Go Often
The more you visit the more chances you have to find good things. I typically take one day a week to visit at least 3 different stores and rotate which stores I'm visiting on a bi-weekly basis. It's not a science but that what I'm currently doing and like how it works for me.
2. Use Your Imagination
It is absolutely crucial to see the potential that each piece could have. Use your creativity and imagination to envision ways you can style something (tip 3 comes in handy for this one). Always remember, with a little skill or help, things can be cleaned up, changed or altered to fit you so don't immediately rule things out just because they aren't ~perfect~ off the rack. (see tip 13)
3. Know Your Personal Style
If you know what you like it can be easier to find things. Colors, styles and fits are all important components of personal style. For me, I know I like oversized fits, bright colors and patterns, bold collars and feminine accents so my eye tends to naturally find those things on racks at the thrift store. If you're still trying to figure out your personal style, the thrift store is a great place to do it because there is a lot to look through and choose from and isn't curated around current trends.
4. Bring a Measuring Tape
Sounds unnecessary, but it's actually very handy to have in case you aren't able to try something on. (see tip 10 for another tip on how to easily try on clothes at the thrift store)
5. Shop Outside of Your Size
Thrift stores can be really unorganized and chaotic and there is no real standard sizing when it comes to garment production so I highly recommend shopping outside of your size range. If you are a size Medium, take a look in both the Small and Large sections. If you want to increase your chances of finding good things that fit you, expand your search in to surrounding sizes (this is where tip 4 and 10 come in handy).
6. Check the New Racks
Typically thrift stores bring out new inventory multiple times throughout the day if you see a random rack sitting somewhere, don't skip over it just because it feels out of place.
7. Check the Put-back Racks
Usually located by the fitting rooms, put back racks are usually the catch all rack for things people find and decide they don't want. Just because someone else decided they didn't want it doesn't mean it's not a good piece!
8. Know Store Discount Days
Thrift stores usually host sales a lot in order to clear out older merchandise. Weather it's daily or on special occasions, get to know your stores sale calendar so you can score an even better deal! Stores often have email or text message notifications that you can opt into so you stay in the know on all the latest updates. My Unique does a great job of posting their weekly sale colors on their Instagram!
9. Shop Off Season
People's shopping habits usually are for the season they are in or the next coming season. This means that during different times of the year there may be sections of stores that are neglected. If it's summer, shop winter. If it's winter, shop summer, etc. I get that it may feel weird to buy a winter jacket when it 90° outside but I've found some of my best coat finds this way.
10. Wear Clothing that Can Be Layered On Top Of
In case fitting rooms are crowded, unavailable or if you just don't feel like taking off your clothing to try on other clothing, wearing a more form fitting top and bottom makes it easier to try on your finds, pretty much anywhere you want.
11. Go Hands- Free and Leave You Purse Behind
Opt for a belt bag or fanny pack instead. Click the images below to shop a few of my favorites from secondhand and sustainable brands.
12. Use a Reusable Bag
If you aren't already using reusable bags for everything then you should really reconsider. I have foldable bags that I take into the thrift store with me every trip to avoid having to take plastic bags. Of course, you can always for-go a bag all together and carry clothes straight to your car.
13. Check Clothing for Stains and Damage
Stains can be lifted, holes and other minor damage can be repaired or if too far gone, can be up-cycled into something new. Whatever the condition, it's best to know what to expect so you don't have any surprises when you get home.
14. Alter To Fit You
You aren't made to fit clothing, make the clothing fit you! Don't be afraid to spend a little extra money to make a hem shorter or a waist smaller.
15. Be Mindful and Respectful When Shopping
While there is way more than enough secondhand clothing to go around (many, many times) sometimes thrift stores can lack inventory, especially in under represented sections, like plus size. In that situation, be mindful of what you choose to purchase.