5 Tips for Successful Thrifting
I used to despise thrift stores. I thought they all smelled, were full of ugly, old, overpriced clothes, and just full of peoples’ junk.
My view of thrift stores completely changed when I started going to them to buy clothes for reselling. I needed to make money so I started selling my old clothes on Depop. I soon realized Depop was mostly people selling clothes they bought from thrift stores.
In the first 6-7 months of reselling thrifted clothing, I made over $1,000 in profits. I went to the thrift store weekly, sometimes a few times a week (before working full-time at an office). I had finally found something that was fun, easy, and actually made me money – even if it was only enough to cover the groceries for that month.
I’d say I’m an experienced thrifter now and know which second-hand stores to avoid, which items resell well, and how to find the gems to keep for yourself.
I hope this tips help you find your own gems and happy thrifting!
1. Go to local thrift shops, not chain stores
Chain stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army grossly overprice their items and I have never found anything I liked at one of those stores. Shop at local thrift stores! My favorite thrift shop I would go to in San Diego County was one town over and so is the one I like in the East Bay. Don’t expect the thrift shop closest to you to be good. You may have to drive a bit to get to the good one.
My favorite thrift shops are huge ones in department store size buildings. These tend to have a much better, larger selection and with the high ceilings, they don’t usually smell like most small ones do.
My entire outfit in the first photo came from the same thrift shop – shoes, jeans, belt, and shirt. It cost me less than $20 and is completely sustainable fashion. I wear the shoes more than any other pair I have! I thrifted the jeans in the second photo and painted on them to keep in my personal collection.
2. Know what you are looking for
When I go to thrift shops I’m usually looking for vintage Levis to resell. If I’m looking for myself, I’m usually looking for dresses, sweaters, and jackets. I check the mens’ section first for jeans because that is where the actual vintage jeans tend to get put. Identifying actual vintage jeans is a blog post for another day! After exhausting the mens’s section, I’ll head to the dresses section to go through those.
I find that going in with an idea of what I want helps me actually find things instead of aimlessly walking the racks of clothes.
When looking for myself, I’m usually looking for long dresses that would be good for photos and trips. I have been on a mission to find the perfect white dress (not wedding dress!) for MONTHS now because I think they look so beautiful in photos. Looking through the dresses this last trip I had my feelers out for a white maxi dress and miraculously found one without having to flip through very many.
*Tip for maxi dress searching: look at the bottom of the rack – it’s easy to pick out which dresses go down to the floor and which ones are short.
3. Flip through every item on the rack – multiple times
This is key. Usually if you go down the aisle and just look at the few items sticking out, you’re not going to find anything. The items sticking out are usually ones other customers pulled out to look at and didn’t like enough to buy. I flip through every single item very quickly and I am still able to take in each item to see if it is something I like or can resell. To flip through quickly, I use both hands, one to push the hangers quickly out of the way into my other hand and then push that hanger further away – kind of how you would flip through a box of records. Am I making sense or sounding crazy?
You’ll most likely find something if you look through every item in a section! If employees are actively putting new items out on the racks, I’ll come back to certain sections and check them again to see if anything else has been added – I’ve found some amazing pairs of jeans doing this.
These are two of the best pieces I’ve found thrifting. The vintage maroon, velvet blazer is Guess brand and I could not believe I found it! The black velvet dress with gold detailing is a rare Scott McClintock from the 80s. Both of these items have since been sold and all I have left of them are these photos. Such beautiful pieces found thanks to my thorough searching of racks! haha
4. Visit during off-hours when it’s less crowded
I get overwhelmed with crowds and it throws off my thrifting game. If you go in the early morning and late evening (before closing) on weekdays, thrift shops will usually be less empty. If you have to go during the weekend, the earlier the better – the one I would go to in San Diego had people line up at the door before they opened!
I snagged this real suede coat for $20 on an empty day at the thrift store. I would NEVER buy new suede, leather, fur, or other items that required an animal to suffer or die to make it, but buying them second-hand is okay with me because the companies who kill animals for these products are not profiting from it.
5. Buy things without trying them on
Now, trust me on this one. For one, thrift store clothes have been touched by tons of people and other donated clothing and may not have been washed before they were donated. I’ve actually gotten itchy from trying on clothes from thrift shops without washing first, so I made this a rule for myself.
Secondly, time spent going to try things on and debating over them is wasting time you could be searching through the racks! If you like something enough to take it off the rack and walk around, then GET IT! If it doesn’t fit once you get home and WASH IT, then you can always resell it for the price you paid or more on Depop, Ebay, or Etsy (if it’s a true vintage piece).
Chances are, if you aren’t 100% about it at the thrift shop, you’ll regret not just buying it. Especially if it’s less than $
I got this coat for $12 and definitely did not try it on before I bought it. Who knows when it was last washed! I actually even found bags for picking up after dogs in the pocket, so I know this was not washed before it was donated. This was actually suppose to be sold, but I tried it on after washing and loved it too much to sell it.