How to Thrift Shop Like a Pro

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Op Shops, as they are known in Australia, Thrift stores as they may be known outside of this wide brown land, are a fantastic place to find clothes and accessories.

Why is this? Well not everything is tired, worn out and old (yes there is some of that) as so many people have unworn garments in their wardrobes, often with tags still attached, that they realise are wrong, and donate to the charities that run these Op Shops and are sold on again to a new home.

Having been through some lean times in my life, from teenage years where my babysitting income of $2 per hour didn’t buy much in the mall, but allowed me to find a piece or two at the local Vinnes, to more recent times when as a single mother times have been tough, and my local Salvos Store has been a great place to allow me to update my wardrobe for next to nix.

One of the great benefits of thrift shopping is that you get to try out shapes and styles of clothes without committing a lot of cash, so if you discover that something just doesn’t work for you there isn’t the same guilt over a chunk of wasted money that you may get at this much lower price point.

How to Have the Best Thrift Shopping Experience

Shop with a Plan

Knowing what you want is the key to success for any kind of shopping experience.  Knowing what you actually need and then looking specifically for that will save you time and energy.

That’s how I found this denim jacket.  I decided that I wanted a nice soft, shaped denim jacket, so every time I walked past my local Salvos store I popped in, and a couple of weeks of doing this, voila, a fabulous denim jacket that I love!

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Drop in Regularly

jeans and a blazer

 

When you do regular but quick perusals of your local thrift store you’re more likely to find the gold hidden within.  These jeans (7 for All Mankind) were one of my finds and they may not have fitted their original owner, but they do fit me!

Know Your Colours

Pink dress and shoes

Knowing the colours that suit you makes thrift shopping so much quicker and easier.  I picked up my favourite coloured dress in a gorgeous hot pink because I can so quickly and easily gravitate to ‘my colours’.  When there isn’t a lot of choice, knowing colours speeds up the process of looking through what is there!

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This blue top is another of my finds.  I knew that this colour would work so well in my wardrobe with many of my existing clothes.

Look for Common Items

What do lots of people buy and then get rid of because of fit issues?  Jeans, white shirts (particularly in the men’s section if you want a classic button down) and knit tops, accessories.

This green tee (Max and Co.) I picked up at a Salvos store, barely worn and so both my colour and style.  Why was it still hanging there?  I suspect because on the hanger it doesn’t look good, but on it has great shape and drape.  It’s often easy to find great quality and designer items at thrift stores when you know what you’re looking for.

 

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Don’t for Forget to Accessorise

There are lots of fantastic accessories in op shops.  They are fantastic places to find scarves, bags, shoes, belts and jewellery (and even glasses frames).

Thrift Shopping what to look for

This necklace is one I picked up on a recent op shopping trip and I love it as I’ve wanted more necklaces with red in them.  And then this fun square blue ring was also found on the same op shopping trip.

Over the years I’ve also found unworn shoes, belts and some fabulous handbags as well including these red boots.

How to have the best thrift shopping experience

Share the Love

Why not go through your closet and donate all those barely worn clothes and accessories that are just taking up space.  Donating them to the charities that run thrift stores is a great way of recycling and allows them to find a new home where maybe they will get more love.

 

Benefits of Thrifting

  1. You are helping to recycle clothes and accessories that would otherwise end up as landfill.  Now that’s good for the planet and your children’s future!  Plus you’re not purchasing something that is taking more energy and resources to make (did you know it takes something like 70 gallons of water to make one cotton tee!).
  2. You can try out new styles without spending much and I know that many of those in my 7 Steps to Style and Evolve Your Style programs all thrift when trying new accessories and garments that may have been things that they don’t want to invest in but would like to discover if this is something they really want to add to their wardrobes.
  3. You are likely to find amazing garments (including designer pieces) for a teeny tiny fraction of their retail price.
  4. You’ll end up with a more unique wardrobe.
  5. Many items have been ‘pre-shrunk’ as they’ve been washed before, so that’s something you don’t have to worry about.
  6. You can use your imagination and create something new out of something old if you’re a little crafty (check out what my friend Cintia made from her op shop finds, a bomber style jacket and she even made a leather bag from an old leather jacket).
  7. You’re donating to charity.  Yes by choosing to shop at a thrift store you’re not only protecting our environment, you’re making a donation to a charity who helps those who are in need.

Do you thrift?  What are your best finds!

Style is Not About Money

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16 Comments

  • Great tips Imogen. Even though second hand shops were unheard of where I live, over the past few years they have begun to blossom. Lately it’s where I have been going to find unique pieces that include a Lanvin handbag and Valentino wedges, for less than 20.00 USD. One of the most exciting things for me is finding treasures and as you say aim for a unique wardrobe.

  • I’m in Seattle and we have great thrift shops. I love finding high-end fashion and it always feels like I’m on a treasure hunt. I can hardly believe that I have handbags and shoes that go together.

  • My sister loves to take me thrift shopping with her, and I always say what I’m looking for before we enter a store, then invariably I’ll run across it. One day I said that I was looking for a pair of black ankle boots to go with everything in my closet, and voila, I ran into a $6 USD new pair that were exactly what I preferred in style and color. I’ve continued to wear them for several years and they still look stylish and new. Best find ever! Intentional shopping works.

  • Great article, Imogen! I love thrift shopping for so many reasons, many of which you commented on already. Another benefit is that the selection is not limited to what’s on trend that particular season, so finding your personal colors can sometimes be a lot easier than in a mall or boutique.

    I shopped this week at a tiny little thrift shop and found jeans, a sweater and a set of bangles – all for $6.50 USD. Then, when I looked at the jeans label and didn’t recognize the brand I looked it up online and found it’s a brand that sells new for $115 or more. What a score, for $3! And now I know of a new brand of jeans that fit me – a rare and wonderful find.

  • I don’t bother with thrift shops. As a tall and curvy X shape there’s nothing in my size that would fit over my curves and long limbs. Also, in my area “thrift” shops are more expensive than sales (and sometimes even retail prices) at my favorite online stores. 🙁

  • At first I would get frustrated shopping at thrift stores because it was extra difficult to find items that fit my petite frame. But then I realized that even after getting something tailored, it’d be cheaper than buying new. I recently found a beautiful textured raw silk mini skirt many sizes too big for just $2.50 USD, then had my tailor make it into a high waisted pencil skirt with pockets. Total cost was still a fraction of what it would have cost in store!

  • Proud thrifter here…in fact I challenged myself to only shop thrift or ethically made for all of 2017 and I’m happy to say I am holding myself to it. I find tons of items that are current trends as well as classics and I get compliments all the time. About 85% of my clothes are from both thrift stores and online secondhand stores.

  • I have been thrift shopping since the late 1970’s. Before the vintage clothing craze, it was easy to find fantastic hats, purses, dresses, tuxedo’s and shoes from the 1940’s and 50’s and 60’s. That was a lot of fun, but not the most practical clothing. As a struggling grad student back then, I dressed exclusively in resale clothes and I think I looked great. When I graduated and got married, my income went up dramatically, but I never stopped thrift shopping, My daughter grew up in thrift stores and we both still love the thrill of the hunt. Ebay, Tradesy and other online shops just add to the fun.

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