The Need-to-Know to Thrift Like a Pro
By Ava Green, Assistant Features Editor
Thrift shopping is time consuming, attention grabbing, hands-on and pretty tiring. It is a high-effort, high-reward kind of activity. Unless you are a professional, like me, it’s easy to get lost in the seemingly never-ending sea of clothing at a thrift store. I could easily gatekeep all of my methods for a successful trip to the thrift store to further ensure that I get to save all the best finds for myself. However, doing so would be completely against the whole point of going thrift shopping: just like the second-hand clothes and accessories in a thrift store, I will pass down my knowledge to whoever is able to find usefulness in it next. I hope my advice is reused and cherished. So here are some tips on how to have a successful trip to the thrift store.
People are ruthless when it comes to thrifting, so if you do not grab things immediately, they may be gone by the time you return. My biggest piece of advice is to grab everything you see that you like even a little bit. There is usually only one of each thing, so if you do not act fast, your garment may be taken before you know it. If your store has a cart, definitely grab one. You may not be getting that much. A cart alleviates the inevitable arm pain you are subjected to by trying to carry all of the clothes you may want, but a cart also means that people are forced to stay out of your space, which is nice during times of uncertain health crises. It is also helpful to hang on to anything that tickles your fancy, because most thrift stores tend to be on the scarily unorganized side. For example, I once found an acorn-shaped salt and pepper shaker set in the women’s sweaters section of Goodwill (I did in fact buy them) Going back to look for something you’ve had your eye on can be especially difficult and it is important to act fast.
I know I just said to be thorough and grab all that you can, but I also mentioned that thrift shopping can be pretty exhausting. There are a lot of senses being used: feeling fabric, looking at labels, hearing the screech of the hangers on the rack and of course enduring that pungent aroma of moth balls and dust that you are almost instantly hit with as soon as you walk in the store. There are infinite amounts of products and clothing to look at and dig through, so you have to pace yourself. Another good tip that I have learned is to be selective about which sections you are looking through. Luckily, if your store is organized by size, you can skip over sections of clothing that are not going to fit you. However, some thrift stores are set up in a way that makes it hard to skip over sections that do not suit you. So what I mean is to not feel like you have to look at every single piece of clothing in the store — as rewarding as it can be to be thorough, don’t sweat skipping over stuff that you know just is not your style. Sometimes there are just no hidden gems. Instead of tiring yourself out, focus your efforts on something a bit more specific.
One of the worst feelings when it comes to thrift shopping is going home and realizing that one of the lovely garments you have picked out has a few unfixable quirks. Stains, holes, pilling or the worst, those tiny holes that tear wide open as a result of any slight movement. Thrifting takes an attention to detail that regular shopping does not require, because you have to deal with multiple different brands, unconventional sizing and the fact that these clothes are gently used, so you have to account for whatever weirdo had these clothes before they made it to the store. My advice here is to just be very careful and observant while you look through clothes. I also like to do a last-minute check of all of the items I want to buy before I hit the checkout line. Obviously, nothing is horribly expensive, and it is not a huge loss if something you buy is unwearable, but money is money and the $3 you accidentally wasted on a defective shirt could be spent on a Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze from Taco Bell.
I know that this is going to sound utterly cliche, but the most important part of thrift shopping is that you are having fun doing it. Thrift shopping gives you the opportunity to find something completely unique, something with history, so why hold back? If you find yourself eyeing a completely outrageous pair of pants, you might as well risk the $5 that they cost and just try them out. One of my favorite things to do with friends is put together the most hideous outfits you have ever imagined and just look absolutely ridiculous. I have to admit, though, that I have found some of my favorite clothing items I have ever owned while trying them on as a joke. Thrifting is just playing dress-up with other people’s clothes, so do not shy away from the impractical and the mildly-ugly: that is where most fashion resides.
Honestly, all of this advice depends on where you are shopping and what you are looking for, but these are just the basics for all the people out there that want to try thrift shopping but are lost on where to start. This is also for my people out there who just do not have great luck when it comes to thrifting. Thrift shopping is one of the most cost-efficient and environmentally conscious ways to revamp your wardrobe, and I highly recommend trying it out at least once. You can make a whole day of it without breaking the bank. As long as you take your time and care for your clothing once you take it home, you will have unique pieces with a past life that you get to cherish forever.