If you love designer clothing but hate the high prices or simply can’t afford to pay retail, then you need to start shopping at the thrift store. When you do, you’ll find everything you’re looking for and more at prices that are 90% less than retail. There is an art to finding these things and I’m going to give my top tips to help you find designer items at the thrift store.
Some people are blown away when I tell them that my entire outfit or even my entire wardrobe is all second hand. I’ve been a thrift store shopper for as long as I can remember.
Many of my most beloved pieces of clothing and accessories have been found at the bottom of a pile of junk or tucked away amidst an array of Alfred Dunner tracksuits.
I’ve found everything from authentic Don Draper 14k gold plated American Optical Aviators for a measly $.99 to a rare book about Mexico from the 1940’s worth $50 for $3.50. I’ve found vintage coats, a silk Christian Dior, mid-century modern Herman Miller shell chairs, and antique wool vests from Paris.
If there is a gem to be had, you can bet I’ll find it.
I don’t know what it is, but it’s my one and only superpower. So let me step you through my 9 top tips to majorly score at the thrift store so you can have designer fashions for a few dollars!
1.) Remain open to what you’ll find
Just keep yourself open to what the thrift stores have. It may sound strange, but being open to what you could find is a shift from shopping traditional retail where everything is merchandised for you.
Retail shops tell you what to buy. A thrift store is like a mysterious woman who won’t give up her secrets unless you prove your love.
Take your time and never rush. Listen to a podcast or music while you peruse.
2.) Attract what you want most
Set in your mind what you want to find when you go. You will find it. Maybe not the first time but eventually you will.
I know it sounds weird but it works.
The mind is programmed to filter out all the unimportant information it’s given every single day. If you focus on one or two things to find, you’ll be amazed at how easily you start to find those things virtually everywhere.
Attraction isn’t magic. It’s simply telling your brain what to focus on.
When I lived in Chicago I went to my favorite boutique’s garage sale and purchased a luxurious vintage black satin dressing robe from the 30’s. It was a find for the ages. One of those things you believe is beyond rare.
At some point, I managed to snag a pretty significant hole in it at work and thought it was a loss I had to accept.
Less than a year later, after I had moved to Knoxville, I was shopping at a local thrift store trying to rebuild my wardrobe after a big move. I was at one end of a very long rack of clothing and saw a distinctive pattern barely peeking out of a squish of clothes at the other end.
“No…” I gasped quietly. “It couldn’t be.”
It was the very same black satin dressing robe with multi-colored silk stripes from the 1930’s. What are the odds?
3.) Only look for the best
Look for the best quality fabrics without any blends. For example 100% silk, cotton, cashmere, wool, leather, ramie, linen, or flax.
This is a rule that applies regardless of where you’re shopping.
I know it’s tempting to spring for fabrics that wear longer and wrinkle less. However these fabrics, in most cases, are used for lower quality brands (sorry!). Natural materials and fibers are better for your health, the environment, and are a sign of high-quality manufacturing.
I’m not saying you can never bend the rules.
I myself have a few items that are synthetic, but for the most part, everything I own is all natural. I like it that way and the clothing feels better on my skin. I know how to care for it, and I know that all my articles of clothing can be worn interchangeably.
Natural fibers mix and match easily within a wardrobe. You never have to wonder, if this goes with this?
4.) Don’t buy for the sake of the deal
Never buy anything just for the price. If it’s inexpensive but not completely YOU, walk away friend. Let someone else find it. The thrift store gods will smile upon you.
How many times have you purchased something that was high quality, cute, or super cool just because it was on sale or deeply discounted? Me too. In fact, it’s how I tricked myself into thinking that I could start my own online used clothing store.
Ask yourself, if this item were $50 or more, would you still think it’s worth it? If not, then you’re just interested in its potential.
5.) Always try on
Always try on. Always. This may surprise you to know, but I loathe trying on clothing.Especially in the thrift store. I get all sweaty and irritable and hate looking at myself in the mirror. It’s just a bother to shop sometime (first world problems, rolling my eyes at myself).
Especially in the thrift store. I get all sweaty and irritable and hate looking at myself in the mirror. It’s just a bother to shop sometimes (first world problems, rolling my eyes at myself).
But if you don’t allow yourself the time and space to actually see how things work for you, then you’ll end up making purchases that don’t serve you.
Be comfortable with slowing that fitting process down. If you’re not in the mood to try stuff on, then pick another time to go shopping. That goes for shopping retail or thrift.But this is more important when shopping second hand because most stores do not allow returns.
But this is more important when shopping second hand because most stores do not allow returns.
6.) Circle and scan
Circle the perimeter first. Scan the racks and sections looking out for the key colors and textures you’re drawn to.
Are you looking for a particular red sweater, black boots, or silk blouse? Keep your eyes peeled for those things first! Go to them and see what they are. It may be a win or may not be.From there you can move on to systematically flipping through each garment rack.
From there you can systematically flip through each garment rack to see what jumps out at you.
7.) Size is irrelevant
Be open to a wide array of sizes. You may be able to fit into three to four different sizes or more because of the changing trends in fashion and also because of various brands sizing.
Vintage clothing is “sized up”. Meaning that in the 1990’s, I’m more like an 8. However, in the 80’s, I’m a 10 – 12!
By today’s standards, I’m typically a 2 – 6 depending on the brand. It’s all insane to me, but I’m open to the garment itself, not the size. So I tend to look in sections I might otherwise skip.
Also, be aware that some items may work for you if you know how to style them. I recently found a beautiful black silk button up from Lane Bryant (a plus-sized brand) that I liked. It was oversized in a great way.
If I were just concerned with the size or the brand I might have missed it.
8.) Does it need work, does it work?
Avoid buying things that need help or repairing, or that don’t go with at least 7 other things in your regular rotation.
If it needs altering or repairing, 99% of the time I will advise you skip it. But there are always exceptions to the rule.
Also, ask yourself how this particular item really works for you. Does it serve you? If it’s not working for you then it’s not worth your time.
It has to be a natural fit within the larger picture of your wardrobe.
9.) One last look
My final tip is to turn around and take one last scan when you’re at the checkout counter.
Some of the most amazing things I’ve found have come to me because of a last minute glance. “Oh, what’s this thing here?” A Christian Dior silk skirt for $2.00!! Yes. This has actually happened to me.
Follow these tips and I know you’ll find killer finds to brag about and to feel good in.