Monday, January 2, 2012

Thrifting for the Thrift-Store-Intimidated

Every time I wear something cute and thrifted it's inevitable that someone will say, "It's too bad I can never find anything good when I go thrifting." I want to argue that successful thrifting is a lot more about looking at things the right way, and not just being lucky, but then I realize that I am not writing an essay that needs a thesis.

Let's just say that I have taken the last few years to pull together a lot of pieces I feel good about, and almost everything has come from some combination of garage sale-ing and thrifting. And what ever your experience with thrifting has been before, your feel good closet can be thrifted too!

Here's a few things to keep in mind.

1. Forget everything you know and hold dear about sizes.

Different brands, eras, and target audiences are all mashed up in the thrift store and I think we can all agree that a size Large from Express in the 90s is not the same size Large you're going to find in your average tee-shirt. Quietly set your vanity down at the door. Reassure yourself that, yes, that number you hold dear is your real dress size, but the thrift store doesn't play by those rules.

Instead of judging pieces based on the size on their label, improve your eye-balling skills. Look at clothes that fit you well hanging on hangers. What do they look like? Look for thrift store pieces that look similar on the hanger, even if the "actual" sizes are not so similar. I am 5'1" with an average build, but there are definitely freakishly small XLs hanging in my closet. (They might be little girl XLs... But that is neither here nor there.)

2. Look at the labels and brand names, but don't let them be all you consider.

 I'll admit it. J. Crew on a label probably means that I'll try real hard to make it fit. Or Anthropologie. Or Urban Outfitters. Or Northface. But AS A RULE, look at the construction and state of a piece before you judge a book by its cover--or a shirt by its brand name, in this case. Observe how laundering and wear has affected the piece itself. Look for holes, rips, stains, and frays. If you can't fix something that's wrong with it yourself, it's probably a pass.

3. Branch out.

Never wear dresses? Give the dress section a browse. Rock bottom prices make thrift stores the ultimate place to branch out and try new things. If it doesn't work out, take it back for someone else to try it.

4. Have a list, but keep your eyes open.

I have an on-going "like-to-have" list that I keep in my purse that helps give me direction in mammoth, unexplored thrift stores, but if something unexpected catches my eye, I investigate. Always. Look at what's really there, not just what you would like to be there. Recruit a fashionable and fun friend to feed off of if you need one. (Three cheers for alliteration!) Having another person can start the "Oh my gosh, try THIS on!" game that sometimes results in great finds, and always results in giggling fits. It's really a win-win.

5. Steel yourself up for some huntin'.

Thrifting takes time and patience. If you don't enjoy the hunt for it's own sake, take heed: Nothing is ever guaranteed, and sometimes there really isn't anything amazing hidden amongst the junk. But you never really know for sure, and that's what makes it so fun. The muses of thrifting are fickle, but dedication can have thrilling rewards.

Good luck! See you at the thrift store!



  1. Totally agree! Great tips!

    Lindsey Turner

  2. Great post! I agree 110%, people always say "I never get that lucky!" It really just takes patience and new outlook. A lot of stuff I pick up doesn't look that appealing on a hanger, or is a size way different than what I'm used to, but it's all about seeing the potential in everything and making it work.

  3. I appreciate this list so much! It's true, there are way too many people intimidated by thrifting - I confess, I used to be one. But it's sooo rewarding, insanely cheaper than any other stores, and much more fun in my book! Now I'm converting all my friends : )

  4. Salvaged StrawberryJanuary 4, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    I agree -- it's all about the hunt and thinking outside of the box. :) Thanks! xo

  5. Excellent tips that I follow myself when on the hunt. It's like playing the lottery- you'll never know what you find. You always have to remind thrift newbies you may leave a thrift empty-handed, but the next time could be a gold mine. Keep at it to find the good stuff!

  6. Love this post! Totally agree that people need to have patience and the creativity to see more than just a pile of junk when they set foot in Goodwill.


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