Your Thrift Store Survival Guide: The Dos & Donts of Thrifting

Your Thrift Store Survival Guide: The Dos & Donts of Thrifting


Do’s and Dont’s plus Tips and Tricks for a Successful Thrift Experience

DO- Give yourself time to thrift

A good trip to the thrift store can take more time than you imagine. For a great thrift experience, go on a day where you have time to waste. Thrift stores are often large and filled from wall to wall with treasures and trash, so time will be necessary to claim and purchase what you find.  Pick a morning or afternoon where you have at least one hour to 90 minutes toexplore your local thrift store. More time means more finds!

Tip: Dress to thrift! This means wear items that are easy to slip things over, or slip off in the event that your local thrift has a fitting room.  Wearing many layers and clothing difficult to remove may make for a frustrating experience. Wear items that you can try things on over top of in case there is no fitting room.


DONT- Get overwhelmed

Since many locations are large and often contain countless sections of clothing, jewelry, shoes and more, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the atmosphere.  Having time to thrift is an easy way to not get blown away by the amount of racks to sift through. Organization is also key.  Only looking in sections where you will find what you are looking for makes for easy finds and a smoother time. These are my favorite sections. Create a list that caters to your needs. For example, if you know denim is not your choice, skip the denim section.  Below are my top 7 sections to find gems. 

Womens Blouses
Womens Blazers
Womens Dresses
Mens Sweaters
Mens Button Ups
Womens Pants/Jeans

DO: Be mindful of fashion eras and size changes


This is why trying on an item if possible before purchasing is important. Throughout the decades, many standard size charts have changed. In fact, the Washington Post reports that a size 8 dress today is equivalent to a 1958 size 16. That super chic blazer found at the thrift may be marked as a size 10 but this could be a 1962 size 10 which has a different fit than a modern blazer.  If the item has a vintage vibes and looks like it fits, it just may even if it is not marked as your current size.  Designers and brands have also developed their own sizing throughout the years.  Do not be weary if the size 8 jeans do not fit you if you have always been a size 8.  Do not let throwback measurments shake your self esteem.  Use your knowledge of fashion trends throughout the eras to get an accurate read on the size of items  that you may not be able to try on.  Read more on those graphics here!


DONT: Buy things that are stained, damaged or very worn

It is fact that many items found at the thrift store are previously worn.  This does not mean to accept the quality of an item. If something is very visibly dirty, see if you can speak with a manager or an associate about a discount or leave it there.  Just because items are thrifted, does not mean the quality level lowers. When purchasing items, unless you want to do the handy work, make sure zippers work, check for missing buttons and more. With shoes, check the bottoms and the heel tip especially. If the heel tip is very degraded, the shoe is not worth the purchase. Below, the shoe on the top  is in wearable condition while the shoe on the bottom  however has walked it’s last mile. 

TIP : wash any item thrifted or having it cleaned before wearing. If it is an item such as a hat, pair of shoes or something else that is not easy to just throw in the washer yet you want to be frugal and save a trip to the cleaners, spray a disinfectant spray  and let the item air out.  It is not the most effective way of cleansing but it will kill germs from the many people who have tried on  and worn the items before your purchase.


DO: Shop for current trends

To keep a vintage look modern and not dated, shop for current trends on your thrift store adventure. It is easy to shop for modern looks at a vintage shop, especially since fashion is a reoccurring cycle of looks that are tweaked per decade. To shop a current trend, it’s time to research. It is easier to do so before going yetyou can also use your smart phone to research while out.  Visit your favorite magazine and read up on the seasons hottest colors, fabrics, styles and trends. This will make it easier to grab hot items.

DONT: Go to the thrift store with a specific list of things to find

This my seem contradictory to the previous “DO” but there is a difference.  Making a list of trends or colors or evengeneral items to purchase is helpful. Making a list of specific items is harmful. This will not only make it harder to find items, if they are not found your thrifting experience may seem unsuccessful.  Having a generic list also makes those gold finds more exciting.  Below is an example of how to change a specific list to a general one.

  1. tommy Hilfiger logo sweater–  branded vintage sweater
  2. red white and green plaid mini skirt- 90s inspired plaid mini
  3. Vintage Michael Jordan Bulls Jersey – throwback basketball jersey
  4. Red V-Neck Cap Sleeve Evening Dress -Red Cocktail Dress
TIP: Many thrift stores run daily specials based on the item or color of the price tag. Be sure to look around for signage or ask an associate about the days specials.

DO: Be Open Minded

While I believe you should be open minded in all aspects of life, thrifting is an experience where this is a necessity in many ways. First, many people thrift not for fashion finds but to survive. Be mindful of the different walks of life you may encounter in a thrift store and things said out loud. This does not mean to walk on egg shells but be fully aware of your surroundings.  Being open minded is also important to the actual art of thrifting.  While I listed my favorite sections to hit, do not discriminate against others.  Check out all the sections you can no matter the gender label. I have found amazing blouses in the men’s button up section. Being open minded also ties into the fashions found.  There will be several odd pieces that will attract you but you’re unaware how to wear them.  Several pieces at a thrift store can be hemmed, fitted, altered or customized to create the perfect piece for you. Keep an open mind with the possibilities of your thrift store finds.

TIP: Don’t just thrift for fashion.  The thrift store is the perfect place to find great books, art, home decor and more. Many times, thrift stores will have sections of new items such as glassware which are the same quality as major retailers but a fraction of the price. Thrift store finds have no limits. 

That’s it! With these do’s and don’ts anyone can have a successful thrift experience!



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