If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I like to thrift shop for clothes. A lot. Several friends have asked me to teach them how I do it and while I wish I could spend an afternoon with everyone one on one, browsing the racks at Goodwill, this may be a more effective way of communicating the tips and tricks I have picked up along the way!
Before I get into that, though, I'd like to share why I shop frugally at thrift stores.
1- I'm low income. I am currently a full time students with a part time salary. My expendable income is at a minimum and I generally splurge more on good food than a name brand. This is one way that I can be a good steward of what God has given me financially.
2- It's fun. Just like I formed an addiction to winning auctions on eBay, thrifting is like a treasure hunt where you never know what you might or might not find. I felt like I hit the jackpot the time I found J Crew Matchstick jeans in excellent condition for $11.99!
3- It's environmentally friendly. After I did a research project on living with zero waste, I became very interested in recycling and reusing. This is a great way to reuse!
4- It has social implications. It has been estimated that 75% of clothing sold in the US is manufactured from sweatshop labor. As much as I adore Forever 21, cheap has a cost. Shopping secondhand subverts profits which support those practices.
The pendulum does swing the opposite way though. Some argue that thrifting as a part of the middle class can't be ethical if it reduces the number of quality options for the needy. In addition, with more demand at thrift stores, prices can be driven higher- making it harder for those across the poverty line to buy what they need.
I reconcile this dilemma a couple of different ways. First, I donate clothing and home goods regularly. Maybe consider donating the same number of items that you purchase. (Although honestly I don't remember the last time I was at a thrift store that wasn't stocked to absolute capacity.) Second, pay attention to where you are shopping. Many thrift stores contribute back to the community in great ways and purchasing merchandise helps keep them in business. Goodwill creates job, hosts career training programs, and employs people who have a difficult time finding a traditional job. Locally owned thrift stores may support local charities- do your research and find out where your money is going!
Here are a couple of good articles about shopping and thrifting:
Messy Ethics of Thrifting for Clothes
Guilt Free Affordable Fashion
Okay, are you convinced? Wanna hop on the thrifting train? Here are some tips and tricks that I learned along the way to have positive and effective thrifting experiences!
- Plan out a chunk of time to spend at the store. Be prepared to leisurely dig through racks. Most of what is there will not be both your size and style, but there are treasures if you are willing to look! When I go, I look through every single ladies' item.
- Most thrift stores have color coded daily specials- check the website to help determine the best day to go!
- My best days are when I go in without anything specific in mind- that way if I find awesome jeans, a cute dress or the perfect blouse- my mind is open to it.
- Try on the clothes you pick out- something that looks awesome on the rack might not fit right, or have a different shape than it appears to. Also remember that different brands size differently so be willing to try something a size up or down from what you're used to!
- Know what you like and what you don't and focus on that. I know that I like solids, stripes, floral, ruffles, and floral embellishments. I don't like button ups, geometric patterns or animal print so I skip over those things quickly.
- Set a limit for yourself and make it a contest to see what you can get for just a little. I generally set my limit at $10 or 3 items.
- Look for holes, rips, stains, discolorations, structural issues (like crooked seams) before purchasing- weigh the cost of fixing or living with it versus how much the item costs.
- Don't feel compelled to purchase something just because it's cheap. If you don't need it or probably won't wear it often, you don't need to clutter up your closet.
- I do my best shopping alone- not worrying about someone else's schedule or contentment and just taking my time. If I need advice, I snap a photo in the dressing room and send it to my sis!
To demonstrate, I present: a day at the thrift shop with Chelsea. After a good 45 minutes of browsing, I took several things to the dressing room.
It looked good on the hanger... but not on me!
This one made me look like an oompa loompa.
This one fit really weird and had a strange shape.
And this one- a pretty, perfectly-sized Ann Taylor Loft blouse for less than $2! Yay!