A Beginner's Guide to Thrift Shopping

Beauty & Style

Thrifting is a great way to explore new styles, mix and match clothing pieces, and find hidden one-of-a-kind pieces. Thrift shopping is one of the things I find most comforting. It's a way to express who you are and what your style is. It's also inexpensive and you also help your environment and community by giving articles of clothing, other knick-knacks and accessories a new home. Here are some tips and tricks for finding your one-of-a-kind pieces during thrift shopping.

1. Decide Why You're Thrifting

Are you thrifting just for fun, or do you currently need clothes? Thrifting can be fun, but it can also become very expensive. Decide whether your trip to the thrift store is to actually find something that you're looking for, or just for browsing around. When you don't know what you're looking for, you can become overwhelmed by the number of clothes they have. So keep in mind to narrow down your main purpose for your hunt. If you don't, it can be very tempting to go down the rabbit hole of buying infinite articles of clothing. Trust me, I've been there. I recommend having a plan or making a list before your trip to the thrift store. Write down what you need, and narrow it down to desired patterns, materials, and sizes.

2. List And Separate Needs and Wants

Along with listing and planning your trip before the thrift store, you have to separate your wants and needs. Do you actually need those ripped jeans, or is it more for an aesthetic? I find it best to buy clothes that can be versatile: articles that can be paired with a simple pair of jeans, or something that really ties in the whole look. These pieces can standout, like platforms or a necklace, or something more simplistic, like a croptop, graphic tee, or velvet slip. Buy things that you know will pair well with the things in your closet. If you know you don't have any more room in your closet for more thrifted clothes, donate your old clothes. We all hold on to pieces of clothing that we'd promised we'd wear, but be honest with yourself. If you know you haven't worn it in a while, maybe it's time for it to find a new home.

3. Maintaining A Budget

Most thrift shops sell their clothes at reasonable prices. However, if you're looking for something vintage, you're more likely to see a higher price on it. Local thrift store items can range anywhere from $2-$50, $2 being a book or little trinket, and $50 being a desk or TV. Clothes there can be anywhere from $7-$16, depending on the style, material, and size. If you're looking for more rare and vintage items, your best bet is outside your local area, at vintage or antique stores. Don't make impulse decisions and take your time shopping.

4. Check Out Your Local Thrift Stores

Now that you've established planning for your trip to thrift, it's time to shop! Some of the best things that you can find on your first thrift trip can be found at your local thrift stores. You never know what you're looking for until you start with the basics. Scope out your town for the thrift stores you've always seen but haven't gotten around to. Once you become acquainted with thrift stores, you will become an expert at what you're looking for. All thrift stores arrange things differently. A windbreaker can be on one aisle, and a pair of plaid pants can be right next to it.

Don't become overwhelmed, frustrated, or discouraged. It takes time to find the perfect thing you're looking for. Then again, some days your favorite thrift store doesn't have what you want, and that's okay. When it comes to thrifting and finding that one-of-a-kind piece, you need time, and lots of it. Sometimes, for one article of clothing, it takes 30 minutes. With that in mind, it's best to start off with your local thrift stores since they are smaller.

5. Materials And Style

Everyone's first trip to the thrift store can be overwhelming. You don't know what you're looking for, what fits with your style, where the clothes are at, and it can become frustrating. It's times like these when I wish there was a rack with my name on it, having all the pieces I imagined in my head. When it comes down to it, you want to look for clothes that fit who you are, not what you see on social media, and definitely not the trendiest clothes that all influencers are wearing. I find it best to take pictures of your favorite pieces of clothing in your closet beforehand. This helps by establishing what you wear and what you like. Find pieces that fit your closet favorites. I also recommend writing down your sizes. You never want to buy something that fits too big or too small, and regret it after your thrift trip.

Everyone has different sizes for different articles of clothing. You might be one size for a t-shirt, and an entirely different size for a jean jacket. Sizes can be dependable on the material too. Some fabric materials like denim, velvet, and corduroy can be loose or tight on the body. Keep that in mind and make sure to look at the tags.

Also, find items for the right season. I find it best to shop ahead of a season. I shop for fall in the summer, shop in the winter for spring. The good thing about thrift stores is that they have all the clothes for all seasons. Play around with different materials, aesthetics, and styles. Get clothes you know will make you look and feel confident and good, because that's what thrifting is about.

6. Hidden Gems

The best things will not be found in the obvious places, it's all about the hunt. The best places to thrift shop are hidden. It takes some time, you have to really know your town, city, area, just really explore around you. Some good thrift stores are on side streets, small plazas, in your downtown area. It's different for everyone. I can say that it takes patience, effort, and determination to find what you're looking for when thrifting. You can't give up on the first trip. With each trip you get to know your area better, where the good clothes are at, and where the best discounts are. You start taking note of which businesses have the best records, or vintage decorative pieces. With time and with each hunt, you're just more likely to find better clothes. The best part about thrifting is the hunt.

7. Online Thrifting

Another option you might want to consider is online thrift shopping. Some popular online thrifting websites include Depop, Poshmark, and ThredUp. Each of these websites give the option of selling or buying clothes, so it's good for cleaning out your closet and finding your favorite articles of clothing. ThredUp has been one of my favorites lately. I found so many of my favorite things there, many of which are vintage at a great price. ThredUp gives you the option of inputting your sizes for many things, including dresses, pants, shoes, jackets, and shirts, so that you automatically have clothing in your correct size.

There is no hassle in scrolling until you find something that fits. Another great thing about ThredUp is the home page. ThredUp has categories for every season and every article of clothing. For example, they separate categories for summer dresses in a certain price range and fall pullovers and sweaters in another category. If you buy something that fits too big, small, or is not really what you had in mind, you can ship it back and get refunded back in store credit.


Thrifting can be a great way to find new clothes without spending a ton of money. You don't have to wear the trendiest clothes to have style. It's all about being creative, and using your clothes to express who you are. You are not what you wear, or what you look like. Clothes just give people a sample of who you are. Don't become frustrated if you come up empty on your first thrift trip. It just gives you all the more reason to not give up on hunting down that one-of-a-kind piece.

Samantha Ferrer
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Samantha Ferrer is a 19 year sophomore in college in California. She enjoys reading, writing, spending time with close friends, and binge watching her favorite shows and movies. Samantha also enjoys watching Rom-Coms and John Hughes movies. On her free time, you can find Samantha thrift shopping, and enjoying/looking at nature.