How to Thrift: a breakdown and guide on how to drip on a budget.
by Jessica Du • Jul 25, 2020 | SUSTAINABILITY

Thrifting is in a new era of immense popularity that is unlikely to die down anytime soon. It’s easy to see why– not only does thrifting allow people to find unique pieces, but it also benefits the environment. People from various financial backgrounds are starting to buy second hand, and the trend is only rising.

Being new to thrifting however, can be overwhelming and at times frustrating. It’s confusing figuring out where to start, so here is a breakdown of thrifting tips and all the ways you can buy second hand:

Consider the demographic around your thrift store
One area can hold multiple thrift stores, and it can be hard narrowing down exactly which thrift store you want to go first. Although Ideally you would want to go to all, sooner or later, a way to figure out where to go first is to look at which end of the clothing spectrum you ‘re looking for. Are you looking for high fashion and pricier vintage clothing  or contemporary clothing that can be sold in current retail stores? After figuring this out, you can find out which neighborhood has thrift stores that are likely to hold the type of clothing you are looking for by looking at its demographic. A simple search for an area’s average income and average age demographic will tell you all you need to know. For example, stores that hold vintage clothing are more likely to be found in an area with a higher average income and older age demographic.

Thrift on weekdays instead of weekends
The weekend is when most people have the most free time: thus, thrift stores get their highest volume of customers during that time, resulting in a depletion of inventory. Additionally, stores typically get their highest number of donations during the weekend, so going on a day like Tuesday or Wednesday means that there will be a newer inventory out on the floor to sort through. If you want to take it one step beyond, you can even ask employees if they know whether or not their store has a particular day they restock on.

Buying second hand online through thrifting sites or resell apps
A common misconception is that buying second hand is limited to going in person to thrift; however, the resale industry spans far and wide online as well. Online marketplaces like those on Facebook or resell apps like Depop, Poshmark, and Grailed make it possible to buy second hand right from home. Clothes range from handmade to discontinued vintage to designer brands, and filters like color, size, and style make it easy to find exactly the type of clothing you are in search of.

Don’t overlook thrift store outlets
Thrift store outlets are where clothing that doesn’t get sold at regular thrift stores end up. Rather than hanging up on a rack, clothing is piled in huge bins where thrifters can dig through hundreds of clothes in one bin. Thrift store outlets are probably the most affordable, as clothing is bought by the pound for as little as two dollars. If you have no prior commitments and don’t mind hunting for hours, this is definitely a place to go to for hidden gems.
(Pro tip: bring gloves)

Go to vintage stores for curated fashion
Thrift stores hold multiple styles, and it can be exhausting looking through them all trying to find that one particular style you like. Enter vintage stores. Vintage stores still sell second hand clothes, but usually carry a curated selection of clothes. Prices can range from twenty dollars to over a hundred. If you are looking for a specific style but don’t want to look through multiple pieces of clothing and aren’t confined by budget, vintage stores are a good place to go to.

A Short Guide to Finding Hidden Gems:
Look at every item
Put on a podcast or music, and take the time to look at every single item. Don’t expect to leave after thirty minutes or find a clothing item you like after only looking at one rack. Thrifting is a culmination of a variety of styles, sizes, and eras, and finding hidden gems means putting in the work to do so. Don’t give up if you can’t find anything you like after the initial skim, it can take up to three, four, or even five laps around the store.

Come up with an item guide before you thrift
If you don’t have the time or energy (it can be draining) to look through every single item, you can come up with a guide before you go in to thrift. If you have a preference for certain materials or a color palette you like your clothing to be, keep that in mind and you can bypass clothing you know you won’t wear.

Look at potential
Play around with the piece of clothing in the fitting room. See how it looks like at its normal length or held back at a shorter one. Buttoned up or tied together. Loose or taken in. A simple crop or dart sewed into a piece of clothing can change its style completely! One of the best things thrifting is how it can be a creative outlet.

Keep in mind about impulse buys and overconsumption
It’s easy for impulse buys to run rampant in thrift stores due to the “low price” trap. Purchase only clothes you need or can see yourself wearing. A way to combat this is to shop with cash only so you have a fixed budget before you go (some stores might be cash only as well), or make a list of the specific type of clothing you are looking for. Although buying second hand is good for the environment, overconsumption can still happen in the thrifting community and it’s important to still buy second hand with the concept of sustainability in mind.

Remember to treat thrift stores employees with respect and leave the thrift store better than when you found it. Happy thrifting!

Written by
Jessica Du
Contributing writer on Tips, Tricks, and Sustainability.
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