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Dec 5, 2019

7 Tips for Thrifting Great Clothing

Hailey Petersen

Some people buy into the myth that you can’t find good clothing at a thrift store, but I’m here to tell you that’s not true. You can score amazing clothing items when thrifting. Here are my tips for thrifting newbies who want nice, high-quality clothing on a budget.

1. Prioritize your time.

One of the biggest concerns I hear from nonthrifters is that they don’t have the time to dig through the racks to find something they like. Good news: you don’t actually need a ton of time to thrift some great pieces!

I’ve found plenty of amazing pieces at the thrift store just during my one-hour lunch break. All you need to do is prioritize. What are you looking for? New pants for work? Graphic tees? Check those clothing sections first. Want to get through more clothing quickly? Skim the racks. Walk down the aisle and look for fun prints, high-quality fabrics, or anything that catches your eye. I’ve found a lot of great things in an hour or less, including this adorable cat button-up.

2. Remember that not all thrift stores are the same.

Some thrift stores carry more high-end brands, some are better for furniture, some are good for shoes, and so on. I thrift so often that I know which stores will have what I need. If you feel you’re not finding anything you want at your local thrift store, check out another thrift store nearby or in the next town over. This can make all the difference.

For example, my local thrift store usually carries a lot of nice brands (Adidas, Nike, Vans), but when I need to shake things up, I drive about an hour to another thrift store in a different city, and it works! I’m able to find Kate Spade, Jimmy Choo, Coach, and other designer items. Good items can be found anywhere, and you obviously don’t need to drive for an hour to thrift something nice. But I’ll take a mini trip every once in a while when I’m looking for something special.

If you’re struggling to find something you like, try switching it up with a new thrift store, and see if the items they sell are better suited to your taste.

3. Stick to high-quality items.

I see a lot of people thrifting items that need to be altered, aren’t in great condition, or will end up being used as pajamas. If that’s your style or you’re looking for a project, then that’s OK. But don’t buy those items as a last resort. You can thrift a lot of great high-quality, high-end items that don’t need any work done to be used. You might not find what you’re looking for at every thrift trip, but I promise you don’t have to settle for low quality. There is nothing you can’t find at a thrift store.

Here’s an example of a $300 Kate Spade purse I thrifted for $3 at Deseret Industries.

4. Look in multiple sizes.

If you do thrift often, you’ll notice that sizing doesn’t really count for much. I am usually a medium or large (or a 6–8) in most clothing. But when I’m thrifting, I’ll always look in XL, 2XL, and sizes 8–16 as well. I have found some great things in sizes that are different from what I normally wear. Sometimes it’s oversized and sometimes it fits perfectly. All brands are different, and sizing isn’t always consistent—so you never know what you might find in other sizes.

5. Look ahead of season.

If summer is coming to a close, check for fall and winter items; if it’s spring, check for summer wear, and so on. In-season items may be harder to find, because everyone is looking for those items. I’m able to find a lot more sweaters and jackets in August than I am in September (including the adorable thick knit cardigan featured below), and then I’m ready for the season when the weather changes.

6. Try it on.

If you see something you’re not sure about, try it on! I love vintage clothing, but I’m never sure if vintage clothing items are going to end up looking cute or just looking old.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the fence about a quirky piece only to try it on and love it! If you love the print or fabric or you’re intrigued by the style or cut, try it on. You just might love it. Thrifting is the best way to change up your style and experiment without breaking the bank.

You should always try clothes on in a thrift store because of the unpredictable sizing. But the try-it-on rule is especially relevant if there’s something you’re on the fence about.

Here is an example of a vintage top I wasn’t sure about that I ended up loving after trying it on.

7. Be patient and honest with yourself.

I’ve fallen into this trap a few times: when I’m not successful in finding clothes I love, I’ll end up convincing myself to buy something unflattering, not my style, or not my size just so I don’t leave empty handed. Thrift stores are inexpensive, but you don’t want to waste your money on something you won’t end up wearing. With every item, I ask myself, “Do I actually like this, or am I settling for it because of XYZ?” Not all thrift trips are successful, and that’s OK!

With these seven tips, anyone can thrift their way to an upgraded style without going over budget. Find your local DI here.

Hailey Petersen is a thrifter and fashion guru living in Utah. She talks about affordable style on Instagram (@haileys_thrift_haul) and YouTube (@haileys_thrift_haul).