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How To Thrift Clothes Like A Pro: 10 Expert Tips

Woman wearing red sweater with a tote bag looking through a rack of clothes for article how to thrift clothes like a pro.

Whether we like to admit it or not, the world has become overrun by fast fashion, fast-changing trends, and overconsumption. Because of this, many people (including myself, and now you!) turn to thrifting as a more earth-friendly, affordable, sustainable alternative to mainstream retailers. Keep reading for 10 tips on how to thrift like a pro!

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How to Start Thrifting?

The best way to start thrifting is to put on comfy clothes and set aside some time on a free day. It can also be a bit daunting, especially if you’re a thrifting newbie. I’ve been there and am excited to give you my best “how to thrift” tips!

Be sure to remember that thrifting is like treasure hunting. Some of my best finds have been a vintage leather jacket, Tommy Hilfiger boots, and a vintage gold bracelet I wear every day. That’s the beauty of thrifting, you never know what you will find! Trust me, once you get into the swing of things you won’t stop chasing the thrill of a good thrift.

1. Set Aside Enough Time

Heading to the thrift store is never a casual trip for me. It’s a planned day (at least a few hours) to spend going around various stores and browsing. The most time I’ve spent in one thrift store was 4 hours…yes I know it’s crazy. But having time is important!

With that, I don’t recommend making any strict plans a few hours after you plan to thrift. The reason why is that you want to be able to take your time. Thrifting is an art form that requires time and patience. Sifting through racks can be time-consuming, but it’s a must for finding those hidden gems and pieces that will take your wardrobe to higher levels.


2. Think Creatively

If you see something that catches your eye but you don’t know if you could “pull it off” or you don’t know how you’d style it, try to tap into the creative side of your brain. It can be hard to envision a unique piece fully styled. Don’t be afraid to pull out Pinterest and look at style inspo.

But…always remember that if it’s not a YES!, then it’s a no. If you have hesitations on an item because you’re not sure how to style it, then walk away. You’ll be sure to find something better that will spark your creativity the way you need it to.


3. Explore Various Thrift Stores

If you’re going thrifting, plan to stop at a few places. You can stop whenever you feel satisfied, but if you don’t find something you like in the first place, you’ll probably want a backup or two to visit afterward.

Goodwill is one of my favorite universal places to thrift but the location definitely matters. This is something you’ll have to figure out for yourself depending on where you live, but some are definitely better than others. I also love local thrift stores, so I suggest doing a simple Google search to see what’s around you. Also, I highly recommend checking out local garage sales. I got a pair of $1 Steve Madden platform shoes once at a garage sale. One of my best finds ever.

Another option is to thrift online at places like ThredUp, Depop, Mercari, etc, although I don’t encourage it. This is simply because I find online thrift stores to mark their prices up astronomically and it’s also important to be able to feel and try on the product before purchasing. I’ll get more into that before.

If you’re in NYC, I highly recommend checking out L Train Vintage, Beacon’s Closet, AuH2O, and Out of The Closet.


4. Look Through Every Single Section

This is where having a good amount of time comes into play. I highly recommend looking through every section in the thrift store including men’s and potentially even kids depending on your size. You never know what you could find or if someone misplaced something in the wrong section. Don’t forget to check out the home and book section too!


4. Try Everything On

It’s crucial to try everything on when you are thrifting, especially since many thrift stores do not allow returns. Sometimes I get a little overzealous in the thrift store and start grabbing things in sizes too big or too small just to see if they fit. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t which is why it’s important to try everything on.

You also want to consider your commitment to an item. If it’s a little too long or a little too tight, are you willing to go to a tailor to get it fixed? For me, personally, unless I’m absolutely in love and there’s only a minor flaw to fix then yes. But 9/10, I leave it at the store i f it doesn’t fit me decently well.

If dressing rooms aren’t available for whatever reason, I suggest you wear leggings and a cami under your top. This will allow you to slip things on and off in front of a mirror and get a pretty good idea of how it fits.


5. Focus on Quality over Trend

The sad truth is that many people buy trendy items just to donate them a few months later after the trend, in their eyes, has died. You may find something that you think is super trendy and cute, but I recommend focusing on the quality of the trend. This means avoiding brands like Shein which are everywhere in thrift stores right now. This actually brings me to my next point which is…


6. Pay Attention to Fabrics

I’ve found some really high-quality items at thrift stores and the way I knew they were high quality is not how they looked, but how they felt. Finding clothing made from linen, wool, cashmere, cotton, and silk is where you can get the jackpot when thrifting. Other fabrics like polyester, acrylic, and any other synthetic fabrics I recommend avoiding as the quality is much lower and they also tend to carry more smells.


7. A Cheap Price is Not Always a Reason to Purchase

Don’t let the thrill of a super-low price be the reason you buy an item. If you don’t love it, you’re not sure if you’ll wear it or how to wear it, or if it needs a major makeover, I do not recommend purchasing it.

There have been so many times I’ve bought something just because it was cheap and it ended up sitting in my closet, waiting to be worn because I didn’t actually love it. Save your money and your closet space. Again, if it’s not a YES!, then it’s a no.


8. Don’t Be Afraid to Splurge…On The Right Item

Now if you do have some money to spend, don’t be afraid to spend it on the right item. What does the “right item” mean? Well, in my books any piece of clothing that is clearly vintage, a luxury or accessible luxury brand, or that has a high-quality fabric composition is worth spending money on. I purchased a $80 Calvin Klein coat once and wore it for years. While it may seem like a lot for thrifting, in reality, it’s well worth the price.


9. Shop Alone

This one may be a little controversial…but I love to thrift by myself! Sure, occasionally I’ll go out with my friends or my mom. But I find that I’m often under the pressure of someone else’s time, it can be hard to focus on finding the goodies. I love thrifting alone as it’s a great opportunity to pop my AirPods in, listen to a new podcast, and escape into a world of clothes that have the potential to be mine (a little dramatic? yes.).

However, if you’re a bit intimated to go thrifting for the first time, definitely bring a friend along! You’ll find your groove in no time whether you’re going solo or with some company.


10. Be Okay with Walking Out Empty-Handed

Probably one of the most important pieces of advice is you need to be okay with walking out empty-handed. It can be a bit discouraging when you go on the hunt for something exciting and you don’t end up finding what you were hoping. But that’s okay! You won’t score every time and that just means you can plan your next thrifting adventure sooner than later.


Flipping Thrift Store Clothes Questions

Before we wrap this up, I want to talk about flipping thrift store clothes. I’ve done it a handful of times, albeit not enough to turn it into a side hustle (I’m too busy focusing on my website!).

Two women looking through clothes for article how to thrift clothes like a pro

How to Flip Thrift Store Clothes?

There are a few things to remember when flipping thrift store clothes. You want to, of course, buy cheap. Instead of thrifting at stores, I recommend garage sales for this. This is where you can find a ton of super cheap items to flip.

You also want to make sure the item is in great condition. If you find a Coach bag that’s in pretty bad condition, be prepared to spend the money and time fixing it up, or don’t bother flipping it.

You’ll also want to do a ton of research on what brands are popular and where to sell. Ebay is often referred to as one of the best places to sell used clothes and there are other apps like Poshmark, Mercari, and Depop as well. You’ll have to consider the fees associated with these sites.

You can also start selling on Instagram or TikTok, which would take a great deal of time and effort. If you have both of those things, then go for it!

Is Thrifting a Good Side Hustle?

Unless you have a way with a sewing machine and transform the item into something completely new, I personally do not think thrifting would be a good side hustle. But it also truly depends on your lifestyle. Maybe you’re a college student trying to make some extra cash or maybe you’re in between jobs at the moment. If that’s the case, it might be worth giving it a shot. However, if you’re already swamped with a full-time job and general life, it may not be worth pursuing simply given the time you have to put into thrifting the items, finding the best brands that are in demand, washing them, taking pictures of them, listing them, and then wait for them to sell. But that’s just me! This is simply my honest opinion. I’d rather thrift as a fun hobby instead of a business. But either way, I support you!

If you’re interested in flipping clothes, I recommend consulting Reddit and YouTube.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Whether you’re a seasoned thrifter or you’re a newbie looking for a new hobby, I recommend you take all of these tips into consideration before going on your next haul. What I mentioned above will help you learn how to thrift in a better way so you can keep finding cool stuff and helping shop sustainably!

With love or whatever,
Hailey

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41 Comments

  1. such a helpful post with some great tips – I love thrift shopping, though it’s definitely not as good in the UK as it is over in America! x

  2. I’ve always wanted to get into thrifitng-but never really knew how to / where to start. Love these tips! Hopefully, I’ll get out there soon!

    Sophie | twsomthing.com

  3. Love these tips! And completely agree with them all, ESPECIALLY the trying everything on one! Nothing seems to fit right when thrifting, and never assume your size is going to be the right one either.

  4. Love this, I just learned a new word “thrifting” I can see this being a hobby. I can make anything fashionable. I don’t like spending a whole lot if money on clothes, it’s how you rock the outfit.

  5. Love your post. To me “THRIFTING” is part of joy and should be done ALONE.
    My favorite part is book sections. I love buying books.(new and old)
    Thank you.

  6. I love thrift shops. The current crisis has made it difficult to get to physical stores, but online is always an option. You can find amazing bargains when thrifting, which is a great way to save money whilst saving the planet.

  7. I needed this! I want to start thifting because I think my wardrobe is so boring and I want to add some interesting pieces to it!

    curatingstories.com

  8. I usually go with my mom (she introduced me afterall 馃檪) and can totally see how friends can be distracting, but my mom is so much better at thrifting lol. I always forget to examine for stains, etc. I could spend hours too! But I also try to avoid “just browsing” and limit what I’m looking for.

  9. This is something I don’t do nearly enough. I lOVE your tip about shopping alone. It is SO true. When I’m with friends I feel rushed and unfocused. You have inspired me to take a thrifty shopping trip. THANKS!!

  10. Wonderful tips on thirfting. Ive never actually gone thrifting by myself, I usually always have one of my sisters or one of my kiddos in tow, but I seem to do okay. One of my sister in laws, calls thrifting “Therapy” when shes having a really bad day or stressing real bad she’ll just tell everyone shes going to therapy, meaning shes going to be gone for two hours cuz shes browsing the goodwills to de-stress.

    1. I agree with your sister in law, it’s definitely a form of therapy! Definitely give it a shot going by yourself, I think it’ll really help.