By Kennedy Mapes
Since thrift shops were introduced to society, they have served as an inexpensive, one-stop shop for virtually anything gently used: clothes, shoes, furniture, home decor, you name it. For years, they have been associated with shopping out of necessity, but recently they have become one of the trendiest places to find stylish pieces for anyone’s wardrobe.
The popularity of thrift shopping continues to grow for several reasons. These stores have an abundance of donated items, of all sizes, at a heavily discounted price, some of which are rare, name brand finds. Even if the items found aren’t name brands, you can find adorable pieces of clothing that fit your style for an extremely affordable price. It also is a far more sustainable and ethical way of shopping than buying from retail spaces that contribute to fast fashion culture.
While the concept of thrift shopping seems relatively easy, it can actually be quite overwhelming due to the fact that it involves a lot of sifting through and can be a very time consuming process. If you are interested in learning how to thrift shop effectively, this article is for you. I am going to be sharing the tips and tricks that helped me evolve my thrift shopping skills to meet the needs of my desired style to create my dream wardrobe without breaking the bank.
- Determine what style or brands you are looking for
This is important because it is going to help you find the second-hand stores that are worth your time and those that are not. If you are looking for a more vintage style, I would suggest searching through older, stand alone shops in suburban areas or wealthier neighborhoods as these places will often have the desired vintage styles you are looking for. Think about places in Eastown, Heritage Hill, Michigan Oaks, Ridgemoor, or other affluent areas near you. These places will often have some vintage, designer items that might be just what you are looking for.
If you are on the search for items that are trendy and in-style now, it’s best to look in more metropolitan, inner-city areas at some of the chain stores, such as Goodwill and Salvation Army. I have found several on-trend, name brand items from the Goodwills on Michigan Street and Division Avenue as well as the Salvation Army on Alpine Avenue.
Once you have ventured through some different stores, I recommend creating a log of the stores and their locations and whether they were good or bad to save you time and a headache in the future.
- Create a mood or style board to plan ahead
Thrift shopping without a plan can be really overwhelming because of the large selection you have to search through. I like to create a vision board of what I am looking for so that while I’m shopping, I know exactly what style and colors I am seeking and am able to compare the items that I find to the pictures of what I want for my wardrobe. You can create a physical copy by creating a collage of magazine pictures or you can create a Pinterest board of style inspo.
- Dedicate a full day to your search
Thrifting requires a lot of time and patience. It is important that you give yourself a full day to search through your local thrift stores so you don’t feel rushed and so that you can dedicate enough time for a thorough search at each store.
- Find out when the stores in your area restock
Most places that I have been to have been pretty open about when they restock, but that may also be because I have created a relationship with the employees. It is obviously extremely important to be courteous to customer service workers anytime, especially during a pandemic, but also, if you want them to help you out. This information is valuable because it gives you an opportunity to search through freshly stocked items that haven’t been picked over by other people searching for the same things as you. You get first dibs on all the cool stuff.
- Go during the week, during work hours.
Obviously, you can go any time that you have free time and feel the urge to do it, but if you go during the week while people are busy at school or work, you have less competition and are more likely to find the rare gems you are looking for.
- Do not ignore thrift store outlets
The Goodwill Outlet, also known as Goodwill Bins, on Prairie Street in Grandville has contributed to roughly around 70% of my current wardrobe. I have found so many of my trendy outfit staples at this outlet. The Bins are a very unique way of thrift shopping. Items are organized by category and put into humongous blue bins that are placed in various spaces all over the store. There are no clothing racks, only blue bins filled to the brim with second hand items just waiting to be searched through. Another difference is that you won’t have to worry about asking when the outlet restocks, because the employees restock with fresh merchandise every half hour. The clothing, also, does not have a price tag. You pay by the pound and the rate is a little over one dollar per pound (the exact change may differ depending on location.) I have left the Bins with ten pounds of clothing for just over ten dollars. Not only are you leaving with a mass amount of clothing for an extremely affordable price, but a lot of the items placed in the bins, are some of the higher quality items that have been donated to the Goodwill stores in your area. I would recommend wearing gloves and dedicating a good few hours to this one location. There is a LOT of stuff to look through.
- How to sort through the sections
Even with devising a plan and creating a Pinterest board, the process can still be overwhelming if you aren’t sure where to start looking. I suggest scoping out all of the sections if you have the time and patience to do so to see what you can find, but if you are looking for a bit of a cheat sheet, I have managed to figure out which sections I’ve found the most pieces that fit my current style.
- Denim (jeans, shorts, overalls): For all things denim, really just pants in general, I always go straight to the men’s section. I have found that the women’s denim/jean section is often lacking in the on-trend denim I am seeking. It often includes styles I am not particularly interested in and is usually very picked over. The men’s section, however, is a different story. Because mom, dad, and boyfriend jeans are in style right now, the men’s section is the perfect place to look for that baggier fit. Men’s sizing is a little different than women’s so just make sure to google a conversion chart so you know what fits!
- Crewnecks and oversized sweaters: Again, the men’s section is where it’s at. Crewnecks, comfy hoodies, knit cardigans, flannels; they have it all. Don’t completely avoid the women’s sweatshirt section though, especially if you’re shopping at an older store with a more vintage vibe. These places often have crewnecks with built-in collars, which are very on trend right now.
- Slip dresses, camisoles, and corsets: The women’s pajama section. I have come to the conclusion that these items are the hardest to find, but I have managed to pick out a few at The Salvation Army location I mentioned earlier. You may have to dig and search a bit harder than you would for other items, but this section is your best bet. Don’t ignore the parts of this section that aren’t labeled with your size, I have found items in my size (M) in the XS section and the XL section. Sometimes the sizes get mixed up and it’s always worth it to look!
- Crop tops and baby tee’s: The kid’s section. I know this sounds a little crazy, but it works. If you’re looking for the tiny tops that are in style right now, you can find some really cool ones in the larger sizes of the kid’s section.
- Button-ups: Men’s dress shirts or women’s blouse section. I have found the majority of my funky printed, comfy button-ups from the men’s section, but I don’t neglect the women’s section either because there are often a lot of Y2k inspired blouses in these sections.
- Thrift flip
If you are looking for a particular item, a jean short, a cool, graphic crop top, a cottage-core midi skirt, but you just aren’t finding the exact item, look for a pair of jeans, full size t-shirt, or an ankle length maxi skirt that fits the style you are looking for, and then DIY it to be the item you want it to be. I highly recommend investing in a rotary blade (I got one at Walmart for less than $20) because it makes the process of cutting up clothing and fabric extremely easy. YouTube also has a ton of helpful tutorials on how to turn less desirable thrift items into trendy pieces.