There’s nothing more satisfying than finding the perfect piece at a thrift store for under $20, when you know it’d cost a hundred or more to buy it new. Not only is thrift shopping a huge budget helper, but ethically it’s the better option for our planet.
The fashion industry is one of the least sustainable ones on the planet. 35.4 billion pounds of textiles will be added to landfills this year alone. Thrift shopping gives clothes a second life, and though it’s a small contribution to reducing this issue, it’s an important one and the more people who choose to shop second hand the more the fast fashion conglomerates and luxury trash generators will be forced take notice and change their ways.
A large portion (if not the majority) of my wardrobe is thrifted, and I’d like to continue this trend until it is either entirely thrifted or purchased from sustainable brands – or bought secondhand from sources like Poshmark or TheRealReal. Learning how to thrift though is the key to making this lifestyle work.
How to Thrift Shop Like a Pro:
There are 5 key guidelines I follow to build a thrifted wardrobe that still feels fashionable and on-trend.
1. Fabric is key.
IMHO, quality matters more than anything when you thrift. The first thing I look for is good fabric. It immediately narrows the search so that giant Goodwill store doesn’t feel so overwhelming. At first, this may mean running your hands through the rows until you find something that feels well made, either thick cotton, linen, silk or wool. But eventually you’ll likely be able to tell which clothes are well made by just visually scanning through the racks. Clothes made with natural fabrics are likely to be from quality brands, which means the fit will be better and they will last longer. In an ideal world we’d switch back to these fabrics and stop or reduce the use of polyester.
2. Era doesn’t matter.
So those wool pants you found were from the 80s? Great! Everything in fashion is cyclical – if they’re not back in style now, they will be within a few years so you may as well buy what fits. And while we’re at it, sticking with only what’s on trend is not only limiting in terms of style but also guarantees you’ll never be “caught up” with what the influencers and bloggers and celebs are wearing at New York Fashion Week or on a yacht in Cannes. The key to lasting style is to mix these trends in with your staples and to pick the most universal versions of the trends so they last…which brings us to the next point.
3. Trends aren’t rules, they’re guidelines.
Take a scroll through Instagram and find a couple of people who can repeatedly emulate a style you want to repeat, then, see what staples they resort to most. At the moment, I’m seeing: blazers, silk scarves, high-waisted trousers, ribbed tank tops, square toed shoes and warm neutrals. When I search through the racks I’ll be looking for these key things. Instead of trying to buy the eyelet top with puffy sleeves your style icon will wear once and throw away, opt for the more versatile pieces that you know you can keep for years but can style to fit the trends you like. Any of those items I listed can be worn in a multitude of ways and will make for a good thrift purchase.
A few accounts I follow for inspiration are:
4. Don’t get too specific with what you’re looking for.
Never walk into a thrift shop saying “I need a coral, short sleeve top” because the chances of you finding one that fits and isn’t stained or pilled are slim to none. I mean, you COULD walk in with that mindset, but 49 times out of 50 you’ll be let down. You’ll have much better luck if you keep your mind open to the hidden treasures that you weren’t necessarily expecting to find.
5. Try it all on.
Yes, I know it’s annoying and it takes a lot of time but TRY EVERYTHING ON – especially the maybes because the fit of those will either make them your greatest find or an absolute no. If it doesn’t fit perfectly, don’t get it. It’s bound to end up sitting in a drawer for two years getting passed over for other options and eventually donated back because it shouldn’t have been purchased in the first place.
And there you have it – my five keys to owning the thrift store. Below are a few images of items and outfits that I’ve found at local thrift stores in the last year: