How to Thrift Shop for Clothes in 5 Easy Steps

by | Clothing Essentials: What to Wear, Where to Buy Clothes | 0 comments

Make your thrift store shopping experience as painless as possible by using these 5 tips (+ one more bonus tip!) each time you are buying second hand. Find high quality clothes quickly and efficiently so you can save time and money.

Today one of them members of our community is sharing her best tips on how to thrift shop for clothes. 

We are so excited she’s here to share her expertise on becoming an expert thrifter!

A lot of our fellow Frump Fighters have experienced great success shopping second hand and finding the exact pieces they need that a) fit their body type and b) are in the color they need for their color season.

Both of these reasons are the biggest push to try shopping at a thrift store for clothes, because sometimes what flatters us best is not what’s in stores.

And contrary to what many might think, thrift stores don’t just have outdated styles. They usually have lots of current, up-to-date pieces too. You just need to know what to look for.

And that’s why Serena is with us today, to teach us the best tips to get the most out of our thrift store shopping experiences! 

I’m Serena, the voice behind Pennies in Perspective. After years of late bill payments, frivolous spending, and general money mismanagement, I taught myself how to budget. Over time, I have honed and sharpened both my budget and my frugal toolkit, and I can help you do the same! I’m here to help you simplify your finances and develop lasting frugal habits that blend seamlessly into your lifestyle. 

Hey Mamas! I’m so excited to be talking to you today.

I’ve been following Corina for a couple years and let me just say that her wardrobe guides are amazing.

With that said, I’m on a budget! And I’m betting you are too. I don’t have much extra wiggle room at all in my budget for new, trendy wardrobe purchases.

So, I turned to thrifting. I’m the type of girl who has to try things on in-store. Fluctuating body sizes with babies and pregnancy have me all confused on which size I actually am! Not to mention that women’s sizing varies by brand.

So today I’ve compiled some of the best tips for thrifting your wardrobe! I want to give you the confidence needed to really score those great finds that you see others sharing about.

How to Thrift Shop for Clothes Tip #1: Go Alone

I know, as moms we have such a hard time finding time to ourselves! It takes planning, communication, and just plain effort to finagle a shopping trip alone.

But trust me on this, it’s worth it. I find that if I go with anyone else, I end up letting myself get talked into buying several pieces that I don’t need, won’t wear, or don’t fit properly. What a waste! A waste of money, a waste of time, and a waste of space.

You are the only one who has to be happy with your clothes.

This mama gave me 5 tips that has made thrift store shopping so easy! I can now quickly find clothes that are high quality and the right color and fit for my body when shopping second hand. #fashion #clothes #style #tips #shoppingNot your friend, not your husband, and not your kids. You don’t need their opinions! So go alone, and be honest with yourself about how you feel in each piece you try on.

(You can seriously just post pictures while you’re in the fitting room and you’ll get responses right away!)

How to Thrift Shop for Clothes Tip #2: Bring a List

There is SO much variety in the thrift store. Because of this, it can be so easy to get caught up and overwhelmed with the thrifting process.

And when I get overwhelmed, I either shut down (read: leave!) or just start grabbing anything and not focusing on anything specific. Neither method leads to what I would call a successful thrifting trip!

Every time I shop, I bring two things. One is my shopping guide, which I have printed out and folded into booklet format. And the other is my phone, with a list of specific pieces I’m looking for and in what colors.

This is helpful because it allows me to narrow my focus. It means I don’t have to comb the whole store. I prioritize the list in my phone, so if a chambray dress is at the top of the list, I head to the dresses first. Perhaps olive pants are next so I head to the pants rack next. Skirts might be low on the priority list so I don’t hit that rack at all. Just having to hit two or three racks calms the overwhelm and lets me hone in on what I really need.

Want a done-for-you shopping list? Download Corina’s free capsule wardrobe plan for moms

Capsule wardrobe plan for moms - Free PDF Checklist


How to Thrift Shop for Clothes Tip #3: Go to a Thrift Store in the Nicer Part of Town

This one is fairly straightforward. You want to go where the money is.

You probably already know where the nicer areas are in your city. Go check out those thrift stores!

Thrift stores in higher-income areas will have far better offerings than other thrift stores–higher quality brands, and less chance of staining or holes. All of this gives you a much better chance of coming home with something you love!

If you don’t know where the nicer parts of town are, ask around! Ask where people like to go shopping, or where the nice restaurants are. Or just be straightforward and ask if they know where the best thrift stores are!

Thrift stores are Corina's happy place too!

Thrift stores are Corina’s happy place too!

Google can also be helpful. Try searching, “richest county in [your state]” or “highest income area near me.”

You can also search for local vacation homes or tourist areas–chances are that if people pay to vacation there, the property costs for people who live there (and likely the income) is higher as well.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t find gems in any thrift store! But if you’ve never been thrifting before or never felt successful in your thrifting adventures, I want you to have the best chance of success.

And going to a thrift store in a nicer area will give you that.

How to Thrift Shop for Clothes Tip #4: Look for Quality

Mom life can be so rough on our clothes–spit-up, blow-outs, food stains and tears all threaten our wardrobes on a daily basis. It just doesn’t make sense to spend a lot on clothes that will get so beat up.

Unfortunately, with traditional shopping this often means sacrificing quality in the name of a cheaper price.

But not at the thrift store! At the thrift store you have the luxury of being able to find quality pieces for much lower than even a traditional budget brand.

On average, I spend $5-$10 per piece of clothing. And yet, my closet contains Land’s End, LL Bean, and Loft, to name a few. Some of my other favorites are Old Navy, Gap, Levi, and Madewell.

But brands are just one way to know that you’re getting quality. The thrift store has so many brands that you’re bound to come across some that you’ve never heard of before.

Because of that, you need to be able to spot some general signs of a quality piece:

Material that is Not See-Through

Here is an easy first test to determine a basic quality level: whenever you find a piece you like, stick your hand inside. If you can see your hand through the fabric, keep looking.

Why? Thinner, see-through fabrics are more likely to snag and tear, and just aren’t made to last as long. Opt for the thicker fabrics instead.

Here’s another good rule of thumb when determining if a fabric is too thin: when you try it on, a nude-colored bra should be invisible underneath it. If you can see your bra and would need a cami, you can probably find something a little better quality.

Be picky about your second hand clothing purchases.

It’s ok to be particular about what you are looking for!

Overall Lack of Pilling, Shrinkage, and Fading

Quality clothes wash and wear better than cheaper, fast-fashion clothes. You want to look for pieces that have maintained their shape, have minimal to no fading, and very little–if any–pilling.

Just note that especially when looking at sweaters, some pilling is normal.

Keep an Eye for the Details

Give the entire piece a good going-over. Can you find any holes, and do you have the skills to make minor repairs? Do you see any stains? Do you have a go-to stain remover that can fix that for you?

Also look at the construction of the garment. Are there loose threads anywhere? Are the buttonholes evenly stitched?

Turn it inside out and look at the seams. Can you see threads on the inside, or are the inner seams completely enclosed by fabric (called a “french seam” in the sewing world)? French seams are, in my opinion, the gold standard of a garment that is of the highest quality, so that’s definitely something you want to look for!

How to Thrift Shop for Clothes Tip #5: Exercise Patience

This is the most important part of being a successful thrifter!

The reality of thrifting is, you won’t find everything you’re looking for at one store. You won’t find all the perfect pieces on one trip.

Hunting for that perfect treasure is half the fun!

You need patience.

And with that patience, you need to be able and willing to go without certain wardrobe pieces until you can find them used.

I personally have many reasons for thrifting. It’s good for my budget, it’s good for the environment, and it’s fun!

Maybe you’re just looking to try it out and get a little more for your money, or maybe you’re a seasoned thrifter. Either way, patience is just a necessary part of the process! 

How to Thrift Shop for Clothes Bonus Tip #6: Utilize Online Thrifting

Don’t have time to visit your local thrift store as often as you’d like? Or maybe you just don’t live near any thrift stores.

Thankfully, there are so many ways to “thrift” online! Online thrifting is often a tad more expensive than traditional thrifting. Why? Well, much of the online secondhand inventory comes from re-sellers who have spent hours combing the thrift stores in their area to find and list the quality pieces that you want to buy! So you’re also paying for their time.

With that said, I can still often manage to get 50-75% off of the retail price when buying secondhand online! It also never hurts to message the seller and ask them if they can negotiate with you.

My favorite sources for online thrifting are Ebay, Poshmark, and Mercari.

However, there’s one caveat! You need to know exactly what you’re looking for when it comes to online thrifting.

Oftentimes, I use it when I’ve found a piece that I just love at the traditional thrift store, but something was wrong. A hole in the wrong place, or a size too big caused me to not take it home. Cue an Ebay search! And I often find exactly what I want and am able to add a new piece I love to my wardrobe.

Another great way I’ve found to use online thrifting is for shoes! I’ve been able to add some very high-quality shoes to my wardrobe that I could never afford new–at least not without a year or two of saving!

Another method that works great for many people is to order their three or four top contenders for a certain piece (like olive pants), they are able to try them on at home, pick the best one, and return the others. This works great for many people! I, however, have never made an online return in my life. I’m actually a little scared of the online return process! If you are also a non-returner, you probably don’t want to go this route. But if you are good at making returns, then go for it! Check out Corina’s tips for saving money when shopping online!

Have you thrifted before? Which tip did you find to be most helpful?


Click here to leave your response.

P.S. Want more content like this? Head over to Pennies in Perspective to read more! Don’t forget to share and subscribe!

You can have a small budget and still find quality clothes second hand by using these 5 expert tips! I love how easy this mom has made my thrift store shopping experiences now! #shopping #clothes #budget #style #tips