When I was young, my mother would try to take me shopping for school clothes at the local thrift store and I would always refuse. I was worried that the kids at school would somehow find out that my clothes were used and that they would tease me mercilessly for it. I forced my mother take me to shopping for new clothes instead, where she would often end up paying twice or even three times as much for clothes.
Flash forward to junior year in high school. That was the year I met Rachael. Racheal was funky and cool. She had a sense of personal style that I envied and a wardrobe that was exponentially larger than my own. When I asked her what her secret was, Rachael told me that she shopped exclusively at thrift stores and garage sales. It was then that I realized that maybe I had been wrong about this whole thrift store shopping thing. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Now, as an adult, I make regular trips to the thrift stores. Over the years, I’ve even managed to come up with a list of thrifting do’s and don’ts (thanks to some thrift savvy friends and my own process of trial and error).
Try everything on in the store before you buy it. You would never buy new clothes without trying them on. The same rule applies when buying used clothes. Especially because most thrift stores have a no returns or exchanges policy. The problem with thrift stores, however, is they don’t always have dressing rooms or, if they do, they have so few of them that you have to wait in a long line before you have a chance to use them.
Quick Tip: I suggest wearing tight fitting clothes (such as legging and a tank top) to the thrift store. That way, you can try any outfits on over your clothes just to make sure they fit and that you really like them.
Buy anything you can’t clean. Try to avoid anything that is “dry clean only” or anything that has stains on it that you aren’t absolutely certain you can remove with the products you already have in your house.
Quick tip: If you do get swept up in the moment and accidentally end up purchasing a dry clean only outfit, you can always freeze the outfit in a Ziploc bag (for 30 days) to kill any bugs and then use Fiberize to remove any unpleasant smells.
Make Extra room in your closet before you go shopping. As a general rule, I like to donate an equal amount of clothes to a local charity thrift store before I buy anything new. It is my way of making sure that my wardrobe doesn’t get too out of control. But it’s also good karma and goes to help a good cause.
Quick Tip: Make sure to check out all charities before you donate your clothes to them or shop at their stores. You want to be sure their politics jive with your own and that they don’t take part in any questionable business practices.
Buy anything unless you absolutely love it. Finally, it doesn’t matter how good a bargain something might be. If you don’t love it in the store, you’re not going to love it once you get it home. And if you don’t love it, you’ll never wear it. It will just end up taking up valuable space in your closet.