Secondhand Style Is Chic & Sustainable

It's safe to say that thrift shopping is having a moment. In fact, more and more people are giving preloved clothing a second chance at life and for good reason. Great quality pieces can be found for too-good-to-be-true prices. However, thrift shopping can go extremely well or quickly take a turn for the worst. Believe me, even I have fallen prey to the “but it’s so unique” trap and convinced myself to buy pieces that ultimately collected dust in my closet. Thankfully, I’ve wizened up over the years and now, my love for thrift shopping runs deep.

If you are new to the art of thrift shopping, let me forewarn you: hunting for preloved treasures can be tiring and overwhelming. The rewards however, outweigh the challenges. If you do it correctly, you will come out on the other side with unique threads for amazingly low prices.

To help you make the most out of your next thrift-shopping excursion, here are 10 tips on how you can thrift shop like a boss!


1. Be prepared.

Thrift shopping without a clear goal is like grocery shopping on an empty stomach. It’s doable, but it’s not ideal.

Thrift shopping without a clear goal is like grocery shopping on an empty stomach. It's doable, but it's not ideal. Make a list of what you are looking for based on what you already own. This will help keep you focused and on budget. In addition, bring pictures of your coveted gems for reference, whenever possible. This will make it easier for store clerks to help you locate what you are looking for or let you know if they have something similar or not.

2. The pieces down under.

Most thrift stores have limited to no fitting rooms, which can make trying on your finds before purchasing them difficult. Furthermore, I don’t recommend picking things off the rack and buying them without making sure they are a good fit first. Since thrift stores don’t often issue refunds or do exchanges, try them on to avoid being stuck with garments you can't wear. To remedy this, wear a form-fitting tank top and boy shorts or leggings to make trying things on as easy as possible even if it means changing in the middle of the store.

3. Bring cash.

I previously mentioned staying on budget. This is an important key when thrift shopping. Don't fall into the “but its so inexpensive” trap, predetermine your budget and bring it in cash. Furthermore, credit/debit card payments are not accepted at every thrift store so better safe than sorry.

4. Sell before you buy.

This is one of my favorite tips. If you feel guilty about buying new duds, opt for thrift stores that not only sell but also buy and accept donations for charity like Beacon’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange in New York. My favorite thrift shopping trips are those where I not only find new clothes but also make extra money. I highly recommend selling before buying. It’s a win-win situation!

5. Master the art of the scan.

Rummaging through multiple piles and racks of clothes is not for the faint at heart. Depending on the size of the thrift store you go to, taking the time to look at every single piece will take forever. To avoid this waste of time without missing out on potential gems, you must master the art of the scan. Based on what you are looking for and your preferred color palette and aesthetics, make your way through the store simply scanning each rack for pieces that stand out and catch your eye. This takes focus and is a skill you will develop over time.

Based on what you are looking for and your preferred color palette and aesthetics, make your way through the store simply scanning each rack for pieces that stand out and catch your eye.

6. Get a tailor or learn to make small alterations yourself.

Whether it’s new, thrift or vintage, every piece in your closet should fit you like a glove. Since preloved items are often one-of-a-kind, you may need to make alterations. For simple modifications like hemming, I recommend doing it yourself or taking the piece to the dry cleaner's. For more intricate customization, consult a tailor but make sure the piece is worth the investment you will be making in tailoring.

7. Dress comfortably.

Thrifting is like a sport. It requires stamina, patience as well as upper body strength to carry your finds, if the shop doesn't provide shopping carts. You can easily spend hours in a thrift store worthy of its name. Avoid unnecessary fatigue by wearing comfortable clothes and shoes. I recommend wearing a fitted tank top, wide neck t-shirt, leggings and a crossbody bag so your hands can be free to dig.

You will stumble upon beautiful pieces that are unique but if they are not your style you won’t get any wear out of them.

8. True love only.

All others need not apply! Only purchase items you truly love and know you are going to wear. You will stumble upon beautiful pieces that are unique, but if they are not your style you won't get any wear out of them. So admire them from afar, take a picture if you must, but don’t take them home with you.

9. Know new friends.

Once you find a thrift store that fits your style and budget, I recommend becoming friendly with the staff. They can not only help you while shopping, but also give you valuable information such as when new merchandise is set to come in and the category of pieces they are looking to buy for the store.

10. Inspect the goods.

As I mentioned before, most if not all thrift store purchases are final sale. To avoid discovering defects too late, inspect each piece before buying it. It’s easy to miss a small hole here or a stain there, in the midst of the shopping excitement. Not skipping this step can save you unnecessary heartbreak.

BONUS: Thrift while traveling. Visiting thrift stores abroad opens up the door to a whole new fabulous world. Focus your energy on brands you can't easily find at home and make sure to save room in your luggage for your new gems.

Giving preloved clothing and accessories a second chance at life is a great way to be sustainable and stylish at the same time.

Giving preloved clothing and accessories a second chance at life is a great way to be sustainable and stylish at the same time. By thrift shopping you will score unique pieces that will make you the envy of all your friends while lessening your carbon footprint. What more could you ask for?


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Kathleen is a marketing strategist as well as the Editor-In-Chic and founder of Conscious & Chic, a hub where style aficionados can munch on all things ethical in fashion, beauty, food and travel. Kathleen grew up in Montreal and is a true city girl who enjoys going to the movies, vintage shopping and brunching! From working in the fashion industry in New York for many years, she was inspired to create a platform where members of the Conscious & Chic community could not only find the tools they needed to journey towards a sustainable lifestyle but also shine by sharing their own content. Today, Conscious & Chic is an international tribe of people who get it! They are fun, inspiring and understand that their dollar has power. They are constantly engaging and sharing products, outfits, food flat lays and travel pictures through the #ConsciousNChic hashtag which has become a growing source of sustainable inspiration! Bridging the gap between creativity, social impact and business is one of her many passions due to her Finance, International Business and Fashion Design academic background. You can connect with her @ConsciousNChic and @KathleenElie on Instagram. She'd love it!