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How to Shop at Thrift Stores

When shopping at thrift stores the biggest secret in finding all the good stuff is to frequent the shops—visit often. That's because some days you'll find some great items that will enhance your wardrobe, then you could spend hours looking and won't find a single thing worth buying.

So with that in mind, here are some tips to maximize your chances of finding great items:

  • Expect to spend a good deal of time looking, and don't be too disappointed if you don't find anything. It's also a good idea to go to several stores, so plan on making a day of it. This is especially helpful if you are looking for specific items.
  • Go through everything. If you need new pants, then you have to look at every pair of pants on the rack. If your arms don't get tired, you're probably taking shortcuts.
  • Size is relative. A thrift store has clothing that differs in brand, style, year, and who knows what else, making size a general guideline at best and a complete sham more often than not. And unlike regular stores, you can't grab one item in a couple of sizes and see which size works best. So be open to trying on sizes that shouldn't fit. I have a pair of pants that are over three sizes smaller than every other pair of pants I own, but they fit well and look good. It happens.
  • Try things on. If it catches your eye, try it. Maybe it looks a little weird and sad draped on the hanger, but if appeals to you in some way, try it on. Clothing looks different on you than it does on the hanger. Maybe you like the cut, but think the colors are weird: you won't know if it works for you unless you try it on. So be less picky when grabbing things off the rack and use your critical eye in the changing room.
  • Look over everything thoroughly for stains and holes. Sometimes you'll be able to mend or cover part of an item, but you need to know you can fix it or live with it before you buy.
  • Enjoy going. It's a very involved process, and if you don't learn how to make it fun, you won't last. Go with a friend or make a habit of trying on a few goofy items that aren't in style. Besides, who knows, one of those goofy items might look amazing when you put it on.

All in all, thrift store hunting is like treasure hunting with a metal detector...most of what you find, you won't want to keep, but keep at it and you're bound to find a cache of items that are worth taking home.

There are some people who are ashamed of shopping at second-hand stores. Don't be. Be proud of every gem you find. When you get complements on a great outfit, be conspiratorial when you confide how little you spent on it, chances are you'll end up helping someone else save a little money, too. Or maybe you'll help them make money. A friend of mine won a quarter because someone else was certain my top was too nice to be from a thrift store.

 

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