Macklemore may have written a song about thrift shops, but it takes years of digging through used clothing and other dirty items to become a pro (you might not win a Grammy but the satisfaction will be just as good). If there was a major available in college for thrift shop etiquette, we’d be the first to sign up. Every since I can remember, my parents and have found treasured items at local thrift stores. Although this has been a tradition almost all my life, there are a lot of people who get overwhelmed when they go to a secondhand shop. And you know what? That’s totally normal. Thrift shops can be sort of scary- especially if you’ve never shopped at one. Gabriel Ory and I have conjured up this lovely step-by-step post to help thrift shop newcomers, and even the die-hard-diggers to get a better understanding of “How to thrift.”  ~Tessa Ehrman, Fashion Editor


Photography by: Gabriel Ory


Step 1: Pick a thrift store!

This step is usually the easiest, because there are so many resources on the internet nowadays. Whether you’re using Yelp, Google, or the Yellow Pages, the internet is your BFF when it comes to finding the perfect thrift store for you! When searching through pages of thrift stores you didn’t even know existed in your area, think about your interests. You don’t want to waste your time going to a clothing thrift store if you are looking for furniture and vice versa. On most websites there is a small list of what’s available at each store and if there is nothing listed feel free to call the thrift store and ask them what they have. My favorite type of thrift stores are always the dirtiest places on the planet, and if you choose a junky store make sure you go with a buddy (you should always thrift with a friend anyways) and are aware of your surroundings! Once you pick your first thrift store, make sure you know the store hours and you’re good to go.


Step 2: CALM DOWN and think!

As an avid thrifter I know how stressful some thrift stores can be. Sometimes there is junk piled to the ceiling, the smells are atrocious, and you don’t even know where to begin. Being overwhelmed is totally normal, but instead of succumbing to this awful feeling just take a moment and think about something you’d like to find. If you aren’t looking for something in particular, pick an article of clothing or another item and start there. Thrift stores [almost] always organize their clothing by size or color and have other household goods together by what they are (glassware, music, etc.). Since I go so often, I have a routine I try to stick with: I start with shoes, then skirts, blouses, pants, records, and books (unless I’m looking for a particular thing). Once you get the hang out thrifting, you might want to come up with an easy routine to make things a big easier! Alright, after this step it’s smooth sailing.


Step 3: Make sure you’re getting a good deal

This is one of the most important steps to having a happy thrifting experience. Whenever you find something you like, make sure it is in good condition. Anything damaged is usually not worth it (unless the plan is to up-cycle the piece). Always look at every crevice of clothing to make sure there isn’t [too many] stains or holes. This really applies to vintage clothing, because it is more likely to be damaged due to age. When it comes to household goods and furniture just make sure it’s still useable. If there is glass broken or bugs on something tell an employee and leave it behind. You do not want to risk getting injured over a quirky figurine or anything else for that matter. And if you are buying furniture, NEVER purchase it unless it states that it has been cleaned. No matter how nice it may look, you never know what can be crawling around on/in it. If you plan on re-doing the whole piece, that’s okay, but still be wary. Also pay attention to certain thrift stores, because some places have special deals on certain days (Family Thrift has quarter Wednesdays, Goodwill has special sales on Sundays, etc.). Another great thing to keep in mind is when your thrift store gets new items. If you don’t know: ask! A little asking never hurt anyone, and besides, the best stuff is always in with the new stuff (unless you get magically blessed by the thrift gods).


Step 4: Try it on!

This step is fairly easy. If you find something that you are totally in love with, don’t risk eyeball-ing the size. I almost always try stuff on, especially if it’s vintage, because sizing has changed throughout the years. Some thrift stores don’t have dressing rooms, but that’s okay! If you wear comfortable clothing that’s not too loose you can just try it on over your outfit. The first time you do it you may feel ridiculous, but the more you thrift the more you realize other avid thrifters aren’t ashamed of trying stuff on either. And besides, you don’t want to purchase anything that you end up never wearing.


Step 5: Patience.

Last, but not least, you have to have patience, young thrifter. To be honest, this is the hardest step for me, because the first time you go hunting, you might not find anything. It actually might take a couple of stores and visits, before you really find any gold. You’re going to want instant gratification that includes a flawless wardrobe, and it’s not going to happen. BUT, slowly you will realize it is all worth, and become highly addicted like the rest of us, crazy thrifters!


Leave a comment below telling us your best thrift shop find! 

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August 15, 2014


(Forgot to mention– the lovely people in the photographs were my friends Rocco Romano and Harry Lee-Rubin)

I buy almost everything from thrift stores (other than food obvi). Some of my best finds include a vintage Gianni Versace jacket, an amazing pink hand knitted shaggy jacket thing and a vintage Barbie money box. Thrift stores forever!!

This post is great, but I just thought I’d add two more tips that I have learned over the years:
1- look through every piece on a rack. It might take more time than just skimming through them, but you never know when you might find an awesome design on the front that you would have never seen otherwise. The things you’ll find will really make it worthwhile.
2- Have a good relationship with the seller. This one is especially important if you are a regular customer. Not only will it make your thrifting experience more pleasant but you might even get better deals, tips on how to remove stains and sometimes they will willingly hold a piece for you until you have the money. And if you have horrible social skills like me, a simple smile and greeting, and thank yous will surely get you on their good side.

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