Sustainable Fashion: Thrift Tips

I love thrift shopping. Ever since I could drive, which coincidentally was around the time of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop came out, I loved going to my local thrift store. I remember the first time I walked into Saver’s and just being absolutely in awe of the amount of stuff. I love a good bargain, and I love the hunt for treasures. That’s the big appeal of shopping right? Trying to find great pieces, whether it be clothes, accessories, home decor etc. Why not fulfill that desire by shopping more ethical and cost effective by shopping secondhand?

Now don’t get me wrong, finding treasures at the thrift store is no easy feat. The shopping racks are cluttered and most of it isn’t clothes I would wear, but I do have some tips that will help you find those diamonds in the rough.


Actually Look

I know some people who complain they can’t find anything at the thrift store, but that’s because they don’t look! Fast fashion stores are easy to shop at because the individual pieces are all organized together and displayed in a way that attracts your attention. Fast fashion retailers make it as easy as possible for you to shop at their stores because they want you to buy more. Thrift stores don’t have the luxury of all the same pieces so things are usually organized by what kind of piece they are, short sleeve tops, skirts, men’s button downs etc. There are no mannequins with outfits perfectly curated at the thrift shop, so I recommend deciding what kind of piece you want, and then looking through every piece in that section quickly. If you see something that catches your eye, grab it!

The more practice at this you have, the faster you can go, but if you’re in a time crunch just gravitate towards textures and colors you like. I think it is more fun to go through every piece because you NEVER KNOW what you’re going to find, and sometimes I don’t even know what I’m looking for until I see it.


Ignore Sizing

The thrift store usually organizes clothing by type and then in sections of size. Ignore the sizing and there are many reasons why I recommend this. Firstly, each company, especially for women’s fashion, has a different sizing system. You could be a large at one store, and fit a size four in another. Secondly, people have worn these clothes, they could have been stretched from use or shrunk in the wash. Thirdly, employees place items to their best of their ability based on sizing, but with so much coming in the store and off the shelves into the fitting room, it can be hard to keep everything in order. Finally, vanity sizing by companies has changed so much over the years that you could have been a size two in something a couple years ago, but be a size six now in the same thing.

It is a lot to look through everything from XS to XL, so I recommend looking at the sections one size bigger and one size smaller than you are for clothing sized between XS and XL. For clothing sized numerically like 0-16, I recommend looking at the sections two sizes bigger and two sizes smaller. For instance, I would consider myself in about a medium for skirts, so around a four/five. I looked through skirts 0-2, 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8 and found one skirt that fit me in each size! And remember it’s not about the size, it’s about the fit.


Try It On

If the sizing is all messed up how will you know if something fits you if you don’t try it on? Sometimes you are almost certain pieces will look good on you only to find out that they make you look like a sack of potatoes or you can’t get the jeans over your knees. Always try things on, there’s nothing worse than being excited about a piece, bringing it home, and realizing it doesn’t fit.


Wear Something Easy to Change Out Of

In order to try on the lovely pieces you’ve pulled from the shelved you need something you can easily change in and out of. I usually like wearing a top and a bottom (so I can see how the pieces I am trying on go with other clothes in my wardrobe) but a dress is really easy too. I tend to try and stay away from clothes that get easily pulled inside out when you change because it is such a pain to put them back on. Of course, I always try and wear a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off!

If there are no changing rooms at your thrift store I recommend wearing leggings, a tight tank top, and then something to layer over it. This way, you can try on clothes without a dressing room and the underlying tank and leggings don’t add much bulk.


Come with an Open Mind, but Be Honest

Yes! You are at the thrift store and you found this crazy faux fur jacket.

Scenario 1: You’re not sure whether or not to try it on, so you leave it on the rack only to go home and regret not purchasing it for the rest of your life.

Scenario 2: You try it on and love it, but you live in Arizona and never wear it so it collects dust in your closet.

You want to try and avoid both these scenarios by coming to the thrift store with an open mind about the types of items you’re going to try on, but also being honest with yourself about if you’re actually going to wear something. If you want to try out a trend, or a particular style, the thrift store is a great place to find these pieces, because you can experiment while paying minimal cash; however, I don’t think that means buying something you truthfully know you aren’t going to wear.


Have Fun

Now remember you’re on an adventure. I think the hunt of thrift shopping is sometimes more fun than the clothes you walk away with. If you come out empty handed, don’t get too discouraged! Items are always being donated to the thrift store, so check back next week and see what else you can find!


IMPORTANT: Remember, even if you are shopping sustainably by shopping secondhand, over consumption is still over consumption, try and limit what you bring home only to what you need.

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