How to Shop at Thrift Stores

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Vintage fashion lovers are constantly complaining that thrift stores are picked over and you can’t find good vintage anymore. I disagree. True, vintage isn’t as abundant as it was a decade ago, but there are still some vintage gems to be picked at thrift stores if you have a strategy. Here are my super secret tips for hitting the thrift store like a pro.

1. Have a Target in Mind

I always walk into a thrift store with a target in mind. If I am hunting for dresses I hit that department first. If i am searching for home accessories, I beeline to house wares. Get in there quick because there are always two or more pickers already there trying to beat you to the goods. This is a competitive sport!

2. Grab a Cart or Basket

It’s important to grab anything and everything that catches your eye. Thrift shopping is a very sensory experience. I can spot a quality piece of fabric at 5 steps. I once scored a 1970s Yves Saint Laurent ultrasuede dress on touch alone. I scored a 1960s framed Picasso print. I had no idea it was a Picasso print, i just loved how it looked. Grab it all and put it in your cart. You can sort later.

3. Shop on a Tuesday

I love Goodwill because they are always so clean and organized and prices are consistent. A Goodwill employee did tell me that a good day to shop is Tuesday because that is the day the put out all the weekend donations. If you shop at a very large vintage store however, every day is a good day to shop because they have to turn over that merchandise and they receive lots of donations. i really like shopping in the afternoon when a good amount of merchandise has been put out for the day.

4. Trust Your Senses and Instincts

I can’t tell you how many times I found treasures at the thrift store that I had no clue they what they were worth until I got home to do a proper Google search. Now with Smartphones, you can do this on the fly. I really trust my instinct and my eye. I firmly believe that the best vintage collectors are those that have a special gift for spotting quality. Trust your instinct – if you see a piece of jewelry, or a piece of art or a vintage dress that just grabs your attention, even if it doesn’t have a maker’s mark or designer label, grab it! Vintage shopping is very visceral. Your senses will never let you down (see #2).

5. Keep An Open Mind

You know that little church thrift store on the scary side of town? The one you just know you will have to dig through? Give it a chance. Many a rogue pieces of Chanel have been discovered in the least expected stores. Also keep an open mind about garments or housewares that you weren’t looking for or of a different era than you normally shop for. Vintage shopping is such a physical experience (see number 4). If you hate it later, resell on Ebay or donate. You will regret leaving it behind. I promise!

If you prefer the convenience of shopping online, online thrift stores might be your answer. Goodwill sells a nice variety of pieces online. I prefer hands on, but you have to admit it’s convenient.

Have any thrifting tips of your own? Share in the comments below!


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1 CJ { 03.25.13 at 4:00 pm }

I still score many many of my vintage and great second hand pieces at thrift stores. Church Thrift Store are the best! There are a lot of lovely blue haired ladies who donate their ‘old’ clothes in support.

What I find is that the thrift store prices has gone up considerably because of the popularity of vintage and the fact there is less of a stigma wearing second hand. But the churches…they just want people to get a good deal!

One of my greatest finds was a silk vintage Lanvin from the 80s. I bought it for four bucks. Yeah thrift stores!!!!!

2 Sandra { 03.25.13 at 6:07 pm }

Hi CJ! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, church thrifts are pretty darn good. I agree with your reasons why prices have gone up. I think people need to understand that dealers costs are up so retail prices have to reflect that. What a great score!

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