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Thrift It! 5 Tips for Your Thrift Store Experience

by Jen

By Sarah Martin

I have often wondered to myself, while looking at a particularly trendy friend or at a fascinating stranger, how they ever managed to assemble their ensemble. I sometimes grow envious, not at the girl, but at her wallet which I conclude must be much more full than mine. I think to myself, over and over, that if only I had the money she does, I could be as pretty, as happy, as positively good-looking. But then I am brought to my senses, and I must smile at how ridiculous my thoughts must have sounded. 

I don’t know about you, but I am a poor college student, and before that, I was a poor high schooler. For years I was plagued with the idea that you have to have money in order to take part in any kind of fashion. I thought that department stores were the haven of the perfect blouse and the amazing handbag. Then, my world was changed when I was introduced to thrift stores. 

Why I Love Thrifting

The amazing thing about fashion today is that it’s so versatile. We are so lucky to live in a time when there are so many variations on what’s trendy. We can go hipster, we can go school girl, we can go Marilyn Monroe if we so choose. With the right hemlines and accessories, we can rock any decade that sparks our fancy, and our ability to create entirely new styles has never been more accepted. Even with the values of modesty that we hold dear, we can create looks for ourselves that are not only fabulous, but completely unique.

On a modest budget, a good thrift store can do amazing things for any fashionista. One girl’s trash becomes another girl’s treasure, as the saying goes, and it’s completely true. Some of my favorite pieces in my closet I found at one thrift store or another, and I just love being able to shock people when I tell them what I paid for my designer find. Though thrift stores can be a little overwhelming, it’s important to understand that not every thrift store is created equal. Hopefully I can help you start your thrift store hunt.

I remember walking into my first thrift store and feeling completely overwhelmed. I stared in amazement at the tables and cabinets simply teeming with anything and everything. I felt like I couldn’t touch anything, and stood still for fear that even breathing would knock something over. But then my curiosity won over. I began to pry under stacks of newspaper, and to move the boxes of old records. 

5 Tips for Your Thrift Store Experience

  • Tip #1: Move things! Thrift stores are very rarely organized, and if they are, it is probably impossible to tell, so don’t be afraid to shift things around and dig a little. You are hoping to find a bargain, so don’t be surprised if you have to work at it. 
  • Tip #2: Talk to the owner! or the workers there, whoever looks mildly amused by what they are doing. The owners of thrift stores are sometimes very interesting people. They may seem a bit outlandish, and I’ve known a few to smell faintly of cats and chicken soup, but don’t let that deter you. These people have probably spent years amassing the collection of objects in their crowded store, and very well may have some great stories and suggestions to go along with their treasures. I never would have found my favorite, authentic leather belt ($ 10!!) if I hadn’t asked the nice man behind the counter. And don’t be afraid to haggle! This can be a little scary at first, but you can do it! if you think something is overpriced, it probably is, so tell the salesman. Most of the time, they will lower the price for you. 
  • Tip #3: Have a Goal! Its helpful whenever you are shopping to have something in mind to look for, maybe a color that you don’t have enough of, or a belt, maybe some gold earrings. If you have a question in mind, your more likely to find an answer. Be sure though, that you keep your mind open to other things though while you search. I find that I usually stumble upon my best finds while looking for something else. 
  • Tip  #4: Fix it! Often times, I have to make minimal changes to what I buy after I bring in home. I’ll cut the shoulder pads out of a shirt or take some nail-polish remover to a bag to get the smudges off. If I had to make changes to something new, I probably wouldn’t buy it, but remember, you are not buying something new. The beauty of an object is in the eye of the beholder, and that is so true with thrifting. I bought this white pencil skirt once, and the girls I brought with me looked a bit concerned. They saw the rust stains of the previous hanger and the pen marks by the hem, but I saw a missing puzzle piece to my wardrobe. I took some Tide-Pen to it, threw it in the wash, and now I can’t wear it without getting compliments. Best three-dollar investment I have ever made. When you buy it, it’s yours! You have the power to change it, to cut it, to synch it, to dye it even. My favorite part of thrift-store shopping is the amount of creativity it allows you to have on your limited budget, so don’t be afraid to make your purchase yours. 
  • Tip #5: Keep Trying! Like I said, all thrift stores are definitely not created equal. Sometimes a store that may look promising is a total flop. Sometimes it’s just not your day. Sometimes you may have the wrong group of friends with you who are just not very interested in some heavy searching. Whatever the reason for your bad thrifting experience, please don’t give up. For every sad little store, there are dozens of amazing shops that will seem as though set up specifically for you, so give thrifting a few more tries. 

Happy Hunting!

Well, ladies, I hope this helped. I know that thrift stores truly inspire me to be more creative, more involved in what I wear, and help me to have so much fun with fashion. Go out and find your local thrift stores and start searching, you will be amazed at what you can find on a limited budget. Good luck hunting!

Sarah Martin is a student at Brigham Young University and is pursuing a major in print journalism. She loves fashion and aspires to work on a fashion magazine that expresses the values of modesty she has come to revere.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Dellenbach December 2, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Great job, Sarah and so true! When looking for a wedding dress for Katie, we went to a thrift store, and tried on the first wedding dress she saw.  We bought and sent it to the seamstress. Out the door, $98.00. A beautiful dress it was too! Too bad it wasn't Wednesday, otherwise we would of taken Grandma for a 50% discount. 


Stacy February 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Great article…and I could not agree more.  It takes some work and time, but it is totally worth the hunt.  I am going on vacation soon and needed some summer clothes.  I went to a local thrift shop just after they put out their spring things.  I got about 500 dollars worth of name brand, designer clothes for about 80 dollars.  I have some great items to take on my vacation now and I will feel great in the clothes I bought.  I also went to another local store that sells overstocks, irregulars, and the stuff that got "mildly damaged" in shipping or stocking.  Again, that is a store where you have to really look through the racks and check the clothes for major issues, but I found some great things, including two pairs of gladiator sandals(brand new) for 4.99 a pair(and they are not "cheap" looking).  I just had to thank God for the great finds.


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