Oh, The Things You Can Thrift!

People often ask, “Hey, Susannah, where’d you get that dress or that shirt?” To which I often respond, “A thrift shop” or “My friend’s grandma”. I like to dress well, no matter the occasion, but I have the fashion taste of a millionaire and the bank account of a poor college student, so I buy or receive second-hand clothes from lots of places!

Thrifting is something I love doing, and it is nothing you should fear. As someone with plenty of experience in second-hand clothing, I have compiled a list of five tips for consignment shopping, including digging through a garbage bag of your great aunt’s clothes and going to our local thrift shop.


Stains are one of the most important things to look for on any garment. I have often taken home a lovely dress only to find that, in different lighting, it looks like I am in the height of an equatorial  summer because I am wearing a stranger’s pit stains.  Some stains can be removed, such as lipstick or deodorant. However, many cannot. It is important to spot any stain and determine if it is removable. Do your research before you buy! When you are buying an item that is new, you can usually tell where the stain came from, and even receive a discount. But, when it is second hand, it has already lived a life, and thus may have an unidentifiable mark. This explains why stains on second-hand clothing are a more important than those you might find on clothes on the clearance rack from a store. Fortunately, clorox has put together a helpful stain removal chart for the things you can identify, which can help you in your research.

  1. Shoes

In my opinion, these are the hardest things to buy secondhand. They are often worn down by the time they reach the shelves. Shoes form to your feet, and it is important to be aware of this when you consider the purchase of shoes second-hand. I usually only wear second-hand shoes if they are very high quality and have little wear, or are poorly made formal shoes that I will wear once. After all, formal shoes are pretty just for the pictures beforehand, and you should probably free your feet of the blister-inducing stilettos before you hit the dance floor.

  1. Stitches

Since you are dealing with clothes that have already lived a life, feel free to give them a new one. With scissors, a needle and thread, you can transform something ordinary into something extraordinary. Pinterest offers a wealth of DIY information. Of course it will not usually look like the picture, but you shouldn’t let the joy of creation be spoiled by an unexpected result. By adjusting the garment, you make it your own! For inspiration, check out a refashionista who does this sort of thing daily. I bought an old bridesmaid’s dress from a thrift shop for $30, took off a layer of chiffon on the bottom, attached tulle instead, and wore it to a formal event.

  1. Sizing

Do not limit yourself by a number on the tag. Garments were certainly designed to fit in one way, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear them that way. You can wear whatever size you want, as long as you like the way it looks! Seriously, stores can’t even agree on what plus-sizes really are. I sometimes still wear my childhood play clothes as an adult, simply because they were a high-quality purchase from a thrift shop. Literally all that matters is how you feel in the clothes, not the marking on the tag. Remember to try items on in the store! I have found that some fantastic clothes I was going to put back on the rack because of the size actually look really nice on me, but the opposite can be true as well.

  1. Styling

Along with sizing comes the art of styling. I believe you can wear anything with confidence. The best part of thrifting is that you can purchase a basic item, such as a black dress or a well-made pair of jeans and accessorize it in many different ways. Simple clothing can be a base for any sort of fun accessory. I bought a plain navy blue dress from a thrift shop for $8, and styled it seven different ways wearing exclusively second-hand items! As with sizing, do not limit your garment to be worn a certain way. Skirts are shirts! Shirts are skirts! Seriously, the only limit to your second-hand style is your imagination.

As you keep these five tips in mind, feel free to explore the world of secondhand clothing! There are thrift shops everywhere these days, and interesting fashion is ‘in’ more than ever. Fashion doesn’t have to cost a million dollars, because you don’t wear the price tag, anyway.

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