Zero waste and fashion—two concepts that seem worlds apart. If you love fashion, but want to live that sweet zero waste lifestyle, something’s gotta give, right? Maybe not.
Welcome to the world of thrifting. Put down that fast fashion and let me show you a wardrobe full of well-made, well-worn and well-loved pieces. Clothes that are anything but basic and tell a story.
If you’re inexperienced with thrifting, start small. I personally don’t buy 100% of my clothing secondhand — it’s about 50/50 in my closet. But I would have to say that most of my favorite wardrobe pieces are vintage.
For starters, thrifting is not for the impatient—it’s a treasure hunt and strike outs are common. But with time, patience and a little luck, you’ll curate a wardrobe that’s fun, sustainable and one-of-a-kind.
Here are my 8 tips for thrifting:
- Discipline: Thrifting can be hectic. Some stores are better organized than others, but often there is little rhyme or reason. Clothes might be organized by color, decade, garment type, size or not at all. You can spend lots of time sifting through racks and racks before you find something you A) like and B) might just fit. Stay patient and focused. If you have no patience for Goodwill, try a more curated thrift shop—they tend to be more pricey, but better organized and often with a better selection.
- Bring a friend. As I mentioned, thrifting takes time and nothing helps pass that time like having a friend tag along. I like to bring someone to tell me what works and what doesn’t. I can sometimes get carried away by the story of the piece, or just that I found something that actually fits, never mind if it looks good or if I’d ever wear it. I’m looking for brutal honesty here. Plus, what’s more fun than trying on ridiculous thrift finds with a partner in crime?
- Bring Donations/Clothes to Sell. Before you shop, take inventory of your closet and make some cuts. Make a pile of clothes you can donate and clothes you can sell (this will depend on brand name, season, quality and condition). If the store does buy your clothes, they will often give you the option of cash or trade. And don’t feel bad if they don’t buy many of your clothes or none at all, it’s often tough to tell what the store is looking for.
- Come prepared. I have to be in the right mindset for thrift shopping. Energized, nourished and wearing something that’s comfortable and easy to change in and out of. It helps narrow the search when I have an idea of what I’m looking for. If I’m shopping for awhile, I can get dangerously low blood sugar levels. Having a snack in my purse and a bottle of water (in a reusable bottle, of course) can be a lifesaver. I also like to bring a soft canvas bag in my purse to take home my treasures.
- Quality. When you find something you like, pay attention to the quality of the piece. Look at the label to find out who made it, where it was made and what materials it’s made from. Look at the hardware, are the buttons all there? Does the zipper open and close easily? Are there any stains or tears? If you do find an issue with the piece, be honest with yourself—how likely are you going to fix it? If there is some damage, and you still want to buy, ask the store owner if they’ll consider a discount on the piece.
- Feel Factor. It’s realllllly important to try things on when you thrift shop. For one, thrift stores rarely have a return policy. And second, it’s important to feel the fabric against your skin. As a seasoned thrifter, I’ve bought too many pieces that look great on me but feel awful. The fabric is scratchy or it’s just a little too tight. The shoes are slightly too small. Be ruthless and be honest. If it’s uncomfortable in the store, you're going to hate wearing it in the real world for hours at a time.
- Tailor. If you find an oversized blazer or and amazing pair of vintage Levi’s that look a little saggy, consider getting them tailored. Tailoring is a great way to get the perfect fit, or add a cuff to a pair of trousers or fix a zipper. You can really make it your own. This does take a little vision and will obviously increase the cost of thrifting, but it can be well worth it. This goes for shoes as well. If you find a beautiful pair of boots with worn down soles, take them to a cobbler, get them shined up and good as new.
- Shop Men’s. Ladies, this is a game changer. Don’t narrow your search to the ladies section, go branch out into the men’s. I have scored some of my best items in the men’s section—well worn vintage t-shirts, bomber and jean jackets, and even Levi’s jeans. I often prefer the cut of men’s t-shirts (they tend to be more boxy and loose) or an oversized men’s jacket.
What are your favorite tips for thrift shopping? Please share tips or even your favorite thrift shop spots in the comment section below.