A Guide to Thrift Shopping


Thrifting clothes is rising in popularity as a way to get cheap, unique clothes in a way that does not contribute to textile waste. Here are some tips to make the most of your thrifting trip.

1. Shop small and local.

It may be tempting to go to your local Savers or Goodwill, but the gems are at small businesses. My favorite spots near Lincoln are the Thrifty Goose in Providence, Top Shelf Vintage in Pawtucket, and the Rhode Island Antique Mall in Pawtucket. If you’re looking for that unique statement piece to make your wardrobe pop, shop local.

2. Make the trip to Savers worth it.

While you can find great pieces at local stores, Savers and Goodwill offer a large variety of pieces if you’re looking for something basic. If you can’t resist those name brands, Plato’s Closet in Warwick provides second hand brand items at a reduced price, and will even buy your clothes from you. However, these stores tend to be a bit pricey. Sign up for their rewards program to get points for your shopping & get money off on future purchases. These stores also have sale days for members, as well as sales on certain products, tag colors, and clearance products. If you want to get a steal, go on these days. However if you just want to take a browse, maybe go on a different day.

3. Be wary of the season & location.

More people donate at certain times of the year, specifically around the beginning of spring and the winter holidays. Your local thrift store will be packed with new items during these times, so it's perfect to find some new pieces. Also, think of the population of the surrounding area: is the shop very popular, therefore giving you more variation? Or is the shop more niche, in a community with older individuals? Depending on where the shop is, there will be a different world of clothes to choose from.

4. Have an idea of what you want, but go in with no expectations.

The beauty of thrifting is that you never know what you’re going to find. If you’re looking for Levi 501 mom jeans that fit you perfectly, you’re probably not going to find them. To save yourself the disappointment, look through all the jeans and try on what you think will work. The strategy is to keep in mind what you want so you do not end up with 4 pairs of skinny jeans, but keep an open mind to styles that will ramp up your own.

5. Think about what you’re buying.

You may be tempted by the relatively low prices to buy everything that catches your eye, but that does more harm than good. If you fill your closet with things you never wear, which you then donate back to thrift stores, you are contributing to the waste of fashion. While donated clothes are sold, the pieces on the racks too long are often shipped overseas to be either dumped or incinerated. If you’re going to buy something, make sure it’s something you truly love and will cherish for years.

6. Last resort, try online.

If you can’t find what you want at your local thrift store, there are a wide range of websites that sell thousands of second hand clothes. A few I recommend and have used are Depop, Etsy, Poshmark, and ThredUp. All of these sites offer pieces from trendy, to handmade, to vintage, to more basic—you are sure to find something that will suit your fancy.

7. Make it an experience, not just a shopping spree.

As much as it is convenient to order online, thrifting should not just be about buying clothes. Much like a trip to the movies or the beach, a trip to the thrift store should be a fun experience that you do with friends or by yourself, not just for the sake of buying items. Bring your headphones, stroll down the aisles, look through each rack, feel the fabric between your fingers as you walk by; immerse yourself in the clothes. Thrifting is an experience, not just a reason to shop.

8. Know your impact.

With the current state of the fashion industry, quantity is more important than quality. Because of this, 22.8 billion tons of clothes are sent to the landfills every year in the U.S. alone. By buying second hand, you are helping reduce the impact of wasted clothes. Being mindful of your purchases helps the world in a way that gets you unique products.

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