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Ten Great Tips for College Students Beginning to Thrift Shop

March 1, 2011

Are you a stranger to thrift shopping?  Have no fear.  Just follow these simple step by step suggestions and you will be on your way to a whole new wardrobe!

Thrift stores tend to get a bad rap.  People say that they smell, are disorganized, and are meant for shoppers of lower income.  However, to the frugal and fashion savvy shopper, thrift stores are an indispensable resource.  As long as you have the time, and a little patience, the thrift store could be your path to an amazing new wardrobe.  Here is how to get started on your way to a great thrift shopping experience:

1. Consider your own personal style.

The people who do best at thrift stores are those with an open mind for style.  A name brand item from a store such as Hollister or Express is not the typical find in a thrift store.  (However, I have gotten lucky before, so you could too!)  If you prefer a specific brand, then thrifting may not be for you.  You are much more likely to find unique and slightly strange pieces at a thrift store than you are to find something simple with a high-end label.

2. Prepare for your outing.

An important thing to realize about thrift and consignment shopping is that you also have to have an open mind about your shopping experience.  Thrift stores do not resemble a typical store in the mall. They aren’t squeaky clean, clothes are very loosely categorized by style and size, and they usually smell like mothballs.  If you are not used to shopping in a thrift setting, you may become over whelmed with the disorganization or the mood of the store.  It is important to know what to expect so you can put aside the differences and continue shopping.

3. Gain inspiration.

Photo Source: Istolethetv on Flickr

Before you embark on your journey, you may want to gain some inspiration by going through a few fashion magazines or personal style blogs (My favorites include: seaofshoes.com and strawberrykoi.com). This will train your eye to look for pieces that you may otherwise have discounted as “unwearable.”

4. Locate a few stores.

Search GoogleMaps or TheThriftShopper.com to find thrift stores in your area.  Don’t forget to ask your friends if they know of any good places as well. Recommendations are best because the advice might save you a drive to a store that does not offer what you’re looking for.  Some thrift stores will have a variety of clothing choices and others may offer mostly furniture.

I recently visited the Goodwill store in Glassboro (818 Delsea Drive North).

5. Wear comfortable clothes.

Photo Source: lululemon athletica on Flickr

Wearing non-bulky, comfortable clothing will improve your shopping experience. You don’t want to have a large coat or bag taking up space on your arms. It is important to have open arms to carry around the clothes you pull off the racks.  Being comfortable will also allow you to spend a longer amount of time in the store, which is important, because you want to go through a majority of the selection.

6. Choose things you normally wouldn’t.

There is no harm in carrying a massive pile of clothing around.  If something looks interesting to you, always try it on to see how it looks!  Even if you think an item has some strange elements, it may look better on your body. Remember that you can always do minor alterations to clothing, even if you don’t know how to sew. For instance, shoulder pads can be cut out of a jacket and a belt can be added to some dresses to give them an entirely different appearance.

Here I am trying on a fur coat for fun!  Turns out the coat fit me perfectly so I had to get it.  I’m very happy that I took the time to consider such a different item.

7. Look through the whole store.

“Never leave a stone unturned, look in every section,” advises Aya Smith of StrawberryKoi.com, a blog that specializes in vintage style.  Aya even suggests that young women look in the little girl’s section for dresses and in the boy’s section for fitted blazers.  Sometimes an item meant for someone else could fit you just right!  Don’t forget the accessories section either.  Thrift stores usually have a section with belts, bags, hats, jewelry, and even decorative items.

I spy an American Eagle belt!

8. Inspect the items.

Most of the merchandise you will be looking at has been at least pre-owned so check for stains or rips.  If something is damaged but you still really want it because you feel that you can sew it or get the stain out, bring the problem up with the salesperson and they will most likely give you a percentage off.  Also, don’t forget to check the price tag.  Once you find one shirt for $5.99, don’t assume that the rest of the garments you choose will also cost that much.  The pricing on some things will surprise you.

9. Return regularly.


Thrift stores get new items in everyday.  Try to swing by every once in awhile just to see if there is anything new that you like.  You never know when they will get something perfect for you.

10. Bring your friends.

Friends can make your shopping experience tons of fun.  Share you expertise with them so they can get in on all the great deals. You can even make a game out of shopping by having a contest to see who can find the best item and the ugliest one!

On my trip I also scored a blue and white nautical striped sweater from GAP and a floor length pleated ballet-pink skirt.  If you would like to see them let me know!

I hope these tips helped you or at least spurred your interest.  Feel free to contact me for any questions about thrifting or if you are looking for a shopping buddy!  Also, check out Thriftadelphia!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Christine G Tamburilla permalink
    March 1, 2011 9:28 pm

    i like the fur coat. Its a fun item you can just wear with jeans, or a night out on the town.
    Ma

  2. March 8, 2011 1:57 pm

    I like this post.

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