Thrift Like a Pro—Everything You Need to Know About Building a Pre-Loved Wardrobe

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Thrifting tips - feature

Secondhand shopping is having a real moment. As it should. After all, why should we keep buying new clothes when there’s a seemingly endless stream of clothes ready to be given a second life? Fast fashion would tell us those clothes aren’t cool enough. But consumers are starting to think otherwise.

In fact 42% of Gen Z and Millennial consumers shopped secondhand in 2020, up from 40 and 30 percent respectively from the year prior. With these numbers, it’s no surprise that secondhand shopping is expected to be two times bigger than fast fashion by 2030. This is good news for planet earth since the carbon footprint of a piece of thrifted clothing is 82% less than that of a brand new item.

Of course, secondhand shopping comes with its challenges—you never know what you’re going to find, return policies aren’t as forgiving, and with online thrifting, fit becomes a giant question mark. Luckily, after years of trying to adapt to the secondhand shopping lifestyle myself, I’ve got a few thrifting tips to share with you. Read on to learn how to thrift like a pro.

Thrifting tips that’ll make you a secondhand shopping pro

Thrifting Tips - Organizing Clothes

Do a closet audit before you start

Reviewing what you already have in your wardrobe will help you avoid those tempting impulse purchases thrift shops are notorious for. If you already have three black long sleeve tops, make note of that. You probably don’t need another one (even though your brain will try to tell you otherwise at first sight of a black top with a slightly different neckline).

Also use this time to purge your closet of any styles you no longer wear. Prep them to resell online, or take them to a donation center. Once you know what you already have, and what you’re getting rid of, then it’s time to identify the gaps, which brings me to my next point.

Make a list of what you’re looking for and set a budget

This is where you prioritize. Write down, in order of importance, the pieces you’re looking to buy, and then set a dollar amount that you’d like to stay within. Thrift stores, whether they’re online or in-person, can be overwhelming. There can be hundreds, if not thousands of items to sort through, making it easy to end up with a mountain of clothing in your cart, and stress on your wallet. Having a plan greatly reduces the likelihood of this scenario, and ensures you make purchases you actually need.

Research thrift stores in your area

If you’re looking to thrift IRL, then look up reviews of thrift stores in your area. Yelp can be a great resource for this. Often people will leave reviews that’ll clue you in to each thrift store’s speciality. This can help you narrow down which ones you plan to stop by, and help you avoid wasting time at ones that may not carry what you’re looking for.

related: Eco-Friendly Shopping Tips for a More Sustainable Wardrobe

Search for brands you know

If you’re an online shopper, I’ve got some thrifting tips for you too. Web-based shopping comes with its own unique challenges. Specifically, questions about quality and fit become two big barriers. To proverbially hop over these obstacles, search for brands you’re familiar with. When you know your sizing, or the quality of a particular brand it eliminates much of the guesswork. There’ll be less risk of nabbing a cute skirt, only to receive it and realize it’s completely see-through.

Pro-tip: if your favorite brands have stores near you, go browse in person. Try on clothes, and then search for those specific pieces on Poshmark or Depop. You’d be surprised at how often you can find exactly what you’re looking for, and at a much lower cost than those brand-new-item prices.

Don’t be afraid to tailor items

When thrifting, whether it be for clothes or home goods, it’s always important to look at a piece for what it could be, not what it is. If a skirt is a little too big but you absolutely love it otherwise, don’t be afraid to get it tailored. If you love a pair of jeans, but they’re a bit too short, could you cut them into shorts?

Now, a quick asterisk on this one—don’t make a habit of thrifting plus-sized clothing and tailoring it to a smaller size. Plus-sized clothing is harder to come by, and it’s important to leave those pieces for the people who could use them as is.

Finally, remember to ask yourself “would I buy this at full price?”

Of all the thrifting tips, this is my favorite, because overindulging in secondhand clothes is just as unsustainable as overindulging in brand new pieces. It’s important to remain mindful. Search for pieces that you can see yourself getting many wears out of. And always ask yourself “is this something I would buy at full price?” If it’s not, then you’re just getting it for the deal, and inevitably the novelty of it will dissipate quickly. To avoid this, look for items you love, not prices you love.

Craving more sustainability tips? Sign up for The Eco Edit and join hundreds of other pro-planet enthusiasts who are passionate about bettering the world through small, sustainable steps.

If you purchase through one of the affiliate links on this page I will be compensated a small percentage. Good news is, it costs you nothing extra and it helps me keep my blog running so that I can provide even more pro-planet content for you! Rest assured, I always make sure to only promote brands I truly love.