Even though thrifting has become more common, used clothes still have a bad rap sometimes. If you say you “thrift clothes”, people often think of old worn out clothes in a smelly, dirty store. A while that happens sometimes, more often than not you can find some really cool stuff thrifting. Ever donated something that still had the tag on it? I’ve donated clothes that were worn once, or never at all. If you’re willing to pass on quality items you no longer want, chances are other people are too. Those are the kind of thrift clothes waiting for you to find them!
First let’s look at the types of stores you can thrift at. While some of these stores sell other items, I’m only focusing on clothes.
Goodwill & Salvation Army – These are the quintessential secondhand stores that people think of for thrift clothes. Unwanted items are donated, sorted, then displayed in store. Different stores organize things differently. But often you can shop by type of clothing (i.e. Women’s Dresses) and prices are the same for items in that category. Not all stores in are the same though. If you have multiple choices in your area, try them all out to see if there’s one far superior to the others. Keep an eye out for items discounted on certain days or certain weeks. My Goodwills have a specific color tag each week that is 50% off.
Goodwill Outlet – While still Goodwill, “the bins” deserve their own mention. Items that don’t sell in regular Goodwill stores in a region are shipped to their outlet center. Textiles are jumbled together in giant bins to dig through and are usually priced by the pound. The bins are the least predictable shopping location, but make for the best thrill of the hunt.
Other Thrift Stores – Depending on your area there might be other thrift stores. I’ve seen ones benefiting hospice, animal shelters, and other nonprofits. These typically operate the same as Goodwill or Salvation Army selling donated items.
Buy Sell Trade Stores – In my area we have a few chains of these: Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor, & Uptown Cheapskate. Stores like this will give you a small amount for items, then turn around and sell them in store. This can be an easy way to earn some cash. Prices are typically higher than traditional thrift stores, but still a good deal overall. The stores are generally more organized when it comes to sizing, and since items are selected to sell, the condition should be better. Certain stores are more picky about brands and conditions they accept than others.
Consignment Shops – Working similar to buy sell trade stores, consignment shops are usually a selection of items from what people have brought in. The difference is the shop doesn’t give the seller any money until their item sells. Different consignment shops cater to different styles and price points. Some might sell lots of mall brands, where others focus on more designer pieces.
Online Stores – In the last few years second hand clothing has grown tremendously online. Poshmark, Thred Up, and Mercari are a few popular options. I only have experience with Poshmark. You can easily shop by brand, size, color, price and more. Items are sold by individual sellers who set their asking price. You can make offers, and once you buy, they ship the item directly to you.
Here are 7 reasons you should thrift clothes more often!
1. You can get great deals.
This is a big one for me. Fast fashion has conditioned us to expect clothes to be cheap, and it can be hard to shell out more money for clothes. Buying clothes secondhand can save a ton of money. I wear a lot of cardigans with dresses to work. My favorite style is from J. Crew – but they run $60-$90 brand new. At Clothes Mentor or Uptown Cheapskate, I can reliably find these styles of cardigans for less than $10 each. It’s not unusual to only pay 5-10% of the retail cost of an item or find new items that still have the tags on.
2. Speaking of money, you can make some.
I am by no means an expert here, but there are people who resell clothes. AND make a good living doing it. Poshmark is a big platform for this. I recently started started selling a little, and find it fun. I’ve purchased items from Poshmark as well. Being able to sort by brand, condition (new or used), price and color all make shopping easier. If you’re interested in joining, use code PERIODICTHRIFTY and we’ll both get $10! The basic idea for reselling is to buy wanted items at a low price point. Then list them online for profit. A few instagram accounts I’ve enjoyed learning about reselling from are @calthriftstagram and @countdowntofriday.
3. It’s better for the planet.
Textiles often end up in landfills or are burned. Creating new clothes emits tons (literally) of greenhouse gases and uses massive amounts of water. Buying used clothing extends the life of the item, and helps prevent new items from being produced. I’ve linked a few articles below about fashion and the environment, as there are lots of issues that intersect, making for a complex problem.
I love the print of the dress below. With it’s bright colors and long sleeves, I wanted to wear it with boots on fall days. After washing it, it shrunk. I didn’t even put it in the dryer. It’s now so short I don’t feel comfortable wearing it without leggings. It also has 3/4 length sleeves now. I don’t wear it as often as I had intended to.
Often clothes purchased secondhand have already been washed a few times. This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to wear more natural fibers, like cotton, wool, and linen, that are prone to shrinking. Denim, especially if it doesn’t have any stretch, might already be broken in. While not a certainty, I’ve had better luck with secondhand clothing staying the same size and shape compared to new clothing.
5. You can get better quality.
Seems counter intuitive to the idea that thrift stores are full of stuff people didn’t want, but hear me out. Because thrifting allows you to pay less per item than you normally would, you can afford better quality for the same price point. An item might be “expensive” for the thrift store, but still could be a great deal. Look out for higher caliber materials and brands. I think this is especially useful when it comes to outerwear, athletic wear, and shoes. Since those items tend to get a lot of repeat use, if you can find them in good condition, they’re a lot of value for your money.
A lot of people think about thrifting for things like Halloween costumes. But what about other occasions where you only wear items once? Whenever I’m attending an event like a bridal shower or wedding, I always want a new [to me] dress. Ever not wanted to wear a dress to a wedding because you already took pictures in it at another wedding so you donated it? Clothes for these types of occasions usually don’t get much wear, so they’re in excellent shape. Men’s dress shirts and suits don’t usually get much wear either and can be smart buys.
7. It’s easy to try something new.
While digging through a bin at the Goodwill Outlet, I spotted a something in my favorite shade of green. For whatever reason, clothing companies don’t make a many garments in moss green. It’s always a mint green or a hunter green which I don’t like as much. Anyway, I fished it out of the bin and it seemed about my size. It is a men’s Banana Republic pullover with a big collar. I wouldn’t have found that sweater in a thrift store because I wouldn’t be in the men’s section. Since it was less than $1 I gave it a try, and now I wear it all the time.
Try out bold prints or trendy styles when you’re thrift shopping. Maybe you’ll find a one of a kind or vintage piece you want to try. Since you’re spending less, it feels like less of a commitment. If an item doesn’t work out, or you don’t wear it much, you can always donate it so someone else can love it!
Do you like to thrift clothes? What’s your favorite store?