I’ve loved fashion and shopping for so long, mostly for the way you can use clothes as an act of self-expression. My junior year of high school, I started thrifting. This entailed going to the local shops to find one-of-a-kind pieces that I knew nobody else would have. It wasn’t because I couldn’t afford to shop anywhere else (in fact, I loved rocking a mixture of thrift and high-end stuff together,) but it was more about the art (and thrill) of shopping and finding a gem.
One of the things I’ve seen over the past few years is an elevated desire to start thrifting, which I can totally understand because I have saved countless amounts of money shopping in the thrift stores instead of hitting the major retailers. However, I also notice that there is hesitation from first-time shoppers, which is completely understandable. So, here are five tips to consider if you’re going thrifting for the first time:
KEEP AN OPEN MIND
This step is by far the most important to me because so many people have negative concepts of thrifting and those that thrift. When going into the thrift store for the first time, be open to exploring and throwing out any previous stereotypes you might have had. Yes, you may see some people in lower-income levels shopping, but I can assure you you will also see upper-middle class individuals looking for a good deal. Trust me, I’ve groomed my eye from years of thrifting that I can easily spot the designer and high-end clothing in the store. I can walk out the thrift with a bit of everything — Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Zara, H&M, etc.
Now when it comes to clothes, it’s important to also keep an open mind on what you can purchase. This cheetah dress above was a size 14 and buttoned straight-down. On the hanger, it wasn’t cute, y’all. However, I took the opportunity to take the extra fabric and use it to my advantage by opening up the top buttons and pulling the dress down in the back. Viola, I have a dress that’s unique and personality-driven. Best part? I paid $5 for it after taxes.
Be sure to look for things like noticeable stains, tears, weird odors, and anything else that may stand out to you. Some places will let you bargain and get a bit taken off the grand total, but it’s always better to ensure everything is perfect before you purchase and leave, since most places don’t do returns.
MIX HIGH AND LOW TO COME UP WITH YOUR PERFECT LOOK
If you’re feeling bold, you can totally do an entire thrifted look from head to toe. I’ve done it multiple times, oftentimes still scoring designer threads for a fraction of the cost. However, don’t be afraid to mix high and low!
This picture is a perfect example of mixing pieces of all price points together. My jacket was thrifted, and even though it looks super expensive, I only paid at max $5 for it. My black top underneath was also thrifted, and then I paired it with my Urban Outfitter jeans, Zara boots, and my Gucci belt. Obviously, the Gucci belt cost more than the entire outfit combined, BUT my jacket was still a huge focal point. My point is that you can certainly curate a wardrobe of just thrifted things, but don’t feel obligated to one or the other. Just search around, and pair things that feel right to you.
ALWAYS WEAR GOOD UNDERGARMENTS FOR TRYING ON CLOTHES
You never know when you’ll actually want to try something on, so I always stick to a rule of thumb of having good, solid undergarments underneath. That includes things like a bra you would usually wear, underwear too, but also a tank top, maybe some leggings, etc. This way, if the dressing rooms are full, you can try some things on simply in front of a mirror without scaring anyone off. Also, you don’t want clothes directly touching you that others have touched, so I definitely recommend the undergarments from a health perspective.
ALWAYS WASH CLOTHES AFTER YOU PURCHASE THEM
Speaking of washing, PLEASE wash your clothes once you purchase them! Whenever I thrift, I always wash the clothes before wearing them, mostly for hygiene purposes since you don’t know who could have previously touched it with their hands. For simple items like a blouse or jeans, a dress or maybe even a sweater, you can simply toss those into your washer. For bigger items, like suits, coats, or things with embroidery or appliqués, I always think it’s worth sending it to the dry cleaners for a thorough cleaning.
The dress above was only $3, and when I brought it home, I just hand-washed it! A great, inexpensive alternative if you’re super pressed for time and money. Whatever way you go, just wash the clothes.
HAVE FUN WHILE PUTTING YOURSELF ON A HEALTHY BUDGET
Thrifting can be very, very addictive, especially when you hit a good groove or find those places you absolutely love to go to. Two things I urge is that you put yourself on a budget of how much you’ll spend in total, and how much you’re willing to spend per item. The totality is important, because while you may think it, $2 here and $3 there may not seem like a lot, but in the bigger picture, it adds us. On the other hand, if I have pieces that will cost a few more dollars, but I know it’s worth it, I’ll do it. For example, I found this magenta Ralph Lauren dress, in my size, while thrifting at only $15:
And in a last-minute outfit decision for an awards ceremony I was being honored at, I found this gown that fit perfectly (seriously, no alterations needed) for $6:
Pretty much, it’s all about picking and choosing your battles. When you go into a store, tell yourself how much you are willing to spend in total, and stick to your budget! TRUST ME, you CAN go broke thrifting. Been there, done that. You’ll thank yourself for putting your money on a budget and playing safe than sorry.
Now, this post obviously wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t do a bit of self-indulgent and show you guys a few things I picked up on my latest haul. Check it out:
First up was this pink polka-dot dress that I snagged for about $4, which had a cinched waist and a long hem. Now, remember what I said about seeing PAST the garment into what you think it could be. For this, I picked it up because I loved the colors, but an easy fix will be just taking a pair of scissors (or going to my local tailor) and chopping off a few inches from the bottom and the arms. Seriously! It’s all about being creative.
Next was a piece that I am SO excited to have. I had been in the market for a new laptop bag, especially a nice black leather one that would hold everything in it. I stumbled on this black Coach bag (yep, it’s real) and immediately snagged. Now, since it was designer, I was willing to spend a few more dollars on it, but that’s okay. For really great items that’ll last forever, I think the investment is totally worth it. Oh! And when I got home, I started adding all my Black girl stickers and pins to it to give it a bit of life.
I found this cute little boiler bag, which is totally different than anything else I have in my present closet. It was only $5, and I can see me having this for everything in the spring. Hello, accessories can be fun too!
I picked up this floral dress for about $3 and I know what you’re thinking: It looks crazy. However, these are the types of dresses that would sell for $50-60 dollars at Urban Outfitters and look cool. Since it has buttons down the middle, I plan to keep the top part unbuttoned and experiment with length and what I can do — y’all know I love a good off-the-shoulder look.
And lastly, I found this sexy mamacita dress for $2, and I loved the vibrant colors. Imagine this with some nude sandals, and insane jewelry and a cross-body spring in the summer for a happy hour? Honestly, I’m not worried about looking like a grandma, because it’s very rarely about the fabric, but HOW you wear it.
What are your budget-friendly and safe tips for thrifting? What do y’all love to thrift? Tell me so I can be a part of your #thriftmagic!