How do you win at thrift shopping?
February 24, 2014 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Those of you who swear by thrift shopping: how do you do it? How much time do you spend, what's your strategy, what tips can you share?

In many clothing-related AskMes (this being the most recent), I've seen several answers enthusiastically recommending thrift shopping. I like thrift shops and have found some cool stuff in them over the years, but I don't find the sort of treasure others talk about - certainly not anything to build a wardrobe around. Even for the pretty decent stuff, I have to dig through racks and racks of clothes that are neither my style nor my size.

So I've assumed that finding like-new, high-quality clothes in thrift shops is a result of either luck or being a savvy and dedicated thrift shopper. I've also assumed that it'd probably take too much time and effort for me, but I don't know how much it actually takes.

If you buy most or all of your clothes in thrift shops, or if you have a knack for finding really good stuff in thrift shops, I'd like to hear your process. How often do you go shopping, and how much time do you spend at the store? Do you find out when shops put new items out, and go that day? Do you plan around times of the year when people are more likely to donate clothes (e.g. spring cleaning, start/end of school)? Do you look for specific articles of clothing, do you have a list of things you've always got an eye out for, or do you just look around and see what strikes your fancy? Are your thrift shop purchases relatively basic wardrobe staples, or more quirky/unusual things? How often do you strike gold, and how often do you strike out? What else am I not thinking of?

Basically, if there's anything you do differently from someone like me who just pokes around every now and then, I'd really like to hear it.
posted by Metroid Baby to Shopping (50 answers total) 85 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're already doing what you need to do. There's an inherent selection bias at play here--people who find something awesome are much more likely to talk about the time they found an awesome thing than all the days/months/years they spent not finding something awesome.

The other thing to remember is that there are pre-curated vintage stores that pass themselves off as thrift stores while charging much higher prices. It's very likely that the people who are basing an entire wardrobe around thrifted items are really just shopping at those stores and paying for the privilege of letting someone else do the grunt work for them.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:53 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Go to thrift shops in or near affluent neighborhoods, because the well-off discard better stuff.
posted by jon1270 at 7:53 AM on February 24, 2014 [26 favorites]

Go through EVERYTHING. Seriously. The folks who don't find things are the folks who just kind of wander around for a few minutes and declare that the racks hold nothing. Check every single garment, look at every single label and spend a lot of time in each thrift store. The treasures are there, but buried.

It also helps to know what you are looking for. Designer labels? Know your labels and what is worth buying and at what price. Timeless pieces? Know exactly what's on your list and go to stores with the mission of finding those pieces.

Also, make friends with the owners of these stores. If they know you'll always buy Chanel, they will let you know when it comes in, if you're a good customer.
posted by xingcat at 7:54 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've recently bought nearly all my clothes from thrift shops, including an Armani jacket and a bunch of Brooks Brothers shirts. But it does take time and it's easy to get burned out by the often-depressing low-rent atmosphere of such shops. And the smell. I don't think there's a trick to it: You just have to put in the effort, and for a lot people, who have real jobs and real families, it just isn't worth the trouble. I actually go to these places to buy books, and the clothes are a kind of afterthought, if I have time and feel like poking around.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:55 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a strategy, I strike gold maybe one out of three visits, it varies. Here are my rules:

1. I arrive when they open in the morning, it is less crowded, easier to shop quickly
2. I look at labels before I look at the garment, more expensive/better quality gets my attention. I automatically ignore clothing in bad colors for me. I discard anything with too much wear, though I do get things that might need a small repair.
3. I have one or two garments in mind when I go, for example, last round was scarves and sweaters. I scour those areas deeply, and then if I have energy, I go on to other things, otherwise it gets too overwhelming. Next time it might be another area I go to.
4. I never buy something because it is cheap, it needs to be something good, oftentimes I go out with one thing, or nothing at all. I return stuff, even if it is just a few bucks.
5. Besides labels, you can run your hand down a line of clothing, and often just feel what is a good garment
6. I shop in all sizes, often sizes get mixed together, or a small fits like a medium and so forth. Different eras have different fits.
7. I shop for basic, everyday clothes and I always have in the back of my mind a few clothing items to keep an eye out for, and then I also will just browse for something unusual.
posted by nanook at 7:55 AM on February 24, 2014 [19 favorites]

Seconding jon1270 that this comes down partly to finding the right thrift shop for you. There's a huge degree of variance in selection and price, ime, even between shops in fairly close proximity-- I've never had good luck with Salvation Army, for instance, and our town contains one Goodwill that never has anything, one that has good finds about half the time, and an independent thrift shop that reliably has tons of awesome stuff. Before you spend a lot of time in any one store, definitely take some time to get to know your wider thrifting territory.
posted by Bardolph at 7:58 AM on February 24, 2014

As a lifelong thrift shopper, here's my strategy:

1. The richer the neighborhood, the better.
2. Sometimes smaller ones can be better, because they are pickier about their selection. But not always. And as RoNButNotStupid says, avoid those 'boutique' shops.
3. Be prepared to spend a lot of time looking.
4. If you consistently hit good stuff at a particular store, find out if they have a day that they put out new things. Go on that day.
5. Organization in thrift shops usually isn't. If you're looking for a shirt, check every shirt area that applies to you.
6. Some shops have special places where they put the fancier stuff. Check there, too.
7. Don't go in thinking "I will find an awesome specific thing." Half the time when I find really good stuff, I'm in there looking for something else entirely.
posted by cmyk at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Location location location.

A friend of mine is the sort who frequently pops up in those 'street fashion' photo blogs. He told me his secret: Staten Island. The thrift shops there are a lot less picked-over than the ones in Williamsburg.

Adjust neighborhood names for your city, but you get the idea: you want thrift shops in areas affluent enough to be receiving quality goods, and where there is a relatively small population of shoppers competing with you.
posted by ook at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and ask the checkout folk when they generally restock the racks-- for some places, this is ongoing, but if you're at a store that rolls out new stuff every Wednesday, for instance, you won't find much if you show up on a Tuesday night.
posted by Bardolph at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2014

I used to live blocks from one of Denver's best Goodwill shops. There is absolutely a benefit to knowing when new merchandise gets put out. Some thrifting diehards would follow the workers putting new things on the rack. More than once I heard a worker snap at someone trying to take something directly out of their hands.

Also worth noting - Take a look at what employees of said store are wearing. If they are your size and wearing things you would like there is little chance the good stuff is getting to the rack.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:59 AM on February 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

nthing rich neighborhoods.

Get to know your designer labels, not only the big names like Dior, Gucci, Armani but the 'minor' ones like Kate Spade, Anna Sui etc.

Also have an eye for style. Don't get sucked into 'omg so cool' when really it's hokey and will get boring after the laugh is over. Look for sharp styles.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:01 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

One cheat, if you have something like this in your area, is to go to a "clothing exchange" type thrift store (Buffalo Exchange, Crossroads Trading Post, in NYC there's Beacon's Closet, etc) or another thrift store that isn't straight up Goodwill but that does a little of the weeding out for you in exchange for slightly higher (but still very cheap) prices.

My strategy for thrifting in general, whether it's Buffalo Exchange or Salvation Army, is to touch things. I won't even look at an item if it doesn't feel good. I'm always on the lookout for high quality clothes made from good fabrics. Everything should be real and, as much as possible, made with natural fibers. For sweaters I'm looking for lambswool, merino, or cashmere (yes, you can find cashmere in thrift stores). For jackets I'm looking for wool, tweed, velvet, twill, etc. Shirts and dresses should be the real thing, not low-quality polyester knockoffs. Nothing thin or skimpy that isn't supposed to be.

After touching, I look at clothing labels. If something is from a known name brand and has a tag in it, I'm much more likely to go for that because I can easily determine whether it's my size. Also because then you sort of know what you're getting. I'm generally on the lookout for J. Crew, Anthropologie, and things in that range from a season or two ago. Also designer, though I find that stuff much less often than I did 5-10 years ago.

I will sometimes pay a visit to the men's section, especially if I'm on the hunt for sweaters.

After I do a big initial grab, I will then go through everything meticulously for damage. Stains, holes, split seams, and especially moth holes in wool. I won't buy "fixer upper" items, because I know myself.

Next I try everything on. In general I try to get things that already fit me perfectly and won't need tailoring, unless we're talking about a $5 pair of pants that just need to be hemmed.
posted by Sara C. at 8:01 AM on February 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

Honestly, I always have much more luck at college town thrift stores than the ones near me in my trendy city, because there are people whose job is to sort through that stuff, buy the cool stuff, and mark it up. Visit different thrift shops. Some are only good for one or two kinds of things (the Savers near me has nice shoes, but I have to go elsewhere for cute dresses). I like to bring friends and go regularly rather than spend large amounts of time and get bogged down in the disinfectant smell.
posted by theweasel at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2014

FINDING JEANS THAT ACTUALLY FIT: Wear very tight fitted booty shorts (summer) or sweater tights under a loose skirt (winter) and slip-on shoes. Patiently go through an entire rack and pull anything that seems like it's your size and isn't mad ugly, hang on the side of your cart. When you've gone through the whole rack, throw modesty and decorum to the wind and try on every single pair over your shorts/tights. Sort into "fits" and "doesn't fit" piles. Hang everything that doesn't fit back up, buy everything that fits.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:06 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

OK. A good 95% of my work wardrobe comes from thrift stores. I am in Arizona and our local Goodwills have a 50% off everything in the store sale every two weeks. I time my shopping accordingly.


1. Wear clothes that are easy to try on things over or easily removable. Slip on shoes, stretch pants and a comfy cardigan/long sweater in winter and dresses in summer.

2. Arrive early after a good breakfast.

3. Buy only quality, name-brand goods with lasting power. I see lots of Target clothes at thrift stores but they won't last beyond a season. My closet is full of Talbot's, Brooks Brothers, Ann Klein, Dana Buchman, Nordstrom's, etc. I buy classic pieces that can easily be repaired/tailored and will last forever.

4. Take your time to look at the clothes you like carefully before you get to the register. Look for stains that might not come out or tears that are not along a seam and can't be repaired.

5. Going against the grain on the "richer the neighborhood, the better" theme: I find that going to the less affluent areas nets me the best buys. In the richer neighborhods, the $30K millionaires will be snatching up the better quality goods. In the working-class neighborhoods, folks are looking for functional clothing and might not be as concerned with brands, etc. I love my neighborhood Goodwill because it's a mix of every socioeconomic group in town.

6. And going back to No. 5: Use the opportunity to get to know people. I now have a few women I see regularly on half-price days and we have all learned one another's tastes and look out for clothing for each other. It's a wonderful way to get to know your neighbors.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm not a great thrift shopper, but my triage strategy is this: only touch things that are colors I would want to wear; only pull things out if the fabric feels good; only try it on if it looks good when you pull it out. Shop all the sizes.

I think the neighborhood thing must just vary a lot - I used to find stuff I liked much better in the big Savers in the gritty town where I worked than I did in the Goodwill in the relatively upscale college town where I lived (upscale college town did have a couple of good consignment stores that I think may have been picking off the cream of the available used clothes).
posted by mskyle at 8:08 AM on February 24, 2014

There's a chain of thrift stores here in NYC that actually organizes their clothes by size instead of color. I've bought a lot of good stuff there, since it's less of a project to shop there.
posted by Jahaza at 8:10 AM on February 24, 2014

Oh, I am a queen of thrift. I go on vacation without luggage and thrift myself up during my stay for wearables, and I always go home with lots of clothes.

Here's how to browse through a thrift shop like a pro:

1. Scan for color. Only proceed further if the color appeals to you.
2. If the color is good, give it a finger rub to see what the fabric is like. I love cotton and hate polyester, for example.
3. If the fabric is acceptable, pull the garment out a bit to see if it's appealing.
4. If it passes all three tests, then check for size.
5. And then price. Use your judgement as to whether a piece is worth it.

You should try stuff on. I don't, but I do a wrap-around test on bust and hips.

This really speeds up your grazing and lets you focus only on tasty tidbits.
Don't expect to find lots and lots of stuff in every thrift/charity shop. Sometimes I pick up nothing or only a couple of pieces; other times, a big bagful (at those times I thank my luck that a lady of my size and taste has recently donated ;).
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:12 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I buy about 90%-95% of my clothing at thrift shops. I'm not a fashionista or someone who looks for great finds; I just find buying used clothing considerably less stressful than buying new clothing because it is sooooo much less expensive.

I follow a few general principles/strategies:

--I go with a specific but not *too* specific idea in mind--"I need more button-down shirts," "I need a new pair of jeans," things like that. That helps limit the racks I have to search, which is important for the next principle.

--I give absolutely everything on the rack at least a quick look.

--I look at color first, then fabric/texture, then the label (which also gives me info about the fabric). I ignore the size unless it's obviously too small or big just from a quick glance; sizes vary so much between brands that it's easy to find a XS from one brand and a XL from another that both fit. I accumulate large piles of clothes and go through several rounds of lickety-split trying-on.

--I accept that I may not find anything and don't have a problem going home empty-handed. I plan my trips as semi-regular events, not moments of crisis (e.g. "I need a new dress for the fancy dinner event at the conference!")

Good luck with your thrifting!
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 8:14 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I used to hang clothing in a store for a major charity.

It's all just a time consuming luck of the draw. You could pay attention to when clothing is put up for sale, but some places once a bin of goods is sorted and priced it goes out onto the floor immediately; you're still left having to go through the racks one by one.

If you go to enough of them (stores) you start to see patterns to when things go out, who has the better deals and which get the better donations. But really its just being in the right place at the right time because so many people are out there looking to get the same bargain, or are resellers hoping to find more stock for their own stores.

And the smell.

A lot of people don't wash what they plan on donating and the charities can't afford to launder what they receive before putting it up for sale.
posted by redindiaink at 8:15 AM on February 24, 2014

Rich neighborhoods vs poor: I prefer poor or mid-range. Rich areas are often overpriced, same for "trendy" thrift shop neighborhoods.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:17 AM on February 24, 2014

I just hunt on a regular basis. I hit the three major stores in my area every week or every other week. Monday's are usually pretty good since people tend to clean house and donate over the weekends. I also heard the rumor that they put out more merchandise on Thursdays to get ready for the weekend(as does Marshall's and TJMaxx, fyi) It just helps to do it on a regular basis, that way you train your eye for what you want.
posted by PJMoore at 8:22 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I see lots of Target clothes at thrift stores but they won't last beyond a season.

OTOH, if there was a fast-fashion guest designer you were excited about, but didn't jump on the bandwagon for whatever reason, thrift stores are great places to pick these items up a little bit later. So many people buy them just based on the hype, wear them once, and then get rid of them. Are they lower quality? Sometimes. But for $10, it's still a great deal if you genuinely like the piece.
posted by Sara C. at 8:32 AM on February 24, 2014

Ha, I was just talking about my closet full of name brand and designer suits, all gained at thrift stores.

My advice would be:

Find rich neighborhoods, not hipster neighborhoods where the thrift store will be well-travelled. One of my favorites is a Goodwill way out in a richie-rich yacht community where the buses don't run and hipsters fear to tread. Walking in there makes me want to burst into See My Vest because it's just a buffet of designer and name brand clothes.

Also: By universities, particularly around move-out day. A lot of kids will just dump everything they own into a dumpster or haul it all down to Goodwill.

And a third, if you have the courage: The really bad parts of town where flippers and hipsters fear to tread.

Learn which stores are worth your time. It took a few months of figuring it out and there are a TON in my area but I can group them into 3 worth stopping at, 4-5 I'll swing into if I'm driving by them, and the rest, eh. So that's cut my shopping time down from a full day to an afternoon. Like Goodwill actually puts a lot of their good stuff up on their own site so a lot of them just aren't worth shopping at or you wind up looking for home runs, like stuff that's soooooo high-end the people working there don't recognize the name. Suit shopping's my game so Goodwill tends to be 100 cheap polyester suits then something handmade by a high-end tailor. But the Goodwills in high-end areas don't seem to care as much so there's a lot better finds.

Don't shop for need, that's one of the biggest mistakes people make (both thrift and regular shopping). Like they wait until the last minute and then they NEED a suit for their cousin's wedding and they have to buy it TODAY and they have 3 hours and they wonder why they wound up in a light blue 1970s prom rental tux when I'm strutting around in Italian. If you absolutely must have something, go to a regular store. The thrift gods are capricious and whimsical and you'll find a bunch of stuff when you don't need it (I just went thrift shopping with a friend last weekend and she stocked up on high-end sweaters which aren't going to be useful since it's already 80 here but will be lovely in winter).

Go in to browse often. There's a little thrift store on my way to the post office, for example, so I pop in once a week or so to pick through the menswear and shoes and then resume my journey.

And a trying-on tip, particularly if you have those stores without dressing rooms: I wear bicycle shorts and a rashguard under my normal clothes and nobody looks askance if you whip something off to try it on in the aisles the way they would if you're walking around in your underoos.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:39 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ooh girl. I have popped so many tags.

So there are two basic layouts of thrift stores. Layout #1 organizes clothes by size. This is easier for you to pick, though I recommend browsing through the sizes next to you too (so if you're a medium, peek through the small and large aisles too... people put stuff in the wrong racks all the time, and differences in sizing might mean you find something great that fits). The drawback here is that stuff is more picked over since it's easy to find... especially if you're a rare size.

Layout #2 organizes clothes by color or type, and the sizes are all mixed. I go in knowing what colors to browse through more carefully. Don't spend too much time picking through the zillions of black shirts unless you really want one. Know which colors are your best and spend more time combing through those. Same with pants... there are so many racks of jeans it's overwhelming. Do a quick scan and only grab the ones that immediately grab your eye.

Try to go during the second-best sale time, depending on how rock bottom you wanna get. My local Goodwill had a one-day a week $1.49 tag sale. As you might expect, the stuff was pretty picked through. If you went during the second-best sale day, Half Off all tags, you pay a little more but have a lot more to choose from.

If you know you want a specific item, don't waste all the time and just buy it from a regular store. Thrift stores are for not knowing what you'll end up with. But don't spend hours searching for one pair of grey pants.

Unless you're a diva about designers, don't even bother with the more upscale consignment boutiques. You'll pay almost as much as just buying it at the mall.

The best thing about thrifting is that if you find something a little weird or that doesn't fit QUITE right, you can buy it for $5 and wear it three times and get rid of it if you hate it. No major guilt.

My thrift store etiquette: if you have a huge cart of stuff and there's only 2 fitting rooms, I bring in ~8 things at a time. When I go to get the next 8, if someone's waiting to try on a few things, I let them pop into my room.

Rich neighborhoods aren't necessarily the best... because then the store knows its clientele is more "upscale" and will still charge $10+ for clothes which IMO is too expensive unless it's a real find. You want middle of the road, look for stores that charge $3-8 base price for most items. Also steer clear of college or "trendy" neighborhoods where people are picking for vintage stuff. I have the best luck in suburbs and small towns.

Regarding how often to go: it depends, but alter your strategy. When I was a poor grad student, I went every week that I was home during the summer, but I did a quicker cruise through the aisles and only grabbed stuff that immediately caught me. Now, I only go every 3 months or so, but I do a more careful perusal of everything in the size/color I want. I usually spend about $60 and get about 15 items.

OH YEAH: Dig through the rack of stuff people left outside the dressing room. Don't be ashamed. Someone else already liked it enough to bring to try on. Vulture shamelessly.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:40 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

And the smell.

In my state it's a law that thrift store items have to be laundered by the thrift store before they can be sold. The smell I dislike is the weird thrift store laundry soap.

That said, I am also a person who gets the bulk of her clothes thrifting. In addition to the good things a lot of people have said, I have luck with...

- finding things on off-seasons. Good bathing suits in wintertime. Good sweaters in the spring.
- finding a thing that is perfect for me (see what Juliet Banana said about jeans) and then trying to replicate them either by ebay shopping or otherwise, this means I can use the thrift store to help me find brands/sizes and then supplement elsewhere
- go outside of my comfort zone sometimes. If I see something I like but it doesn't scream me, if it fits I'll take it home and try it and if it's not right after a while I'll just bring it back into the cycle

For me, it's all one big ecosystem, I toss a lot of (gently worn) clothes into the thrift store cycle which helps me free up space for bringing things home with me.
posted by jessamyn at 8:58 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of my favorite tactics? Hitting up thrift stores in smaller towns away from the metro area I live in. Whenever we go on vacation, we hit up thrift stores. They're not as 'picked over' really, and their general clientele might be looking for something wholly different than you. I've found some really good clothes on the Oregon coast and in rural Maine for example.

Searching for regional 'heritige' labels is something always do, but double up on when I'm out of town; since i'm in the northwest, I can spot a Pendelton label from a mile away…when we were living in Maine, I taught myself to read vintage L.L. Bean labels. In the case of the latter, their vintage stuff is amazing and was abundant in Maine…also, no kids shopping at thrift stores were buying it. But it was quality and I had a bunch of it altered to fit me like a glove. Pendelton stuff in the northwest has come back into favor lately, so it's usually a bit harder to find…but they're still out there for sure. Right now i'm researching Southern heritage labels for an upcoming trip to Savannah.

Knowing your labels and what you're looking for takes alot of upfront research, but it pays off.

The next best way to maximize the thrift shop? Get yourself a bomb-ass tailor. Once you get into the rhythm or working with a tailor, you can buy a lot more things at a thrift store. I've had everything down to t-shirts altered to fit on me better. It opens up your buying choices to 'almost everything bigger than you' and 'a bit more of what is smaller than you.' Finding a pair of pants or a nicer shirt that costs a couple bucks, but then you pay 10-20 to have it altered? That's a pretty sweet deal if you're going to wear it a bunch.

I have a really good seamstress/tailor in Portland, Ore. If anyone needs a reference, memail me.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:00 AM on February 24, 2014 [8 favorites]

Former thrift store employee, thrift store addict, and I might be able to help...

Find a few stores that "feel right." A cursory inspection should tell you, for instance, if the items in the store are overpriced for their quality, or if the store is too dirty, disorganized, or generally crappy to be worth your time. I'm a pretty robust shopper, and even I know when to bail on a place. Some people find great stuff at places I don't go out of my way to shop, but they spend a lot of time and effort doing so. If you narrow it down to one or two shops that you like, you can focus more on the details.

Stores that organize by size are kind of helpful, but people (either employees or frequent shoppers) will frequently stash pieces in the wrong place hoping they won't be found.

Having a good knowledge of what works and does not work on your body and a strong idea of what you like and dislike going in speeds the process tremendously. Knowing your measurements helps too - bringing a soft tape measure will save you the time and effort of lugging everything to the dressing room.

I go in with an item or list of pieces in mind, and if I have time left, do a general run through the store. I scan for things like sleeve and hem length first - that I can easily discern by looking at the rack. This can be deceiving - if I have time, I will backtrack, but I can safely rule out swaths of the rack this way.

I flip through the items quickly. My main criteria at this point is the feel of the fabric, because that will tell me immediately if it's even worth it to look. You will touch many terrible fabrics, and you won't even have to look to discern if the color is ugly. Of course, that's the next thing.

So you find something that is in a good fabric in a non ugly color. Now you can separate the rack a bit and give it a look to ascertain if it's a cut that suits you. This is where the aforementioned tape measure comes in handy. Check the fabric content, look at the seams, give the tires a kick. that will tell you more than a name on a tag. TRY THINGS ON. Hopefully there is a dressing room, if not, wear something that is good for surreptitious slipovers, although that method will sometimes get you the side-eye from the floor staff (and with good reason - shoplifters love them a thrift store.)

I tend to not put much stock in major name brands - even the ones you have known for years might change sizing or manufacturing processes.

If you do want to find designer clothes, doing a little homework beforehand can be a bonus. Very prominent names are either going to be overpriced, badly damaged, or snatched up by professionals (don't be mad at them - a significant part of a thrift store's business may come from resellers that come in every day and spend hundreds or possibly thousands of dollars.) Obscure quality brands are the ones that will be more frequently undervalued.

Ultimately, nobody but you sees the tag, so it doesn't matter what it says. I mean, yeah it's a thrill to occasionally score a Missoni sweater for five dollars (true story - the back of the garment looks like the front, the pricers assumed it was untagged) but it doesn't happen very often.

I do really well at thrifting. Too well. Far too well.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:01 AM on February 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

There is a community called Cedar Mill northwest of Portland, OR. Volunteers run a resale shop called Second Edition as a fund raiser for the Cedar Mill Library. To be honest, I have never been in the shop, but I know some of the many volunteers. They frequently get designer clothing to sell for a comparative pittance. If you find a resale shop run in a relatively affluent neighborhood, or sponsored by e.g., AAUW or Junior League, or a symphony group, you might find a better level of clothing.
posted by Cranberry at 9:02 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Even for the pretty decent stuff, I have to dig through racks and racks of clothes that are neither my style nor my size.

You kind of have to do this in regular clothing stores too, though.

I think a lot of the boasting about the amazing deals you may hear are more fueled by the bargain they got on the garment than they are excitement about the garment itself. But what people say about frequenting thrift stores in wealthier neighborhoods is a good tip.

Also, consider consignment shops - those also "curate" their clothes well, because the clothes they offer aren't donated, they are being re-sold. The people who brought them in will get a share of the proceeds. So consignment shops are pretty selective when it comes to quality, so as to increase the odds of making a sale.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 AM on February 24, 2014

Check out church sales in affluent towns.

Check antique stores for clothes.
posted by alphanerd at 9:30 AM on February 24, 2014

Knowing your measurements helps too - bringing a soft tape measure will save you the time and effort of lugging everything to the dressing room.

This works well for me too -- I hate trying things on, so I bring a measuring tape with me. I know my body measurements (thigh, calf, bicep, low waist, as well as the obvious bust, waist, hips), and I've studied the dimensions of the clothes I already own that fit me well. Using that set of numbers, I've gotten pretty good at finding clothes that fit perfectly just by doing a quick measure of key dimensions on a garment while it's still on the hanger.

Really, though, it just takes a lot of time and a willingness to walk out of the store empty-handed. I rarely find a specific item that I have a time-sensitive need for, but usually find something that will fill a gap in my wardrobe.

My favorite stores are the smaller ones that sort clothes by color. This speeds my search up much more than ones that are sorted by size (since like most women, clothes across several sizes will fit me, depending on cut).

Befriending the employees can give surprising rewards, too. "Hey, do you have any suggestions for something that would go with this skirt?" might just turn up a hidden gem. I also seem to get a lot of magic discounts by just being friendly to the clerks...
posted by nacho fries at 9:50 AM on February 24, 2014

I have a hard time finding pants that fit, and cannot go by size alone, as size numbers are a joke. And I'm really bad at visualizing whether a given garment, hanging flat, will fit me.

At home, I found a pair of pants which fit perfectly, laid them flat, and used my hands to measure the width of the waistband and widest part of the thigh. The waistband was two palms wide, with a space of perhaps 3 inches between my hands. No need for precision, just a rough approximation of a size that is likely to fit.

Now, in thrift stores, I don't even have to take pants off the hanger to see whether they'd be close to fitting.

This trick works for skirts too, although the angle of the hip is a bit trickier to estimate.
posted by jessicapierce at 9:52 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came in to agree with the folks who've said, go with a plan. I often choose one thing that I'd like to find - a new pair of jeans, a black collared shirt. It gives me a focus and anything else I find is a bonus. I always seem to find it too - maybe cosmic ordering does work :)

My tip is be ready to like stuff you wouldn't expect to like. I mean, in a million years. Cause the thing about thrift shops is they don't necessarily stock the latest trends but that's what we tend to be conditioned to want.

Citation: I once found a mustard yellow, stretchy, collared shirt that buttons up under the crotch so it's always tucked in. My initial reaction was wow, that is the most hideous 70s-throwback thing I have ever seen. Then I thought about it for a little while and realised that I actually quite liked it, and I'm not kidding, it's now my favourite shirt. And I get tons of compliments on it. I don't usually tell people it buttons under the crotch.
posted by greenish at 10:05 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you're able/willing to do minor repairs (buttons/seam rips) or dyeing, this will hugely open up your options, and will sometimes let you score super cheap stuff.
posted by jessicapierce at 10:08 AM on February 24, 2014

I think the biggest question is, do you enjoy thrifting? Is it a way you would spend your time recreationally? If so, you can do very well indeed. If you hate the process, maybe you'd be better off shopping the discounters, eBay, etc.

I would start by looking for stores that are on your existing travel routes. I have a store on my way home from work where I've found some great things. Do they usually have great things? No. I'd say four out of five visits I find nothing at all. But I go really, really often.

Similarly, if you're within a minute or two of a thrift store and have the time, default to stopping in, even if it's usually a bad place. One of my favorite art finds came from an incredibly fleabag place (now closed), where it was sitting by the door of the Man Cave section. (Which is another tip -- if you have time, look through all the sections. People sometimes hide good finds in other sections on purpose.)

Keep a long list. The more things you're looking for, the more potential hits you'll have. In the same vein, think about adding books, jewelry/accessories, art, furniture, housewares, etc. to your list.

Be aware of pest concerns, especially if your area has any reports of bedbugs. Some thrift stores do clean items, but the cleaning methods don't necessarily work on e.g. upholstered furniture. I personally have a strict set of protocols in place involving the freezer and/or dryer. Better safe than sorry.

Savers/Value Village is good as an entry-level thrift store -- their clothing is well-organized, they have dressing rooms, etc. They are priced accordingly. I find most Junior League-type stores are similar -- basically, the nicer the store, the higher the prices (and the more likely they are to recognize the good finds).

I'd suggest spending a day or two visiting every thrift, charity, and resale store in, say, a 30-minute radius (or whatever makes sense for your area and transport options). You'll start seeing patterns and you'll get a feel for which stores might work for you on a more regular basis. I have no real patterns on which areas/types of stores work, and as you can see above, there are a lot of different theories. So just try them all, at least once.
posted by pie ninja at 10:18 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re rich vs poor neighbourhood: do not overlook the poor neighbourhoods. Their residents are much less likely to be curating gently impractical collections of 50s/60s Scottish cashmere. I have been a junk addict/reseller/hoarder/etc for decades now and have lived in and visited all sorts of neighbourhoods across North America, and it has been a constant for me that poor has an antipathy towards old. Once I lived in a very run-down area and trash night was a carnival of antiques sitting next to empty boxes for the Walmart replacement of the nice antique.

And the rich have worse taste than most people think -- clapped-out veneer Bombay Company junk often awaits in nice neighbourhoods while Grandma's lovely Fiestaware is sitting idle in the slums. The clothing often parallels that, moreso now that "fast fashion" has penetrated nearly all classes.

Look at the bottom of the racks to turn up: tops that have not shrunk, pants with like-new cuffs (critical in the jeans section).

Run your hands along the sweater racks; stop when you hit a nice knit. Some people give me a funny look at that advice and rant about the impossibility of figuring fabric content out by touch; I don't know what to say about that other than that thrift shopping must be a lot harder if you can't tell quickly?

Find a person gifted at alterations, because then the fabulous silk blouse two sizes two big is just a fabulous silk blouse soon to be your size.

It is extremely rare that I leave a thrift totally empty-handed; it is about as rare as the $700 item for $2 day. But this is only because I spend a lot of time pawing through everything. It takes a lot of time and "curated vintage" (in the "boutique" thrift, Etsy, etc) is not a bad option if you are short on time. Stores vary so much in stocking policies that I don't think it's possible to have a good "go at X time/season" rule, but experience will show patterns in which stores in your area have a good selection of X or routinely underprice Y. Your BFF is a rural store with a low rent with a pricing scheme that is "shirts, $3, pants, $4, belts, $1" instead of individual prices on everything (close second: low-rent place with no prices and 'fill a bag for $X' or 'eh, $10 if you're taking all of it' laxity on pricing).

I have the best luck in small-to-middling sized places that are volunteer-run solely in support of a charity and the worst in for-profit thrifts run by picker types who will have snagged the valuables before me, though there are plenty of exceptions.

It is rare to find things that are very basic and fairly disposable like basic white tees or black leggings. If it is plain and forgives a bit of weight gain/loss it wears out before it hits a thrift. But I would encourage everybody to be open to the idea of absolutely anything second-hand; everybody I know is horrified when they hear that thrift stores sell underwear, but this makes little sense -- overseas underwear factories are not churning out sterilised goods, and modern washing machines and detergents are quite capable of sanitising nearly everything. My favourite ew-that-was-used? thing is an old pair of wool knee socks knit in a Nordic pattern. Nearly everything can go in the washing machine if you are careful; this includes many leather (and suede) shoes, many tailored wool pieces, even with linings, hats, ties, etc. If something is filthy and $2 go ahead and risk the $2 and chuck it in the wash on a delicate cycle; usually you don't lose the $2, and when you do you're so far ahead it doesn't matter.

If you are going to be a regular thrifter you may find you end up with a lot of things that are nice but still not right for you, and at that point you may find it worth it to find a consignment store whose owners' tastes are similar to your own. Then you may find yourself adding the "finds" that are great but not at all you to your bag because it was 50c or you needed something to fill the bag at a bag sale, etc, and buying it just to bring to the consignment store. My child is dressed largely for free through that sort of I-was-going-there-anyway constant stream of fibre/$ exchanging.
posted by kmennie at 10:25 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Echoing that knowing what stores are good for what is key, but I disagree that thrift stores in richer neighborhoods are necessarily better, especially depending on what you're looking for.

Nonsensical t-shirts? Definitely not. Retro stuff? Maybe you'll get quantity in richer neighborhoods, but the gold is from the grandma/pa in the poorer neighborhood cleaning out their closets. Also, the poorer/more out of the way stores are less likely to be picked over by other shoppers.

Also, if you're dedicated or have some time to kill on a saturday, the warehouse-type thrift stores tend to be in odd, often poorer places. The Goodwill outlet in my city is in an industrial-ish low-income area, as is another similar store. Things are laid out in giant bins that are very loosely organized by gender. It takes much longer to go through, but it's stuff that hasn't filtered through yet. Also, it's sold by the pound.
posted by cmoj at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2014

Be open to surprises, learn the signs of quality, learn your style, discover the holes in your wardrobe. And be patient and enjoy the hunt.

For example, I scored a *new* pair of Clarks clogs for $8 this weekend. Note, I never check the shoe section at Goodwill since it always seems so sad. BUT, I knew I needed some casual shoes, so I checked it, and there was my pair. (Yes, I've already worn them, and they're perfect :) -- this sort of win makes me more inclined to check that section again in the future).

Like others above, I don't count on Goodwill or any thrift to fill in ay immediate must-haves or essential basics. But, believe it or not, I (without shame) use thrifted goods to upgrade, For example, I had a long wool winter coat that was well-made but tbh getting old and tired. It has recently been upgraded to a long, camel-hair CK coat that cost... 14.99 with no signs of wear. It will last me for years and is nice enough for dressier occasions, at what was likely less than 1/25 of retail cost.

A good strategy is to seek out the pieces that tend to be more costly in retail; a thrift store tee-shirt fro Old Navy is seldom a good buy. But a Talbot's (or better) suit jacket in great condition for 4.99? Or any equivalent higher-priced item that suits your style -- those can be very good buys,

I have a loose list of things I always check for in a thrift store, including but not limited to: cashmere sweaters, cast iron pans, jackets and coats, denim shirts, leather coats. I've trained myself to look just at the colors that my wardrobe is focused on, and when I walk the pants aisles, I'm always looking at hem length and fabric.

I actually find thrift store shopping less stressful than retail shopping, if only because I go into the stores with the attitude I'm just there to look and I don't have an immediate need to buy an essential; I'm there just to get lucky.
posted by vers at 11:26 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

When you're going through shirts, scan the bottom of the rack (the actual bottom of the shirts) before picking up an item. Lots of thrift store shirts are hopelessly shrunken or short and this helps you assess whether it's even worth looking at.
posted by mynameisluka at 11:30 AM on February 24, 2014

The majority of my wardrobe is thrifted, and honestly, I do only go by periodically. I would say about 3-4 times a year, I devote a couple of Saturdays in a row to doing nothing but thrifting.

I won't thrift underwear, bathing suits, socks, or pants (I'm funny-shaped and have picked out one or two cheap brands whose off-the-rack fits me well enough, and I just order those when I need a new pair). And if I know I need something super-specific, like a black blazer or a purple t-shirt or something by next week, I just buy it new, because it's not worth the hassle of playing thrift roulette. I also don't bother with things that need significant repair or tailoring because I know I am too lazy to get it done, so self-knowledge is important here.

Otherwise, I just periodically block off a whole Saturday and hit the three Goodwills in my (rich) area, knowing that I need broad categories of items: cardigans, things to wear under cardigans/blazers, skirts, dresses, shorts, whatever. I start at one end of the rack for that category, and I work my way superfast through each piece while touching them - there's a reason people tell you to do that. You filter for quality first, THEN look to see if it's your size/attractive/machine washable/stained/whatever. Learn to tell if something feels expensive/high quality. You'll be able to tell pretty fast if something is made of natural fibers. I know generally the high street brands that work for my taste and body

It takes awhile, and you smell like mothballs after, but it's worth it to be thorough. I've only ever had one or two AMAZING finds, but it's totally reasonable to build the basics of a wardrobe through thrifting. Be flexible, temper your expectations (you are not going to find an Armani suit for $3 at Goodwill, sorry, they've cottoned on to that stuff and have eBay now), stay out of the for-profit/vintage curated shops, and for the love of all that is sacred, dump that shit in the washing machine when you get home unless you want your whole house to smell like Grandma's attic.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 11:44 AM on February 24, 2014

> I've also assumed that it'd probably take too much time and effort for me

That may well be true. I'm tall, and I've basically given up finding clothes for myself in thrift stores. I'll still glance through the racks because I enjoy it, and because I thrift for clothes for my kids and for housewares, but it's rare that I'll find anything I would want to wear that's in my size.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2014

That actually leads to another great thrifting tip: only look for things you know are going to work for you. I basically only shop for sweaters, jackets, tops, and dresses (also sometimes skirts), because my pants requirements are extremely specific.

Don't waste time looking at men's t-shirts if you're a petite lady, pants if you're either especially tall or especially short, jackets if you have unusually wide shoulders, etc.

The nice thing about thrift stores as opposed to other types of retail is that they typically separate items by garment type. Let this work to your benefit.
posted by Sara C. at 12:21 PM on February 24, 2014

I am a thrift store shopper. I do NOT shop in vintage shops because my thrift store shopping is based primarily on poverty, and only secondarily on taste/preference (neat clothes, saving stuff from landfill).

I also rarely find actually valuable clothing. I once found a hat for $4 that originally cost $150, but it didn't fit me and doesn't quite fit my SO (though he will wear it). I mostly find basic plainc clothing which keeps me warm and clothed on less than $200 a year. But I do often find better quality clothing than I normally could afford, longer lasting stuff rather than Walmart-quality.

I have preferred stores. Some are cheaper, some are more organised. Some may have clothing organized by colour, or by size, or by both. I know that I pay more at my local Value Village than the Salvation Army next door, but they have a better selection and higher quality clothing. They also sort somewhat by size, but it helps that I am quite medium (neither tall, nor short, near the average size).

I also shop very systematically. When I wanted tank tops for summer, I went through every tank top on the women's rack (from small through large) pulling anything that looked like it might work. I took 12 items into the change room (totally broke the rules), and left the store with four. Similarly, if I'm looking for black pants, I'll pull every pair that is in within 2-3 sizes of fitting me, just to try them. Thrifting involves lots of trying on clothes, and I'm very fast now. I do filter, as noted above, by fabric type and by knowing what I want - no boat or round neck, no tacky sparkly flowers, no polyester or rayon if it's a shirt (I'm sensitive).

But most of all, what you are trading is a longer time looking for money saved. I was going to mention poorer selection, but I find that new clothing shops have a worse selection these days (what with carrying only a few items and only "in season" items).
posted by jb at 2:18 PM on February 24, 2014

I thrift a lot (more before I had my son, but I still keep it up for essentials) and here are some things I've learned from the last few years:

1) I always go to the same store. In San Diego, it was a small thrift store around the corner from my house that had great crafting supplies! In Seattle, it's the biggest Goodwill ever. You benefit from knowing the layout of the store, where you don't need to go and where the odd little racks of things are kept.

2) if I see something I even remotely like, I always pick it up and put it in my cart. I can always put it back later if I decide I don't want it.

3) Never listen to people who say they can't find anything or that x thrift store isn't worth the time. No two people thrift alike, and the dingiest store can have exactly what you want for pennies. They're also probably trying to discourage you so they get all the sweet loot for themselves.

4) Labor Day is a big discount day for most thrift stores and many thrift stores (at least Goodwill) have regular sales. Check for websites that have calendar of events on.

5) For clothes, it's all about planning. Know your brands (thrifting blogs and reddit's fashion/thrift subreddits are great for this) and materials so that you decide what you want first and can blitz through entire racks within minutes. I don't often end up with anything fancy as I'm plus size, but I have wool sweaters and brands I'd buy retail (Old Navy jeans, Eddie Bauer cardigan, Target dresses) in my wardrobe.

6) I also keep an ongoing list of things I want to look for. As soon as that list is long enough, it's time to go back. I don't always find the things I want, but it keeps my brain focused so I can tune out the things I don't want. Thrift stores are BUSY, and it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Bonus tip: not all, but some Goodwills have amazing kid's sections and their clothing prices range from $0.99-$6. I buy nearly all my son's pants and overalls this way. No way am I paying $10-20 per item when other people's kids barely put a dent in theirs before they're donated. (See also toys, which get sold at my Goodwill for $1.29 per toy, regardless of size or brand).

So basically, it's just being stubborn and thorough and intimately familiar with the stores you have access to. People will donate anything, and it's just about being there as often as you can be. After seeing enough stores, I know to never buy dinnerware, kids clothes, toys or books new again. There's a huge excess just waiting to be plundered.
posted by saturnine at 3:42 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Areas with a lot of elderly. If it's lasted for 40 years, it is well made.

Watch out with stores guarded by little old ladies though, it sometimes turns out that they've been throwing away anything that they or their parents would have worn when they were younger, because it's 'OLD'.
And I can't do more than sew a button or sew a very small seam or hem, but I CAN do that, and they sometimes chuck anything that needs tiny mends llike that (and when I say little old ladies - Nana, I'm talking about you!).

So, convincing at least one of the old ladies (not my Nana, FYI) that someone might want to come in for that 'old junk' can be helpful.

These days the larger stores sometimes get someone, er, younger to come in and sort/price for the more 'in fashion' items.
posted by Elysum at 3:42 PM on February 24, 2014

I get awesome stuff at thrift shops, and I recently decided to try and see if I can only shop thrift shops for the foreseeable future.

But I think it's partly luck: you need to basically be the average size and shape for your gender, and then just about everything in the shop will fit you, so you have a much larger pool of possibility. And/or you need to be able to sew or be willing to take things to a tailor (and have a good idea of what is easily alterable and what isn't).

I don't have much in terms of strategy except for the following:

- I will ALWAYS check out the thrift shops when I am in a new location, on holiday or in a part of town I don't usually go to. If they are good, I will make an effort to go back. (Some of my favourite finds have been when I am on holiday overseas, because you get interesting clothes you can't find back home, and if e.g. in Europe, often better quality clothes, plus it ends up being a nice souvenir).

- I go to thrift shops about three or four times a year otherwise. But I don't have a large wardrobe or buy many clothes in general. I would say on average I buy maybe five or six new garments a year total (besides socks, underwear, etc, which I don't thrift). I have a lot of stuff in my wardrobe that is 15-20 years old, and I try to buy classic clothes that don't go out of fashion.

- I always look at the shoes first (I almost always find some sort of label brand that I can resell for five times as much on ebay even if it doesn't fit me). Then I look at accessories - bags, scarves, hats, because I think they are fun, and because size doesn't matter. Then I usually have a few pieces in mind that I need, and I'll directly target those racks. I tend to only look in a limited range of colours, since I only wear a limited range of colours, but for garments of the right type in those colours I will seriously pull everything off the rack, touch it, check the seams, hold it up against me in front of a mirror, etc. If it's a nice fabric, I'll consider whether I can use it for a sewing or craft project if I don't want to wear it.

- I also always look at the blankets. You can get really nice pure wool blankets, sometimes even hand-woven, for super cheap. And again sell them on ebay for ten times what you paid if you don't want them yourself.

- Always check for stains. Usually people will have tried to get those out, and the thrift shop uses industrial style washers, so if they are still there, they aren't coming off. I won't buy anything that is stained. I might buy something with a hole in it if I think I can repair it invisibly. Missing buttons are no problem to replace.
posted by lollusc at 3:47 PM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

1. Don't go thrift-shopping with people who aren't serious about it or who have no patience. At a promising store, you're gonna want to take an hour minimum to slam through everything in the racks in at least a couple sections. I grew up down the hill from a thrift store, so I guess I got an early education in this. But I'll never forget the time in college when I cajoled a suitemate into driving me to the thrift store on a trip out with a few of our friends, who claimed to "love thrift stores," only to find that after about 10 minutes of giggling and aimless wandering, they all got bored, decided the thrift store didn't have anything good (read: hilariously ironic or weird), and actually started sighing at me and pressuring me to leave, like kids dragged to the store with their parents. I had almost no money and was seriously looking, and they totally killed that rare trip for me.

2. It is totally possible to shop at thrift stores as a bigger girl and find a ton of stuff; I thrift-shopped last night and came away with nearly a dozen new shirts for less than $60. One trick: Shop the men's section for cute sweaters, preppy polo shirts, offbeat T-shirts, and often misplaced larger women's items. I find a far larger selection of things I can actually wear at thrift stores than I do at places like Target (I love that store for basic life essentials, but it can take all of its weirdly cut, rip-prone fast fashion and bury it).
posted by limeonaire at 6:35 PM on February 24, 2014

I volunteer 2 hours a week at a thrift store and get a 60% discount on my purchases. So that is my biggest successful tip. Being in the store when it gets re-stocked and having a list of things I am looking for really helps.

I have replaced all of my kitchen pans with much better quality pots and pans by buying them as I find them. They don't match but who really cares about those things.

Not being thirsty, hungry or tired really helps me stay focused and not buy crap. There is lots of crap in thrift stores that has to be ignored.
posted by cairnoflore at 10:49 PM on February 24, 2014

Huh. These answers have made me realize that I do kind of have A System.

I am very, VERY good at thrift shops. I have got a pretty large wardrobe, and pretty much all of it besides socks, leggings, tights, underwear, and things I've made are from thrift stores. I'm not looking at labels, though. I have my own particular style, and I look for things that fit that, labels be damned. I also don't judge my purchases based on how much less expensive they were than they would have been new. I have no idea how much they would have cost new, because I don't buy new clothes. I judge them based on how much I like them. That would be my first recommendation: if you're fussy about Designer Things, go get them at the Designer Thing Store, because it would be horrifically frustrating to try to be that specific in a thrift store.

I am fortunate enough to wear almost all black with occasional jewel tones. That limits what I need to look through. I do usually go in with a few things in mind that I am looking for, but generally, not specifically. "Some kind of neat skirt", for example. Or "sweaters". I look through those sections, flipping through the black quickly but thoroughly and scanning the racks for other items in colours I might like. I do go through both the small and medium sections, and sometimes the large if I'm feeling especially assiduous. Not only do women's clothing sizes make no sense, but the people who sort the garments often have different ideas about what falls into a given category. I also skip the "boutique" section they often have near the front of the store. That just means "more expensive" to me, and I know I'm almost certainly going to find something awesome in the $4 section anyway. But that is where you're likely to find Designer Label things.

I always look at dresses. I always look at skirts. I always look at shoes. I'm a little less interested in tops, because I consider myself to have enough of those (but 50 black dresses is, apparently, insufficient). I found out Clarks shoes existed because I found two completely new pairs at a thrift store for $8 each. Oh my, was that a discovery. I look in other sections for anything else I need. And, though this will apply to pretty much no one else, I look in the furniture section for cool stuff to turn into snake cages. I have some pretty great snake cages now.

It may be easier for me because I'm pretty thin, and that often makes for less competition and what I consider to be cooler clothes. (I do not expect to start 'dressing my age' until and unless I start acting it, which doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon.) I am not at all average in shape according to American designers, but this really only means that if I'm not buying separates, I have to go for stretchy dresses. I don't buy trousers at thrift stores, because I have long legs and it just gets too depressing. But I don't have that problem with anything else. And I just realized that the fleece-lined leggings I am wearing right now actually *are* from the giant thrift store near my house. They sell new things too sometimes.

I go pretty frequently, probably every two weeks on average. But that's because thrift stores are my go-to for almost anything I need. Need an audio cable? Thrift store! Need a (musical) keyboard? Thrift store! Lamp? Tank top? New long wool coat with a hood and a seriously amazing flare at the waist? Thrift store! (Oh man that was a score.) So when you're going to be there for everything other than groceries anyway, it's not much of a hardship.

I am lucky enough to live near a really gigantic Goodwill right now, which makes all this a lot more one-stop. But it's been What I Do for years now, and judging by the length of this comment I am way more excited about it than I knew.

In conclusion, thrift stores are the best, and I have no idea how the hell anybody affords clothes at all without them.
posted by Because at 1:37 AM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

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