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How To Be A Pro At Thrift Shopping


By Bernadette Hoffman

Thrift shopping may not be on the radar for all shoppers, but it should be. Thrift shopping is becoming more popular each year, and people are realizing there’s nothing gross or unsophisticated about buying clothes that have already received a little love.       

The National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops reports the industry is growing at a rate of 5 percent a year and there are over 25,000 thrift shops in America. So, I can guarantee, you can find one in your area.

Everyone can benefit from thrift shopping whether you’re a parent, a college student, a tree hugger, or a fashionista. You save money, save the planet, and you look good doing it. Now who doesn’t want that?

I’m sure you’re ready to start your journey to becoming a thrifty fashion finder, but slow down and let me, with the help of an expert, teach you the tips and tricks to get the most bang for your buck.

Know Where to Go

If you need some guidance go to thethriftshopper.com. It tells you all of the stores listed in your area, complete with their hours, location, how to sign up for their mailing lists, and even reviews from other shoppers.

Thrift stores don’t just cater to clothing. There are stores that have jewelry, electronics, furniture, antiques, paintings, etc., so make sure you know what the store sells before you get there.

 Be Patient

The best merchandise moves quickly and can be sold the minute the staff sets it out on the floor. So, the more you go, the more you find good stuff. A regular on style segments for the Today Show and the author of the blog and book “Looking Fly on a Dime”, Patrice J. Williams offered her advice.

“I do a quick pop into Angel Street Thrift Shop a couple times a week. I quickly dart around the store for about 5 minutes to see if there’s anything worth looking at. I went on Saturday and didn’t find a thing. Then yesterday, I went in and found this Swarovski crystal necklace for about $15. I’ve been searching for a necklace to go with a dress for ages, but could never find one I liked under $50, even at discount stores.”


Find Designer Labels for a Bargain 

If your looking to find designer resale pieces, stores in affluent areas are going to have higher end merchandise. I live in Chicago where the best thrift stores are located in the fashionable hipster filled neighborhood Wicker Park.

At chain thrift stores like Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads Trading Company, the merchandise can be pricier, but you don’t have to worry about purchasing a knock off. The employees are trained fashion buyers and can easily answer your questions.

Still, I wouldn’t suggest ruling out thrift stores in less trendy areas. At Pilsen Vintage and Thrift in Lower West Side, Chicago, I bought Gucci leather tennis shoes for $11, and according to The Gloss, the original selling price for these was $395.

Sometimes thrift stores have no idea how much an item is really valued at, which means you could get ripped off or find something that’s worth a fortune.

Don’t Get Ripped Off

Sometimes even the best knock offs look like the real deal. Patrice J. Williams offered some advice for those who love a label, “An authentic designer handbag will have its lining stitched to the exterior and will be made of genuine leather. Usually designer bags have serial numbers and won’t have a label that reads “Made In China.”

Patrice also believes you should never be blinded by a brand name, “Yes some damage can be repaired, but don’t be swayed to buy something dirty or stained just because of the label.” Don’t be a label whore, if something looks like garbage it’s garbage.

Be Thrifty for the World

The production of clothing is costly to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that, “98% of the clothing purchased in the U.S. comes from abroad.”

That means that a sweater hanging on the rack at a department store traveled thousands of miles, using up energy and polluting the planet with coal and natural gas. Every garment you purchase second-hand means one less product produced and one less in a landfill.

Be Unique Be Thrifty

According to a survey of 250 people done by Savers, a Bellevue, Washington thrift store, “62% of regular thrift shoppers place importance on finding unique items for their wardrobes or homes.”

Thrift shopping isn’t just about saving money. It’s creating your own personal style and finding unique pieces that no one else has. If you buy a dress from a chain retailer like Macys or Urban Outfitters, countless other girls own that dress.

At a thrift store, they only have one of each garment. If you find something you love, it’s like it was made for you. Thrift stores have clothing from the past, so it doesn’t fit with the latest trends. You’ll stand out from the crowd and people will view you as a trendsetter, not a follower.

Now here’s some Macklemore to give you a little thrift shopping inspiration.

Photo by Douglas McAdams

Photo by Lily Masie




  • written by Bernadette Hoffman on March 14th, 2016
  • posted in Edit

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.