Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Alabama chapter.

No matter why you’re thrifting, whether it be for environmental reasons, a good bargain, or a TikTok trend, walking into a thrift store for the first time can seem a little overwhelming. If you haven’t thrifted before, picture a Goodwill almost like a TJ Maxx, but without the Maroon 5 playing in the background and with the slight scent of age. The items you find in a thrift store can also be a bit less conventional, with goods ranging from ceramic frogs to prom dresses that look straight out of 2004 (they probably are). Instead of walking in blind to your nearest second-hand store, you may find some suggestions handy to have a successful shopping trip. Here are five tips that may be helpful the next time you head to Salvation Army!

Don’t shy away from a statement piece.

Some items in a thrift store might seem too outrageous to style in the real world, and some of them are. Most of them, however, have endless possibilities with just a little bravery. Vintage silhouettes and bold neons aren’t uncommon finds in a thrift store. Styling pieces out of your comfort zone may be a learning curve, but it’ll pay off when you get to wear outfits that are unique and exciting.

Be prepared for slow fashion.

When you go thrifting, the majority of the items you find won’t look like they’re from Shein. You’ll find a lot (and I really do mean a lot) of grandma sweaters and cargo shorts your dad would love. This ties in closely with my first suggestion: thrift store clothes can be really weird. In the age of online shopping, fast fashion, and trends that literally change every month, we forget how to work with vintage pieces, especially those that would be considered “timeless.” Breaking out of a fast-fashion mindset is essential before trying to sort through a thrift store.

Look beyond the clothing section.


Most people go to the thrift store solely for clothes, which is great. However, there are often so many quirky items hidden in what I call the “knick-knacks” section. While you might not have space in your car to take home furniture, there’s plenty of options to liven up your living space. Some of my favorite finds have been matching colored wine glasses, funky art prints in their original frames, and a set of felt ducks that I was obsessed with. Again, there will be items that are probably unusable or not worth the effort to buy, but the “knick-knack” section is always worth a look!

Remember that everything is dirty.

There’s a myth that thrift stores wash all the clothes they receive. This is a lie. Everything smells a little musty and the clothes don’t exactly feel clean to the touch. This isn’t to scare you, but rather serve as a reminder to break out of the fast fashion mindset. Thrift stores aren’t like H&M. Everything’s a bit dusty and you’ll want to wash your hands when you leave. This doesn’t stop me from shoving my way through the racks, but I do try on clothes over what I’m already wearing. Especially considering the current pandemic, nothing is as clean as you might expect. Be prepared to be uncomfortable! Leave behind your expectations of clothes shopping, wear your mask, and bring hand sanitizer.

Be proud of yourself.

Thrifting is a step in saving the planet, saving your budget, and getting out of your comfort zone. Whether you walk out with 10 new items or nothing at all, pat yourself on the back! You just took a step for yourself and for the world, and maybe you can go back for a second round sometime.

Colleen is a junior at the University of Alabama from Grand Rapids, MI. She's currently studying history and dance with minors in women's studies, classical civilizations, and the Blount Scholars program. Outside of school, Colleen loves watching period dramas, planning her future on Pinterest, and listening to Taylor Swift on repeat. Colleen is so excited to be a part of Her Campus and write about the things she loves!
Alabama Contributor