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A Beginner’s Guide to Thrift Shopping

Before I came to Mount Holyoke, the only thrift stores I ever went to were places like Goodwill and Savers. Since my sister studied Theater Arts, she always took me with her to look for costumes or props, and that was about it. I don’t think I recognized the aesthetic value/potential of used clothing until I was introduced to the unique thrift shopping experience of cities like Northampton and Amherst. If you’re on the hunt for one-of-a-kind, fun, vintage clothing to spice up your wardrobe, or if you’re looking to save some money, quit shopping at Urban Outfitters and head to a local thrift store instead! If you are not sure how or where to start, keep reading for a few helpful tips.


Scout for the best thrift stores beforehand.

Thrift store chains normally have a more generic-looking selection of clothes in a wide variety of sizes. They also have a bunch of miscellaneous items like furniture and household appliances. It can be a “hit or miss” depending on the location, but it’s always fun to browse (or take pictures of the weird things you find). Independent stores tend to be more reliable in terms of quality because they have a smaller, slightly more refined selection, so you can definitely expect to find at least one thing that catches your attention. Luxe Consignment Store and 2nd Time Around, are both popular places to shop in Northampton.


Don’t come in search of a very specific outfit or article of clothing such as a vintage Babe Ruth New York Yankees jersey– you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

The beauty of thrift shopping is that you never know what to expect. Even if you’re going to the same store, you’ll always see something different. Majority of the items and clothing in thrift stores are on-of-a-kind, so even if you didn’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you might leave with something even better.


Know the value of high-quality materials and fabrics.

Thrift stores are really great places to find things like leather jackets, warm fleece, anything with hand-stitching, and nicely worn-in denim. I was able to get my hands on a 1970s Old Navy denim jacket and it’s sturdy yet soft, and has lasted a lot longer than any jacket I’ve bought from places like Forever 21.


Think about what you have in your closet while you’re shopping.

Keep in mind specific colors you might want to add to your wardrobe as well articles of clothing you might be missing or already have too much of. If you buy a bunch of outlandish clothing but don’t have anything else that matches with them, putting together outfits will be a lot harder. Remember when Ted from HIMYM bought red cowboy boots but didn’t have anything to wear them with or any occasion to wear them to? Yep, they just ended up sitting in his closet.


Know how to bargain.

Outdoor pop-up shops and some independently owned thrift stores sometimes don’t have set prices on the clothing or goods they have for sale. This means you can name a reasonable price and they’ll be willing to negotiate. (Note: you cannot do this at regular chain stores.)


Give the ugly clothes a chance.

The saying “the first impression is the last impression” does not apply to thrift shopping! In my experience, there are clothes that will initially look ugly on a hanger—mainly because they’re not presented on a mannequin and perfectly ironed—but once you try them on you’ll see their full potential as staples of your wardrobe. In any case, “ugly” clothes are more unique and are way more fun to wear.

You’ll undoubtedly see a ton of quirky stuff at any thrift store you go to, so it’s really easy to get carried away, but try not to buy something you know you won’t need just because it’s cheap. For anyone looking to explore a new personal style, thrift stores are the best way to start. Have fun shopping and if you can’t find anything you like at first, you can always come back another weekend to find a brand new selection of clothes to choose from.


Images [a] [b] [c] [d] [e] [f]

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Kalea Martin

Mt Holyoke '19

Buongiorno! I'm Kalea. I love dogs, ice hockey, and breakfast. My skills include giving hugs and singing Les Mis in the shower.
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