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Venturing into a thrift store can be pretty intimidating, especially if you are new to the hunting game. But fear not! Exploring a secondhand shop can become exciting and fulfilling when you know a few things to hunt for on your trip. Here are some unique things that I search for while thrifting to guarantee excellent secondhand finds, for both their earth-friendly element and low-price tags.

unique bowls for housing your plants

Thrift stores are often full of glassware and kitchen items that would work well for plants to occupy. Just recently, I spotted a white ceramic bowl-like structure for one dollar at a Goodwill in Boston, which turned out to be an old Edible Arrangements bouquet vase. Now, it’s happily housing one of my newest plant additions. Not only is buying a pot for your plant at the thrift store more sustainable, it’s also a whole lot cheaper — leaving the earth, your plant, and your wallet pleased.

a timeless jewelry piece

A thrift store’s jewelry section often holds at least a few classic items that could be great accent pieces to wear on your next outing. More often than not, I discover a set of simple, timeless pearl studs, or more exquisite designs — like ornate dangling earrings — amongst the jewelry area for roughly under $5 a pair.

Classic sweaters in the men’s section

For some of you avid thrifters, it may not be a surprise that the men’s section is an excellent place to catch great secondhand finds — especially simple and classic sweaters. Given the greater absence of trendy clothing in menswear, this section typically holds a consistent amount of timeless patterns, shades, and silhouettes that can be styled in endless ways.

One garment to keep an eye out for year-round are sweaters, and the array you’ll find is vast; anything from argyle v-necks for a sophisticated look, to chunky and colorful Coogi-inspired knits for a 90s retro vibe. If you are anything like me, you enjoy getting wrapped up in an oversized sweater during any time of the year, and the men’s section of a thrift store is where you’ll find high-quality, classic sweaters.

Pro tip: the men’s section is often teeming with name brands such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, and Lacoste, especially the sweater section. Seek out these labels to guarantee you’re catching a quality find for a steal.

silk and lace tanks in the sleepwear section

Now, I know what you’re thinking: styling secondhand sleepwear might seem a little too far. But let me just say, some of my most versatile and most complimented thrifted pieces were found by scrounging through this section. Regardless of how this fabric — and all fabric at the thrift store — lived before arriving there, a lot of it is worthy of more love (just with some attention from our washing machines first). Silky and dainty tanks in this section can elevate any look through layering over fitted t-shirts or sweaters, for just a low price.

versatile strappy heels

Finding shoes in your size at thrift stores is a hit or miss. I’ve been lucky enough to have found a handful of incredible little retro heels while thrifting, so it’s worth it to peek in the shoe section every trip. Heels are staples for events year-round, so it’s definitely an area to check out on your next thrifting adventure.

thrift store shoes
Original photo by Samantha Butts

Heading to a secondhand store for items like these — before checking out newly-produced pieces at other retailers — would be doing the Earth a little favor, and most likely your wallet as well. The extra time spent searching at a thrift store for what you need combats the problem of overproduction and waste in our economy — plus, when you get complimented on what you own or what you’re wearing, you get to boast and say, “Thanks, I thrifted it!”

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Anna Tempestoso

U Mass Amherst '23

Anna is a junior honors student at UMass Amherst with a double major in Sustainable Business Practices in Fashion and Communication. Apart from being a college student, she spends her time hunting for thrift finds, upcycling bed sheets and drapes into clothing, bird-watching, and hanging out with her dog Enzo.
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