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Your Ultimate Guide to Thrift Shopping

Thrift shopping. It’s something you occasionally did with your grandma on Sunday mornings but never really thought much about until you saw it become a trend on social media.


People have been posting photos, blog posts, and YouTube videos sharing their amazing thrift store finds for a long time now. They inspire others to go out to their local thrift shop to see what they can find. However, many walk in and become overwhelmed and end up walking out empty handed.


Through the years I’ve done the majority of my shopping at thrift stores and always leave with good finds. My friends and family often ask me, “How do you do it?” which is why I’ve decided to put my tips and tricks for finding all of the best hidden gems in a thrift shop together to give you your ultimate guide to thrift shopping.


The first thing to discuss is attire. Wear shoes such as slides or slip-ons (with socks!) so you can easily try on shoes as you look for them. Avoid wearing sweaters, flannels or anything too bulky so you can try on jackets, cardigans or even regular pullover tops in the aisles and avoid waiting in line for the dressing room if you’re trying to save time. Believe it or not, thrift stores can get super busy, especially on sale days and you can be in line waiting for a dressing room for a while.


Bring headphones so you can listen to your favorite podcast or some music (maybe “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore) while you shop. It’s usually hard to hear the music they play in the stores and listening to your own gets you more pumped up and ready to look through all of the racks.


Also, be sure to bring water or coffee with you, it’s usually pretty dry in thrift shops and you can sometimes be in there for hours so it’s super important to stay hydrated.


I’ve found that the best place to start is in the shoe section. It’s the easiest spot to find cool items in, which is always a good note to start your thrift trip on. Look through all of the sizes, sometimes a pair of 7.5 shoes will be stretched out enough to fit someone who usually wears an 8. Don’t skip the kids section either, a lot of people can still wear kid size shoes and don’t realize it. For example, a kids 6 is equivalent to a women's 8.


The purses/bags/wallets section is usually pretty small, making it another easy section to visit when you first arrive. You can usually find some pretty good pieces but watch out for knock offs. Often times you will find high end bags marked at higher prices than the other bags, making you think that it’s authentic. However, this is not the case. Most stores just assume the authenticity of bags but a quick Google search will have you distinguishing between authentic and knock off Gucci in no time!


If you plan on taking your finds to the dressing room before you checkout, I recommend grabbing anything you find on the racks which you even remotely like and putting it in your cart. You don’t know for sure how you’ll feel about a piece of clothing until you try it on.


Don’t go into the store looking for something specific because chances are you won’t find it right away and if you only have one item on your mind the whole time you’ll miss out on so many other amazing finds. Look through all of the racks no matter of the size or gender sections. Oversized clothes are cute as they are, but you can always belt or crop them to make them fit better. The men’s section is full of gems including sweaters and band tees so never leave the store without checking it out.


Be sure to check everything for holes or stains before you buy it. I I usually do this as I try things on in the dressing room. On your way into the dressing room, check the rack where people leave the items they don’t want. Usually, when someone decides against purchasing an item it’s simply because it doesn’t fit them right, making it the perfect place to find some gems!


After I try everything on and figure out what I’m going to buy, I like to check the home section of the store to look for cool records and anything else I think might look cool in my room. There are always super unique pieces that you can use on their own or upcycle into something brand new. Stores like Urban Outfitters take inspiration from vintage pieces for their home goods section (and even a lot their clothing), so some of the things you get at the thrift shop will look like they came straight off of their website.


It’s really important that you don’t give up if you don’t find a ton of great stuff at first. Thrift stores are constantly bringing new items out for people to look at, so their inventory is always different. You could go in one day and find absolutely nothing and go back the next day and find two carts full of stuff.


Don’t lose hope and keep trying, next thing you know half of your wardrobe will be thrifted!

Samantha is a junior studying Broadcast Journalism and Criminology at the University of Kentucky.
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