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The Art of Thrifting: Four Tips to Think Before You Buy

Thrift shopping, or “thrifting,” as the cool kids call it, gives you the chance to increase the individuality of your own wardrobe while giving a helping hand to the environment, and, at the same time, allows you to effectively limit your monthly fashion spending. As the hobby of thrifting (for good reason) has snowballed in popularity among teenagers, college students and young adults, it can be difficult or even impossible in the right store, at the right time, to really make the best use of your budget while endless racks of outfit opportunities call your name. If you often find yourself conflicted and even overwhelmed once setting foot in a thrift store when it comes to narrowing down what ends up with you at the register, here are four questions that you can ask yourself about each item to end up with the perfect shopping bag.

1. “Will this go out of style soon? (And does that bother me?)” 

Society, unfortunately, has made it a protocol to collectively decide that a fashion idea can be “in” one week and absolutely “out” the next. When considering an item in your hand at a thrift store, you may be thinking it’s an absolutely steal to find something that’s all the rage in that current moment, but try to evaluate if you’ll still love it as much when American fashion has decided to turn its eyes to something else. Or, if that’s the opposite of your groove and you want to march to your own stylistic drum—aka, you’ll know you’ll love the item regardless of what Vogue says, you may have a stronger reason to keep it in your hands. 

2. “Is this something that I can wear every season?”

With a few exceptions, such as down jackets and swimsuits, the smartest thrift shopping, in my opinion, is going in with a sense of practicality. This in part means considering if you can get repeated use out of an item, whether it be during the rainy winters or golden summers in Seattle–in other words, consider if you could see yourself layering the item either under or over something else, switching up its paired accessories, or if it’s overall something that you can make a million different looks out of when you’re hit with different weather before putting it back on the rack.

3. “Do I have anything else similar to this?”

Believe me, I know how exciting it can be to find something in a thrift store that you can never get enough of, but while we all have certain closet staples that are painful to pass up, it’s worthwhile to ponder if you really need another Brandy Melville-style T-shirt or oversized sports team hoodie. If you realize that what you’re looking at is something that your closet has no shortage of, and if the price is impractical for your wallet, it may be helpful to pool that money for buying that other rare find in your hand that you’re unlikely to discover again. 

4. “Does it match well with something I already have?”  

Thrift stores are treasure chests for finding hidden gems that can add some fun versatility to your wardrobe, and while it can be tempting to buy everything you have your heart set on, try to evaluate each item by imagining yourself making an outfit with it by designing it with other items you already have, not things you plan to buy later. If you can’t perfectly imagine what this item would match with, chances are you won’t wear this outlier, which may mean your money would be better spent on something that you can more easily see fitting your typical daily style. 

Hailey Hummel

Washington '23

Hailey is a current junior at the University of Washington, majoring in Public Health—Global Health and minoring in Law, Societies, and Justice. She loves hiking, traveling around the state of Washington and the world, making art, playing piano, taking pictures, and spending time with her friends.
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