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

Thrifting is not as easy as it seems on social media. Thrift hauls make it appear as if every trip will result in multiple unique vintage finds, but oftentimes you’ll be lucky if you find one good piece after hours looking through the racks. However, lucky for you, I’ve got years of thrifting experience under my belt and a few tricks I use to optimize my trip, helping me leave with cool pieces that fit. 

Wear clothes you can layer on top of

Lots of thrift stores don’t offer change rooms, and that can be a pain if you aren’t sure whether the clothes you like will fit you. So, try to prepare for your trip by wearing clothing you can layer other clothes on top of. Think rompers, jumpsuits, leggings, tank tops – and if you aren’t comfortable with the skin-tight look, you can throw other clothes on top and remove them when you’re trying stuff on. It isn’t always comfortable, and by no means glamorous, but it helps prevent the devastation of trying on your haul when you get home. No one likes to discover that half of the clothes they bought don’t fit! It’s way worse than looking a little silly in the thrift store (trust me, no one cares).

Have a plan

This is probably my biggest tip: know what you’re looking for! Set out goals for what you want to find while at the thrift store. From accessories to specific clothing brands — once you have a plan, it’s easier to keep a clear mind. Thrift stores can be overwhelming, and not everyone has the capacity to spend hours hunting through the entire place without a mission. Make a list, and use it as a guideline for your trip! It’s okay to go off course, but having a goal (or a few) is great for efficiency.

into diy? check out the home section

The home section, where you’ll find sheets, curtains, blankets and the like is perfect for DIY projects and sewing! If you’re just getting started, want some cheap but durable fabric, or just want to play around – it won’t hurt the bank and vintage cloth is better secondhand than a lot of new modern fabrics. I’ve bought tapestry blankets and turned them into tote bags for friends, and used bed sheets as the liner! It’s an easy project that only requires a sheet, a blanket, and either basic hand-sewing or machine-sewing skills. Measure a tote bag you already have for measurements, and you’re all set! The home section at the thrift store is an oasis for those who want to make things on a budget.

always look in the men’s section

This one is more specific, and might not apply to everyone. I’m lucky that I fit into a men’s size 28 pants and have a preference for oversized tops, so I always make sure to look through the men’s section. I’ve found a vintage Armani Emporio suede leather jacket, Tommy Hilfiger pants, and countless high-quality sweaters in the men’s section, so I can’t miss any opportunity to take a peek in there. It also gives me a chance to look for things my brothers or father might like, so I’m killing two birds with one stone!

look for out-of-place clothing piles

Going back to the whole “thrift stores usually don’t have changing rooms” thing, this means that people will leave their try-on castaways all around the store. I find these usually to be concentrated near the mirrors (duh) and it can be a great way to find something that’s amazing but just didn’t fit the last person right! You can also take it a step further and keep an eye on anyone you pass by in the store that has a similar style or vibe to you. The second I see teenagers or women with similar styles to mine, they’re on my radar until I see them try things on and leave to make their purchase. The second they leave their makeshift try-on zone, I swoop on over like a vulture to take a peek at what they’d passed on. Yes, it can be creepy, but I strongly believe it’s worth it when I leave the thrift store with a perfect piece I’d almost missed out on because it was in someone else’s cart. You can also keep an eye out for restocking carts/racks, as they might have one of the things you’re looking for!

I look at thrifting as if it is a mission to find the missing puzzle pieces in my wardrobe. Every trip, I manage to find at least one thing that sparks joy — and often, I find multiple. My last little tip is to try and go through any sections a second time if you find your mind lingering on them. There’s so many things at a thrift store it’s impossible to see them all the first time- and if I hadn’t done this on my most recent trip, I wouldn’t have a gorgeous pair of 80’s mom jeans that are quickly becoming my favorite pair of pants. Most of my suggestions are time-consuming, but I strongly believe they have made all of my thrift store trips worthwhile. I hope you’re able to take away something from this, and best of luck in your thrifting journey.

Amy Cooper

York U '25

I am a third year at York University majoring in Media Arts and minoring in Psychology. I have special interests in fashion, theatre, psychology, and nature :) I hope you like my work!