7 Tips for Finding Clothes That Last Forever From Your Local Thrift Store

You’ve spent hours at the thrift shop, and it’s time to go. That assignment isn’t going to do itself. You finally narrow it down to just four things, but it isn’t until you’re all the way back in your dorm that you spot it. The adorable vintage dress you just bought has a giant stain on it.

Nothing is worse than taking home a thrifted piece of clothing only to find out that you can’t even wear it. What’s the point of thrifting clothes if they’re only going to last a few weeks? As an avid thrifter myself (probably too avid), I’ve developed seven techniques to make sure the clothes I’m thrifting will last me just as long as clothing straight from the retailer.

  1. 1. Make sure the care label is readable and intact.

    Hear me out! Though a lot of vintage clothing might have translucent care labels, limiting your selection, they are essential to keep clothes looking fresh. You need those cleaning instructions handy, so you don’t ruin delicate fabrics! If you need help deciphering the symbols on your tags, refer to a laundry symbol guide. Keep in mind that thrifted clothing has already been worn and washed, so this step is even more important to stretch out their lifespan.

  2. 2. Hold the garment up to the light to detect barely-there stains.

    The fluorescent lights of most stores can make it hard to see yellow-tinged stains, especially on white clothing. Be sure to pull the fabric taught and hold it up to the light. If you see any mysterious outlines, consider upcycling the piece or putting it back on the rack. Don’t be afraid to shine your phone’s flashlight on the fabric too.

  3. 3. Turn it inside out (trust me, you’ll want to).

    White tees are notorious for armpit stains caused by a mixture of deodorant and sweat. These kinds of stains may be hard to see from the outside, but the inside will tell all. Taking a look at the interior could also reveal frayed seams and makeup stains. With elaborate garments—like beaded and lined pieces—turning it inside out can help you find holes that are hard to see in the intricately patterned fabric on the outside.

  4. 4. Lightly pull on the seams.

    Lightly don’t get crazy and rip that delicate lace dress. Tugging gently at the seams of your finds can show tiny holes with the potential to turn into massive tears after the first wash. Avoid the drama by checking for holes while you’re still in the store. The extra time it takes will definitely pay off in the long run.

  5. 5. Smell your garments.

    Always give your thrifted clothing a good whiff before sliding your card. Though you might be able to get out a light “thrift store” smell, I recommend avoiding strong odors. That way, you can be sure that your garments are wearable after the first wash.

  6. 6. Look for quality fabrics and name brands.

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    Don’t underestimate your local thrift store. Name brands and high-quality fabrics are among the racks, and it’s your mission to unearth them. Do your research! Identify brands you like, and keep an eye out for them. It’s also a good idea to learn your fabrics and how to care for them, so you don’t accidentally shrink a silk top in a hot drier! You could be searching for a satin piece and keeping an eye out for 100% silk satin means that you're getting a high-quality piece versus 100% polyester silk! Treat them right, and high-quality clothes will never leave your closet.

  7. 7. Can you incorporate your finds into your wardrobe?

    That hot pink blazer is perfect until you get home and realize you have exactly zero things to wear it with. Oops. Don’t let thrifted clothes sit unloved in your closet. When shopping, try to picture yourself wearing each piece in your cart. Make sure you can imagine at least three outfits that won’t require another purchase. If you’re lacking inspo, check out sustainable YouTubers who specialize in styling and upcycling.

With this advice, don’t be afraid to delve into the thrift store racks. Even when buying used, choosing clothing that’ll last you a long time is important. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, 11.2 million tons of textiles thrown in the garbage ended up in landfills in 2017. It seems that buying used clothing is only half the battle when it comes to textile waste (the other half is lowering how much you shop!). If you really want new clothes, purchase high-quality secondhand items and take good care of them. It’s the most environmentally friendly way to keep clothes in your closet and out of landfills. The planet (and your wallet) will thank you!