I have been to the thrift store just short of 82 hundred times throughout this past month. Perhaps I have fallen in love with the men's section and perhaps I have under $200 all together on pretty much an entire month's worth of outfits, if you use a couple things twice. Anyhow, I wanted to give a behind the scenes look at the inside of my head when it's shopping for clothes. Being an adventurer, I want to find the most durable easy-to-care-for pieces that I won't be afraid to get dirty in, and I want to keep everything cheap so I can spend most of the money on the adventures themselves. If you're a frugal adventurer yourself, maybe you'll find these tips useful!
1. Keep an eye out for imperfections--but be imaginative.
Check for holes, stains, et cetera--but you don't necessarily have to put it back on the rack if you find something wrong! That hole in the sleeve is not such a big deal; the shirt's $3 anyway, and you can just patch it up and make it even better! Don't be intimidated. Sometimes I even search for clothes with holes and stains for an excuse to get crafty with them.
2. Peruse every section.
Don't let your gender, age, or size keep you out of a section of the store. Explore everything! Don't miss out on the comfort of men's clothes or the oversized shirts on the extra extra large rack. And I promise, it doesn't look weird! People naturally assume you're shopping for someone else--or they're doing the same thing, too!
3. Shop for the fabric, not just the clothes.
Keep an eye out for interesting patterns and textures. It is exponentially cheaper to buy used jeans than to buy denim fabric at the craft store, and that goes for regular fabrics, too. You can cut up the things you find and use them for patching, making accessories, or doing other projects. You could also buy t-shirts to cut up to make t-shirt yarn, and then a whole 'nother world opens up.
4. Remember footwear!
While you're probably not going to find the most enduring shoes at the thrift store, at under $10 a pair, maybe short-lasted shoes aren't totally cringe-worthy, especially if they're really rad and at a normal-priced shoe store, you would have whined over not being audacious enough to spend the money. Do check that the soles are still intact and everything looks pretty put together, because fixing shoes is not as easy as patching up holes in t-shirts.
5. Stay away from clothes that demand the dry cleaners.
Most times, these fancy fabrics can be tossed in the washing machine on gentle cycles with cold water, but I wouldn't even bother. I like clothes that are easy to take care of and can
6. Keep an eye on the price.
While thrift stores are known for cheap prices, sometimes a certain piece might be more expensive than expected, depending on if the store keeps track out of materials, brands, et cetera. Make sure to check the price tags on everything and only pay what you feel is acceptable.
7. Bring a few $20's and leave the rest at home.
Keep yourself from overspending by leaving your plastic money (credit/debit cards) at home and bringing a few $20 bills. It's easier and safer to pay with cash anyhow!
8. Dress for the dressing room.
If you're uncomfortable with getting too comfortable in a dressing room, have an undershirt and/or leggings on so you don't really have to get undressed. You can just put everything on over your tight-fitting clothes (except pants; it's too hard to try pants on over leggings because they add practically a centimeter to your dimensions!).
9. Have the right timing.
No one, especially not adventurers who've got places to be and things to do, wants to be stuck in line. Large thrift stores tend to be crowded after working hours in the evening, and even more so on the weekends. Try to go in the morning on a weekday, as early as possible (as soon as the store opens, if you can!). Otherwise, you'll be waiting in line for the dressing rooms forever, and then waiting to pay forever.
10. Be strange and be yourself.
Thrift stores are not one pop culture fashion conveniently thrown together for you with mannequins and posters for ideas. You have the freedom to mix things up and create your own style. Make it completely unique and don't let anyone stop you. Dress your body in removable art. Create yourself.
Essentially, the key is to be so creative that you want to bring the whole store home with you because you know what you could do with each and every piece. Go to the thrift store with the thought in your head that you are making art, and pick out everything necessary to assemble your masterpiece.
- Just because the dressing rooms say something like "6 item limit" doesn't necessarily mean there's a 6 item limit. From my experience, if you ask, they'll let you go in with a cart full of stuff.
- Sometimes there's no mirrors in the dressing rooms; you have to walk out to look at yourself. Stand there as long as you'd like and twirl as much as you need to. There's nothing to feel embarrassed about and you're never going to see the strangers surrounding you ever again.
- Feel free to wash all those used clothes you bought in the same washing cycle and even in the dryer, because this isn't their first wash! They've probably been through several washes already, enough to wash out all the excess dye that might have once turned a load of clothes red and to shrink them to their final size.
- I know the perfumes some stores use can be strong and tough to get out, but I've had success hanging my clothes outside to dry. The breeze sucks the smells right out, after 12 hours or so. Also, if your washing machine is energy efficient, it might not use enough water to get the smells out of your thrifted clothes, so soak them in a bucket of water or in the bathtub first and then put them in the wash while they're sopping wet.