Tips For Thrift Store Shopping

Vintage Prom Night Dress

The Vintage Prom Night Dress

Here at ModCloth, thrifting is a way of life, and we wanted to share with you some of the knowledge we’ve picked up along the way. Here are some of our best tips for thrift store shopping:

*Shop often – If you’re serious about finding amazing items, it’s best to shop at least once a week. When and how often thrift stores put out new items varies per store – ask an employee how often new items are put out and plan accordingly.

*For the best variety, shop a variety of thrift stores – Check out to search for all the thrift stores in your area.

*Inspect all items very carefully — look for torn seams, missing buttons, broken zippers, stains, or any other imperfection. Know what you can deal with and what is unsalvageable.

*Found the perfect item but it’s flawed? Get creative with cover ups — would a brooch cover the imperfection on that vintage silver clutch? More…

*Don’t just look in your size — A way-too-small coat might have the most fabulous vintage buttons that you can reuse — and items too big can always be taken in if you have the sewing skills.

*Don’t just shop in the women’s section – We’ve found cute stuff in the kid’s section and the men’s section — sometimes no altering necessary. Look for cute tees in both the boy’s and girl’s section, and definitely check out the men’s section for accessories like wallets and belts.

What to put in your purse:

*Tape Measure — Whether you’re looking for furniture and paintings or not — when you find the perfect piece you’re going to want to make room for it — and it will be good to know if you have the room!

*Stain remover wipes/pens — unfortunately stains are sometimes a part of vintage clothing — best to know if that stain will come out sooner than later. (Just make sure it won’t damage the garment).

*Hand Sanitizer — sometimes in your quest for the perfect vintage item you may have to venture in a store that isn’t as clean as it could be — best to be prepared.

Hopefully you’ve found one or two tips that will help on your next shopping trip. If you have any other advice we’d love to hear it, and best of luck on your quest for that one-of-a-kind amazing outfit!


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  1. Avatar
    stefanie 11/21/2008 at 6:05 pm #

    As a longtime thrift shopper (and author of a few articles about it) I’d like to add a few more to the must-do list:

    1. Take your allergy pills. Thrift stores and their merchandise are dusty, and if you’re planning on hitting up more than one at a time, you’ll be sneezing and/or itching before you leave the second.

    2. It’s OK to walk away from something. If you’ve been in the store for an hour and you still have the same almost-perfect-if-it-were-only-in-my-color-or-style item in your hesitant hands, leave it! It’s sure to be perfect for someone else, and thrifting is absolutely an exercise in karma.

    3. Jam an extra, empty bag into your suitcase so you can thrift on holiday! Plan a day wherein you hit the outskirts of whatever city your visiting, because, even if your hosts swear that local stores are picked over and pointless, what’s fashionable and/or sensible where they live is often different from what you want to wear in your hometown.

  2. Avatar
    Magdalena 11/22/2008 at 5:09 am #

    I love this place:
    I’m one the ETSY:

    Best regards

  3. Avatar
    Rachel 11/22/2008 at 2:21 pm #

    1. Bring along a friend, preferibly one that is a different size or has a different style. A friend can tell you if something fits and give you creative ideas of how to work a piece into your wordrobe. If she is a different size, if you find something great that’s too big or small, you can pass it over to her. If you find something great that she likes also, promise to give her your next great find.

    2. Look for dollar-a-pound stores in which you can search through piles of great clothes, shoes, and bags. Almost everything is $1 or less because it’s priced by the pound. This is fun to do with a group because everyone can find things for each other.

    3. If you’re in the Boston/ Cambridge area, I highly recommend the Garment District in Cambridge. The bottom floor is dollar-a-pound, and the top floor is organized by garment and time period (resonable prices too!). They also sell local designer clothing, costumes and have a silkscreening station with totes and t-shirts. I was lucky enough to go there on a day when the entire second floor was having a half-off sale!

    Good luck thrifting everyone!

  4. Avatar
    mikaela 11/23/2008 at 9:17 am #

    lol, this isnt a handy hint, but its what i do with my mums friend and my sister. we go into the thrift stores and find the most hideous thing, try it on and take a photo, its fun to do if you cant find what your looking for:) good for a laugh.
    oh a btw, always budget, you may get carried away on all the great deals and totally break the bank…or all your pocket money….trust me…ive been there:)

  5. Avatar
    Jenny the Nipper 11/24/2008 at 5:29 pm #

    If you see some amazing TDF thing in a thrift store and it’s not in your size start looking for it on Ebay. Do more than one search, do a favorite search (where ebay looks for you automatically every day for six months), get creative with keywords, description, etc and always remember that many of the best vintage gems on ebay are not sold in the vintage section at all. For example I found an awesome Vintage Norma kamali sweater by searching “Kamali” and price low- to high. I snagged a great Missoni sweater by checking “Missoni” auctions ending soonest, etc.

    Also if you find a great vintage seller on Ebay check back with them frequently, just like you would a thrift store.

    Oh, and the search term “NOS” or new old stock has yielded some of my most amazing finds ever.

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