Thrift Shopping FAQ: Everything You Wanted to Know

Posted On Friday, December 9th, 2011
Filed Under: How To, Looking FLY on a Dime, shopping, Thrift Stores

For as long as I’ve been blogging {two years} and as long as I’ve been thrift store shopping {at least five years}, I get the same questions related to thrifting. I’ve done thrift shopping frequently asked questions before but I’m compiling the answers again for anyone who’s new to the blog as well as adding some additional info.

Q: How do I find a good thrift store in my area?
A: Thrift stores aren’t created equally, so it’s really a matter of trial and error. It takes time to find the store that’s best for you. Take a drive or walk around your area to scope out secondhand shops, ask friends for referrals and visit websites for national chains like Salvation Army and Goodwill to find a location near you. And be sure to check out The Thrift Shopper, it’s a national directory of resale shops.

Q: I live in a small town, will I find good stuff at my thrift store?
A: Some people tend to think only major cities have awesome thrift stores, and this is so not true. Though I’m in NYC, I’ve come across some really crappy stores. Sometimes, it’s the smaller cities that have better merchandise: vintage pieces and the stuff isn’t as picked over. If you don’t think so, check out what I found while thrifting in a small town in Ohio. There’s also online thrift shopping like shopgoodwill.com and shop.housingworks.com.

Q: I’m plus size, will I find anything at a thrift store?
A: Um, yeah! Women and men of all sizes donate to secondhand stores, so you’ll find everything from a size 2 to 20. You may have to dig a little deeper to find pieces, but that’s the same for anyone who isn’t “average” height or weight. I’m only 5’2 so at times I find pants that have to be altered and I’m sure tall women, those with long arms, legs, etc have the same issue. Check out the post I did on how to thrift shop for plus sizes and there also may be a shop in your area specifically for pluses. On my next Nate Berkus Show appearance {more details on that later}, I gave a makeover to a woman who’s a size 18. All of her pieces came from the thrift store.

Q: I feel weird about wearing someone else’s clothes. Is thrifting sanitary?
A: If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this, I could open my own vintage shop! Of course you should wash all thrifted clothing before wearing them, but there’s nothing dirty about thrift shopping. In my post “Is thrift shopping clean?,” I argued that when you purchase clothes from a new store, you just wear them directly off the rack without washing them. You don’t know who wore them before you, how many people tried them on, etc. But with thrift shopping, you sanitize the clothes so you’re sure that everything is clean before you wear them. Here are some tips on how to clean thrift store clothes and as a general rule, I dry my clothes for a few minutes {to kill any pesky germs} then wash and dry them again.

Q: What are your favorite thrift stores in NYC?
A: My top three thrift stores:
**Salvation Army on 46th St: this location is super organized by garments and color. Like seriously, it doesn’t get any easier than this. The staff is friendly, prices are super affordable and I’ve never walked out empty-handed.
**Goodwill on East 23rd St: I discovered this shop when I collaborated with Sammy Davis Vintage on Thrift Wars. This is another organized shop and you’ll find some high end threads like Diane von Furstenberg, Nicole Miller, Fendi and more.
**Goodwill Outlet in Long Island City: I love this place so much that I originally resisted telling everyone about it, but I knew I had to share the love. Clothing here is priced at $1.69 per pound. Yes, clothing is priced by the pound. Everything is thrown in bins, so it takes a bit of work, but it’s so worth it.

Q: Should I bring anything with me when I’m thrifting?
A: My thrifting adventures tend to be last minute but when I do go, I try to make sure I have a few essentials to make my shopping trip easier. Not every store has a mirror {like my Goodwill Outlet} so I bring my camera so another patron can take a pic of me in an item I slip on so I can see how it really looks. It’s also a good idea to bring little stocking booties {you know, the little stockings you slip on when trying on shoes at the store?} if you’ll be trying on a pair of heels. I also know some people who bring gloves and/or hand sanitizer for digging through bins.

Q: What’s your best thrift shopping tip?
A: Well, I have two big ones.

  • Bring a Buddy

I like to shop alone, but when I thrift, I tend to have company. A friend can tell you how a jacket really looks on you if there’s no mirror around and you can help each other shop. If you’re searching for a particular item, tell your buddy and she can grab anything that might fit what you want {and you do the same for her as well}. Two sets of eyes and hands are always better than one. At the last Housing Works Buy the Bag sale, my friend found an Armani blazer for me.

  • Be Patient

I can’t stress this enough. The inventory at a thrift store is never certain so some days you’ll find a cart full of great clothes and other days you may walk away empty handed. If you start to get too frustrated that you’re not finding anything, then you’ll probably continue to find nothing because you’re focused more on your frustration than snagging a hidden treasure. The more you go thrifting, the more patient you’ll become.

Q: Do you have any thrift shopping don’ts?
A: My biggest thrift shopping mistake has been overspending. Dont let the prices seduce you. Before you buy that $2 dress, ask yourself if you want it because it’s a great frock or you just want it because it’s cheap. I’ve suffered from buyer’s remorse quite a few times when I buy something for a few bucks, get it home and realize it’s not my style or requires way too much repair. And most thrift stores don’t offer refunds or exchanges so think long and hard before making any purchases. Check out my post on How Not to Overspend While Thrift Shopping for more tips and from fellow thrifting queen Sammy Davis Vintage: 34 tips on how to thrift store shop.

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4 thoughts on “Thrift Shopping FAQ: Everything You Wanted to Know

  1. Thanks for sharing this post! This is very helpful for me and my friends who always have questions about thrifting (especially for plus sizes).  You answered all of the common questions people usually ask!

    I appreciate the tips 🙂

  2. Pingback: Thrift Store Shopping: 10 Risky Things Not to Buy « Sammy Davis Vintage

  3. Pingback: 3 Tips For Dealing with an Unsuccessful Thrift Shopping Trip | Looking Fly on a Dime

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