Browsing clothing racks in a thrift store can be time consuming, overwhelming and frustrating, or it can be invigorating, exciting and encouraging.
As a true Frugal Fashionista, I realize it’s all in how you approach “the hunt.”
Having a chunk of time to scour the racks by yourself is a slice of heaven, but if you don’t have the time luxury or you are a newbie to the thrift store hunt, here are five things I suggest to make your meandering minutes more meaningful.
Head straight for monochromatic colors.
Browsing through prints and patterns take time. Sticking to a monochromatic theme allows you the ability to mix and match accessories, as well as fun jackets, sweaters etc. Think through your present wardrobe and determine some additional core wardrobe pieces you’d like to have and start there. Do you need an additional long sleeve shirt for winter?
Then go to that section and allow your eyes to quickly scan for solid colors. It gives you a starting place. I know I always drill in finding some classy black pieces first, but that is personal opinion. Any solid colors are a great place to begin.
Realizing last year that my holiday classics were sorely lacking, I scanned for some rich red, deep purple and deep green shirts. I found three that I loved, and they got me through six weeks of holiday outfits by changing them up with different pants, skirts and wraps.
Look for creative details on the sleeves or hems.
When I am in a hurry and don’t have time to separate all the hangers, I will glance at the sleeves for a unique element. This approach has scored me some great pieces which I could have easily overlooked in my rush.
One of my favorite $3 Good Will finds starts off as a seemingly elegant, but typical black dress shirt.
It sure does take on a whole new look when I start walking. 🙂
It’s a beautifully simple, yet sophisticated blouse with such unique details on the sleeves. I also want to point out that this blouse was meant to be purely sexy. It’s got a sheer to it that you can see on the sleeves, and it’s really low cut. I address that issue by layering underneath a pretty $1 Banana Republic yard sale tank.
Besides the fact that this pink sweater is a bit bright, it really is not very flattering. It has that ‘box look’ that doesn’t do anything for any body type. Layering it underneath my black jacket so that the cool details show, this $2 sweater and $3 jacket was a hit.
And yes, I didn’t need to pull on the fringe. I think you would have gotten the idea just fine with out me stretching it out. 🙂
Use your hands and feel the fabric.
Yes, I incorporate all my senses into the thrift store shopping experience.
As I scan, I literally use my hand to brush across the sleeves that hang down. I would NOT want to miss that silk shirt or cashmere sweater for which I’ve been searching. That could definitely happen in a crowded rack if I didn’t incorporate the sense of touch. Often, I will take a second look at an outfit merely because it had a “I’ll sleep in it, it’s so comfy” feel.
Shop ahead and buy out of season.
I nearly passed up this cute red summer sun dress because I wouldn’t be able to wear it for six months.
I’m glad I snatched it up for $3.99. With a cute white cardigan, I will wear this for months. In smaller thrift stores, in-season clothing may be picked over, but if you’re open to thinking ahead, you can snag some deals on the upcoming seasons.
(There is a story behind this picture, ask my son. 🙂
Check the incoming rack and the racks near the dressing rooms.
If you are visiting a larger thrift store, chances are the workers will wheel out racks of clothing during your visit. Go browse those racks right away because if a classy dresser just happened to donate while you were shopping, you have hit the jackpot.
Just this week, I bought an amazing black leather jacket. They wheeled it out and my eyes spotted it on the end of the rack…whoot whoot. Just my size! (I really should have a pic of it here, shouldn’t I?) Also, let the people trying clothes on find some treasures for you. I have gotten items this way as well. They’ll find a bunch of things in their size (which happens to be your size) and it doesn’t work for them so they put it on the dressing room rack. It works for me. 🙂
Hopefully, these five tips will help as you begin to browse through clothes at a thrift store.
It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be time consuming. If you follow these ideas (these are just a few for starters), you’ll be well on your way to Quick Shopper/Frugal Fashionista status. (If you’re not already.) 🙂
love your tips and your photos!
Another Fabulous post with pics and great ideas! Love the red dress, pink piece, and black blouse! Thanks for sharing! ~C
ps used your tissue paper ‘poof-balls’ idea for my daughters 7th birthday party decorations…so cute 🙂 Thanks!
Awesome tips!!! This helps so much… and works for yard sales too! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! Blessings!
Thanks for the tips!
I shop by feel as well. I have sensitive skin and feel better wearing natural fabrics.
I seem to have become a walking commercial for Good Will, but that’s okay.
The thrill of the hunt and the WONDERFUL prices keep me coming back for more!
Our Goodwill has a “dirt cheap” section where they try to get rid of clothing that has been in the store too long by offering pieces for 50 cents to a dollar. I have found great finds there because the clothes were donated in the wrong season. Just yesterday I found a Talbots heather turtleneck for $1, last week I found a skirt, a turtleneck (with the tags still on) and a pair of jeans. Check it out at your store!
Thanks for sharing your finds. You inspire me to be more frugal each time I visit your site. Your pictures are always beautiful too!
Great tips! I want to add that it’s great to find out your favorite thrift store’s sale schedule.
At mine, Thursdays are half-off ladies’ “upscale clothes.” Saturdays are $0.99 for a certain color of tag.
I save the most money when I show up in the morning of those sales.
Reading your posts about thrift shopping always makes me want to go. I was already planning on hitting two Goodwills today so that’s good. 🙂
Just found your blog, wonderful! I started thrift shopping last year, I have missing out.
I also do the feel the fabric.
Great tips all in one place. I was just in a thrift shop this morning, found some gems and thought of you!
Excellent ideas – I do most of those, but don’t usually have a free hand to feel b/c I’m track of the kiddos! Scanning the incoming rack at my tiny thrift store is especially important b/c I’ve seen almost everything else in the store! Oh, except the other day when I was looking for rain coats for my girls and the owner pointed out a whole section of jackets and rain coats I’d NEVER seen! No kid ones though. But if I need one …
Gorgeous red dress, and I love the little black jacket…think it’s the 3rd picture. Too cute! You’ll be a hot mama for sure in your cute outfits. 🙂
Thank you for this! I don’t usually shop thrift stores only because I am so overwhelmed when I walk in and most of the stuff I wouldn’t consider buying. I think my eyes are drawn to the outdated styles and prints, but this guide makes so much sense. Thank you! I’m going to try this soon!
Great ideas. I found a beautiful cashmere sweater–in my size and favorite color!–on the rack by the fitting room a few weeks ago. Grabbed it! 🙂 Love that red dress on you.
Wow! You are so gorgeous–you make it all look good. When are we having another fashion show/ link up? I’ve been taking pictures and all.
Thanks for continuing to inspire us! Great finds.
BTW, right after my thrifting blog post, I scored two pairs of jeans (dark wash, updated styling) for $2.50 each! Whoot,whoot!
you look BEAUTIFUL in that red dress! Kelly
Scored some great deals at the thrift-store today myself!! What a giddy feeling! 🙂
Found some silk scarves; thanks for the inspiration–wouldn’t have given them a second thought otherwise! Thanks!! 🙂
Wrote about it here:
Hee hee…now off to run some errands wearing some of my new finds 🙂
Thanks for coming and visiting my blog. I’m not disappointed! I’ll be looking forward to the NOvember show.
Thanks you so much for these posts. you are inspiring me to get more in fashion while shopping a little at a time. I posted about your series on my blog http://www.sassysupersaver.com/
You always get the cutest things for so cheap!!! I also love that cute black coat! I will definitely be posting about my new frugal fashions and linking it here to your blog!!!!
Jen, I have so missed your blog! I’ve been so busy with Etsy that I haven’t had time to read that much! I love these tips…Sound Man and Kiddo went today to Salvation Army and found Kiddo some much needed jeans. Love it!
I have the last red dress. I bought it at Sam’s and thought I was getting a good deal at $19.99! 🙂 Thanks for the fun posts. Love your blog.
Thank you for the tips- thrift stores have always overwhelmed me (and my organized self =) and these tips will certainly help!
I’ve been secondhanding for years and I’ve learned a few tricks from reading your post. Thanks for sharing!
That was awesome and super helpful! I am always so overwhelmed looking at racks and racks of clothing! Thanks so much!
These are great tips! I was so glad to read that I utilize 4 out of 5 :0)! I am not sure if this is a countrywide offer, but all the Salvation Army stores I have visited have “Family Day”. Wednesday all clothing, coats, shoes, scarves, etc. except the current colored tag is 1/2 price! Not jewelery, furniture, toys, brick a brack, etc. We would never be able to cloth our family of 6 without good ‘ole Sally’s! We have found MANY name brand and even several designer items for a song! My recent purchase was a wool/cashmere Cabela’s winter jacket! Only $7.50! My daughter found an authentic Dolce and Gabana skirt-brand new with hologram authentication piece! For $5! It is worth over $200! She will wear it a few times and then sell it on ebay! I encourage you all to give it a try :0)! I know so many people in our area that won’t go to Sally’s because they don’t want people to get the wrong idea about their family. So sad! Oh well, i just go and buy what they donate :0)! Thanks for an awesome sight! I have been here before, but lost track and now I look forward to scoping around :0)!
Thanks for these tips! I found your blog awhile ago when Cyrstal from moneysavingmom posted your video about 4 meals in 4 minutes, and have been checking it ever since 🙂
I have always checked the return rack by dressing rooms, but I didn’t realize that some of those racks that are out in the clothing section are actually new donations! Today I passed one of those racks and remembered this post. I checked it, and found two items that I’ve been looking for for several months! Thanks for your help 🙂
This was a long over due story I’m glad you came through and did such a good job giving light to the idea that shopping thrift stores can not only be easy on the budget but you can have fun doing it too. The videos created for each different element of your story and using models to show off the “great finds” was super clever! I am a thrift store gal myself. I don’t go as often as I’d like now days with a toddler in tow but when I do it’s such fun and I’m always so pleased with the comparison of money spent at the checkout to ALL that I carried out! I also do the scanning clothes tip you suggested as well as having a list to shop by on things I’m needing or looking for so I don’t OVERSPEND on things by spending half the day in Goodwill. I think too, alot of women, have this pre-conceived idea that buying second hand is somehow “only for the less fortunate” or they are somehow more concerned what other people think of them instead of realizing MORE PEOPLE than they think are doing just the same, saving big bucks in their spending habits (but still as if they stepped out of Neiman Marcus’s)…and really MORE in terms of what dollars spent to # of items bought. Ladies-if you thrift shop, your daily outfit sports $8 of your money spent, you receive numerous compliments each day…SAY IT PROUD, SAY IT LOUD: I’m a Thrift Store Shopping Fool lets change the perception that this is somehow a shameful thing for women to do and rather teach how easy, fun, and affording to their budget that it is and actually…SMART!
With the change in the economy, I have noticed all the thrift stores I shopped at to get great deals ; the prices are high! I can get better deals at pennys sales and target. I was shocked at the thrift store when it had a sweater and not a leading brand for $19.00. I would buy a skirt new with nice print/ or colors. Then dive into the thrift store for blazers, sweaters, blouses to make several outfits out of just one skirt. But I am finding my fun thrift shopping has limited due to the price hike. Thanks
Thank you, Jen! This article of “must do’s” is exactly what I need. I am so scared of going thrift-store shopping because the times I have gone and purchased something it usually turns out to be a mistake.
I am so glad to be armed with these great tips for next time!
I really love tifrht stores. They have been a big help ever since I came to the USA. I have found so manny things that I have always wanted.I like to dress up and wear nice cloths .Iam always looking for unusual itmes, vintage clothings, or anything that looks nice! That’s why I always go to my local Thrif Town in San Fr ancisco, Ca, This store was actually the very first tifrht store that I’d ever stepped into in my life.It was an amaizing experience finding so manny things at such low prices.And one unique thing about Thift Town is that the have everything organized and categorized, which makes it easy to shop.I have so manny nice outfits from Thrift Town and I think Iam gonna enter the contest.Wish me good luck!