How to Thrift

How to Be the Best Thrifter

Your comprehensive guide on thrift store shopping the right way.

Thrifting has evolved so much throughout the years. What once was a budgeting necessity is now a Western past-time. Celebrities and IT-girls everywhere are flaunting their thrifted finds. I do a lot of thrifting, it’s literally my job here at neo • thread co. It’s fun but, of course work. I wanted to provide a quick, comprehensive guide to help you be a better, responsible thrifter on a mission! Hopefully you learn some things but most importantly have fun reading along, that’s always the goal! So let’s get started!

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag, OK?

Reusable shopping bag made from an old t-shirt

The end of your shopping experience will actually be our first focus: the shopping bag. We are consumers and as consumers we produce an unbelievable amount of waste. If we, as a society can make small, intentional choices to help reduce that waste, why wouldn’t we?? So bring your reusable bag! This keeps your super eco-choice to shop used, recycled wares consistently earth-friendly.Tip: If you’re forgetful like me, I recommend buying several bags to leave in your car and at home. It’s also helps to make a habit of hanging them on your front door handle; they will be the last thing you see and the first thing you grab on your way out!

Don't Dress Up

It’s not that you shouldn’t look cute when your thrifting, you do you! But, if you’re shopping for clothes you best be willing and ready to get in that fitting room! If you’re not trying things on you are taking on the totally unnecessary risk of buying something that is non-refundable and you may not like on. Leave that top that you love but that takes you 7 min to lace up at home. I guarantee you are NOT going to want to try things on if your having to flail around in a small closet to get your clothes back on every time you find a prospective pair of jeans. I suggest, wearing your easy, breezy elastic waist pants, a tee and slip-ons. Whatever you choose, just be sure it is easy to take on and off believe me, you won’t regret it.

Choose Your Music

I have become all too dependent on having my own music at any given time. I don’t know if this will be as much of a deal breaker as it is for me but, be sure to bring your headphones. The goal is to create your ideal space when your thrifting and Nickelback is NOT a part of my ideal space! Which is, unfortunately, what plays a lot at my local thrift store. Thrifting/life is better when you are enjoying and jamming to your favorite playlist.

Make a Game Plan

My very own Pinterest want list with an obvious emphasis on all things tied or knotted. 

Ok, this may sound a little intense as a shopping tip but it is probably the most important piece of advice. So many people tell me they hate thrifting because: it’s time consuming, their efforts seem frivolous or it’s too overwhelming. I akin this to a lack of planning. As with any shopping if you are flying in there blind you are going to waste your time, feel overwhelmed and walk out with nothing or even worse, things you don’t even need or like. We’ve all experienced this; one word, Costco. 


 So how do we avoid this? Create a physical list, I don’t care whether it is on paper or on Pinterest. You need to know what exactly you are hoping to find. For example, if you are in dire need of new jeans and know that you like light washes best then you have just eliminated about 98% of the aisles to peruse. You’re going to save majorly on time and your own sanity. So, plan ahead and understand your needs.

Sign Up for Rewards

 Ok, ok this isn’t a shocking or special tip but there are a lot of people that don’t realize that almost all thirfit store chains have a email list or rewards program customers can get coupons through. Thrift Town has an amazing emailing list that can send coupons for almost 50% off! Now, some of the smaller, local shops don’t have the ability or capacity to send out promotions like the chains do but most offer special deals throughout the week. Ask your friendly sales associate what specials they have through the week. One of my favorite local shops, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, has 40% off of furniture every Friday. It’s totally worth asking.  

Gender Bender

Vintage Men's Wrangler's available exclusively at No Longer Wander Shop

You’ve heard it on Queer Eye and you’ll hear it here. Don’t be afraid of your opposite sex’s section. I’ve found so many gems in the men’s section, it’s a treasure trove! I can’t tell you how many amazing jackets I found in the men’s section. Also, little known fact men’s jeans can look SUPER cute on your lady bod. Don’t believe me? Check out those lady curves in those men’s Wranglers! Don’t be scared, take the risk and try on those vintage men’s Levi’s and Wrangler’s. They are generally high-rise, real denim and have amazing color and wear. Which is the perfect segue to our next topic: The Vintage Section.

Vanity Sizing

If you’ve been in any number of thrift stores you are probably aware that most have a vintage section which doesn’t mean all of the vintage gems in the store can be found there. However, it does present a huge opportunity for some amazing pieces. Now, there is something very important to be said about sizing when shopping vintage and it requires a little history. So let’s go back about 60 years to 1958 when was when the first standard size chart for women arrived made set forth by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Then, the sizes were event numbers from 8-38. Yeah… That’s waaay different than what we have now. The 1960’s size 8 is our modern day 00. As time went on, clothing companies got smart and thought, “I bet if we adjust our sizes so more ladies fit into a size 8, they’d feel more confident in our clothing and purchase it”, so that’s what they did. A 1970’s size 8 was our modern 2. By 1983 the standard was pretty much thrown out the window and by 1995 a size 8 was our modern 6. The good thing about this change? We have so many more body types and sizes represented today, which is awesome! The bad thing? Ummm… have you ever tried to shop for jeans as a modern day woman?!? You may be a 6 in Gap jeans but a 10 Calvin Kleins (don’t even get me started on odd number sizes..) 


 So what does this all mean to you? It means DO NOT be hard on yourself, upset or discouraged when you are trying on vintage dresses or pants that are much bigger than your average, modern size. In fact, the safe bet is to shoot for 4 numerical sizes larger for your best fit. That means if you generally wear a size 6 you should be looking for size 10.

Hopefully you learned a little something and feel prepared to go out and find some amazing clothing, decor, furniture or whatever it is you are on the hunt for. Oh! And don't forget your reusable bag! :)


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