By Kim Robson:
I’ll freely admit it: I’m a big fan of . They take discarded clothing, accessories, furniture, books and housewares; and they use the funds from their thrift stores to provide job training, employment placement services, and other community-based programs for people who are difficult to employ. It’s a rare occasion when I buy a piece of clothing new. I’ve also made it known among my friends that I will always accept discarded clothing. If it doesn’t fit me, or it’s not my style, I’ll take it to Goodwill. Everybody wins, and nothing ends up in a landfill.
Also, when pieces of clothing you own are no longer wanted, don’t throw them away. Donate! It might just be the perfect thing for someone else. Pro tip: seek out Goodwill stores and other secondhand shops in wealthier neighborhoods. You might find high-end designer labels. I’ve found Coach, Polo, Ralph Lauren, Charter Bay Club, Banana Republic, and even Louis Vuitton. It’s not unusual to find pieces that never have been worn and still have their original price tags attached. Below are more tips for shopping secondhand clothing:
Have a plan. Go into a thrift store with a list of specific items you need to look for: pants, tops, shoes, work clothes, seasonal clothes. Avoid impulse purchases. Do you really need those four-inch high strappy slingback sandals? Or are you more likely to never wear them?
Secondhand shops are killer cheap, but it’s still a good idea to set a budget for your shopping trip.
Wear clothes that are quick and easy to take off and put back on because you’ll be going into the changing room at least once. Think t-shirts, comfy jeans, and slip-on shoes. Avoid fancy underwear that you wouldn’t normally wear.
Do a quick scan of the entire store, then circle back to scour through the most likely racks. Most thrift stores do not organize their racks by size. You’ll find different sections for men’s pants, men’s shirts, women’s pants / skirts / dresses, women’s tops, and children’s clothes. Within those sections, you’ll usually find clothes sorted by color. Find the section you want, go to your fave colors, and then take some time to systematically flip through all the options, checking for size and style. Pull out likely candidates to try on. Remember not to take more items than the store allows into the dressing room at once. Don’t rush.
Size isn’t everything. Clothing sizes, especially in women’s clothing, can vary wildly from one brand to the next. Vintage clothing sizes can be even more archaic. Your best bet is to eyeball anything that looks promising. Hold it up to your body. If it fits, that’s all that matters. Don’t get something just because it’s inexpensive or a cool designer label or something you might fit into some day when you’ve lost weight.
Need an honest opinion? Take a couple selfies in the dressing room and text a trusted friend who will tell you if it’s awful.
If you find a winner, walk around in it outside the dressing room for a few minutes. Make sure it doesn’t ride up, pinch sensitive areas, or have a label that feels like a cactus in your collar. Does it hang and flow comfortably on your body?
Check the label for washing instructions. Is it dry-clean only? Hand-wash only? Gentle cycle only? No iron, no bleach, etc.? Make sure the item isn’t more trouble to care for than it’s worth.
Can you coordinate the item with other pieces of clothing in your closet? You should be able to mix and match it with at least one other outfit, preferably more.
Finally, if you just can’t find anything that works for you, don’t feel as though you MUST get something. Walk out and come back another day. Thrift stores are constantly changing their inventory to accommodate new acquisitions and dress the store for seasonal favorites. (October is the BEST time to check thrift stores for awesome costumes.) Check back in a week or two and see what’s new.
Don’t have any decent Goodwill or thrift stores in your area? There are plenty of online options, such as , , , , , , and Goodwill’s .