A Beginner’s Guide to Successful Thrifting


Courtesy of Devin Toolen

Shirts hang on the racks at Urban Exchange Project in Philadelphia.

Devin Toolen, Staff Writer

During the past few months of quarantine, thrift shopping has become increasingly popular among young people and for a good reason. The excitement of finding a cool jacket or a fun pair of pants is incomparable.

While thrifting is lots of fun, it can also be very overwhelming. Big warehouse stores overflowing with clothes, shoes and accessories can surely make your head spin. However, if you know what to look for, you might be able to alleviate some stress. Let’s go through some tips and tricks on how to successfully thrift shop.

Upon entering any thrift store, I always find it helpful to go to a section where I know I’ll be successful. I tend to find great items in the men’s section, so that’s where I start. Here, one will be able to find graphic tees, oversized sweatshirts and blazers or button up shirts that can be worn over tank tops. The men’s section offers more variety with sizes, which is something I find helpful when planning outfits. While perusing the racks, keep an eye out for any cool colors or textures that seem interesting. Pull pieces out and hold them up while looking in the mirror (most fitting rooms are closed due to COVID-19, so try to use your imagination). If a piece seems like something you could pull off, put it in your cart.

After men’s clothing, I would recommend moving into the winter coat or jacket section. Leather, faux fur and longline coats are in this fall. Look through the racks and see if anything sparks any interest. Check the condition of the coats. Look at the inside tag on these coats to see the fabric content. Different types of leather and fur vary in their ability to keep one warm during the winter, so have an idea in mind.

Once you have the coats that you like, head into the women’s pants section. It can be very difficult to navigate this section in a thrift store because there are usually so many options for jeans and dress pants. However, walk through and look at the sizes on each of the pants. If some style, texture or color interests you, pull them out and try to imagine yourself wearing them. If you think the pants you found would work with your current wardrobe, add them to the cart.

After women’s pants, walk through women’s tops and pajamas. Women’s tops tend to be smaller sizes, but if you are looking for something more fitted, this section is perfect. You can find tank tops or tight tee shirts to crop. Also, small button up cardigans are in style this season and can be found in this section. In regard to the pajamas, I always think taking a quick glance at this section is well worth your time. You might find some slip dresses or a silk cami that you can style for dinner or a night out.

Before you leave the store, I recommend checking out the accessories and extras section. Mini bags are trending right now, and I can guarantee that you will find something in the handbag section that will be a perfect addition to your closet. The extras section features a lot of random items, like games, picture frames and decorations. I like going into this section to look for antique glassware to use as flower vases. You won’t always find something you like in this section, but I think it’s worth the visit.

Thrifting is obviously great because of the extensive stock and low prices. However, it is important to realize the purpose of thrift stores. Yes, it might be “trendy” to be a thrift shopper, but realize that some people need stores like Goodwill to buy necessary items for themselves or their families. Keep this in mind as you shop. When you are getting ready to check out, go through your items and decide if they are things you truly need. If not, leave it for someone who needs it.

Now that you have some tricks to find good items, go out and find a good thrift store. Look online or check out the social media accounts of thrift stores you are interested in and make sure to read reviews. Other people’s experiences may not determine your own, but it will certainly help you judge if a place is worth your time.

In Philadelphia, I recommend going to Urban Exchange Project, Circle Thrift and Philly AIDS thrift, but there are so many more cool places to check out. Do not let the stress of thrifting overwhelm you. With a little patience, you’ll be pleased with the results.