Simple Rules for Vintage and Second-Hand Shopping

Where to go and what to look for when buying used clothing

by Megan Patterson

Buying your clothes second-hand and vintage is a great way to get a one-of-a-kind look on a budget, but the process can understandably be intimidating if you haven’t really done it before.  The selection can be huge, sizes are varied, and the whole thing can be overwhelming. But don’t worry!  Here at OTD, we’ve got you covered with some handy tips to get you started:

Xnatedawgx, Colorado, 2009
  1. Don’t pay attention to sizes. This is probably one of the most important rules when thrifting: size really doesn’t matter. Every brand sizes differently, and when buying vintage, sizes from other eras can be vastly different. If you find something you love but it’s too big, it’s definitely worth it to get it taken in so it fits you. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually work the other way around unless you’ve got an exceptionally great tailor (or are good at altering clothes yourself) and are willing to buy extra fabric.
  2. Check labels. Sometimes you can find gems for good prices, plus it often makes a difference in the quality of the garment. I once found a vintage Burberry trench for $80, and it was amazing!
  3. Bring cash. Most of the big second-hand stores do take debit, but a small vintage shop might not. It doesn’t hurt to have some ready money just in case.
  4. Give yourself lots of time. Thrifting and vintage shopping requires scouring the racks for good finds. Most thrift stores and even small vintage shops have pretty large inventories that aren’t always well organized, so it’s going to take a while. If you’re in a rush, going vintage shopping is not something I would recommend.
  5. Be an early bird. Learn when your favourite shops bring in new inventory, so you can get in there early for the best stuff.
  6. Be an impulse shopper. This kind of shopping is not for someone who likes to mull over something before buying. If you aren’t prepared to buy an item when you find it, it’s unlikely it’s still going to be there when you go back, or it will be impossible to find again. For example: I didn’t buy that Burberry coat, and I totally regretted it.
  7. When in doubt, go for accessories. It’s easy to find really great accessories at vintage stores, and the best part is you don’t have to try them on; they will always fit and are less likely to fall apart as easily as a dress or a shirt would. Plus, it’s something you can browse for and buy online without worrying about it too much. Etsy is a great site to start looking if you feel ready to brave those waters.
  8. Don’t be afraid to bring a measuring tape. Vintage stores often have tiny (or no) change rooms, and while thrift stores often do, the lineup is huge. It doesn’t hurt to bring measuring tape and your measurements so you can determine whether it will fit without having to wait to try them on.

Where to shop

Stretch Thrift Store
974 Pape Avenue

Value Village
2119 Danforth Avenue

60 Overlea Boulevard

1300 Queen Street East

The Thrill of the Find
1172 Queen Street East

Greektown Antique Market
715 Danforth Ave


  • Tina

    I’ve never actually been to many thrift stores, but this article certainly makes a great argument in favour of finding one-of-a-kind clothing. I will definitely head out to some of the stores you’ve suggested!

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