The Devil Can’t Afford Prada

Five Handy Tips for Finding Great Garments While Thrift Store Shopping

By Kiley Bell

Photo by Dion
Photo by Dion

1. Inspect Carefully

It’s important to keep in mind that just because an item is cheaper in thrift stores than it normally is elsewhere, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great find. Be sure to inspect each garment carefully, looking closely for broken zippers, stains, discolouration, loose threads, and rips. Loose threads can easily be fixed with a quick stitch, but large tears may not be worth the time or money it takes to repair. Don’t base the quality on a missing button either; often, old shirts can look better with a set of new buttons.

2. Steer Clear of Underwear

This point really can’t be emphasized enough. As a thrifter you need to know when to save and when to splurge. Any basic undergarment (socks, bras, underwear, swimsuits, etc.) should just be avoided entirely. There can be lots of great finds at thrift stores, but any undergarment will definitely not be one of them. Between the unhygienic bacteria and the total “Ick!” factor of wearing someone else’s socks, you’re better off buying new ones.

3. Location, Location, Location

When it comes to thrift shopping in large cities, it’s all about location. Any stores in trendier, downtown areas will usually be entirely picked over by hipster-types looking to reinvent their wardrobe. For this reason, it’s better to stick to stores in more suburban areas. Upscale neighbourhoods are great places to thrift because they’re most likely to donate their old designer clothing (rare Marc Jacobs finds do happen if the location is right!).

4. Haggle

There is a bit of an unwritten rule that most thrift store prices are negotiable.  That being said, you have to be smart in picking your haggling battles. A fairly new-looking shirt with a recognizable label probably won’t allow for much of a price decrease, but a nearly impeccable fur jacket with a rip in the lining will definitely be dropped down in price if you ask in a nice way.

Photo by Jason McDowell
Photo by Jason McDowell

5. Don’t Feel Confined by Gender

If you’re a female, there is no need to stick only to the women’s section of the store! Some of the best finds are often tucked away in the men’s section between an old Toronto Blue Jays jersey and a pair of Dockers khaki pants. Sweater dresses are a great wardrobe staple, especially during the colder seasons, and the men’s section will be packed full of them—you just need to get creative. Try on a comfy men’s sweater in a larger size than what you would normally wear; this allows for the sweater to be long enough for you to wear as a dress. Obviously the fit won’t be as shapely as a women’s sweater dress, but you can change this by cinching it in with a cute belt. Try an embellished belt to add a feminine touch.

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