The Best Clothes to Buy at Thrift Stores: A Guide
Thrift stores: either a treasure trove of bargain and vintage finds, or a smelly chaotic place you’d never shop. In my experience people usually divide roughly along these two lines.
In this post – shot exclusively at my favorite Goodwill in the glamorous Sparks, NV – I hope to guide you if you’re in the former camp, and change your mind if you’re in the latter. After all, there’s amazing, unique clothing and accessories to be found at a fraction of the usual price. Plus, you’re recycling and doing your bit for the planet. Good for your wallet, your closet and your conscience.
But what are the best things to focus on when second-hand shopping? Look no further than my guide below.
And note that I found all these items in the same store during one 45 minute visit, to truly prove the point that these are the ultimate thrift store staples.
Along with last season’s Target offerings, you’ll almost always find some unique knits at the thrift store. This Norwegian-style cosy number, for example, will serve you well not only this coming winter but forever. Last year I scored a hand knit (or maybe crochet, I’m not skilled enough to know the difference) green cardigan/jacket in the same Goodwill and I always get asked about it (followers of the F&F Facebook page will be familiar with said cardi).
I also loved this vintage J Crew number which will have similar last-forever qualities.
If you’re concerned about cleaning these knits, don’t be. A gentle, cold wash (always in the machine, hand washing is against my religious principles) and a flat dry will give you peace of mind and won’t cause them to shrink or pull out of shape. I promise.
Almost a cliche it’s so well known, but thrift stores really are great places to buy jeans at a fraction of their first-hand cost. I found around 6 pairs of Levis, amongst various other brands, and wasn’t even doing my usual thorough search. It’s hit and miss on sizing, so you may have to pay more regular visits to bag ones that fit, but you should be in luck after a couple of goes.
In addition to jeans, I always find a plethora of denim shirts at the Goodwill. This one even had its original tags on and had clearly never been worn (I see that often, so you’re getting a brand new item for thrift prices).
This denim maternity shirt looked almost good as new. I’ve never been “with child”, but I’m guessing you feel reluctant to spend a fortune on bump-accommodating clothing which won’t be needed in a few months’ time. So the thrift store can really be your friend.
Many thrift stores have a dedicated maternity section, though this was on the general “blue tops” rack (my Goodwill organizes by color, which is remarkably effective in reducing the overwhelm you can feel in seeing a big jumble of colors and styles all thrown together).
I might be making this category up but, in my experience, the Goodwill is treasure trove of cute little tops you can wear for work without breaking the bank ($5 average).
This Lauren Conrad floral number and the green and black lace shirt were just two of the hundreds I found on my visit. Granted, most are polyester and may induce profuse sweating, but they need no ironing and wash like a charm, so if you’re in an office with excessive A/C (aren’t they all?), you’re golden.
I get it, you might not like the thought of second hand wool around your face, but don’t write this off too soon. I found one new looking genuine pashmina and a super cool Gucci-style print scarf, both under $5. In fact I’m kicking myself for not snapping the latter up for summer. Grrrrr. Again, a gentle delicates wash and you’ll be good to go.
Coats (especially leather, shearling, fur etc)
First off, a word about fur. I wouldn’t buy a brand new fur coat as I genuinely think the fur should stay on the animal. However, I see no harm in buying it second hand and appreciating its loveliness, rather than letting it end up in landfill.
Moving on, how fabulous is this 100% shearling coat? It didn’t have a price tag on it, but I’ll bet it was under $20. Most likely you’d want to have it professionally cleaned but, even adding that cost into the mix, it’s still a bargain.
Although from George (weirdly a freestanding brand here in the US, rather than an Asda concession as in the UK), this genuine leather jacket felt very soft and had clearly hardly been worn.
OK, if you find it just too gross to wear someone else’s shoes, you’re excused for good behavior. I get it. But rather than spend several hundred dollars for this perennial when buying new, you can pick up a pair with a fabulous vintage look for under $10. Again, you’ll have to hunt for your size and ensure they aren’t so worn that the previous owner’s wear patterns render them painful, but if you find your perfect pair you’ll be grateful you bothered.
I’d recommend some tea tree oil to disinfect the interior and some decent socks, but otherwise you’re off to the rodeo (literally, around here).
And I know, cowboy boots aren’t as popular in the UK, but you will find them. Another alternative is some slouchy leather boots which are always available in abundance in British charity shops and somehow way cooler second hand than bought new.
How do you feel about thrifting? What are your favorite thrift store finds? Let me know and send pics and, of course, check out our Pinterest board of the best vintage fashion.