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Do you have one of those friends who always seems to be scoring incredible second hand clothes at thrift and vintage stores but whenever you go, it just feels like sorting through junk? Well, in today’s post I’m going to tell you how to update your wardrobe with some incredible fall transition pieces for less than you’d pay for coffee. Let’s start shopping at thrift stores the right way. 

What is the difference between Thrift Shopping & Vintage?

Before we dive in, I want to clarify the difference between thrift shopping and shopping at a vintage store. Vintage stores should only carry items that possess a special quality to them. All the second hand clothes in a vintage shop should either be in remarkable condition, from an established designer, or just been of such quality that it has withstood the test of time and carried with it a small piece of fashion history. When you enter a vintage store, you should not be surrounded by thrift-store-quality pieces and often pay a higher price for it.

Today, we’re talking about good old fashioned thrift store shopping. The kind where you can drop off your old TV and then stroll on in to find aisles and aisles of second hand clothes next to dishes, someones broken patio furniture and 80’s wedding dresses. This is where I find some of the most incredible pieces in my closet.

I have found a like-new YSL clutch here for less than $12, my favorite Rachel Zoe sweater with the tags still intact for less than $4, and countless other items from my favorite designers.

Tip: When you’re short on cash or looking for an extra income source, I’ve heard of lots of people stocking up on these items and re-selling them on eBay and Poshmark. I haven’t done it consistently, but can vouch that it’s a relatively easy side-hustle.

10 Tips and Tricks:

Here are some easy, totally-usable tips to shop thrift stores to find the best pieces:

Donate first. Shop Second.

Often thrift stores will give out coupons (I have several 30% off coupons on hand) as a way to say thank you for donating. By donating first, you can save even more money when you go in to shop. This also helps to make much-needed extra closet space before you refill it.

Shop By Expensive Neighborhoods

To score more designer and high-end pieces, shop thrift stores in expensive neighborhoods. Everything will be less picked over and you’ll be more likely to stumble on that perfect, unexpected find. It’s the single, most important tip that will absolutely help you find more high-end pieces for less.

Know The Return Policy

Check return policies in advance. Many thrift stores have a strict no return policy so be sure to give each item a thorough inspection before checking out. Be extra weary of armpits. If there has been a stain there for over a decade, it’s not going to be coming out anytime soon.

Start Early

Go early! As much as we all hate waking up early, you’ll find the best pieces bright and early before the clothes that have been put out at night are picked over. Often, thrift stores continually add new products throughout the night so by shopping first thing in the morning, you get the best selection.

Find The Decade That’s Right For You

Know your figure and what decades are most friendly to your body. Women with full chests look awesome in anything from the 1950’s when the silhouette accommodated a fuller chest and accentuated the waist like a Marilyn Monroe-silhouette. If you are more curvy, the 1940’s will be especially flattering since the tailoring of the decade was more fitted at the waist and flared through the hips. Pieces from the 1930’s are most flattering on tall, skinny girls since the fabric is usually cut on the bias and clings to the body in a subtle way. If you are petite, nearly all vintage will look great since sizes up until the 60’s usually run small. You’ll even probably be able to wear the vintage jackets that were meant to be worn with corsets and make all your friends jealous.

Don’t Waste Time Looking At Sizes

When your shopping at a thrift store, don’t pay attention to sizes much at all. Since clothing sizes have changed so drastically over the decades, don’t confine yourself to a certain rack. Often, it’s a matter of correct undergarments rather than correct sizing anyways. For example, you may stumble across a piece from the 20’s that requires a corset to fit correctly or a dress from the 50’s that doesn’t look right without a bullet bra. Also, when it comes to fit, don’t be afraid to re-invent the silhouette entirely. If you find a chunky knit sweater in a size XXL and you’re a petite XS, tuck one side into distressed jeans, belt it with leggings and boots, get creative! However, if it’s too small, throw it back. If it’s too big, you can always take it in.

Know How You’ll Style It Beforehand

Know how you’ll style an item before you checkout. Does it go with jeans or a basic pencil skirt? Have a plan for several outfits beforehand so you know you actually wear your new clothes. It’s such a waste to buy something and then never, ever wear it.

Think About Eras

Think about eras. In general, straighter cuts and more timeless silhouettes blend into your wardrobe easier. For example, steer clear of 80’s shoulder pads and opt for 60’s flowy dresses instead.

Binge On The Bags

Don’t overlook purses. This crowded section in a thrift store is often where you’ll find the most versatile treasures. Have your phone ready to research labels to determine what’s fake and what’s a real designer piece. An added bonus to vintage bags? Often the leather is softer, the hardware is bolder, and the bag itself has already withstood the test of time so you know how it will hold up in the future. Just be sure to check that the clasps work correctly since they can be difficult or expensive to replace.

Opt For Neutral Tones

If the thrift shop is color coded at all, head to the black and white racks first. In general, neutral tones like this are far easier to mix into your existing closet because they naturally look more modern and timeless. Check the fabric content tags and remember you can always bleach white clothes to brighten and freshen them up.

Vintage For Less Than $100

To get your guys going, I’ve scoured the internet for some awesome vintage scores for less than $100. Enjoy!

Using these tips has helped me find some incredible pieces that I love and use all the time. As with any fashion or stylist advice, pick and choose what tips work best for you and don’t be afraid to experiment and get creative. When it comes down to it, shopping for second hand clothes should be fun and each time you get dressed in the morning should leave you feeling more confidant and beautiful than you were before.

Refashion DIYs You Might Like:

Now that you’re ready to shop for second hand clothes like a pro, here are a few ways to customize those items and make them truly unique! All of the projects below are from second hand clothes. You can also find my full refashion library HERE. Enjoy!

chiffon t-shirt dresspom pom sweaterDIY convertible jumpsuit

How To Shop Thrift Stores for Second hand clothes Like A Pro