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What are Some Tips for Buying Clothes at a Thrift Store?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2017
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Buying clothes at a thrift store can be a great way to save money and find interesting things. There are a few things to keep in mind while thrift store shopping which can make the experience more productive and enjoyable. With a bit of practice, you may find yourself purchasing the bulk of your clothing at thrift stores, with the exception of personal items like underwear and bras, and you will save a substantial sum in the process.

The first thing to do is to familiarize yourself with the thrift stores in your area, since you probably have more than one thrift store in your community. Different stores appeal to different types of donors, and you may find that one store is more likely than others to have clothes that you like. You should also keep up with sales. Most thrift stores have a set sale schedule, offering specific types of clothes at a discount every day of the week, and you may want to make a habit of hitting the thrift store on those days to take advantage of the sales.

You should also make a list of the kinds of clothes you need, because shopping in a thrift store can be overwhelming, and you may get distracted. If you are buying clothes for the family, make a note of everyone's sizes and preferences, so that when you spot something which might appeal to your partner or one of your children, you can grab it. Find a store with a return policy so that if something you find doesn't fit, you can return it later. If the thrift store does not allow returns, stick with low-priced goods so that you can donate them if they don't fit without feeling like you have lost money.

When you go to the thrift store, you should prepare for a long haul. Shopping in thrift stores requires patience, so you should have a snack prior to shopping, wear comfortable shoes, and use the bathroom before you go. If you find yourself losing focus or getting frustrated, do not worry about leaving empty handed; you can just come back another day and try again.

At the thrift store, when you see a garment which looks interesting, check the label first, to see if you know the brand and have any experience with it, and to confirm that the garment is close to your size. You should also check on the construction of the garment. Tug at the seams to see if they hold, and look for signs of shoddy stitching, loose buttons, and other indicators of poor construction. While you do this, look for holes, stains, and other signs of damage.

If the garment appears to be in good shape, check the fabric and care directions. If you hate dry cleaning, don't buy garments that need to be dry cleaned. If polyester irritates your skin, avoid polyester. Even if you really like the garment, if the fabric and care directions are going to be a problem for you, you should find something else to buy. The great thing about a thrift store is that there are a lot of options.

Once the garment has passed the once-over, try it on. If the garment doesn't fit perfectly, you may want to consider tailoring, especially if it is a high-quality garment. Tailoring and hemming services are often very inexpensive, and some thrift stores even offer these services to customers. While you try the garment on for size, you can decide if you like the cut and color. Make a pile of the goods you like, and consider asking thrift store staff to keep your finds behind the counter so that you do not have to lug them around the store while you browse. Once you're all done, remember to ask for a receipt if the thrift store is a charity, as your purchases may be tax-deductible.

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clintflint
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - A decent thrift store will only put clothes for sale that they expect to be able to sell to someone. And believe me, they get plenty of donations that don't make it to that point. People seem to think they can donate any old rag to a thrift store and they have to take it, but it just creates more work for them and takes up space if they have a bunch of clothes no one will ever buy.

lluviaporos
Post 2

@irontoenail - It's hard to know where to draw the line though. I have a friend on Facebook who collects old sweaters and makes them into colorful cloaks by completely ripping them up and re-sewing them.

She only uses thrift store donations and usually sticks to the ones that look like they aren't going to be bought otherwise. I've heard from more than one person that thrift stores actually became more expensive when hipsters and students started ransacking them for trendy clothes and that makes it more difficult for impoverished people, who really depend on thrift stores, to find decent clothing, whatever their size.

With that said, if more people donated their clothes then this wouldn't be so much of an issue.

irontoenail
Post 1

If the garment doesn't fit you perfectly, but is pretty close and you decide to just get it taken in, that's great. But if you go to a thrift store specifically to get plus sized clothes in order to refashion them into your smaller size, that's something you should rethink.

It's hard enough to find decent plus sized clothes in any case, let alone with competition from people who want to use them as materials.

This seems to be a growing trend on craft and sewing sites on the internet and it makes me mad because I have enough trouble finding clothes as it is.

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