10 Actually Useful Thrifting Tips From Women Who Only Buy Used Clothes


It’s a great feeling when someone compliments you on a piece of clothing, asks where it’s from, and you get to say, “Oh, sorry, it’s thrifted.” Suddenly, you’re mysterious and cool and a person who knows How to Shop. You’re also saving the environment and most likely saving money too. So in an effort to help you become the best thrifter you can be, ELLE.com consulted two women who rarely buy new clothes to give you their best tips.

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Andrea Silber, 62, thrifts at least once a week, if not more. She’s been thrifting since the 1970s and can remember once buying a suede jacket off a gas station attendant in Arizona in 1977. Suffice it to say, she knows what she’s talking about. “If I could sing or paint, I wouldn’t have to thrift, but my clothes are my way of expressing myself,” she explains. Ahead, her top tips:

Location, location, location.

While it can be tempting to go thrifting in ritzy areas, Silber says those are the places to avoid due to their higher prices, even for brands like J.Crew. “The best things I’ve found have not been in fancy places,” she admits.

Search for discounts.

Are you a student? A teacher? A veteran? You could get discounts on certain mornings in places like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Check your local stores!

Men's clothing for sale inside Goodwill Industries.

Getty ImagesJeff Greenberg

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Know when not to go.

Silber says the stores can get particularly crazy around Halloween and when students are first back in school, so if you’re really trying to dig, you should probably stay away.

Learn what you can and can’t fix.

Did you just pick up a Ferragamo sweater with telltale moth holes? Put it down. A Kate Spade dress with a perspiration stain or odor? Step away. These are things that cannot be saved, while it is possible to fix something that’s scuffed, dirty, or needs to be sewn. You can also get creative! She’s been known to fix up a pair of shoes with a simple Sharpie.

Look for shoes with slight defects.

It’s easy to get a shoe resoled, and while you’ll end up spending an extra $20 to do so, it’s usually still better than buying a designer shoe at full price. Case in point: Silber has found Chloe boots and Prada boots in her time thrifting, and both just simply needed a new sole.

Have some fun!

Silber says, above all, thrifting truly brings her joy, and makes those around her happy. As an oncologist, she takes care of cancer patients and says they love to see what she’s wearing and the story behind it. She also suggests never fighting with another customer or arguing about a price— the karma will come around.

Lauren Singer, 27, owns Package Free in Brooklyn, which sells sustainable, eco-friendly, plastic-free products. She’s also been living zero-waste for five years, blogs at Trash is for Tossers, creates her own all-natural laundry detergent, and has been shopping second-hand pretty much her whole life. Here are her best tips, as someone who literally never buys new clothes.

Know yourself.

Before walking into a thrift store, take a step back and truly evaluate your closet and your capabilities. Will you be the person to get something tailored? Will you actually wear a bright-white tank top in the middle of a sweaty summer? Singer says you don’t want to get sucked into an item just because it’s cheap—knowing what you want beforehand can help you walk away from those all-too-tempting purchases.

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Go online.

Can’t find what you like in person? Or better yet, don’t live close to any good secondhand stores? Go online. Singer searches sites like Craigslist and Chairish for furniture, art, and accessories. She also uses Poshmark, an online marketplace, to find anything from bathing suits to underwear; she’ll search by specific brands or look for items she’s tried on in-person. “There’s no excuse to not thrift,” she says. “You can find anything on those websites.”

Pick your timing wisely.

While it really depends on the store, Singer says that Sunday mornings can be good for thrifting since a lot of people tend to bring in new items over the weekend. However, early on a weekday can also mean a super clean shopping experience.

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Make your purchases even more eco-friendly.

If you decide to thrift off of a website or an Instagram account, Singer suggests reaching out to the seller and asking them to send you the items without plastic packaging (e.g. no bubble wrap or plastic mailers). She also suggests asking people to send you items in an USPS envelope or flat-rate box instead.


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