Compassionate Fashion: 5 Tips For Hesitant Thrifters

One way to be a more conscious consumer is to buy from responsible, ethical companies, which we’ve been spotlighting in our Compassionate Fashion shopping guides these past few weeks. When it comes down to it though, the most effective way to step out of the fast fashion cycle is to buy your clothes secondhand. Thrift shopping is good for the environment, since it helps clothes stay out of landfills (a huge problem with our disposable fashion culture), and it’s a great way to stretch a small budget. If you’re new to thrift shopping or hesitant about it for whatever reason, here are a few tips to help you make like Macklemore and go hunting for some sweet secondhand deals…

1. Start with accessories and top layers. If the idea of wearing other people’s clothes skeeves you out, don’t try to force yourself into a pair of sweaty combat boots or vintage swimwear right off the bat. Start with jewelry, purses, and top layers like blazers and jackets. These pieces haven’t been so intimately acquainted with their previous owners, and once you start to feel more comfortable with the idea of used clothing, you might find yourself willing to branch out into skirts, blouses, and jeans.

2. Test the waters at vintage boutiques. Vintage stores are a great place for beginning thrifters to check out. The selection has been carefully edited, the clothes are all good quality and have often been cleaned before being put out for sale. It’s more expensive than traditional thrifting, but you’re paying for beautiful, high-quality pieces that have truly stood the test of time.

3. Try more high-end thrift and consignment shops. Digging through the pay-by-the-pound clothes bins is best reserved for veteran thrifters. Browsing the racks at a clean, nicely decorated consignment shop might be more your speed. Or check out the specialized boutique-style thrift shops that have been popping up in recent years. Even Goodwill now has smaller boutique stores where they sell designer pieces, jewelry, and art. Again, prices will be a little higher than run-of-the-mill thrift stores, but you’re paying for a higher-end selection and a different kind of shopping experience.

4. Change your shopping perspective. If you’re the type of shopper who likes to walk into a store, see a fabulous outfit displayed on a mannequin, grab all the pieces, and get out of there, well, thrift shopping is going to require a bit of a paradigm shift. The first thing you’ll need: patience. Thrifting involves a lot of digging through racks and racks of laughably ugly 80s sweaters to find the diamond in the rough. When you find that diamond, though, it is SO worth it (especially for bragging rights). Thrifting is about the thrill of the hunt; it’s not quick or easy, but if you accept that it’s never going to resemble the J.Crew experience, you can start to appreciate it for what it is.

5. Shop with a thrift-obsessed friend. We all have that friend whose entire wardrobe is composed of secondhand clothing — and they always look fantastic. Ask to tag along with this friend on their next thrifting expedition. You’ll learn a lot about the best stores in your area, general shopping strategies, and most importantly, their enthusiasm for used clothes will be totally contagious.

I know a lot of Frisky readers are proud thrifters — any tips you would add to this list? Any recent thrifting scores you’d like to brag about? I’m all ears!