How To: Thrifting 101


When one visits several different thrift shops, second-hand shops, and vintage clothing stores in the hopes of buying several items of cheap and unusual clothing …

Weekends spent with my Grandma Bea meant waking up super early to head to flea markets, consignment shops and thrift stores. Grandma Bea was methodical when it came to searching for great finds. I always enjoyed my thrifting adventures with her, it was almost like going on a scavenger hunt. I would find toys and purses and because the prices were so low, I would always walk away with at least 3-4 different items. It was time well spent with my Grandma Bea and little did I know, I would also grow up to have a fascination with thrifting.

My sister in law recently awakened my thrifting spirit. She has an amazing eye for finding evening gowns at the thrift store. She has evening gowns in all different shapes, sizes and colors. I’ve never seen anything like it. Its absolutely amazing. That gleam in her eye when she comes home and shows us her findings makes me nostalgic.

A lot of people think that thrifting is gross or a waste of time. I’m here to hopefully change your mind.

A Couple Reasons Why Thrifting is Awesome

Thrift store items are so cheap. Need I say more. Who doesn’t like the thought of saving money!

cash coins money pattern
Photo by Pixabay on

You may discover designer products at a fraction of the price.

 It’s fun to experiment with vintage styles or colors/patterns that you might not usually buy. Fashion is cyclical, and designers often try to mimic the looks of different decades. When you shop at thrift stores, you can often find clothing that was actually made in the decade that’s coming back into style.

Thrift store items are typically higher quality simply by virtue of being there. They’ve withstood the hands of time and still have resale value. They’re not like your typical  cheap “fast fashion” items that stretch and lose their shape after a few washes.

There really are fabulous finds on all the racks at the thrift store. Because thrift stores receive daily donations, you can expect to see completely different items at your local thrift store from one week to the next.

You’ll develop a unique wardrobe. Thrifting provides you with the opportunity to attain rare pieces that set your wardrobe apart from the next person.


Preparation Is Key

Check out magazines and retail stores to see what’s trending. Bold colors, metallics, chunky brackets, whatever new look you want to add to your wardrobe for the season can probably be found at a second-hand store for way cheaper.

Survey your closet.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home with things that don’t work with anything I already own. That means spending more money to buy something to go with it. Look through your closet before you go to see if there are things you haven’t worn because you have nothing to go with it. Find an item to match and then you can finally wear it!

Know your shopping companions.
I like to thrift alone. I like to look where I want, pore over the jewelry case and hand bag section, scour over the shoes, methodically plan my outfits as I flip through endless racks of skirts and dresses.

But if you’re not thrifting alone, bring fellow thrifters or only friends who won’t drag you down. The worst thing is to bring along a friend who shops exclusively in malls, who will trail behind you going, “I’m bored. This is boring. I can’t find anything. This place smells. Ewww, who would buy that? This is gross. I can’t find anything.” This is the person you leave at home.

Wear your thrifting uniform. Your thrifting uniform should consist of a tank top with leggings and a small crossbody bag. You want to wear as little as possible too. You’re going to be trying on lots of clothing.

Know your budget. You’ll be tempted! Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean you need it. Avoid walking out of the store with bags full of stuff you don’t need. Set a budget and have a goal in mind for what you’re looking for.

What To Purchase Vs. What Not to Purchase



Don’t let the super low prices make you go home with crap you don’t need. It’s either the most amazing thing in the entire universe, or it’s a hard NO! It’s that simple. Here are a list of great thrifting finds.

close up photo of three sweatshirts
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on
  • Quality Fabrics & Designer Brands– If you buy wool, silk, leather or cashmere, you’ll make out like gangbusters.
  • Ceramic and Glassware– Moving into your first apartment and need to stock your kitchen? Look not further. You can find gorgeous sets of dishes and glassware for super cheap. One place setting of lovely china can go for $100 a pop. Get an entire set for less than half that.
  • Books– If you’re looking for the next new book to get your nose into, there is no reason to pay full price. Looking for something specific and don’t feel like digging through piles of dusty books? Check out Thrift Books.
  • Kids Clothes– Babies grow up fast. So quick, that they sometimes grow out of their clothes within weeks. Buying super fancy, new and expensive gear for your kids is a big waste of money
  • Kitchenware- Go for cast iron and pyrex in good condition.
  • Maternity Clothes-Just like kids clothes, you’ll outgrow it and not get much wear out of it.


Do NOT Purchase

brown work boots
Photo by on
  • Cheap or Worn Out Shoes- Besides falling apart, buying cheap, broken in shoes can end up causing you foot or even back pain.
  • Upholstered Items/Bedding– If it can’t be washed, just leave it. You don’t want to bring home more than you bargained for, like bedbugs or vintage pee stains.
  • Underwear– This is common sense. Just, ew.
  • Makeup– Sometimes I see cosmetics or other beauty products still sealed, but you don’t know how old they are.
  • Metal and Nonstick Cookware- The coatings break down over time, potentially releasing harmful chemicals.
  • Plastic Containers- Plastic is porous, so it can absorb gross smells, and god knows what else. Just don’t.
  • Anything With Stains– The dry cleaner probably can’t get that stain out. It’s likely in the store because the original owner already tried.
  • Examine Thoroughly. Always check washing instructions. I don’t typically dry clean and if you’re like me, you won’t either. Just check the instructions.


Thrifting Tips

Do NOT go into a thrift store hungry or tired. Let me say it again for the people in the back! DO NOT GO INTO A THRIFT STORE HUNGRY OR TIRED. Its a recipe for disaster.

Look through everything. Throw absolutely anything that looks approximately right for you (in terms of shape, cut, size, color) into your cart and forget about it. Have one big try-on session at the end with all the stuff you piled into the cart.

It’s cute? You’ll wear it for sure? It’s $1.80? Buy it.

It’s kiiiinda cute? You’re not sure what you’ll wear it with? It’s $8? Don’t buy it.

I’m not going to do it. I am not going to take things to a tailor, I’m not going to make things out of cool old T-shirts. Only buy “project pieces” if you’re really going to spend time with them; otherwise you’re throwing your money away.

Now that you’ve decided to become a Thriftnista, check out a few of my favorite thrift/consignment stores in the DC area.

Buffalo Exchange: One of my favorite consignment shops ever! One of my best friends introduced me to this spot and Ive been  in love ever since. I shop at Buffalo Exchange for every season. I always walk out with bags and bags of fashion finds and I never spend over $100. #Winning

Buffalo Exchange is located at 1318 14th Street NW.

Buffalo Exchange

Crossroads Trading Co: This resale store is normally the second stop after visiting Buffalo Exchange. It doesn’t have as much selection as Buffalo Exchange, oh, but there are some unique finds in there if you have the time and patience to search.

Crossroads is located at 2015 14th Street NW


Crossroads Trading Co

Thred Up: An online thrift shop! In my opinion, nothing replaces physically going to an actual thrift store to shop, but if you’re an online shopper and love the idea of thrifting using a few clicks of the mouse, then Thred Up is for you.