I’ve been thrifting since I was in middle school. I remember rifling through the racks of moth-eaten sweatshirts and paint-stained jeans as a girl, hoping to unearth something marvelous. And I nabbed my Pentagon Officers Athletic Club running shorts and hilarious red twill mechanic’s jumpsuit back then, so treasures did come to hand. But the shops were disorganized, the merchandise was a bit shabby, and it took loads of patience to find anything worthwhile. I think that many thrift shops have improved conditions and become more discerning about what they’ll sell, but some are still messy and packed with damaged garments.
Additionally, my experience leads me to believe that thrifting conditions vary WIDELY by geographic location. Some areas have great merch, but it’s all relatively expensive because thrifting is experiencing a renaissance. (Think Los Angeles and New York.) Some areas just don’t have any thrift stores because the population is too small or widely dispersed. Some areas have thrift stores, but they’re filled with used items that are close to the end of their “wearable” phase. I am fortunate to live in an area where thrifting is popular, but clothing is relatively undervalued, which means I can nab great goods in prime condition.
But regardless of your location and situation, if you’re gonna thrift you may wonder how to make thrifted items look … well, not-thrifted. How can you take something used, and possibly a bit worn-out, and make it appear fresh and stylish?
- New shoes, old clothes: If you’re wearing a thrifted skirt that’s getting a bit threadbare, distract with a shiny pair of new shoes. Not right-out-of-the-box new, but on the newer side. You might think that the contrast would make the skirt look even older but surprisingly, a great pair of shoes simply elevates the rest of the outfit to sparkly-new status.
- Eye on trends: As I’ve said before, no trend is ever truly new. The thrift store is a fantastic place to shop for of-the-moment pieces. And when you do, no one will be checking the tags to make sure you’re the first to wear it.
- Color choices: An old, used olive green sheath will generally look more chic and expensive than a brand-new kelly green one. Muted and jewel tones exude classic chic, so err on the side of subdued colors when you thrift.
- Groom thyself: If you’re going for a sleek, pulled-together look and want your thrifted garments to blend, pay a little extra attention to your hair, makeup, and overall grooming. If your body and face look fresh and pampered, you’ll be amazed at how your clothing falls in line. (This isn’t as much of a priority if you’re going for a casual, boho, or super trendy look.)
- Layer, layer, layer: Buying truly damaged items is never a good policy, but exceptions can always be made. If you unearth a gorgeous dress that fits perfectly, but doesn’t zip the last two inches, just throw a cardigan over it. If you can’t bear to pass up that blazer with a stained lapel, tack a big brooch over it. Layering is a fantastic way to add depth to an outfit, but it can also make every garment involved look more sophisticated.
If you aren’t much of a thrifter because your options are limited, I can totally dig. But if you avoid the secondhand shops because you worry you’ll look shabby and unkempt in used goods, consider employing some of these tips. I promise you’ll be amazed at how spendy your cheap duds will look.