Winter Thrifting Tips

Winter can feel like a crummy time to thrift. We’re sluggish and uninspired, so the prospect of digging through the racks may be overwhelming. But in my opinion, thrifting is a four-season sport and there are many great bargains to be had even during the dark, cold months. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you hit the secondhand circuit this winter:

Layering items

The fine art of layering without lumps requires us to have some close-fitting underlayers. Why spend $10 a pop at Target when you can plunk down a dollar or two for tanks, tees, and long-sleeved shirts at the thrift store? Since these pieces won’t get close scrutiny and since they need to fit tightly enough that they may not be appropriate for stand-alone wear, scrimping on them just makes sense.

Coats of all kinds

As the winter progresses, the coat section will become picked-over. But keep checking back. Coats are generally pretty durable items, so they’re good bets for thrifting at all times. And throughout winter, you’ll catch a few batches of fresh donations for heavier coats, but can also get a jump on spring jackets in leather, denim, and twill.

Holiday miscellany

Whether you’re looking for holiday colors – red and green, blue and silver, red and black and green – for a themed ensemble, printed scarves or clothing, or home decor, thrift stores will be brimming with options. Even holiday stuff that looks dated can be fun and kitschy, so why not buy it for a bargain?

Crafting supplies

Wintertime brings out the crafter in many people. Nasty weather and early evenings mean we spend loads of time indoors, and cooking up DIY projects can help make that cooped-up time feel more productive. Thrifted garments can turn into experimental sewing projects, supply cloth for smaller endeavors, or get refashioned into updated versions of themselves. Hit the accessories, jewelry, and housewares for craft supplies, too. If you need some inspiration, pop by I Spy DIY.

What will you be thrifting for this winter?

Image courtesy FLUTTER.

  • http://versatilestylebytracey.com Tracey Jennings

    I am hooked on thrifting and since I am on a weight loss journey I will continue thrifting weekly. I am lucky to have a friend at Weight Watchers who loves thrifting . She is one size above me, has great taste and points things out to me in my size… The perfect thrifting partner. I would add to your list that dresses and skirts are great to buy all year as they can be winterized easily.

  • http://missemmamm.com Mary

    Great tips, I either go thrifting with intent (like I need a dress to wear to something) or, more often, I just go and pick out whatever I love.

  • Anneesha

    Big holiday score last night at my church thfit store … Ellen Tracey floor length black satin formal skirt, a no-brand black pique, all-over sequined cocktail dress and an Anne Klein grecian-esque knit dress! Now just need somewhere fancy to wear them – or figure how to dress them down to work for an upcoming tropical vacation.

    Thrift is always a great place to find fancy-dress options; things that generally got worn once.

    • Kylara7

      I heartily applaud your great finds! I’ve had good luck with thrifting a fancy dress that is one or two sizes too big and having minor alterations done. Then it fits MY shape perfectly (unlike most of the off-the-rack clothing) and still is cheaper than buying new :)

  • http://readinginskirts.wordpress.com Mia

    I’m sort of trying to scale back my just-for-fun shopping because it feels like I’ve been doing a lot of it lately, but I WILL be on the lookout for something particular in the next couple months: work pants! The only winter-length work-appropriate pants I have right now are pretty shapeless and uninteresting, so I really want to start looking in earnest for some nice slim-cut pants that won’t make me feel like I’m dressing down when I wear them. (I have a burgeoning collection of non-work pants for both summer and winter, but I’m not about to wear my Punjammies to the office!)

  • Lizzi

    Since my best local thrift store is about 20 yards away from my bank, I’ve been trying to go every time I take a paycheck in, although limiting myself to $10 a trip–usually I only end up spending $3-5. The hard limit means I can’t go crazy getting everything that looks appealing, and have to spend some thought on each piece deciding if I can really make it work for me.

    Right now I’m usually headed there for skirts, be they maxis or appropriate-for-winter-with-tights, and 3/4- or long-sleeved tops. I sew a lot for myself, and will happily alter stuff that comes home with me, so most of the time thrifting is really the best option for expanding my wardrobe!

  • http://smiletexysmile.blogspot.com D

    I am not allowing myself to buy anything for me until my birthday in March, but I recently saw a bunch of gorgeous scarves plus a purplish leather jacket on the rack at the thrift store that seriously tested my resolve. I think this is a great time to thrift! And I think thrifting DIY supplies is a great idea.

  • Paula

    I’m thrifting right now for my 14 year old for Xmas. She expressed a desire for more turtlenecks in her wardrobe and over the last three weeks I’ve found several for her in an array of colors. Most of them are soft wool blends that I’m sure would have cost big bucks to buy new. I picked them up for $1 each, buying on my local Goodwill’s sale days. : )
    I also constantly look for jeans as I find it difficult to find good fitting pairs. One of my fav pairs is thrifted. High waisted skinny Guess jeans. Only they are not really high waisted on me as I have a long torso (and short legs – sigh). I almost didn’t try them on, but now I’m glad I did. Also purchased for a dollar!
    I also like to look at the blazers and suits on sale days. Have found several great blazers that way. I especially like the suits that have a skirt, as I can usually shorten them – a lot of them have pockets which I love. I’ve never found an entire suit where I can use both pieces. It’s usually the skirt, or the blazer. But on sale days they reduce them from $12.99 down to 99cents so I always look through them then to see if I can find a treasure. : )

  • Sara

    Also keep in mind that a lot of people are doing last-minute donating in late December for tax purposes, so late December/early January is a great time to find lots of new items at the thrifts!

  • debbie

    Our local thrift shop benefits Alzheimer research at Duke University so I am always glad to drop a few dollars there from time to time. They have a buy 5 get 1 free special on clothing so I can look freely and yet put a limit on my spending. Sometimes they have some new things (tags still on!) and I almost always stay under $20 a trip. Good news for me!

  • Natalie

    As a knitter, I have learned that good yarn is expensive. Cheap old sweaters made from merino are, well, cheap! I like to find sweaters with beautiful natural fibers and unravel them to make something new. The result is usually great because I already know how the fiber will wash up.

  • Anonymous

    I love to thrift, but i find my stores very out of date, or either i just go intirely too late, which is a bummer for me….at the time this is my only resolved as i am on a very tight budget, as well as lifestyle changes; spending no more than i have…My kids hate the smell, they just dont understand, but they always seem to like someting i pick up…i’m in the mix-up with what to buy and not to buy, im finding myself, being very trendy all the time, which is always a dfind, as oppose to finding essential classic items I NEED, bummer!

  • http://corpgoth.blogspot.com/ Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    I disagree about the layering items — if they make it to the thrift store, these pieces of clothing tend to be worn to bits bec. they were so lightweight to begin with. Just not high quality enough to stand up to second-hand.

    A category to add: cocktail attire for holiday parties. If you’re tired of the little black dress & want something flashy & fun but don’t want to make a big investment, a secondhand dress is perfect. Or just spiff up an old LBD with a colorful wrap, purse, or shoes from the thrift store.

  • Annie

    I agree with Trystan about the layering items. Seems to me like cotton T-shirts and tanks are the items I am least likely to find in thrift stores; the ones that make it there always seemed to have lived out their useful life and then some. These can also be purchased so cheaply new that putting up with vaguely yellowed, overly stiff, etc. Ts from the thrift store seems not worth it.

    Totally agree with Anneesha about thrifting formalwear. People wear these items a handful of times, max. Consignment shops are the absolute best. I recently found a Max Mara dress that would have cost $700-$800 when it was new … for $75. Classic LBD that fits like a dream. Snapped that up and will be wearing it New Year’s Eve!

    I buy plenty of pants — most of them, actually — at thrift stores, but as a petite I often wind up getting stuff I must have hemmed. This makes it a little less of a bargain, but when you look at the big picture, still smart shopping.

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  • Kylara7

    These are great tips. I have a couple of tight-fitting camis and long sleeve shirts that I bought at thrift stores, deliberately in smaller-than-my-normal size to wear as underlayers in the winter. And one of my favorite coats is a long chocolate brown Club Monaco coat that I found for $10 at a thrift store. :)