How to Thrift for New-to-You Clothing

If you’ve spent much time in thrift stores (or sorting through donations for nonprofits or following a disaster), you know that our society is absolutely overrun with clothes. It’s a burden. It’s kind of jarring when you think about it that clothes are mass-produced, worn for a short time, then sent to languish on thrift store racks while they are still in good condition. It’s the definition of excess. Thanks to Macklemore, thrifting is becoming more popular but it’s still kind of stigmatized and there are still more clothes than we could ever need getting donated to thrift stores every day. At my favorite thrift store I regularly walk out with Banana Republic, J. Crew, Calvin Klein, and the less fancy but still adorable Loft, Target, Gap, and Old Navy items for $3 a pop. I even found a Diane von Furstenberg blouse once but sadly it wasn’t my size.

You could totally save a ton of money and also do your part to reduce waste by buying clothing secondhand. But if you’re new to thrifting, where do you start? It can be intimidating and overwhelming. While I’m a little too selfish to share the location of my favorite thrift store with every mom in Baton Rouge, I can give you a few tips to help you on your hunt.

If you need a very specific size, like for jeans or menswear, look for a thrift store that sorts clothing by size. (America’s Thrift near Cortana Mall has a huge selection of clothing sorted by size.) If you’re just browsing for a cute top, don’t be overwhelmed by the endless racks of shirts sorted in no logical order. Just dive right in!

Here’s my quick how-to guide on picking out an item:

1.You can quickly scan through the edges with your fingers and be able to rule out fabrics that are very worn or not your style.

2. When you catch a glimpse of something you think you might like, look at the tag but remember that sizing is flexible. I find that I can wear a S, M, or L depending on the brand and the way that it fits, but an XS or XL are hopeless for me so I can rule those out as well. This is also a very exciting time to discover that you’ve just found something that would cost way more at retail–I seriously get a little thrill when I recognize a designer logo (and who am I kidding, I’m just as excited to spot Target stuff).

3. If you haven’t ruled out the item by now based on color or size, pull it out and take a look. Is it a cut and color that would flatter you? Is it free of rips or stains? And do you think you would actually wear it?

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4. I cannot emphasize this enough: you need to try stuff on. Most thrift stores don’t accept returns and I actually find the fitting rooms in many thrift stores to be pretty spacious and clean.

5. Edit your selections ruthlessly. I have brought many, many things home because they looked “alright” and were only $3.50 that eventually went right back to the thrift store having never been worn. I don’t care if it’s a name brand or a great deal. Only buy what looks absolutely fabulous on you.

Some thrift stores price items individually, while others, like Goodwill, set standard prices of $3.50 for shirts, $5 for dresses, etc. Goodwill also has a section near the checkout for specially priced items–these are all items that the staff recognized as being worth a bit more and priced accordingly. This can be a good place to start if you’re overwhelmed, as can the returns rack outside the fitting room. But the real treasures are to be found in the way back nestled between grandma’s cast-offs and tops so tiny you wouldn’t let your teenage daughter wear them out of the house.

Be careful because thrifting can get seriously addicting! It’s so fun to walk out with an armful of clothes for the same price you’d normally pay for just one item!

Have you ever been thrifting?


Charlotte is mom to two-year-old Jack and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She works part time, sells vintage wares on Etsy, and also maintains a personal blog, Living Well on the Cheap, where she writes about creating a full, rich life and a beautiful home without living beyond her means. Decorating, blogging, and thrifting were the creative outlets that helped her cope with the emotional demands of her career as a social worker, and they still serve her well now that she spends most of her time caring for her son. She and her husband, Nick, both grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans, but met at LSU in 2006 and never had the heart to leave Baton Rouge. She is happy to call the Red Stick home and loves connecting with other moms.


  1. Charlotte, you’ve inspired me to go thrift shopping! Especially since I’ll be a SAHM for a little while and be on a budget. Thanks for this post!


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