by Cole

The Ultimate Guide to Thrifting

I’ve heard a number of friends say “I can’t believe you thrifted that!” or “I never find anything good at thrift stores!”  The reality is that there is an art to thrifting quality clothing, but with a little know-how, you too can be on your way to finding quality, vintage and modern clothing at thrift stores for a fraction of retail prices.

Here is my 8-step process to thrifting quality clothes:

1.  Be Patient

First you should know you’re not going to replace your entire wardrobe in one trip to a thrift store. Some thrifting trips I might leave with 4 articles of clothing, other times I might not have found any. Having the right mindset will keep you from getting discouraged or from buying sub-par clothing.

2. Know what to look for

In general I usually look for clothes in a classic men’s style. The nice thing is that this hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years, so there is usually a decent supply and it’s not going out of style. Know that if you are looking for a specific style, it may be harder to find and might go out of style in a few years. For thrifting, classic and/or vintage is usually the way to go.

3. Scan the clothes racks

Over time, I’ve developed the ability to walk by and scan a rack to pick out the clothes that fit my style and are relatively high quality.  If you have to look at each item individually, it’s going to take a long time to go through all of the clothes.

4. Approximate the fit

Once you’ve spotted something that looks to be the right style, take it off the rack and approximate the fit. You can get a decent idea of the size without trying it on, if it’s not the right size, put it back on the rack. If the fit seems close, hang onto it.

5. Collect clothes to try on

Once you’ve looked briefly through the racks, you should have collected a few items. At this point, some people would just go ahead and buy the clothes, but it’s really important to try them on.

6. Try it on

First you want to see how well it fits you. You might find a really cool, great quality garment, but if it doesn’t fit right, it won’t look good.

7. Try to answer the question “why was this donated?”

It’s not uncommon that clothes were donated because they were damaged or stained, so you want to look for these before you buy anything. I’ve bought a number of items in the past only to find a hole or stain when I got home.

Dry cleaning tags are a good sign. It’s not uncommon to for dry-cleaners to donate clothing that has not been picked up within a certain time period. These clothes are probably really good quality and have been freshly cleaned and pressed.

8. Perform minor tailoring tasks

Certain alterations, such as shortening pant length, slimming shirts can be done relatively easily (YouTube is your friend here, or perhaps your friend in AMD will help you out in exchange for some food 🙂 ) and can greatly improve the fit and look of the clothes. Maybe you’ll even get ambitious enough to make a pair of swants!

Photo: ISU alumnus Robert Nichols and wife Olivia Nichols show off their homemade swants.

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