Accessories, Fashion, Finding your style, Hot topics, Where to shop

Broke College Girlie In Need Of A New Look? Here’s Our Ultimate Thrifting Guide

tips for thrifting clothes

This article was written by The Zillennial Zine’s fall editorial intern Elizabeth Miller. Find them on Instagram at @Lizzy_7979. If you would like to share an article with The Zillennial, send us an email at

The new school year is starting, it’s time for a new you! Maybe you’ve taken a liking to a different aesthetic, like the downtown girl or mall goth aesthetics, want a new statement piece, or could use some more basics for layering. Here is our ultimate list of tips for thrifting clothes, even if you’re on a budget!

If You Don’t Know Where To Start

Dance Thrift GIF by pierogiqueen - Find & Share on GIPHY

If you are completely new to the thrifting world, the first thing you need to do is find thrift stores near you. But don’t stop there! Check the reviews, and look up the store on social media. Don’t just look to see if people recommend shopping there. What people say about those stores can help you see what pieces those stores carry, and that can be super helpful if you’re looking for a particular style. For instance, some stores near me are regular donation centers, which have a variety of clothes both old and newer, and other stores are curated, only taking donations or resale items that are new or trendy. This will make it so much easier when you are looking for specific styles. 

Also, try not to go in with expectations. Some thrifting trips will be great successes, others you might not find anything that calls out to you. That’s okay!

Before You Go…

Have a store all picked out? Don’t leave just yet! Before you leave, there are a few things you do to prepare.

Have an idea of what you’re looking for. This can be something broad, like an aesthetic, or specific, like a mint green cropped polo shirt. If you’re trying something new or are on a budget, consider setting a limit on how many pieces you’ll purchase or how much you’ll spend. Also, take a look to see what clothes you already own to avoid purchasing duplicates. Even take pictures of items you wear a lot.

Dress to be able to try things on easily. Some thrift stores don’t have dressing rooms, so trying on clothes right in the aisle is just fine! If you’re looking for shorts or pants, consider wearing a dress and slip-on shoes to the thrift store. I typically go in leggings and a tight-fitting shirt. 

Do you know when the best time to shop is? This will depend on the thrift store you go to. Check on social media or visit your preferred thrift store frequently to gauge what days are the busiest, and what days and times they restock with new donations. Some stores restock more than once per day, others just once before opening. Try to plan your shopping time around then.

There are a few other things you might want to bring with you. If you’re looking for a nice dress, consider bringing the shoes you want to wear with it. If you get overstimulated, wear headphones while you shop. Bring water or a drink, unless the store does not want open food and drinks inside. And last, but not least, bring hand sanitizer, a Tide to-go pen, and extra shopping bags. Thrift stores can be dirty, and if you find a piece you really want but it has a stain, check the laundering instructions and do a spot test if it’s safe. Make sure to use hand sanitizer as you leave, and put any clothes in extra bags until you can wash everything.

At The Store…

Great! You’ve made it to the store. Grab a cart, let’s get shopping. Most thrift stores are organized into sections like men’s, women’s, kids and shoes. Others are just random bins. See how your store is laid out, pick a section and get digging. If this is overwhelming, there’s nothing wrong with just skimming. Look for the colors, cuts, and textures you planned to look for. 

Don’t be afraid to look in sections you don’t typically shop in. For example, I always check the men’s pants because they have deep pockets! If you’re like me, other sections can be great for finding inspiration for a project or finding materials. I’ve used old curtains and tablecloths for projects like Halloween and dance costumes. Things can get mixed around in thrift stores too, so you may find a piece where it technically doesn’t belong. Good thing you checked, or you could have missed it!

If there is a dressing room, check the return rack! Someone else thought those pieces were worth trying on, but they may not have fit them the way they liked. See if it’s worthwhile. 

Check the pockets. Bags, pants, and jackets may have forgotten surprises. Look over the pieces you want to get for any holes, stains and snags. Some damages are repairable, others not so much. Give it a good assessment before purchasing anything. Look for good quality items. Some handmade items end up in thrift stores. A good way to tell is to look at how something is sewn, or if it is knitted or crocheted. Good quality seams, like French seams, often do not have any exposed cut fabric edges and indicate that something was handmade. Knits can be hard to tell, but generally, if a piece does not look like it has any sewn parts it is handmade. If any sewn parts look to be hand-stitched together or the stitching is invisible, it is probably handmade. Knitting can be done with a machine, so also check if there are tags along any hems or the collar. Crochet cannot be done with a machine, so tags are the best indication if the piece came from a fast fashion company. Give these items love! It is best to handwash these items, and if you have questions about how to care for them, check Google or a local store to see if they can indicate what type of fabric or yarn is used. Call and ask if it is okay to bring the item in-store before consulting though! Some stores do not out of caution against moths. 

When you go to check out, see if there are any other discounts you can get, like student, military, teacher or rewards member discounts if you apply. Use those extra bags to hold everything and wash the items when you get home!

Some Altering And Mending Tips


Im no professional 👊🏻 this is what works for me. You can also just take the measurments and then draw it out opposed to chalking it when its on! #beginnersewingtips #alterations #sewingalterations #easysewingtutorials #easysewingpatterns #babytee #diyfashion

♬ original sound – 111threads

If you found a piece that doesn’t quite fit the way you want it to, but you can’t pass it up, here are some sewing tips!

Hems. If a piece is too long or you want it cropped, resewing the hem at a different length is super easy. If you can, grab a friend to help you. There are many ways to sew a hem. If you have a sewing machine you can use that, but if not you can hand sew it or use an iron-on hem tape. For dresses and pants, pin around the entire edge to mark the desired length. You may need to cut some of the excess if you are shortening the piece a lot. For a basic hem, fold the fabric underneath so the line of pins is the new bottom edge and sew around about half an inch up. For shirts, you can also mark with pins, or you can use chalk. Try it on and see how short you want the shirt to be, then take it off and use a ruler to measure and mark an even line. For non-stretchy fabrics, sew around like normal, but if you have a stretchy fabric, you will need elastic thread or sew with a zig-zag stitch on a sewing machine (this is important for horizontal seams you need to stretch over your shoulders or hips).

Too big waistband. Have you ever tried on a pair of pants and they fit your hips great but the waistband is too big? All you need is a dart. Darts are triangle-like sinches that give clothes dimension to fit curves. For those pants, you can either sew darts on the side seams or put a big one at the center back of the pants. To make your darts, put on your pants and pinch the fabric where you want to put the dart so that the pants fit you. The excess fabric makes a triangle, mark where the edges are so that they make a V when laid flat. Use a ladder stitch to sew the two lines of the V together. 

Holes and small tears. Small holes and tears can usually be fixed by folding the fabric along the hole so the edges are lined up and the “right” or “nice” sides of the fabric are touching each other. Sew along the cut edge. Holes that are big enough to slide a pencil through will need to be darned (using sewing thread to weave a patch) or have a patch sewn over them.

If You Want To Make A Little Cash

Some thrift and consignment stores will buy your clothes! If you have clothes you don’t want anymore, see if a store that buys clothes will give you an offer. Some will offer cash, but they may offer even more money in store credit.

You can also resell good quality items you find. You can sell in person to friends, family and neighbors, or online with websites like Poshmark, The RealReal and Depop.

Most of this guide was about clothes, but if you have a knack for crafts, you can flip thrifted furniture and decorations as well. Just be careful moving large items and check to make sure they are clean!

Those are our favorite tips for thrifting clothes! What did we miss? Let us know in the comments below!

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