Scavenging for treasures at thrift stores is one of my favorite pastimes but, admittedly, it can be a bit tedious to find just the right thing. A few weeks ago, I shared 5 things to avoid buying at thrift shops, but my advice doesn’t end there!
Today I want to share the items I prefer to buy at thrift shops over regular retail stores. For me, thrift shops aren’t just more sustainable alternatives to the mall, they’re treasure troves of goods that defy current trends and traditional merchandising standards. My personal preferences (and my body type) don’t always mesh with current trends, so thrift shops provide an essential resource for finding things that work for me across brands, styles, and eras.
6 Things to Buy at Thrift Shops Instead of Traditional Retail Stores
1. Durable Cotton Denim
Even if you’re not big into the mom jeans trend, you have to admit that thick, cotton denim from the 1990s and earlier just holds up better than jeggings. Since I carry most of my weight in my hips and thighs, I hunt for high waisted denim with extra room in the hips to make into cut-offs in the summer. Cropping full length jeans allows me to customize the length (booty shorts just aren’t my thing) and they’re a lot more flattering than the flimsy, skin-tight shorts you often find on the market today.
2. Skirts, Skirts, Skirts
Why buy a new midi skirt when you can buy a groovy, vintage one from your local thrift shop? I don’t shop for skirts from traditional retailers at all now that I’ve discovered the skirt wonderland that is the thrift shop. All sorts of patterns, lengths, cuts, and brands are available in a single place, which allows you to try on lots of different things and find the perfect fabric, pattern, and cut. I recently styled a vintage Ralph Lauren Country skirt I thrifted in a The Moral Wardrobe post.
3. Sweaters & Outerwear
Cold weather clothes made of high quality, cozy fabrics like cashmere and wool are expensive, not to mention that a lot of today’s luxury materials just aren’t as high quality as they used to be. That’s why I’ve become a secondhand cashmere hoarder ever since I started working at a thrift shop. I used to stock up on Old Navy sweaters made of acrylic and cotton blends, but they never really held in my body heat like a layering piece should. Now that I have access to cashmere sweaters (at $4.00 a pop!) and the perfect wool toggle coat (for $29.99), winters are a lot more bearable.
4. Statement Dresses & Tops
The ethical fashion world is great at producing high quality, organic cotton basics and I tend to prefer to buy those sorts of things new for the best fit and long term wear. But fun, printed garments produced under fair trade guidelines are either harder for me to find in the right cut or out of my price range, so I seek them out secondhand. Favorite finds: a cold-shoulder top, a ’90s skater dress, a slinky polka dot t-shirt dress, and a Ralph Lauren color-block button-down.
This may surprise you, but I actually prefer to buy swimsuits secondhand. Hygiene issues aside (just be careful to check for wear and wash thoroughly before wearing), the thrift shop provides better variety and better pricing on swimwear. I found the perfect, daisy print halter swim top at a shop in a neighboring town a few years ago (I can officially say that I had a halter swim top before it was cool) and it pairs just fine with the black swim bottoms I already owned. For someone who is neither an hourglass nor a wearer of push-up bras (it always seems like swim companies assume we all fit in those categories), I like being able to select from a wide variety of silhouettes and sizes. In fact, I think my top may be a children’s item.
Though I have a pretty even mix of new and used bags in my collection, I often get more use out of the surprise finds from the thrift shop. I always use a mid-sized crossbody, preferably made of lightweight fabric with lots of organizational pockets. Finding all of that in an ethically produced bag is pretty much impossible, so I keep my eye out for conventional brands with those specs at secondhand shops.
I’m interested to hear your thrift shop victories! Let me know in the comments.