If you’re about as active on the Internet as the typical 21st-century individual, chances are you’ve heard about the latest craze: thrifting. In a world where everyday necessities are only getting more and more expensive, it’s no surprise that thrift stores are gaining hype! With a little bit of time and patience, thrifting can offer interested consumers the chance to get amazing deals on affordable, high-quality clothing, with the added bonus of knowing they’re giving already well-loved items a second chance.
Despite it being “in” right now, though, few people know just how beneficial thrifting actually is to the environment. Today, fast fashion has taken over the fashion industry - more and more brands are turning to dangerous factories and exploitative labour to produce ready-made clothing and draw in as many customers as possible, but while these clothes are cheap, their impact on the planet is far from insignificant.
Studies have shown that fast fashion contributes to 10% of carbon emissions worldwide, and more each year than all international flights and shipping services combined. Not only that, the process involved in making those inexpensive clothes produces tons of wastewater and plastic fibers toxic to the environment, not to mention all the records of unethical labour associated with fast fashion that takes advantage of those in developing countries.
That’s where thrifting comes in. An eco-friendly, beautifully sustainable alternative to purchasing new clothes every season, thrifting encourages donating, reusing, and even upcycling clothing, massively reducing both the harmful emissions caused by fast fashion as well as the waste buildup from discarding old clothes. It’s also almost always more affordable than buying new! Thrift stores deserve your support - even if you don’t consider the huge number of environmental benefits, they contribute to the development of a circular economy where sustainability is the #1 priority.
If your interest has been piqued but you have no idea where to begin, don’t worry! Here are a few of the most important tips and tricks to thrifting, so we can help you thrift like the street-smart, environmentally conscious consumer that we all strive to be.
Pick the Right Thrift Store
First things first: where do you go for the perfect finds? Choosing a shop that’s both reliable and affordable may seem daunting at first, but there’s no reason to stress.
The best way to locate the right store for you is to look in your neighbourhood, since local shops are both close by and also give you the chance to support small businesses in your own community. Try a good old Google Maps search, check out some online forums, or even ask your neighbours! There is no perfect store for everyone, but the best ones will have a reliable reputation, offer affordable pricing, keep their items in good condition, and have friendly staff to help you out whenever you need it.
Know Your Budget
Since secondhand clothing is so cheap, it’s easy to go overboard when you find yourself in the treasure trove that is a thrift store. But don’t overdo it! Before you set out on your thrifting adventure, make sure to set a reasonable limit for yourself in terms of what you’ll be willing to spend.
This will not only help you save money by putting a stop to impulsive buys, but also stop you from making purchases you’ll potentially regret. That way, you have more incentive to choose your finds carefully and focus on grabbing the pieces you truly fall in love with.
Pay Attention to Sizing
One thing that’s tough about thrifting is finding the perfect fit for you. Since you’re not shopping for one specific brand in a thrift store with hundreds of different items, it’s all too easy to get mixed up between inconsistent measurements and sizes.
That’s why it’s important to pay attention to sizing beyond just what’s written on the label. A “small” in one brand might be a “medium” or even an “extra small” in another. Not to mention that because thrift stores accept a wide variety of donations, clothing from international brands might carry much more different sizing standards than what you’re used to - so don’t just blindly trust the label!
Try EVERYTHING On
This tip is a follow-up to the last one - any thrift store worth their salt will have changing rooms available for you, so make sure to try on anything you’re interested in! This not only helps with figuring out sizing, but also makes sure that that bold top or vintage sweater looks just as good as you imagined.
Trying on all of your finds helps you ensure that you’re spending your hard-earned money on pieces that are wholly worth it. Thrifting is meant to be a fun, exciting experience, after all, so what’s the point if you don’t love what you end up with?
Be Smart About Pricing
Ask any veteran thrifter, and they’ll tell you that one of thrifting’s biggest plus sides is the cheap, affordable prices. So don’t get fooled - if a thrift shop is charging you a higher price for a recycled pair of jeans than a new pair you can get at the mall, that’s probably a sign that something is up.
This isn’t to say that you should expect every item to have an astronomically low price tag - there are some rare vintage pieces that might be well worth the price. So don’t forgo the research! If you see something you like that’s a bit pricier than you might expect, it could be a good idea to pay attention to the label and the fabric to see if the quality justifies the number.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Digital
Online shopping is all the rage these days, so there’s no reason for thrifting to be limited to only in-person visits, either. If you can’t seem to find the time to go thrifting at local shops - or if you simply don’t have any in business nearby - you can always try thrifting online too!
Apps like Depop or Poshmark boast thriving communities full of people who upload their own clothes for sale every day, as do websites like Kijiji. What’s more, they’re also great channels to get involved yourself if you have any used clothes that you’d like to offer up, and the best thing is that they’re all available to you at the touch of a button.
Always Clean Your New Finds
Once you’ve found your perfect pieces and taken them home, it might be tempting to wear them to show them off right away. But don’t be impatient - although shops will always do their best to clean donated clothing, there are tons of thrifters just like you who touch and try them on every day, and secondhand items are always vulnerable to dust, allergens, and bacteria that may pose a risk to your health.
That’s why it’s crucial to make sure to clean all of your newly thrifted clothes before you wear them. A cycle in the washing machine should do the trick (don’t forget to check the care label for details on how to do so), but to be extra safe, it’s not a bad idea to hand wash to make sure you don’t damage your new finds or cause potential colour bleeding between pieces. After doing so, you can rest assured and wear your clothes with 100% confidence!
So there you have it - you’ve been armed with all the knowledge you need to become a tried-and-true professional thrifter. Now, whenever you bring home that perfect vintage t-shirt or pair of boots, you can take pride in the fact that you’re doing a big favour to our planet by staying sustainable and stylish, and this newly trendy form of “slow” fashion has never looked better. It’s a win-win!