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11 Tips for Choosing Great Second-Hand Clothes

By , September 14th, 2008 | 9 Comments »

thrift store

It all started after my mother graduated from college in 1979. With a teaching degree in hand, a student loan to pay off, and a family to support, she began shopping at thrift stores.

We had fun those Saturday mornings, going through our community’s small thrift stores. Over time we bought everything we needed: clothes, shoes, towels, dishes, and small appliances. Now as an adult, I continue to shop at thrift stores for my family and myself. Why? Thrift shopping is a great way to make your dollar stretch too. In time, you will discover you love hunting for your needed items and all you can get for a little money. For instance, my lightly used Levi’s 540 jeans were $5.50 a pair at my local second-hand shop. Online – even at an incredible deal – they cost $39.50 for two pairs.

When looking for clothes while second hand shopping, it’s wise to keep a few things in mind including that it takes persistence, time and a sharp eye:

Second-hand stores are a great way to get name brand clothing

This is especially if your teenager is into labels. In addition, brand name clothing can usually be counted on to provide quality fabric and closures, thus increasing the bargain.

check the clothing’s stress points

If clothes are going to give out too soon, it’s likely going to be at the stress points — knees, elbows, underarms, etc. — to make sure they can withstand another wearing

Run zippers up and down to ensure they work

Check to make sure buttons are intact and snaps work. If you have the skill and time to replace zippers, buttons and snaps, feel free to take the defective garment home. Perhaps you’ll get a discount on the item. Ask and see.

Try the clothing on

It’s no bargain if you get it home and it doesn’t fit.

Strive for a timeless fashion look when shopping for professional clothing

Straight skirts and pants, medium-width lapels, and simple blouses or shirts are easy to find and will look great.

Children’s clothing is a true bargain

Nice school clothes can be found for a few dollars — as well as clothes for the growth spurt later in the school year. If you see something you like for your child, but it’s the next size up, take it! You can store these clothes for later.

There is usually a no-return policy

Most second hand stores won’t have a return policy, and if they do, it’s going to be a very limited one. Be sure you know the store’s policy before you purchase. If you’re not sure you’re in love with an item, leave it at the store.

Most second-hand stores rotate their stock as the seasons change

Halloween and autumn items are at the stores around here, and the second-hand shops followed accordingly by offering sweaters, warm pants and light jackets. Shorts and tank tops are in short supply.

Second-hand stores are the best place to shop for a Halloween costume

You can be creative or find a ready-made costume.

Make a foot outline

When shopping for shoes without your child or spouse, draw an outline of his/her feet (with socks on, if that’s how the shoe will be worn) and use that drawing to size the shoe.

Clean them

It’s always a great idea to run the clothes through the laundry before adding them to your closets. While the clothes that you buy should be clean, it never hurts to be on the safe side.

Finally, you should be proud of the bargains you’ve netted in your second-hand shopping endeavors. You’ll find other people visit second-hand shops too, and soon you’ll be comparing stores and the great bargains you’ve found.

(Image courtesy of prone_to_wander)

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  • scfr says:

    These are great points.

    I thrift store shop occasionally, but I sometimes find I spend a whole lot of time and don’t find anything I like. I’ve developed a preference for consignment stores for clothes.

    Consignment stores might be a bit more expensive than traditional thrift stores, but I have found that if I locate a consignment store in my area that carries alot of clothes in styles I like, I can find several pieces in one visit, thus saving time & gasoline.

    One thing I have never bought second hand is shoes, because I am concerned about sanitation. Does anyone know a good way to get second hand shoes sanitized?

  • Daizy says:

    I love thrift stores! But I didn’t like it when I was a kid. The thrift store smell made me sneeze and I wasn’t in to clothes so I was just bored.

    Now I love them. It has to be the right thrift store. Salvation Army was my favorite but they closed, now I go to the Goodwill which is a little more expensive. It is a large store so I give myself at least 3 hours every 3 months to go through the entire store. The clothes have to be name brand with no stains or tears. Name brand clothes are made much better than Walmart clothes. When I get tired of my wardrobe I just re-donate to a different thrift store and go shopping again. It kind of feels frivilous but for $50 I can get a whole new wardrobe.

    Also, I have seen so much silver and china in thrift stores that if I ever get married, I won’t be putting it on my registry. I can get it cheap, plus, I can tell most people never use it!

  • Amber Jones says:

    Thank you for sharing these tips. I like to go second hand shopping occasionally. Especially for clothes that my boys are going to wear out/stain within a week anyways…

  • Dana says:

    I frequent seasonal consignment sales for my children. Some clothing I find with tags still attached. Thrift stores are a great place to buy trendy clothing. Certain styles come and go in one season so it’s great to not spend a lot on something like that. Thanks for all your tips!

  • Carol says:

    Thrift stores are a lifesaver. Last year, I purchased a nice jacket for my son from a department store, and of course he lost it at school. I was so mad! This year I went to the thrift store and found two name brand jackets for him, one for $6 and one for $7 and he (and I) are pleased as punch.

  • minny says:

    Here in the UK we call them ‘charity shops’ and they can support local charities such as hospices, or charities such as ‘Save the Children’ – dozens of them.

    I buy clothes, books, household and fabric when I can find it. I am waiting to hear from a local charity shop as I have applied for a job as a volunteer, just two half days a week.

    We also have car boot (trunk) sales which are our version or your garage sales. They are the place to get great bargains. I got a brand new – unused – crock pot for

  • Ngoc says:

    I appreciate your experience. I usually buy second-hand cloth to have a unique and cheap items. That is my favorite thing in life. Now, I am opening a second-hand clothes at my apartment – I am Vietnamese sophomore. That is why I need to know more about the second-hand clothes.

  • Elise says:

    I used to live in a group care home in Washington state, and I remember a group care home staff there by the name of Betty, who said that she some times went to second hand thrift stores, in Down Town Seattle Washington, to go find some really groovy stuff some times! I would actually some times listen to what the group care home staff were saying, in that group care home out there in Washington state some times! I kind of remember the group care home staff, saying that she some times went to Down Town Seattle Washington, to go shop for some really groovy finds, at second hand thrift stores, in Down Town Seattle Washington! her name was Betty, I think. she was always saying: groovy baby! I think that was one of Betty the group care home staff’s favorite sayings was: groovy baby! I don’t remember every thing that was said or done, or done or said there, but I tried to pay attention as much as I could while living there in that group care home in Washington state! 😉


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