I've wanted to do a post about tips for thrifting for a long time. It's something that I love to do, but know that lots of people are overwhelmed by.

I first started thrifting when I was a student at Oberlin College. Not only did I not have ANY money (that school is really expensive), but as you may know, I have these constant shopping urges. I didn't have a car, so I was limited to what was in town, which wasn't a lot. So I frequented Senior Thrift - Obies, remember that place?  It was pretty hardcore as far as thrifting goes - it was in a grungy basement and was not exactly user-friendly.

his n'hers hawaiian shirts anyone? seen recently at value village

his n'hers hawaiian shirts anyone? seen recently at value village

After Oberlin, I lived in Houston, New York, and Miami, but my thrifting obsession didn't really resurface until I moved to St. Louis in 2006. (Step back for a second, I have to recommend Fly Boutique on Lincoln Road if you're ever in Miami - so much good stuff) St. Louis is a thrifting mecca. Never before had I seen so many thrift stores with so much inventory. And good  inventory. I actually brought in quite a bit of extra income for a while selling vintage clothes on ebay that I found in thrift stores.

(Above are some of the photos from when I was selling on ebay - sorry for the screencap, I can't save the photos from flickr, but you can click on the photo to go to my ebay flickr photoset. I particularly regret selling the dress on the far right bottom corner!)

Thrifting so much really allowed me to experiment with style without spending a lot of money. I tried out so many trends that I coudn't afford to spend money on, and I think that was an important part of developing confidence in what I like and don't like.

 (Here are some of my experimentation outfits - I used to post to a popular flickr page called wardrobe remix)

Today, I'm going to share some of my tips for thrifting successfully.

5 Tips for Thrifting:

  1. Have a specific plan. Unless you're at the expert thrifter level, walking into a thrift store without a plan is very overwhelming. Pick one or two things that you'd like to find and focus on that. For example, you're only looking for a long sleeve red top. That rules out 95% of the stuff on the rack, so you can zoom through and just look at the items that fit your target. Maybe it's a printed sleeveless dress or a pair of slim black pants, anything that narrows the field is good.
  2.  Learn to skim. Remember cramming a book so that you could intelligently discuss it the next day in class? Use that same visual technique to skim the racks. It's pretty easy to tell from above the rack whether a shirt is a grungy knit, or a silky boatneck, or a vintage polyester tunic, so move quickly and only stop when something catches your eye and fits your criteria from your plan from tip #1.
  3. Go often. Thrift stores are constantly putting out new stuff throughout the day, so if you go often, you'll spot the new good stuff easily. It also makes your visit quicker, so instead of spending an afternoon once every few weeks, you spend 10-15 minutes once or twice a week. It definitely helps if you have options near your home or work so you can just drop in without going out of your way. 
  4.  Be open to possibilities. This directly contradicts tip #1, but that's ok. If, on the way to the printed sleeveless dress rack, you see the awesome pair of worn in denim cutoffs you've been searching your whole adult life for, snatch those babies up. Also falling under this category: be open to different sizes. Today's size 2 was yesterday's size 8. Develop a visual feel for what will fit you by trying on as much as possible.
  5. Don't get discouraged. This is the most important tip of all. I'd say 90% of the time, I walk out without a find. But that 10% of the time when you find, for example, a Marc Jacobs dress for $13, is such a high that it's all worth it. Thrifting is definitely something that requires more time and effort, but it's ethical, eco-conscious, and can ultimately save you money.

How about you guys? Have any tips to add? 

Next week, I'll share my recommendations for thrift stores in St. Louis - but one of them is having a deal on Groupon right now - $15 for $30 worth of merchandise at Red Racks - here