Be Fashionably Frugal With the Best Thrift-Store Clothes

Shopping for clothes at the thrift store never appealed to me. I was comfortable perusing the housewares, but the smell of mothballs kept me from browsing the racks of clothes. Finding a brand-new trench coat, complete with the department store tag, for $10 changed my mind. Now I regularly shop for clothes at the thrift store.

Use these tips to find fashionable clothes at the thrift store.

Change your expectations.
Some thrift stores smell like mothballs and only offer grandma’s castaways, but others have a great selection of stylish clothes for women. I regularly see expensive clothing brands–including Lucky Brand Jeans, Liz Claiborne and Polo–selling for a few dollars.

Retailers sometimes donate new clothes to charitable stores such as Goodwill. Keep an open mind and shop around to find out which local secondhand stores have the best clothes and lowest prices.

Save money with sales and coupons.
Secondhand stores sometimes offer specials and discounts. Find out if there is a frequent buyer club or mailing list for coupons. Some shops offer a price reduction on certain days. For example, one local store offers 50% off clothing items with blue tags on Wednesdays. Familiarize yourself with the store’s sale information so you can find the best bargains.

Check for stains or damage.
Whether shopping at a high-end boutique or thrift store, it is always a good idea to check clothes for damage. Make sure the zipper works and check for loose or missing buttons. Hold each garment up to the light or window to look for subtle stains or holes.

Know your size.
Labels are not necessarily accurate for used clothes since garments can shrink and stretch with regular wear and laundering. To a certain extent, this is better because what you see is what you get. Pay attention to the clothes you already own so you can get a sense of what to look for in secondhand clothes.

Another option is to bring a miniature measuring tape along to the thrift store and take a quick measurement.

Consider add-on costs.
A $20 formal gown with beaded details seemed like a great thrift store find, but the dry cleaner wanted $70 to clean it. Consider the add-on cost of professional dry cleaning, alterations or repairs. Some problems, such as a missing button, are easy to handle on your own. Complex repairs, such as replacing a busted zipper, probably are not worth the time and money.

Be friendly.
If you are looking for a certain item, let the staff know. They may tell you when they are expecting a delivery of fresh merchandise.

Take your time.
Shopping at secondhand stores tends to take a little longer because they group items together by size, type or color. Take your time and enjoy the treasure hunt.