10 Ways to Improve your Thrift Game

Much like my refrigerator has nothing to eat, my closet has nothing to wear. This may partially be due to the fact that I’m far too lazy to ever get my clean clothes to the point of hanging in my closet, but still, NOTHING.

I remember a time in high school when I went shopping with my dad at the Albertville Outlet Mall and I showed him a sweater that I really wanted to get. He asked me the price then asked if I really needed a new sweater. The answer was no and I reluctantly agreed. Now, every time I go shopping, my dad’s voice of rationale joins as my frugal spirit guide.

Eventually, his voice led me to thrifting [which actually makes a lot of sense because he works for a national thrift store.] In the last few years, I’ve found what makes thrifting fun and what it takes to find kickass staples to add to your wardrobe, and finally have something to wear.

Brand new suede chukkas for $3.

Here’s How to Improve your Thrift Game

  1. Take your time. I prefer to go alone so I don’t feel rushed. Set aside a few hours because if you want to find pieces that speak to you, it’s going to take digging through a lot of shit that won’t speak to you. Make a playlist or save your favorite podcast for your shopping trip. Time invested on the hunt is money saved on badass clothes.
  2. Plan in advance. My favorite store chain in the city, Village Discount Outlet, offers half price on certain colored tags every week. On [pretty much] every holiday weekend, they offer half price off the entire store. This includes the pieces on the Better Garments racks. These are the days I usually go. Their website always markets this, too.
  3. Wear a dress or skirt. My favorite thrift store doesn’t have dressing rooms, so I’m on my own when it comes to sizing. If your body isn’t the shape of a perfect mannequin, you probably have trouble finding clothes that fit you right. This will allow you the freedom to try clothes on before you commit, especially if you’re on the fence.

    Tired mom look nailed for $3.
  4. Know your style. I work for a Nordstrom Company, so I’m familiar with current trends and what clothing brands are higher quality. The issue is they come with a higher price tag that I can’t afford. If you’re feeling a bit lost, start a Pinterest fashion board so you have pictures of outfits in mind (and on your phone) of the look you want to achieve. I’m very aware that my current look is the “tired mom of 3,” so I tend to gravitate towards Gap and Express jeans, and slub-style basic T’s. I may not have children, or actually know what being a tired mom feels like, but I do know I represent the style like a damn mother.
  5. Set your expectations low. Not every trip is going to be a jackpot. Lowered expectations yield higher satisfaction. It’s just science.
  6. Shop all of the racks. If you want to strike gold, you gotta search for it with the ambition of a California miner circa 1849. I’ve found most of my favorite garments sandwiched between stuff I’d never blink at otherwise.
  7. Check for wear. While you will find some gems with their original tags, you will find way more without. Before going to check-out, check the usual places for wear (pits, crotch, hems, stains.)
  8. BYOB. I should specify that I mean bag, but a little booze wouldn’t hurt either. Chicago has a 7¢ bag tax for every bag you purchase, plus they are usually the worst excuse for bags in existence. Bring reusable bags and bring more than you think you’ll need.
  9. Find yourself a tailor and become a regular. This is still on my list of things to do. I got a pair of optic white Joe’s denim for $1 that fit me perfectly, but are the appropriate length for an adult giraffe. The most important bit of advice I got from Mandy Kaling’s book, Why Not Me? is that it’s not about how it fits you off the rack. Get it at the thrift store then tailor that shit to you. You can turn a burlap sack into a burlap body-con dress if you really want to, but probably don’t because chafing. On that note, if you have a tailor that you’d recommend in Chicago, send me numbers.

    DIY flare crops and black basic T for $2.
  10. Think outside of the box. When deciding on whether or not to get a new piece, it’s important to put it together in an outfit. Is this something I’d wear? How can I make this work? On my last trip, I was deciding a pair of denim that were the perfect color but long and worn on the hem. I bought them, cut off the bottoms and now they’re super trendy flair crops and I’m so cool now with lots of friends and blog followers.


That last statement wasn’t entirely true, but I did buy them and turn them into a successful DIY project. Long live recycled clothing!

What are your favorite thrift store finds?

4 thoughts on “10 Ways to Improve your Thrift Game

  1. I’ve been thrusting to fill my closet ever since we started having kids. Too many size changes between kids and firing and after pregnancy to have expensive stuff. Love these tips and the idea of what to wear when going. Thanks!

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