Tips for Mastering Second Hand Shops

Walking into any thrift shop, the racks packed with clothing and the shelves brimming with stock, can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned secondhand shopper.  But if you go with right mindset, armed with a few tips and tricks, you will find scores of one woman’s junk ready to become your treasures.  Here are my top ten tips!!

1. Call the stores you are interested in to find out when they are planning to put out new stock. That way you can time your visit to make sure you get the best selection possible.

2. Come with a list of things you are looking for, but do not live and die by it. Sometimes something truly wonderful that you never knew you wanted or needed will just appear, and you want to make sure you are open to that.

3. Do a loop around the entire store and grab everything that catches your eye, even if you are not sure about it. Do not overthink. Just do it. There is no extra stock in the back. What is on the floor is what they have. So if you see a great piece, just grab it, even if you feel like it might not fit, or you do not know where or how you will wear it. Now is not the time for scrutinizing your every decision. If you do not grab it when you have the chance, someone else could spot the same piece and snatch it out from under you. You can edit through your selection later.

4. Wear a neutral outfit that is easy-on and easy-off to make things in the dressing room as pain-free as possible. That means no button-down shirts or lace-up shoes, which will only make it that much harder to change quickly. Also, stick to wearing separates instead of a dress. That way, you can try on pieces with clothes you already own and know fit you, instead of having to go find some skirt you don’t actually like just so you can try on the top you are interested in.

5. Do not be fooled by fake designer labels. Buy something because you like it. Not because it has a fancy label in it. The whole fake labels thing is not really an issue when you are shopping at overstock stores like TJ Maxx or Marshalls or at most thrift stores, but you need to be on your guard when shopping at vintage and consignment shops. The fact is, it is easy for someone to take an old dress, sew a fake designer label in it, and then charge 10 times what it’s actually worth. It is up to you to examine the details and finishings, and figure out if you are getting the real deal or a fake. If you have doubts about a garment’s authenticity, trust your gut. Just be cautious.

6. Stick to pieces with clean lines and classic shapes if you do not want to look dated. Even when you are shopping for vintage clothes, you probably do not want to look like you just stepped out of another era. The more streamlined the piece is, the more modern it will look and the easier it will be for you to integrate it into your existing wardrobe.

7. Never buy anything with a stain on it. You will never get it out, no matter how hard you try. Never ever.

8. If you plan to haggle or ask for any kind of a discount, make sure you are super nice to the staff from the moment you enter the store, flea market, or wherever else you are shopping. If there are multiple salespeople, pick one and try to get a dialogue going — smile, say hello, ask how they are doing. Then, before you head to the counter, make a point of hanging up the pieces you are not buying so she or he does not have to do it later her or himself.

9. Do not be afraid to take something to the tailor to get it just right. Just make sure you know the difference between what can be fixed and what cannot. And be honest with yourself about how much work you are actually willing to put into it. Hey, sometimes secondhand clothes and accessories need a little extra TLC to look their best, but if you are already getting a deal, that extra work can be totally worth it.

10. Whatever you buy, make sure you clean it immediately. Drop it off at the dry cleaner on your way home or pop it into the laundry machine the second you walk through the door. Do not wait. You do not know where it has been.

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