A Guide to Thrifting

A Guide to Thrifting

Emma Macintire

With the holiday season coming to a close, you may be wondering what to do with your extra holiday cash. Maybe you have some belated holiday gifts to buy or are considering shopping for next season. Though it might be difficult to refrain from the convenience of buying from retail stores or even online, consider testing out thrifting instead. If you’re in need of some new places or tips, your local tour guide is here to help you along the way. 

Where?

Though I’ve done my fair share of thrifting, there are too many thrift stores for me to name every one. Instead, I can share some of my favorites from my area and a few others in Massachusetts that I recommend.

In Worcester, the thrift stores I visit most often are the Goodwill Store on 25 Park Avenue and Savers on 490 Lincoln Street. Both are relatively similar in price, carry a good range of clothing, furniture, and shoes, and have an abundance of stores that can be found in most areas of the United States. On 356 Shrewsbury Street, there is a lesser-known thrift store called Grime. Grime is slightly more expensive than your local Goodwill or Savers, but very good quality clothing. 

In areas closer to Boston, The Garment District on 200 Broadway in Cambridge has grown in popularity on social media. In addition to their affordable prices and frequent sales, the Garment District displays a wide assortment of unique and fashionable clothing. Their uniqueness can be shown through their downstairs area, in which the store sells used clothing by the pound, and on their second floor where they have their racks organized by decade.

For those who travel to or live in Cape Cod, Yarmouth has a selection of good stores to choose from. Wicked Thrift & PopRock Village in South Yarmouth have decades of clothing, from designer to the smallest of finds. Cape Abilities Thrift in West Yarmouth, on the other hand, focuses more on furniture, jewelry, and antiques. Wilma’s Eclectic Finds in West Yarmouth is a mix between the two, with both small furniture and a large selection of clothes and jewelry.

If in-person thrifting doesn’t suit you, a good alternative is to shop using online thrift stores such as Depop or Poshmark.

These are the stores I personally recommend, but almost anywhere you go, there is bound to be a thrift or antique store. If you see another not on this list that looks interesting, I encourage you to check it out. With each store comes an entirely new experience and you never know what you might find.

Why Thrifting?

I’ve mentioned where to shop, but you may be wondering: why thrifting? What makes it different from your normal shopping experiences and why should you try it? 

Personally, I’ve been taking trips to antique and thrift stores since I was young, but I never really put much thought to thrifting until a few years ago. At that time, a friend had invited me to thrift for clothes at our local Savers and I immediately fell in love. Though thrifting was not much different than sifting through racks at H&M, the clothing is a lot different than what is sold in such retail stores. I think I found the most enjoyment when figuring out how to style the clothing with what I had at home. Also, the excitement of finding a really unique piece that you have never seen anywhere else is unmatched. When I started thrifting, middle school me was excited about the cheaper prices, but I never realized until later that thrifting also has a positive impact on the environment. All in all, I think thrift shopping has some great benefits and is an experience everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

If my opinion wasn’t convincing enough, Worcester Academy junior Naima Masiki has some interesting reasons as to why she thrifts. Naima acknowledges the environmental impact that thrifting embodies, but she also believes it ties into her enjoyment. Knowing that big brands use cheap labor and polluting materials just to throw away the items once the trend dies, she feels that buying second-hand lessens this negative impact on the environment. She also mentions the positive impact that thrifting has on low-income communities, as cheap clothing allows more funds for others needs. Naima feels as though these positives then filter into her enjoyment factor. For example, she likes the challenge of refraining from trendy fashion styles and being more conscious with what and how much she purchases. Not only does Naima share her opinions, but she also provides really great advice to shoppers. It is a lot easier to shop, she believes, by not going in to find something specific. Thrifting is an opportunity where you “might happen to find something new rather than a set mission.” Consider buying something different than your usual purchases, staple pieces to go with different outfits, or try upcycling clothing into something new. But, if you do really need something specific, online thrift stores such as ThredUp.com or Depop.com can help narrow down your search by style, color, and size. Naima hopes others will see thrifting as an opportunity to “stumble upon a hidden treasure with a backstory.” She cherishes the fact that thrift stores contain articles that have been with “a person in the world who you have never met, and who has their own experience and story.” That being said, she hopes others will be inspired to try it out.

My Favorite Tips and Tricks

Everytime you thrift, you learn something new. Whether it be how to shop or even what to look for, I have picked up some hacks along the way that I thought I would share. 

  1. Bring a friend!
  2. Find your shopping “routine.” To avoid ending up with an overflow of clothes stacked on your arm, what I love to do is to put all the things I immediately like into one cart. Then, after I try them on, I separate them into “yes” “no” and “maybe” piles, and at the very end, decide what is worth it to buy. Though everybody is different, this is what I have found to be most helpful.
  3. Look through a majority of the store. Thrifting in general sucks up a lot of time, but it is definitely worth it to check all the sections. For example, if you normally shop in one specific section, try to branch out to the unexpected and see what you can find. 
  4. Dress appropriately. If you decide to try on a large load of clothes, wearing an outfit that is easy to take off and put on quickly makes thrifting that much easier.
  5. Consider the area that you are shopping in. Do not underestimate the smaller thrift shops; they might just surprise you. 
  6. At times, thrift stores can be pretty crowded. Especially with the virus nowadays, it is important to have space to look around. Weekdays are usually the least crowded, but consider doing your research on the certain store beforehand.
  7. Have in mind the style that you want to look for. Not all the time will you find the select article of clothing that you are looking for, but it might be helpful to have a Pinterest board to group together your ideas. By having this, you will know a general sense of what to look for.
  8. Consider your time, but if not, shop online! Thrift shopping can be time consuming, so if you are more of an online shopper, there are online thrift stores at your disposal.

The “Do’s and Don’ts” of Thrifting

While I am not an expert thrifter, I love to share my personal experiences in hopes that it might break down some initial assumptions. 

DO DON’T
DO make the time. In most cases, thrifting takes up a lot of time. Sifting through racks on racks of clothing is definitely fun, but extremely time consuming, so plan your time wisely. DON’T get grossed out. A popular myth is that all the clothes are dirty, but the donated clothes are screened carefully before being displayed on the racks. To be extra careful, wash the clothes after purchase. 
DO try out new styles. Most of the clothing is considered outdated in today’s world, but there’s always a way to rework, flip, or style them.   DON’T get discouraged. Almost like a treasure hunt, sometimes you might find something that you love whereas other times you might not find anything at all. 
As with any new clothes you buy, DO make sure to wash when you get home. DON’T shy away from accessories or appliances. You may go into the store looking for clothes, but with just a quick look into the accessories you might find some timeless pieces.
DO research vintage brands. It is interesting to learn about a new brand, and you might even find a vintage line that you really love.

 

A Message from Green Team

Not only would I recommend thrifting because it is enjoyable, but because it will help us take steps towards a healthier future. 

Though one of my greatest weaknesses is Urban Outfitters or Shein’s newest trends, big retail stores such as these fall under the category of fast fashion, meaning that they mass produce very cheap clothing. New styles emerge in stores with each season, and the old or unused clothing gets piled into landfills. It is a constant cycle. 

While there are environmentally safe alternatives, not everyone can afford clothing made from recycled material. Thrift stores, on the other hand, are both reasonably priced and especially helpful to the environment. According to UC Berkeley’s 2019 “Garb & Go” club, buying second hand clothing reduces the amount of clothing that gets thrown into landfills, and lessens the amount of resources used to create said clothing. For example, to make one pair of jeans would take over 1,000 gallons of water, using dyes and chemicals that seep into nearby water sources, and an abundance of greenhouse gases would be emitted in the process. Thrifting may not solve every one of these problems immediately, but it would help towards minimizing the effects. 

A Worcester Academy junior, Katarina Fechner, represents a group of Green Team members, Anatasia, Ella Fay, and herself, who specifically research the effects of the fashion industry on the environment. She explains how “it’s very important for everyone in our community to understand the negative effects of buying fast fashion as opposed to thrifting or making an effort to source our clothing from sustainable companies. Fast fashion is seriously detrimental to the environment; it can release harmful chemicals into the environment and waste huge amounts of resources.” She then speaks on the alternatives to fast fashion, that by thrifting, “it is possible to avoid the negative environmental impacts of producing new clothing by reusing clothing that has already been manufactured.” To help raise awareness about thrifting versus fast fashion, this group is “working on a project to collect information about our community regarding their clothing sources and educate everyone about these topics.” To help the Green Team in their work, they would love it if everyone were to fill out an email survey sent by Katarina several weeks ago. They give their thanks and I wish them luck on their project.

One of the most important things in life is to care for our surroundings, and by buying second-hand, we will lead happier and healthier lives on our planet Earth. 

Concluding Remarks

You are not always guaranteed to find treasure in the thrifting world, but the hunt is just as exciting. Some days you may walk out empty handed, but on days you find an amazing purchase, you will feel like you could explode of happiness. Those exciting moments are ones that I encourage everyone to have at least once. So, even if you think thrifting isn’t for you, try it once and see how you feel.

Works Cited

French, L. (n.d.). 13 Essential Tips for Thrift Store Shoppers. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://www.thespruce.com/dos-and-donts-for-thrift-store-shoppers-1313705

Leon, L., Walsh, K., Hills, A., & Malis, E. (2015, September 24). Why Thrifting is Good for the Planet, Not Just Your Wallet. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://serc.berkeley.edu/why-thrifting-is-good-for-the-planet-not-just-your-wallet/

Restuccia, E. (2016, February 03). 10 Thrifting Dos and Don’ts from a Thriftaholic. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://verilymag.com/2016/02/thrifting-tips-vintage-style-salvation-army-goodwill-buying-second-hand

Rose, G. (2017, January 27). 7 Thrifting Myths Debunked: Fashion: Gennifer Rose. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://www.genniferrose.com/blog/thriftmyths

The Outfit Repeater. (2018, November 12). Thrifting Is Gross: And Other Dumb Thrift Store Myths You Still Believe. Retrieved January 02, 2021, from https://www.theoutfitrepeater.com/thrifting-gross-thrift-store-myths/