11 Tips to Thrift Flawlessly

Thrifting is a wonderful way to add to your wardrobe without spending a lot of money.  I have thrifted thousands of items for myself and others, but have accidentally brought home flawed items.  In my experience, if an article of clothing has been well-loved and worn often, there will be tell-tale signs.  Below are 11 things I inspect before deciding whether or not to purchase an item.


  1. Pants may have frayed, dirty, and or cut hem lines. (Picture the aftermath of wearing flare leg jeans in the rain in the early 2000s.) This is the first part of pants I check for wear.


  1. A sign of frequently worn pants & shorts are holes and/or wear in the inside thigh and crotch areas of the item. These are caused by friction when walking.  If there are no holes, double check the condition of the fabric in those areas.  It should give you an indication of how often the item was worn.


  1. Double check that the belt loops on pants and shorts aren’t torn. Many people use these to pull up their pants when they slip down, which can cause tearing (which can also result in a hole) over time.


  1. The number one place I check in tops is the underarm area. I have brought so many items home just to find that they have a hole or sweat stains in that area.  I usually repurpose or re-donate these items.


  1. Always double check that zippers work. I can’t tell you how many times I came home with the most amazing pieces with broken zippers.  Kudos to you if you know how to repair them.  I have chosen to have some repaired and have re-donated others.


  1. Make sure to count your buttons. Does the item have the correct amount for the number of holes? If one is missing, check inside and in pockets to see if it is attached or included.  Also make sure to check buttons on other parts of the garment, such as the cuffs or decorative pockets.


If the item is missing buttons and has no replacement and it is gorgeous or valuable, I will buy all new buttons and replace them.  (I always note this if I choose to sell the item.)


  1. Some items may be stained. My favorite hack for seeing stains is to hold the item up to the light.  This makes any marks more noticeable and you can decide if the item is still worth buying.


  1. Some items may have holes so I always give an overall check, but I pay special attention to knee and elbow areas.


  1. I always check items for pulls – especially knit sweaters. These can also be discovered by holding the item up to the light.


  1. If an item has been worn, washed, and dried, it may have shrinkage. Some knits made with wool and cashmere will look shorter than they should be.  The knit will also feel tight or hard, which is a telltale sign of shrinkage.  If you’re on the fence, hold the item up to yourself to judge if it falls short on your frame.


  1. Donated items may have also been altered. I make a point to check hemlines on pants, capris, and also cuffs on blazers.  I find that more expensive items will be altered, most likely because the original owner paid a lot for the item and wanted it to fit well.


Thrifting can be a fun way to find pieces for your wardrobe.  It’s important to not get disheartened if it takes you awhile to find those dream pieces or if you make a bad buy.  Even with an arsenal of tips, you might still bring home a flawed item. Find a way to up-cycle it or see if a friend can.  As a seasoned professional, I will say, don’t let a bad buy ruin thrifting for you.  There are so many good finds out there!

Do you have any favorite thrift store finds?  Share them in the comments!

XO, Jenn

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