“I’ve always wanted to try it, but I actually don’t know much about it.”
This is a conversation I often have with people around me. With the overwhelming choices that fast fashion provides, physically walking into a thrift shop with the anticipation of finding hidden treasures can be exciting. There’s something magical about shopping for second-hand clothing. Thrifted pieces are mysterious, matured, and experienced, for they contain memories that are forever kept between their former owners and them with all kinds of fun stories, each unique in their own sense. If you’re tired of seeing similar outfits in every part of the city, transforming your clothing into something new and unique can also unveil who you really are. While it is nice to possess clothing that is aesthetically pleasing, owning clothing with interesting stories and unique presentation is what makes a wardrobe special.
Here’s a short and sweet Thrifting & Upcycling 101 for you to get started on your journey of creating your personal statement with fun pieces of clothing.
Create a “shopping list”
It can be overwhelming walking into a thrift store especially larger ones like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Therefore, having a rough list of what you are looking for to polish up your wardrobe is essential before thrift shopping.
Sell clothes that are collecting dust in your closet
Go through your closet and see what clothes are ready to be removed from your closet. Donate them to Goodwill or sell them at the thrift store for cash/store credits! Doing so can also help you have a good knowledge of what you already have vs. what you need.
Dress for the trip!
You will be doing a lot of trying on when thrifting. Thus, wearing something basic and comfortable like a sweatshirt with biker shorts is ideal for a thrifting trip. Depending on your shopping list, you can also wear something that matches with the potential item you are looking for to better visualize the complete outfit.
Bring your own shopping bag for a complete sustainable shopping trip!
How to Thrift?
SCANNING is an important technique to implement during thrifting. Start with the aisle with the kind of clothing you are looking for (tops vs. bottoms vs. shoes, etc.), then find the ones that match your size. High-quality clothes usually stand out from the more worn-out ones when you are scanning. Go with your instinct, and, when something is catching your eye, take it out for closer examination & try it on!
READ THE TAGS. They say a lot about this piece’s brand, size, material, and caring instructions. Once I even found a beautiful jacket from Burberry at Clothes Mentor in Savannah for a great price! It is also important to look for materials like linen, silk, wool, cashmere, or 100% cotton that last longer with better qualities.
TRY ON clothing that you are ready to purchase. There have been many times where I found dresses/ tops that look really cute on the rack, but look unflattering after trying them on. Finding a piece that both looks pleasing and fits you is essential when shopping. With that being said, trying on pieces that you don’t find attractive can sometimes surprise you. I lost track of how many times my friends forced me to try on something I found to be silly but ended up falling in love with.
IMAGINE the potential that a piece of clothing has. In the fitting room, try to adjust the neckline of a dress or fold the sleeve up a little to see if it will look chicer. Will this pair of pants look fabulous if you add some patterns to the pocket? Let your creativity flow!
Where to Thrift?
There are many thrift stores around the states, both online and physical. If you are uncomfortable with shopping in-store, try browsing through online thrift shopping websites like Depop, Poshmark, theRealReal, ThredUP or even Facebook and Etsy to see if there are any surprises waiting for you.
There are also great physical stores to shop from. Checkout our thriftmap to find the one for you!
So I Thrifted, What’s Next? (Upcycling!)
After thrifting, remember to clean the clothing following their caring instructions. Now it’s your time to show off your creativity!
To get inspiration, go on Pinterest or Instagram to hunt for styles that spark your interest, and use them as a prototype for your alterations. (For example, I’ve been really into straight leg jeans with fun crop tops recently.)
Some easy upcycle tips: CUT, CUT, CUT!
Whether it’s a conventional T-shirt or long jeans, picking up your scissors and cutting it shorter can always give the clothing a completely new look. I used to cut up some “boring-looking” tops for a crop-top finish, which turned them into pieces my friends loved! You can also cut long sleeves into a tank top, or a turtleneck into a v-neck. Be creative, and have fun!
ADD, ADD, ADD!
Have a piece of clothing that’s too basic/monochromatic? Try adding some fun materials/accents to it! I have a thrifted black jacket with beads added on its collar, which adds a lot of character and spark to it. If you are into embroidering, sewing patterns and flowers onto solid colored sweatshirts/jeans can also make the clothing stand out. If you are feeling extra, play with some bold materials like tulle, ties, or do a collage of fabrics from different clothes!
THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
Try creating something unique to you, even pieces like those on the runway! Collect inspirations from everywhere: Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, fashion shows, magazines, etc. Use the materials you have to create something absolutely YOU! Next in Fashion is a great Netflix show to see how designers design and create fabulous clothing from scratch. With your passionate heart and creative mind, you too can become the designer of your own clothing!
Editors: Rachel Zipin, Victoria Ploerer, Katie Zhang, and Emily Kim