It’s no secret that thrifting has become a cultural phenomenon. Take a quick scroll on TikTok, browse around Instagram or simply search ‘thrifting’ into YouTube, and you will soon find everyone’s favourite stylists and influencers searching the aisles of their nearest thrift shops to find bargains and beautiful pieces. But thrifting isn’t always easy – entering a charity or vintage shop for the first time can be overwhelming. With rows upon rows of items of varying sizes, conditions and prices staring you in the face… it can feel a little intense. Particularly when you throw in swarms of university students all searching for the perfect vintage leather jacket or pair of Levi 501’s. So, whether you’re an experienced thrifter, wanting to shop more sustainably or simply interested in having the pleasure of telling people your new sunglasses are vintage and ‘one-of-a-kind’, here’s your ultimate guide to thrifting as told by seven pro-thrifters.
Best Thing You’ve Bought Vintage: My big Afghan coat, I bought it a couple of years ago and I will wear that for the rest of my life. It was so satisfying to find, which is probably why it means more.
“Vintage shopping is a slow process, but it’s very rewarding. If you start doing it and struggle to find things you like that doesn’t mean you never will. Sometimes starting with smaller items is good if you’re feeling intimidated, so starting with jewellery or accessories. I don’t often negotiate prices but it’s good to ask questions about items to sellers to get to know what you’re buying better. If you don’t have many charity shops near you I would really recommend Depop or eBay. What’s nice about Depop is that once you’re on it for a certain amount of time and you’ve liked and saved items, it starts to find things that fit your style. It’s good to be aware of trends too as that is where you’ll be caught out price-wise. When something is a trend (say knitted scarves at the moment) these items are going to be much more expensive on the apps so if you’re looking for a ‘trendy item’ go for a charity shop over Depop or Vinted. Our university offers vintage markets and it’s so well priced and is such a nice way to encourage young people, particularly students, who won’t be able to afford really expensive vintage pieces, to buy second hand so check your student unions.”
Best Thing You’ve Bought Vintage: A red leather jacket I bought, it’s just one of those things you’re going to have your whole life and you’ll give to your kids, it’s timeless.
“Don’t feel like you’re bad at charity shopping when you first go – when your friends find really nice items it can make you feel like you’re not good at it, but it depends on the day, where you go, a lot of it is luck. If you’re going charity shopping, find high streets which have multiple charity shops so you can go to all of them. It sounds odd but vintage clothes are an investment. Obviously not everyone can afford to be able to think about their clothes as ‘investment pieces’ but that is a good way to think about these items, they’ll last – they’ve already proven they can last. Areas like Brick Lane in London are really good if you’re starting out, there are so many shops there it is a great place for beginners but they can be quite overpriced. London charity shops (especially West London) can be very expensive. Vinted is good, Depop I recommend but don’t fall for the £80 jumper which is definitely not worth £80. People bump up the prices a lot on vintage apps especially when something is a trend so don’t be afraid to negotiate, I definitely have negotiated, a few times. You shouldn’t be scared to ask questions about items.”
Not everyone can afford to be able to think about their clothes as ‘investment pieces’, however, that is a good way to think about [thrifted] items as they’ll last – they’ve already proven they can last.
Best Thing You’ve Bought Vintage: My long red Afghan coat, I wear it all the time and bought it on Depop.
“Just go into a charity shop, they’re a lot smaller with less stuff. I can struggle to find good items on places like Depop as there’s so many items. Vinted and Ebay also tend to be cheaper than Depop. If you see something in retail that you like, try to find something similar in a charity shop, it isn’t that difficult always. Be clever about it. Go with your friends. If I go with my friends and they find something that’s really cute but not their size or something, they’ll give it to me and I get more opinions on clothes going with friends too. Vintage shopping takes so much longer, but most of the thrifted clothes I’ve bought I wear religiously because they mean so much more than normal retail clothes. They feel more original. Vinted is also good, I have a friend who buys a lot from Vinted and everything they’ve bought has been under a fiver.”
Best Thing You’ve Bought Vintage: My floral midi skirt that fits PERFECTLY.
“I tend to stick mostly to charity shops rather than ‘thrift’ or ‘vintage’ stores, as thrift stores know that they’re trendy and so hike up their prices. Charity shops on the other hand are a lot cheaper, but are less likely to have the ‘trendy’ pieces that vintage stores have. If you have any local charity shops pop into them as often as you can, they update what they have on the racks every day, and you never know what little treasures you might find for cheap! I’d also look at the prices for various items, as over time you’ll get an idea of how much items usually are in charity shops and whether or not you’re getting a bargain. Remember that some thrifting days will be really successful and you’ll leave with loads of bargains that you love, but some days you’ll walk away empty-handed, and that’s okay! Don’t be discouraged. Look for the potential in everything! If you have a sewing machine, look out for things that you can alter by hemming them or adding seams, and if you don’t have a sewing machine you can use fabric glue to hem things instead! Be patient and keep an open mind.”
Best Thing You’ve Bought Vintage: A vintage ’70s denim pinafore dress with white daisies printed on it – absolute dream.
“Vintage shops have such a great variety of styles and aesthetics which worked well for days out with my friends when we were all developing different senses of style. Local charity shops are a great place to become familiar with the process of sorting through second-hand items. From there, it’s easier to branch out into places you find more intimidating. A great account on Instagram is @seasonsofella who sources all of her own vintage pieces and gives them a bit of love so they can be sold to new owners. I’ve used her online store before which was a lovely experience – she sent cinnamon tea with my corduroy trousers which made me very happy. My best tip is to have a rough idea of your measurements and perhaps a few basic sewing skills, sizing can be really tricky. It’s sometimes better to shop a little bigger as well, as you can always make little tweaks and changes to make the item tailored to you.”
For apps, I would 100% say Vinted. Depop has kind of become a victim of hyperinflation and the push of things like ‘y2k’ trends on it can make it more inaccessible. It’s just about being specific, on apps I often search for brands I like as a starting point and ‘like’ whatever strikes me.
Best Thing You’ve Bought Vintage: I bought a vintage windbreaker and it’s my favourite thing ever.
“For apps, I would 100% say Vinted. Depop has kind of become a victim of hyperinflation and the push of things like ‘y2k’ trends on it can make it more inaccessible. It’s just about being specific, on apps I often search for brands I like as a starting point and ‘like’ whatever strikes me. The best tip for shopping second hand is probably just buying things that’ll be an investment by being versatile. I like to know I can wear something with multiple outfits time and time again.”
Best Thing You’ve Bought Vintage: The blue denim jacket I wear all the time as well as all my grandad jumpers and two pairs of Dr Martens which I love.
“I tended to go to charity shops when I started shopping more second hand. You have to go a lot. Often it won’t be great but every now and again you’ll find something amazing, so it’s worth going again and again to browse. Best Tip: check everything! Do a proper sweep of the store because you never know when you’ll find something good. Depop, Etsy and eBay are my go-to apps. Find sellers who are reliable in posting good clothes and ones who have a similar body type to you so you have a better idea of how it’ll look on you. Often I’ll find something I love somewhere like Urban Outfitters and try to find it cheaper on Depop, so I already know what sizes I want.”
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