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Thrift Shopping: A Way to Ethically Source Your Clothes

by Aggie Swituszak, Product Specialist

With clothing prices increasing and fast fashion being something we should not be supporting, where should we be going for both well-sourced and low-cost clothes? This is something that I thought a lot about this past year, as this pandemic caused us all to stay home and therefore do most of our shopping online. Something my sister is very passionate about is the hidden gem of thrift stores, where you can find uncommon items that can be made into “on-trend” outfits for a fraction of the cost. Through thrifting, I have found, what I think, are very cool and interesting pieces that I am always getting compliments on. I have been able to still dress “trendy” yet not go into any stores at the mall to buy pieces specifically made to fit the trend. This past year, my sister taught me all of her tricks and tips on how to navigate these thrift stores and I am here to share them with you!

Know the Different Kinds of Thrift Stores

Something that can be tricky to navigate are the different kinds of thrift stores out there. Chain thrift stores such as Goodwill do not check their products for labels - they just color code tag them, give each clothing item the same set price, and hang them up in the store. Smaller and more locally owned thrift stores may turn some goods away and usually check what brand made the product. These smaller thrift stores usually also do not have a set price for each pair of pants like Goodwill does, but instead will have varying prices depending on the brand or age of the item. This kind of thrift store can also just hold vintage products and can actually be quite expensive. The third major kind of thrift store is a “by the pound” store. These stores, usually found in large cities, take whatever they can, put them in unsorted bins, and allow customers to sort at their own leisure. In this kind of store, you put what you want into a bag and the cashier will weigh it and have you pay by a weight-cost ratio. This kind is the most inexpensive way of shopping but also the most tedious!

Learn What to Look For

Something that can be tricky is checking each item before buying it for any holes or defects. Some are easier than others, such as a hole in a shirt verses a missing button and not knowing the shirt even came with a button, but I use a short mental checklist each time I am looking at something I like:

  • Are there any holes?

  • Does this fit me?

  • Hold the item up to the light if it is made of something soft to look for moth holes.

  • Are there any stains?

Looking at Brands

Something I like to do every time I go thrifting is to look at each tag to see what brands are at the store. I have picked up quite a few high end and high quality pieces through this method and it gives me a small sense of accomplishment knowing that I found something that would’ve cost me a fortune had I paid full price. The point of thrifting is not caring about the name on the tag, but I find it fascinating to have such a wide variety of pieces from so many different brands I would not normally have.

Keep an Open Mind

I won’t lie, sometimes you walk into a thrift store and it's all bar mitzvah hoodies and high school t-shirts. The one downside to thrift stores is that they are not always a hit. Sometimes you don’t feel like sifting through a whole line of t-shirts or jeans to find something that fits. When I find myself in this rut, I only focus on sections of the store that have the clothing pieces I want. For example I won’t look through the sweaters if I am only looking for a tank top. I usually like sifting through everything since people are donating all the time will usually throw out winter stuff in the summer and vice versa, but narrowing your tasks is a nice idea at times.


On top of selling clothes at a fraction of the cost, some thrift stores hold sales. I am a very frequent Goodwill shopper and can tell you that every day of the week is a different sale for a group of people - Saturdays are for students! Thrift stores like Goodwill also color tag each item and will have a sign out front saying which color tag is on sale that day. I normally don’t look at the color sale of the day as the coloring system is quite random, but it is nice if you already like a piece and find out it is on sale!

I know that thrifting is something being made popular and on the come-up today which makes me so excited. Thrift stores have everything you could think about buying, from work slacks to backpacks, to even fun jewelry. Going to the thrift store is always something I look forward to because you never know what you are walking into and what you will leave with. After thrifting for a year, I can proudly say that most of my closet is thrifted and I am still finding new pieces to add to my ever-growing collection. Make going to a thrift store a part of your shopping routine and you will find that it will not only save you money but expand your wardrobe in a unique way!


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