Thrifted outfits are an expression of self. Not only do they speak volumes about style, but shopping for thrifted outfits is also a way to support sustainable fashion and do your part in saving the world from unnecessary toxic waste. Every act of compassion towards sustainable living counts.
If everyone did their part the world would be a much different place.
This article began with the thought that if MORE people got excited about thrifting-then MORE people would do it.
In an effort to "get the people going", we reached out to a group of stylists, designers and professional thrifters for secrets, advice and styling tips on how to shop thrifted outfits. Many of our contributors are in different industries but they share one common dominator: they all have style!
Thank you to all for the helpful styling advice on shopping for thrifted outfits. Here’s what they had to say:
Founder of GiveRise: Sell it Forward
Tip: Don't follow trends
The whole point of thrifting, for me personally, is to find unique, quality items that will last. That includes durable, ethically-sourced materials, but also styles that are timeless.
Trends change and so do our own personal styles, so I like to find items that I know will stand the test of time. My goal when thrifting is to find classic pieces with a unique twist, like this velvet wrap blouse. Its ageless silhouette, satin collar, and faux diamond buckle make it a one-of-a-kind find that will hold a spot in my closet for years to come.
My best styling advice when thrifting, (especially for beginners) is to virtually thrift. If you have a certain brand, colour, or specific piece in mind, I always say to check out buying used first. Online thrifting is a great place to start because you can search for exactly what you want. There are lots of sites like Poshmark, Mercari, eBay, and Depop that make buying used super easy. I was on the hunt for these Free People overalls and found them used online, for a fraction of what they would cost new.
As for the rest of the outfit, I found by thrifting the good old-fashioned way; in person. I like to check the go-back rack by the dressing rooms first, and let other people do the shopping for me. They may have found something great and tried it on but maybe it wasn't just right for them but it will be PERFECT for you. Then I like to head to the sweaters and coats. I normally don't look at a rack piece by piece, rather pulling out colours and textures that catch my eye. Like this yummy knit sweat and vibrant green jacket!
Fashion resale expert
Founder of The Resale Stylist
If you're venturing into the world of online consignment apps like The RealReal, thredUP, Fashionphile, that kind of thing – I absolutely recommend knowing your measurements.
Most reputable online consignment apps will include measurements in the listing. If you're buying from a peer-to-peer resale platform like Poshmark, Grailed, Vestiaire Collective or Depop, you can always ask the seller for measurements if it's not already listed in the description.
This will save you uncertainty and frustration! The easiest way to get a sense of your measurements is to find a piece in your closet that fits you well and measure against that item.
When shopping in person at a consignment or thrift store, don't forget to look in cases or up on higher shelves. This is often where valuable, quality inventory is!
No matter if you're shopping for resale pieces online or in a store, pay attention to the item's material. A cheap polyester top is still a cheap polyester top, no matter whether it's thrifted or new. But you can find truly lovely, high-quality pieces all over the resale market these days for a fraction of the MSRP. Look for natural fibres like wool, cotton, and linen, or finer materials like cashmere and silk.
You can always have things tailored. Quality stands the test of time, and my resale mentality is quality over quantity. If you find a secondhand quality piece at a great price but it's too big or doesn't fit quite right, consider getting it tailored. One of my absolute favourite personal resale finds of all time is a bright orange, one-shoulder Stella McCartney dress from her Fall/Winter 2010 collection that I snagged for $190. It was too big and a bit wrinkled, but I had it tailored and dry-cleaned and it remains one of my favourite pieces in my wardrobe to this day.
Lastly: resale is a great way to experiment with unique colours, styles, prints, and pieces that you might not otherwise want to spend a lot of money on. For example, I recently purchased a secondhand neon green Alexander Wang silk top. Would I have paid retail value for this? No. But I negotiated with a buyer on Poshmark for a stellar deal on this piece.
Similarly, I had seen a few jackets with faux-fur sleeves and was considering whether the look might work for me. I found a jacket on consignment that was over 70% less than its retail price – and it still had its original tags attached! At the secondhand price point, I was willing to make the purchase and experiment with the style. Hey, you can always resell what doesn't work for you.
Lexi Taub | Alexis Jae Founder
I’m Lexi, the founder of Alexis Jae Jewelry. Fine jewelry is one of the best items to thrift because precious metals and gemstones can stand the test of time. Sustainability is a huge initiative of ours at Alexis Jae Jewelry, besides using recycled gold, we always encourage repurposing existing jewelry. When thrifting for jewelry here is my best advice:
What to look for:
Writer/Editor for The Budget Fashionista
Something you should keep in mind when thrifting for quality pieces, is that tailored suits are something you should avoid. Suits might be much more affordable when getting from a thrift store, but oftentimes they are tailored to someone else's body. Because of this, it won’t look as good on your own body, and you might find it is snug in all the wrong places. You are better off getting a larger suit jacket and wearing it for the “oversized” look, with a pair of denim instead of trying to find a well-fitted suit.
If you want to get the perfect outfit, you need to leave the dressing room when trying on clothing. The lighting in dressing rooms can be terrible, and sometimes the rooms are very dark. You won’t really get a good view of it there, so it’s best to leave and find more natural lighting. Take a friend with you who can take a picture of you with their phone so you know what the colors actually look like on your skin when in better lighting.
When we thrift, it can be tempting to buy a really fun and quirky piece of clothing that we might normally not wear. And although this can be a fashion-forward moment, we want to stick to pieces that are closer to our own style to avoid having something in our closet that we don’t wear. Try to think of pieces you already own and how you can style this particular thrifted piece. If you can come up with more than a few outfits, then it could be a worthy investment.
Editor in Chief, Eluxe Magazine
If you love a certain era, like the 40s or 70s, be sure you don't dress head-to-toe in that decade, or you might look like you're in costume!
Founder at Marie Standeren
I always start by looking at the racks and see what colours and patterns catch my eye. I recommend looking for fun and inspiring patterns, especially in blouses and blazers. These can quickly make an outfit way more interesting and add some personality and colour to a blend-into-the-crowd outfit.
I like wearing a neutral base outfit and topping it off with an open (or maybe tied in front?) button-down or blazer in a stand-out colour or a cool pattern. I also look for garments made out of natural fibres (especially silk and wool) and neutral-coloured base garments of high quality.
I prefer oversized and boxy T-shirts, shirts, and jackets, so I always check out the men’s department of the thrift store. One last thing I usually look for is satin scarves; these can be used in so many different ways in an outfit, but another tip is to use them as sustainable gift wrapping!
Founder & CEO of RE.STATEMENT, the online marketplace of upcycled clothing
I've thrift shopped with my mom for as long as I can remember, and she always taught me to browse diligently and go into it with an open mind.
It can be an adventure on each thrifting trip you take, so you can make it your mission to find the "weirdest thing" or the "most colourful thing" that no one else would buy. And then you either accept it for what it is or change it up into something you or a friend would love.
She taught me that there will always be potential in the items that someone else has given up on. Her advice is also a challenge to be more creative and resourceful!
Owner, Le Blanc Label
As a personal stylist, my goal is to help women create a sustainable personal style by being more intentional with what they add and remove from their wardrobe.
Thrifting is an awesome way to express your personality through unique garments. I show women that you don't have to be bland to be sustainable. You can add colour, textures, and prints to your wardrobe by thrifting garments. Plus, you'll be the only one wearing those pieces, since they are not mass-produced!
I focus on educating women on what to look for when thrifting, certain fabrics (natural fabrics like cotton, silks, and wools) wear great over time. Additionally, adding pieces in classic silhouettes, like blazers, or trousers is a great way to incorporate thrifted pieces in your wardrobe that are timeless and mix well with items you already own.
Also, look for quality when thrifting. How is the garment finished? Is it lined, is there binding on the seams? It's important to invest in high-quality garments to increase the lifespan of your items.
Costume Designer, Vintage clothing lover with decades of thrifting experience
My tips for thrifting are to always be on the lookout for unique statement pieces, and look for quality over quantity (this applies to any new purchases as well). You need to decide what story you want to tell with your clothes and don't be afraid to stand out.
Also, another piece of thrifting advice is to learn basic mending skills. If you are interested in upcycling, become comfortable with cutting into garments and piecing things together. Or make friends with a very good tailor/seamstress. And always wash everything you thrift, even if it has dry clean tags on it, and you can very carefully hand wash almost anything.
The funniest thrifting story I have is when we had to shop about 30 trench coats to turn an ensemble into news reporters, so we had two carts full of coats, and as we were checking out, the cashier said "Is this for a play or are you starting a cult?" and without skipping a beat I said "A little of both?" Because I do feel like the hunt, whether for yourself or for a character on stage, can become an obsession in and of itself.
The first is an upcycled thrifted American Eagle skirt from the 90s or early 2000s that I added appliques and pleats to the bottom.
The next two are examples of statement pieces - a vintage tapestry coat that I swapped out giant plastic buttons for metal ones…
…and repaired the lining of and a vintage playsuit that I had to re-elasticize.
The last image is a thrifted modern knit top that I bought specifically because it matched the vintage blue knit skirt I already owned and completed the outfit for me.
I believe taking an article of clothing to the full limit of its usefulness is important, and it is one of the reasons I love wearing vintage.
As some of the larger chain thrift stores can be overwhelming (even for a thrifting expert like myself!), I suggest going in with some ideas in mind. That could be a certain piece(s) you’re looking for (perhaps some fun and unusual prints, plaid shirts, or flared-leg jeans), or having a certain colour in mind.
Some of the stores are arranged by colour, so if you’re looking for a particular shade of green, you can easily head right to the green section. I was able to find a blazer and a pair of pants in almost an identical shade of green to create a “suit.” No one can tell it was thrifted on opposite sides of the world. (Everything in this outfit was thrifted apart from the purse and heels.)
I like to use thrift shops as my hunting grounds for new trends. Take any of the latest “cores” (Barbiecore, Gorpcore, Cottagecore, etc.), and you can easily find pieces at second-hand shops to fit in these aesthetics.
One example is this Gorpcore meets Cottagecore fit I styled with almost entirely thrifted items (with the exception of my socks and hiking boots).
Thrifting makes shopping and styling so much more fun because you never know what you’re going to find and there are so many cool and unique things that can be styled in a creative way.
Founder of Conscious Life & Style and
Host of the Conscious Style Podcast
While it can be really easy to overconsume while thrifting with the lower prices and "guilt-free" or reduced eco-guilt feeling, it's still important to be intentional so you don't end up with a closet full of clothes you don't want to wear!
Get to know your closet, identify the gaps (would a cropped jacket pull together a few of your outfits that just don't feel right? do you have way too many tops but not enough pants or skirts to wear with them?), and start to reflect on which items in your closet you wear the most and least.
This can help you buy pieces that you'll actually wear and that will suit your existing wardrobe. For example, sequined tops always catch my eye, but I hardly ever wear them because they're too itchy for me and don't actually feel like my personal style when it's not New Year's Eve.
Something else I've recently implemented is an idea from Emily Stochl to have a running "thrift list". While sometimes I find a gem that I just can't pass up, sticking to a rough list of items to thrift helps me keep a more coordinated closet and create better outfits in the long run that suit my personal style.
Owner, LASS Wardrobe LLC
First, as an image consultant and wardrobe coach I tell my clients to shop their closets first. Finding those things never worn or used and trying to make outfits out of them without spending a fortune - thrifting is a great way to achieve this. Getting into a thrift store or high-end consignment with a piece gives you a focus to build an outfit from. You are not starting in the dark. Plus its double re-use by finding a way to use something in your closet along with saving a piece from the landfill by shopping thrift.
Tips- Look for monochromatic - that way it's less frustrating to build an outfit, colour that is tone-on-tone will look fresh and can play with fun accessories. In my headshot, we thrifted the dress from shopgoodwill.com and I added a scarf that I bought from a local boutique and earrings I owned from a previous event. These are easy items to find both in your closet and in a thrift store. Keep it all one colour.
Owner, First Byte Designs
Best styling advice - Try it on, all of it. Bring with you the items you want to wear together with what you are purchasing. Don’t forget the proper underwear too, especially when thrifting for formal wear. If you are looking for a particular occasion, think carefully about your colour choices - what do you want your outfit to say, and will you be embarrassed by it years from now?
Me (right) in a purple poncho I designed and made from yarn sourced from a sustainable source by Noro Yarns, wearing fingerless gloves from reclaimed yarn used in a sweater holding yarn from a US company,
This photo (below) is from the photo shoot for my book, Cozy Coastal Knits. 27 years ago I bought that denim jacket at a thrift shop in Baltimore, the top is from American Apparel, made in Los Angeles of US-sourced cotton, and the skirt is a thrift store find from Eileen Fisher. The cowl is one of my designs featuring Universal Yarn.
Expert at Thrifting
This spring/summer we will see bright colours, trousers, cargo pants, belly tops, low to mid-rise, leather pieces, sheer items, hot pants, flood pants, and patterns that we've not seen in a while. These are all my predictions so if you see any of those in the thrift stores. Now is a good time to stock up.
Thrifting and sustainable style expert behind Rented Thrifted Real
My fave tip for thrifting is to know what works best for you BEFORE you shop. Unlike a mass-produced store, you're not going to find the same piece in several colours or sizes.
So, go armed with the knowledge of what colours, fabrics and silhouettes work best for you, and then let the sustainable universe take the wheel!
Not sure what suits you best?
Take inventory of what you have repeated in your closet: Numerous T-shirts? Several A-line dresses? Flowy blouses with ruffles?
If you see a pattern in your current wardrobe, it's probably because you like the look and feel of those pieces. Keep your eyes focused on finding more in that style. Your success rate is bound to go up!
The Seam Whisperer
I have been a seamstress for over 20 years and transform my thrifted finds with my sewing machine to make one-of-a-kind items! I specialize in clothing alterations.
My secret tip to style perfect thrifted outfits is to look for TEXTURE and PATTERN. Play around with combining pieces with different textures! Mix a thick chunky knit sweater with satiny smooth leggings. Distressed denim can be paired with a top that is full of lace or ruffles. Don’t shy away from sequins, velvet, sparkle, acid wash, or fabrics you aren’t used to wearing. These details add so much pop to an otherwise boring ensemble!
One of my passions is to make use of every textile that still has life left in it, and give it new beauty by turning it into something fresh.
Textile Designer and Fashion Stylist at Leather Skin
When it comes to thrift shopping, the key is to start with a theme. Decide on a colour palette or look you’re going for, such as warm tones, cool tones, neutral shades or a bold combination of all three. Once you’ve chosen a theme, it’s time to start looking for pieces that fit this overall style.
Also, look for items with interesting details, textures or patterns. These can be used to add unexpected visual interest and create contrast. Look out for vintage pieces that are still in good condition as they tend to have unique details and textures that you won’t find in modern clothes.
Finally, when putting together an outfit, don’t worry about following trends or what’s “in”. The best thrifted outfits are those that reflect your individual style and personality, so have fun experimenting and mixing and matching different pieces to create a unique look.
The Second Button
The key thing is to not just look for pieces that you think look good in a vacuum, or pieces that are generically well-made, but pieces you can appreciate in the context of your own personal style.
Do you want to wear vintage suits? If not, finding the best-made vintage suit in the world, in perfect condition, is pointless.
Do you want more colour in your wardrobe? Do you want to dress in cottagecore, workwear, or preppy style? Do you want your pants to fit slim or relaxed? Does the piece you're looking at bring you closer to looking the way you want to look, or are you just buying it on a whim?
Buy pieces you love, pieces you can integrate into a personal wardrobe you will appreciate forever because it speaks to you on a deep level. Do this, and nothing you buy will be a waste.
Of course, it's also helpful to focus on a well-made garment that's not going to fall apart after you wear it twice, make sure it doesn't have any awful odours or other damage that would prevent you from wearing it.
And of course, try it on, make sure it fits you the way you want it to. Inspect it all you like. But the first step, the threshold determination, is deciding whether the piece fits your style in a way that you can appreciate on a deep, personal level.
When it comes to sustainable fashion size doesn’t matter. Mark my words, you can find a 3x vintage set and turn it into your entire wardrobe by hacking it up into pieces or you can style hack it. Turning it into something no one else could have ever imagined. Be creative with a sustainable style and have fun. You're not spending a million dollars on it so you won’t feel guilty ruining it and starting over again. Don’t ever limit yourself, have FUN!!
All these looks are at least 3 times my actual size.
Wild Brook Coaching
My #1 recc is to have fun in the experimentation. Try things that you might not always consider, play with colour or play with neutrals because the stakes are low and the experience is almost always a high, especially when you score something fabulous! Go for higher quality items that will have a bit of life to them or may be out of your price range in a regular store. Have fun!
Hey -- if you look good in an outfit that was a real bargain and reflects who you are at this moment, enjoy it all!
I am wearing a jacket that was a hand-me-down from a friend - almost as good as one of the many local thrift stores near me.
Sustainable Fashion Stylist
Yellow Fever Eats
1. My best styling advice for shopping for thrifted outfits is to look for versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched with items you already own. I also recommend looking for high-quality materials and classic styles that stand the test of time. It's also good to remember that minor repairs or alterations can often breathe new life into a piece of clothing. Some tips to keep in mind when shopping for thrifted outfits include:
Wearing thrifted outfits is a way to stand out from the crowd with a unique and refreshing style. Just remember, when you buy second-hand it may be considered “used” clothing but they’re ALWAYS "new" clothes to you!
One of the thrills of shopping for thrifted outfits is discovering “diamonds in the rough” or, the outfit that just matches your personality and style to a tee! When this happens, the feeling is better than buying any mass-produced item of clothing from any franchise.
If you’ve never tried shopping for thrifted outfits then put it on your to-do list. What better way to support an incredibly important cause while supporting your wardrobe at the same time? At GiveRise you can BUY and SELL your previously loved things. Either way, you go you’re helping out in a few different ways!
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