How to Thrift Like a Pro (+ Styling Tips & Examples)

This week, I’ll give you all the tips and tricks to thrift like a pro.

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This post will show you how to thrift like a pro.

Fashion, without a doubt, is an art. From the designer to the seamstress to the stylist, creativity and talent go hand in hand with fashion. Unfortunately, it’s also a massive industry that carries *a lot* of baggage. And that’s putting it mildly. The amount of waste it produces it’s something that weighs heavily on most of the fashion lovers I know, myself included.

As a fashion lover and professional, I’ve tried to change how I shop to reduce the waste I create. One of the most important and challenging things has been reducing my purchases by repurposing items in my closet and learning how to sew and maintain my clothes.

And when I do shop, I try to buy as much secondhand and vintage as possible. And that’s where thrifting comes in.

Thrifting is, basically, buying secondhand items. Those items can range from clothing to furniture and everything in between. Thrifting, especially now, offers a lot of options, and there’s a very high chance that the item you are looking for is out there, somewhere in a thrift shop.

But thrifting is not easy. It takes up a lot of time most people don’t have, and — when it comes to vintage items — it isn’t as cheap as fast fashion. And navigating the tons and tons of racks and clothes available can make anyone feel overwhelmed before even starting.

Today I want to share my tips for thrifting like a pro and also share some of the best thrifted items I’ve found so that you can see that secondhand might be the source of your next treasured purchase.

How to Thrift: Tips, Trick, & Hacks

Here are my quick tips to thrifting like a pro:

  1. Make a list. The best way to avoid wasting time is to make a list of the items you are looking for and focus just on those racks or sections in the store (in person or online).
  2. Shop in your relatives’ closets. Check your relatives’ closets when they’re doing a spring cleaning. I’ve found some fantastic, unique pieces in my parents’ and grandparents’ closets that just needed minor adjustments to work for me.
  3. Forget about the sizes; measure it. We all know standard sizes change from store to store, and as I found while thrifting, from decade to decade. Ignore the labels and use your measuring tape. If you are shopping online, look for the actual measurements of the item or ask the seller to measure it if you can.
  4. Shop for YOUR basics. Many sites and people will tell you to start by shopping for jeans or basic items, like a white shirt or a black sweater. But you might already have those basics, or they might not work for your style. What do you need in your closet? Look for YOUR basic items: maybe it’s a red sweater, brown trousers, or a cool blazer.
  5. Consider small adjustments. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the details. maybe you found a cardigan you love, but the buttons aren’t really your cup of tea. Or a beautiful dress but it’s too long. With secondhand items, I’d recommend holding onto that *almost perfect* item and just making a few adjustments to make it perfect for you.
  6. Quality, not quantity. Focus on high-quality fabrics and well-cut items. Chances are these sorts of items are in better shape and will last for a very long time. You might not find everything on your list in one go, but it will be worth it in the long run.
  7. Interesting items are a double-edged sword. While thrifting, you will see unique items and “once in a lifetime” type things. Really think, though, before purchasing these types of items. Do they work for you, your style, and your closet? Is it something you’ll feel comfortable wearing? Can you think of at least three outfits with it? If you cannot answer any of these questions, leave it. Or you’ll end up with a cool thing you never wear, taking up space in your closet.
  8. Steer away from micro-trends and fast-fashion items. The thing with these items being secondhand is that they probably won’t last for a long time. Of course, the best way to know if they’re a worthy purchase is to check the fabrics it’s made of, and the fit and cut of the item.


Before we start, I want to make clear that I know that cutting fast-fashion from one’s purchases is a privilege and I’m not shaming or condemning anyone that does wear fast-fashion. For most people, be it for monetary, availability, or fit reasons, fast fashion is the only option and they do care for their clothes.

This is a personal decision based on my own style, time, and economy.

Thrifted Outfits Fashion Guide

Basics for Me – Outfit #1

Thrifting 101: Black button up shirt, slouchy jeans, black clogs

For this first look, I wanted a casual, neutral look. I’m wearing a black, short-sleeved shirt and a pair of slouchy, high-waisted jeans. Finally, for shoes, I wore black platform clogs.

The shirt is a vintage item I found a couple of weeks ago. It even came with the original tag still on. It is 100% cotton and it’s in excellent condition. When I saw it, I was looking for a basic black shirt, because I donated the ones I previously had because they didn’t fit anymore. It was a lucky find, it is extremely good quality, in just the right size and fit I was looking for.

Basics for Me – Outfit #2

Thrifting 101: Pink crop top, black velvet skirt, pink and orange loafers.

For this next look, you’ll see that I’m trying to incorporate more neutrals in my closet but with my own spin on it. As a base of the outfit, I wore a bright pink tank top and a long, black velvet skirt. Since the skirt is so ’90s, I added a pair of platform loafers in pink and orange.

The vintage item here is, obviously, the velvet skirt. I’ve been searching for neutral items to complement my colorful closet, but in interesting or different fabrics to match my personal style.

I wasn’t looking for this exact skirt, but I found it while I was leaving some things at a consignment store, and I loved it. It was almost perfect, so I just moved the button a bit to cinch it more at the waist.

Basics for Me – Outfit #3

Thrifting 101: Red knit vets, black floral skirt, black Doc Martens

For the last basic find look, I wore a red knit vest as a top. Then, as a bottom, I used a long black skirt with a muted floral pattern. Since this is more of a transitional outfit from winter to spring, I went with a pair of black Doc Martens for shoes to complement the overall vibe of the outfit.

Here, I have two vintage items. The skirt and the vest were my mom’s. She didn’t use them anymore and gave them to me. For a couple of months, I’ve been thinking about knit vests but hadn’t actually found ones that I wanted to purchase. So, my mom having this in her closet worked perfectly. The skirt needed a bit of work, we adjusted the buttons in the waist to make it fit better.

Unique Items – Outfit #4

For this second type of item I’ve found, I’m focusing on unique items I honestly thought through before buying.

Thrifting 101: Orange and blue mock neck blouse, ornage trousers, blue ballet flats, blue coat.

For this look, I wore a bright orange and cobalt blue silk blouse. The blouse has a mock neck and a floral pattern with gold details. For pants, I chose this pair of bright orange trousers. For shoes, I put on a pair of suede sling-back flats in cobalt blue. To finish it up, I threw on a cobalt blue coat.

In this outfit, I used two vintage items. The first one is the coat; it was my grandma’s and then my mom’s. It is a dress, but I wear it as a coat.

The second one (and my unique item) is the blouse. I saw it in the same consignment store I found the velvet skirt in and immediately thought of things to wear it with. I tried it on, and, luckily, it fit perfectly. It has very bright colors, and when I wear it, it’s the focal point of whatever look I’m wearing.

With this look, I leaned into the color combination, but I’ve worn it with just mom jeans and black skirts, and plan on wearing it with other items in my closet.

Unique Items – Outfit #5

Thrifting 101: White t shirt, white mom jeans, gold loafers, yellow suede pearl jacket.

For my next outfit in this category, I wore a simple white t-shirt and a pair of white mom jeans to start the look. Then, I threw on a suede bolero jacket in a muted tone of mustard yellow. The jacket has pearl details on the lapels and cuffs. Finally, for shoes, I wore my gold loafers to tie the whole look together.

My unique item here is this beautiful suede jacket. I bought it from an online secondhand store. When I got it, the suede was a bit stained, so I sent it to the dry cleaners and it was good as new.

I’ll admit I hesitated at first on this piece. What convinced me to buy it was that this was the sort of item that could transform my basic outfits in an instant.

Look at this white look, for example. It’s a perfectly fine outfit, but the jacket adds texture, color, and details. This sort of item guides the accessorizing and shoe choices.

Unique Items – Outfit #6

Thrifting 101: Teal floral kaftan, white belt, beige platfrom sneakers, red earrings, red rings, green rings.

For my next unique item look, I went with something comfortable and colorful. I put on a bright teal, 70’s kaftan. It also has a bold pattern in white, red, and yellow. To style it, I wore it backward to create the illusion of a mock neck and cinched the waist with a white belt.

For shoes, I chose a pair of platform sneakers in beige with gold details. Finally, for accessories, I borrowed a pair of red earrings from my sister and used a red ring and some green rings that used to be my grandma’s.

The kaftan is my unique item for this look. It’s from the ’70s, and I love it. With this one, I didn’t hesitate. I’d been looking for a kaftan for such a long time, but I couldn’t find one that fit my closet well. For me, this kaftan has the perfect color palette, and it is the perfect piece to transition to spring and summer. I prefer to wear it with a platform or heel since it is long and I think with a bit of height it makes me look more stylized and tall.

*Almost Perfect* Items – Outfit #7

This next section is all about those almost-perfect items that make you hesitate. Let’s start with something that, if you read my posts, you might recognize from my How to Style Suits post.

Thrifting 101: white camisole, brown suit, white clogs.

To start, I paired a white camisole with a brown two-piece suit. The delicacy of the top balances the formality and fit of the suit perfectly. So, to keep that balance, I used a pair of white clogs that have a bit of platform. The clogs are more bohemian, so they also help bring the suit down to a more casual look.

My *almost perfect* item is the suit. I found it online; in the same secondhand store where I found the suede jacket. I decided to buy it and see how it fit when it arrived, since I could return it if it didn’t. If I hadn’t been able to return it after trying it on, I wouldn’t have bought it.

When I finally tried it on, the blazer had a perfectly oversized fit. The pants, surprisingly, were the perfect length, which was a first for me, but I had to get them taken in a bit at the waist to make them fit me better.

As you can see, these are the sort of details that could make you hesitant to buy something. Things might not fit you *exactly* but some things could be easily fixed and transform the item for you.

*Almost Perfect* Items – Outfit #8

Thrifting 101: brown velvet dress, beige platform shoes, gold jewelry

For my next *almost perfect* item look, I threw on this brown velvet dress. It has wavy pattern on it, which helps bring out the texture of the velvet more. Then, I used the same platform sneakers I wore with the kaftan dress.

To me, this is the sort of dress that I want to keep as a focal point, so I accessorized it with simple gold jewelry and put my hair up.

The dress is my *almost perfect* item. It’s a 90’s dress, so the sizing kind of threw me off (it was listed as a Large but fits like a small/medium). The straps were too long for me, but if I tie them with brown elastics, the neckline sits on the right spot. See? An easy fix that didn’t even require thread and needles and gave me a fantastic dress.

Hidden Treasures – Outfit #9

For the final category, I’m focusing on those items that feel (and are) hidden treasures lost in some forgotten rack.

Thrifting 101: white floral midi dress, blue belt, beiege platform sneakers.

For the first look in this category, I’m wearing this gorgeous white cotton dress. The dress has a sky blue, black, and orange abstract pattern. Then, I swapped the ribbon it came with for a blue belt.

On a taller person or someone with longer legs, the dress would be more midi length. On me, the hem hits at my ankles, so I wore the platform sneakers I wore with my previous look to keep the white dress from hitting the ground while I was moving.

When I found this dress at a consignment store, I was on my way out. The pattern drew me in, and then I saw the cut and fabric, and I knew it was a treasure. The puff sleeves, the V-neck, the cinched waist, everything is just what I love in a summer dress. I tried it on, and it was perfect.

This dress is a treasure to me because not only was it in good condition, the fabric is very high quality, and it had a discount, but it’s also the perfect summer dress *for me*. The cut and fit is my preferred shape because it accentuates everything I love about my body, and it is sort of whimsical and playful. The pattern Is a mix between floral and abstract which makes it a bit more exciting and different and adds a splash of color that I always want and need.

Hidden Treasures- Outfit #10

So, for the next hidden treasure look and also the final outfit overall, I went with something neutral, fun, and modern.

Thrifting 101: white knit vest, white polka dot pants, beige platform sneakers, denim coat

For the base of the look, I used a white knit vest. The vest is similar to the red vest I wore for my third outfit, but I put it on backwards to create that mock neck top cut. Then, for pants, I’m bringing in the fun with this great pair of polka dot wide leg trousers. The fabric of the pants is a soft satin, so it creates contrast with the matte knit of the vest.

Then, I threw on a medium wash denim coat. It is oversized in all the right places and tones down the formality of the top and cut of the pants. Finally, to work with the same color palette and make It more casual, I used the beige platform sneakers.

I’m wearing two vintage pieces: the knit vest and the coat. The vest was my mom’s, like the red one. But, the hidden treasure item is the coat. I found it a couple of months ago at a local thrift shop. We were browsing around, and I had already gone through that rack. But I waited while my boyfriend tried something on, and I went through it again. And then, I saw it.

I’ve always loved denim jackets and coats. For me, they’re the best way to layer and make an outfit a bit cooler. But denim coats can either be expensive, not comfortable, or both. And this coat has a cut that makes it work all year long. It’s oversized enough that it allows the air to go through during spring and summer and allows for thick sweaters and layers for fall and winter.

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned earlier, trying to thrift most of my closet is a personal choice based on my circumstances. For me, finding a more sustainable way to approach fashion was the only option. Because of the nature of my work and what I want to do in the future, I just couldn’t keep buying 100% new items without feeling the weight of that decision knowing I was in a privileged position to do it differently.

I love fashion, an industry I want to keep growing and working in for the rest of my life, so I knew I had to make the change.

I have not cut off fast fashion and 100% new items entirely. There’s a variety of items I haven’t been able to find, or I’m not comfortable using secondhand, or they require way more time than I have. For example, it is harder for me to find jeans and bottoms in my size, and I don’t feel comfortable buying shoes, undergarments, or swimwear secondhand. It has been a process and, little by little, I’ve managed to make my thrifted items about 60% to 70% of my new buys.

Thrifting can be both fun and intimidating. It does work in a very different way than we are used to. There’s a lot of trial and error, research, and time involved. But I hope this post helps you see that it is worth it.

What Do You Think?

What do you think about thrifting? Do you thrift? What are your tips for thrifting if you do? Let us know in the comments below!

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