The Thrill of the Hunt: Thrift-Shopping

Let me paint a [not so] pretty picture for you. You pick out a perfect outfit—maybe a dress you got on sale at Forever 21, or a killer band tee from Hot Topic. You’re strutting across campus repping Chance the Rapper on your tee or showing off your farmer’s tan in that tank top dress, jamming (secretly) to Look What You Made Me Do. Then, suddenly, you see your arch enemy from across campus, walking down the street wearing the very same thing. What do you do? Hide behind a tree and hope no one notices? Cover up with an ugly sweatshirt that you never really liked anyways?

There is a way to avoid this catastrophe. Forever21 and Hot Topic sell your special dress and your favorite band t-shirt in bulk, so you shouldn’t be surprised when you see everyone and their mother wearing them. If you want to buy unique clothing items, there’s one place to go: the thrift store. Not to mention, thrift stores are SO CHEAP. You could spend $40 on a shirt at PacSun, OR you could find a cooler shirt at a thrift store. One time I was thrift-shopping with my mom and grandma, and found this beautiful formal red dress. The zipper was broken, so it was going for three dollars, but it was name brand, fit perfectly, and I LOVED IT. My mom told me that I wasn’t going to be able to fix the zipper and it wasn’t worth it, but I was determined to prove her wrong. I ended up fixing it myself and wearing it to the Homecoming dance. Thank you, random Goodwill.

Thrift-shopping is a thrill that compares to skydiving or climbing a mountain. Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but there is a certain thrill in searching through unorganized bins for an unknown treasure. You never know what things you’ll find! You could get a killer dealer, ripping of thrift store employees who have no idea of the item’s worth, and you could find things that no one else has. And I’m not talking about your great-aunt’s one-of-a-kind handmade quilts.

Whenever I go to the grocery store with my dad, we end up coming home with far more groceries than were on the original list. Why is this, you ask? Maybe because I can sweet-talk my dad into buying me donuts, or maybe because being at the store makes you realize that you need many more things than you thought you needed. Thrifting has the same effect. You go with your friends to try on ugly sweaters and 80s prom dresses and end up finding something that you didn’t even know you needed—but have to have.

There is a certain history-making in the act of thrift-shopping. Objects go from person to person, the original owner giving it to their sister for her birthday and that sister putting it in a white elephant gift exchange for Christmas and that recipient selling it at a garage sale and that customer later getting bored of it and donating it to a thrift store. Each object has a circle of life; you never know how many different hands have touched it (this isn’t meant to gross you out—it’s kinda cool if you think about it). Make up a long, rich history for the plaid skirt you found! Maybe Jennifer Aniston wore it before she landed her life-changing role on Friends. You never know.

Here are a couple pro tips for thrift shopping:

  1. Girls: go to the guys’ section to get the perfect, oversized sweaters for winter! The guys’ section is always much less picked-through and super stylish.

  2. Try on full outfits. You might think a skirt is ugly, but paired with the right (stained) tank top, it could be perfect. Don’t write something off just because it’s in a thrift store.

  3. Try to look at as much as you can! The best things are usually hiding out of sight.

  4. Don’t get discouraged; thrifting is pretty hit-and-miss, but when you find something you love it makes it all worth it.

  5. There are all kinds of thrift stores! Goodwill or Salvation Army stores are great starting points, but there are others disguised as “consignment” or “vintage” shops. Do some exploring!

  6. Find out the best sale days and go then! Thrift stores usually have certain days where colored tags are on sale.

  7. Even if you only have $20 in your pocket, don’t pop tags. That’s not classy.