5 Tips to Step Up Your Vintage Clothes & Accessories Shopping Game

Some say shopping is a skill. Some say it’s an art. For those who frequent vintage shops and thrifts stores, it’s definitely both. Unless you want to waste time and money (remember, most vintage clothing stores have a no return/no exchange policy), you’ll need a strategy when scouring for secondhand treasure. Hopefully, these tips will help you score some truly epic finds.

Tip 1: Shop often

The inventory of available vintage clothing and accessories changes daily, if not hourly, so hit up your favorite spots as frequently as you can for your best chance at snagging incredible finds. This doesn’t mean buying something every time, but frequent trips will increase your chances of getting first pick on new items as they become available. 

Tip 2: Bring a list

Before you head out, survey your closet to determine what you need, what you don’t, what could use some fresh accessories, and whether any pieces are languishing on the hanger because they don’t have a perfectly paired item. Make notes and take pics on your phone to reference once you’re shopping. You’re more likely leave satisfied with your purchases if you start out organized and focused and an idea of how new items will fit into your wardrobe.

Tip 3: Try everything on

This might sound like an obvious tip, but the dressing room is where everything comes together. That flowy dress and embossed belt and statement necklace, all from separate corners of the store, might look decent if tried on separately—but styled together, WOW. There’s also that whole no returns/no exchanges thing to keep in mind.

Tip 4: Check your motivation

Do you usually leave thrift shops with several bags full of merchandise? If so, do you actually wear all of it, or is most of your haul gathering dust in your closet? Sometimes there are deals too good to pass up, but price should not be your primary motivator, especially if you wouldn’t buy the same piece for full price. For the cost of a half dozen tops that make you go “meh,” you could buy one fabulous vintage piece that you’ll wear for years.

Tip 5: Know your fix-it limits

Sometimes you’ll find something so gorgeous that fits you like a glove, only to discover a small tear in the seam or missing beads. Vintage clothing is known for being high-quality, but it’s also, you know, old, so minor damage can be expected. That doesn’t mean toss it back on the rack and forget it, but you should know your fix-it limits before committing to a piece. The same goes for tailoring—if you’re handy with a needle and thread (or if you have access to a trusted seamstress), definitely buy that dress that needs a little cinching in the waist. 

Prepped and ready to score? 

Come take a look at our inventory at Thrift Trader in San Diego. We keep up-to-date on fresh styles, and we’re extremely selective with quality. We also offer excellent daily specials, so if you’re ready to up your thrifting game, come see us! We know you’ll find something amazing at one (or both!) of our two locations: El Cajon Boulevard in North Park and Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. And if your pre-shopping prep produced a pile of clothes that someone else might love more than you do, we also buy clothing and accessories from 10-6pm daily.