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Shopping secondhand is easy.

You just have to know how to look for the right items. While I try not to spend too much time on here blabbing about what I find at thrift stores (thrifting is in my blood… my Mum was thrifting while I was in the womb so it’s easier than regular shopping for me) I do like to come on over from time to time and give you some tips. I know that it’s enjoyable to see other peoples thrifted outfits (like my white lace dress for $5 and vintage bag $4 above), but style-stalking secondhand fashionistas outfits online is not going to get pretty clothes appearing in your closet. Even a link to the thrift store or charity they purchased from isn’t going to warrant you being able to buy the same item the person in the post is wearing. Which is kind of the appeal and magic of shopping secondhand! When you wear thrift you can smugly tell people who compliment you that you are recycling and that they aren’t going to be able to get the same item. So rather than me lording my lovely thrifted items over you in a parade of my shopping excellence like some kind of thrift-smug-jerk (lol) I’m going to give a few tips on how to find your own secondhand style.

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Don’t be a negative Nancy.

Poor ol’ Nancy. She must have really had a chip on her shoulder to see the World from such a glass-half-empty point of view. Don’t follow Nancy’s lead when entering a thrift store. Going in with the ‘I’m not going to find anything here‘ attitude will result just that- not finding anything. Be optimistic about your thrift-ability. There is a good chance that you will find exactly what you are looking for as long as you aren’t too specific and keep an open mind.

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Research your needs but don’t get stuck in them.

Heading in with the idea that you want brown shoes and are open to suggestion from the thrift gods is going to be far more successful than deciding you want a pair of brown Chloe boots in brand new condition. Shop eBay or Gumtree if you have that specific outcome in mind. While sometimes you might manifest your EXACT item through thrift shopping, the likelihood of this event happening EVERY time you go out shopping is very low. So head out with open optimism and clear thrifting goal that isn’t add-to-cart specific. Having wiggle room in your thrifting prowess can work wonders for your personal style too. It challenges you to try items that might not be exactly what you were after but the subtle difference actually work better than the end-game goal you had in mind.

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Take cash.

This simple but effective bit of advice is often overlooked in thrifting guides. While many stores have eftpos facilities try to take cash along with you anyways. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to buy that bit of second-hand gold only to find out that they don’t take card, are closing in ten minutes, and can’t hold the item for you. Cash is also a really good way to bargain. While some can afford to pay whatever price asked for a secondhand fashion fix, many choose to shop secondhand because it fits the student/ single parent/ casually employed/ unemployed etc. budget. Having a set cash budget means no shopping outside it. If you happen to be a dollar or two off the asking price of the corporate shirt you want to wear to the interview you have next week you can always ask if the store can budge for you. If they aren’t a large scale operation with paid managment (which many sadly are in Australia now) they will be open to negotiations for the right people.

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Shop small for bargain prices.

As mentioned above, many thrift shops have become businesses in their own right. While this is totally OK because charity is null-and-void in a sustainable economic system (I’m all for sustainable, social and environmental economies over charity) but sadly it means that many stores put RIDICULOUSLY expensive prices on items. So much so that many secondhand items that have been donated cost more in the charity store than they do in the fashion chain that produced them. If you are on a tight budget avoid the large scale thrift-boutiques (unless they are having sales). Shop at smaller independent charities. These are identifiable by avoiding the large and obvious ones and looking for local charities (church charities, women’s charities, youth charities etc) checking out how many boutiques they have (less than five and all local will usually mean lower prices), and asking if they have a paid manager. The volunteer staff at these smaller stores are usually most interested in raising a few dollars to support their charity and making sure that the shoppers get things they love at a bargain price. I love my local tip-shop because their mission is not to make HUGE dollars, it’s to support charity and encourage recycling and the diversion of waste from landfill. There is room for  both ‘fancy’ and ‘non-fancy’ thrifting because the fancy thrift stores lure in those who can afford to buy new and are usually scared of secondhand because of the stores appearance. The non-fancy thrift is for people who prefer the thrill of the hunt and/or can’t afford to shop at fancy thrift or buy new. Shop one way or the other but keep these prices differences in mind because they result in different shopping experiences.

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Hunt wisely.

When out looking for second-hand bargains start by sussing out the stores set up. Generally thrift stores are sorted into item type, then often size. However many stores do colour coordination or some even have NO real system at all (these usually have the best bargains like my local tip-shop). Tackle the hunt by looking for the type of item you want and a preferred colour. Don’t worry about size, sizing isn’t standard in clothing and often you can fit in sizers larger or smaller than wha you usually wear based on the cut of the item, the brands sizing, and the era it was made in. Try on all possibilities with an open mind. Remember that buying second-hand and tailoring is often cheaper than less labour intensive than trying to find the right  item in stores that follow trends (unless the current trend is the look you are going for).

How do you shop secondhand? What is your favourite op-shopping tip? Share the details below.