Letters from LSMSA: Thrifting Student-Style

The hunt is on for inexpensive hidden treasures. Get top savings and great quality with these four easy tips.

By Lily St. Amant (‘22) / STAFF

As spring and summer arrive, so does the desire to shop for new seasonal fashions. While fashion websites, local boutiques, and department stores may be able to offer great trendy finds, thrifting can often be more sustainable and cheaper, especially for students on a budget. Whether you’re new to shopping second-hand, or consider yourself an experienced thrifter, these four tips can make it more fun, affordable and stress free.

Tip number one – make thrifting fun! At first, it may be hard to find clothing that fits and looks fashionable as you dig through racks of stained, worn, or out-of-style clothing. But don’t give up, and don’t go thrifting alone. Bring friends with you and turn it into a fun social outing. Laugh at the t-shirts with unusual logos, invent elaborate backstories for the quirkier pieces of clothing you discover, and learn to enjoy the process. Make thrifting about more than just second-hand fashion finds, make it an adventure.

Tip number two – know what you’re looking for! This is important especially if you’re new to thrifting. While unique, surprising finds are a benefit of thrifting, it can be overwhelming to go into a thrift store with no clear idea of what clothing you want to find. Do you want to add florals to your wardrobe? Plaid? Neutral colors? Neon colors? Blouses? Skirts? Jeans? Keep a few Pinterest boards, fashion magazine articles, and other sources of inspiration in mind as you look through clothing. This helps to differentiate pieces you want and would wear from those you don’t want or need.

Tip number three – be aware of sales! Thrift store prices are often cheaper than department stores, but some can be pricier than fast fashion. If you’re thrifting on a budget, look for signs in the thrift store that advertise sales. Some stores use colored tags to indicate mark downs, some offer store-wide sales, and still others feature clearance sections. If you’re not sure, ask the clerk or salesperson about sales at your local thrift stores.

Tip number four – know how to spot stains, pilling, and wear! Before purchasing a piece of clothing second-hand, it’s important to look for damage. If the thrift store is lit with bright, fluorescent lights, that’s a big plus. You can also take the clothing near a window or lamp, or even consider bringing your own small hand-held flashlight or light source. Hold it up to the light and pull it taunt so that the fabric is flat, and visually scan for stains. Next, run your hand down the fabric to feel for any loose fibers and check for pilling. If you’re unsure whether the fabric is beginning to pill, turn the clothing inside out — if the fabric is smooth, you can assume that the piece is in good enough condition. To spot wear and tear at the seams, locate the seams which are usually found at the wrist, the underarm, and the neckline. Check for wear wherever the fabric merges and is held together with a seam. Also check wherever joints would be located in the wearer of the fabric, as the movement of joints causes clothing to accumulate more wear. You can also check the seams for wear by running your fingers over them and noting if any pieces of thread are loose or have begun to separate from the stitching. If the fabric near the seams is much lighter than on the rest of the clothing, that’s also an indication of wear. To determine if faux leather is in good condition, hold up the clothing as you would to check for stains or pilling, and run your hand over the fabric to check for cracks. Even very small cracks in faux leather indicate that it may begin to peel and disintegrate soon, so avoid buying faux leather with these imperfections.

Follow these tips and you’re on your way to finding those hidden treasures at a fraction of the price; it’s that simple. Make thrifting enjoyable, have an idea of what type of clothing you want to buy, keep an eye out for sales, and check for damage before purchasing all of your great new finds.


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