I never was very good at vintage and thrift shopping. Two of my former roommates constantly managed to come home with perfectly-tailored, one-of-a-kind dresses or gorgeous brand name vintage steals, while I only added to my endless supply of kids' t-shirts with dumb sayings that didn't even fit right.

Things You Will Need

At last, though, I've managed to get this down to a little bit of a science. Here are four tips to approach vintage/thrift shopping differently, based on what I was doing wrong before, that have helped me snag brag-worthy pieces instead of more little league tees to stuff in the back of the drawer.

Step 1

crammed rack of vintage clothes Justify a shopping binge by selling unwanted clothing for store credit. In New York City, my favorite for this is Beacon's Closet - especially their huge Williamsburg location. Another good spot is Buffalo Exchange. Fact: My ex-roommate used to lug the same bag of clothing again & again to the same shop, and they'd pick through and buy a few pieces every time. Unlike her, I'm too lazy to carry my heavy bags across town more than once, so I usually opt to donate whatever's left to charity (which many shops will do on your behalf).

Step 2

If you're super-slow & deliberate like me, go alone. I'm probably in the minority on this, as most girls appreciate the opinion of a trusted shopping buddy, but I take forever sifting through every rack, examining clothing for small tears or stains, etc. Nobody has the patience for my indecisive ways. And while I do like shopping with friends, I'm noticing I find better stuff when I can really take my time, zoning out into the racks without distraction.

Step 3

Scan for size above all. Most of the time stuff will either catch your eye or turn you off right away, but this approach helps with everything inbetween. When flipping through a dense rack of clothes, I focus on finding something that will fit me. I know this sounds silly & overly basic, but I swear - when you do one rack after another, it becomes this almost-robotic, systematic process of scanning. And when I approach it from the "Will it fit?" standpoint instead of the "Is it cute?" one, I eliminate a lot of time I used to waste gazing longingly at pieces that were never going to work for me.

Step 4

Always try it on, and don't buy anything you don't absolutely love. I'm notorious for buying stuff I end up hating weeks or months later, and for obvious reasons, vintage/thrift shops don't take returns. Thus, I never buy anything that I haven't tried on, and I only purchase stuff I feel very, very psyched about. The harder I am on myself about this rule, the less time I spend considering lighting my entire closet on fire. Clearly I'm no expert, but those four tips have helped me snag some of my very favorite pieces of clothing. Most recently: a bird-patterned Paul & Joe dress and a perfectly-fitting Michael Kors skirt for work for a combined total of just $16!

Tips & Warnings