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Thrifting 101: How To Thrift a Wardrobe From Scratch

Thrifting 101: How To Thrift a Wardrobe From Scratch

Thrifting 101: How To Thrift a Wardrobe From Scratch |

How To Build a Wardrobe From Thrifted Clothes

Thrifting for clothes can be overwhelming!

If it’s not something you usually shop for, where do you even start? How do you know what to pick and how can you judge the quality of a piece or what a good value is?

A blog reader asked me what would I do if I had to start my wardrobe over my scratch. What would that look like in a thrift store setting?

So in this post, I’m going to cover what I think are wardrobe essentials, where the best places are to find thrifted clothes, and how to easily evaluate if a piece of clothing will be a long-lasting item worth being in your closet!

What Clothes Should You Thrift?

If I was starting my closet over again with the bare minimum, I would focus on a few key pieces to clothe me while I built my perfect wardrobe:

  • A comfy pair of pants
  • A dress that’s versatile for any occasion
  • A well-fitted shirt
  • A denim jacket

You might need different pieces depending on your lifestyle (maybe a blazer or jeans are more necessary for you!) and of course, the colors, prints, and styles will be different for all of us.

But that’s the fun of thrifting! You’re not tied down to only one style of clothing when you walk into the store. There is so much variety to choose from!

colorful clothes hanging up in a thrift store

Where Should You Thrift Your Clothes?

After coming up with your list of clothes you need, it’s time to figure out which stores will suit your needs.

If your style skews retro, maybe an antique store or curated vintage shop would be more appropriate.

If you’re plus-size, seek out a specialty store in your area.

If you don’t have a lot of time to search, consider a consignment store that’s well-sorted.

And if your type doesn’t fall under any particular category, then scope out any local thrift store.

How To Quickly Assess Your Thrifted Clothes For Fit & Quality

Now comes the fun part – shopping!

When walking down the aisles of a thrift store, you can make your selections two ways:

  • Scan the clothing racks with your eyes. Looks for interesting details that catch your attention!
  • Flip through the clothing one at a time, feeling each piece as you pass it by.

a pile of colorful sweaters in a bin at a thrift store

There is no right or wrong way to thrift, only the way that works best for you and your time.

Next up is filling your cart (or arms) with your finds. When you’ve got a decent selection to go through, you can find a quiet spot in the store or a fitting room and evaluate each piece. Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself:

  • Are there any holes or stains?
  • If so, are they something I can feasibly fix or clean?
  • What is the material of the fabric? Things like polyester are typically cheaply made and will pill quickly. If you want quality in your closet, look for things like cotton, tencel, or linen.
  • What are the care instructions? Is something dry clean only and you don’t go to dry cleaners? Skip it!

colorful pants on hangers hanging up in a thrift store fitting room a clothing care tag on a thrifted garment

If you have access to a fitting room, here are some questions to ask yourself when trying a piece on:

  • Does it fit? (If you’re not in a fitting room, have a measuring tape or piece of string on hand to gauge the true size!)
  • Is it comfortable?
  • Can you reach your hands over your head without the garment riding up or down?
  • Can you sit down without the material shifting around?
  • Can you bend over without flashing certain body parts?
  • Are you already fussing with pulling it down or a strap sliding around? (It will only get worse when you wear it full-time!)

This is not always a perfect guide and sometimes you will buy things that seemed great in the fitting room and then show their true colors once you wear them out and about. Don’t feel bad! It happens to the best of us!

Hannah is smiling a thrift store fitting room holding a pile of colorful clothes. she's wearing a long pink jacket, denim overalls, and a yellow purse.

What To Do With Your New Thrifted Clothes

When you get home with your goods, it’s important to wash everything before you wear them.

Even if something smells freshly laundered, it’s spent days/weeks/months in a bag or box, been placed in a donation bin, been touched by many hands to get to the sales floor, and then touched or tried on by other customers before you.

That’s a lot of unknown contamination!

Hannah is standing in a thrift store, in front of a clothing rack. She's holding up a brightly colored beaded mini skirt and shrugging.

Follow all the care instructions on your new piece to help it last as long as possible. And if anything needs to be mended, get to it right away before you forget.

Starting Over

Thrifting a closet full of clothes that you love and that express your personal style is not built overnight. Despite what you see on social media – or even here on my blog – it’s taken us years to find pieces that work together to create cool outfits.

If you’re feeling discouraged because you’re not finding items during your first few thrift outings, just hang in there! There is no rule that says you have to buy something every time you go to a thrift store.

And what’s the rush in building your wardrobe? If you want long-lasting, high-quality pieces that you’ll love for the rest of your life, there really is no rush to find everything right now!

Just take your time, go to another thrift store, and keep trying!

a gray metal cart in a thrift store aisle, facing a rack of colorful clothes hanging up.



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