A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING

A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING + a list of places you can go - This Wild Home

I’ve always loved thrifting. From the vintage dresses I wore to my homeschool proms to the over sized sweaters that were already worn in from decades of use. Even the smell of the old clothes that’ve been sitting in the back of a closet for years brings a little flutter to my stomach because it’s the smell that say, “There’s a gem in here somewhere.”

WHY CHOOSE SECOND HAND?

A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING - This Wild Home.
A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING - This Wild Home.

Besides being an extremely rewarding pastime, thrifting is very budget friendly. With our debt, I try as much as possible to only buy the essentials, but every once in a while, I’ll want to buy something nice for myself. This is a way I can do something for myself, do something for the planet, and not completely break my budget.

As I’ve learned more about the world and life and where my values really lie, I’ve found the value in thrifting more than ever. I’ve struggled with the balance between quality goods vs budget items, my impact on the world and the people around me, and finding a way to be a more responsible consumer. That’s why my love for thrifting has surfaced now more than ever.

The more research I do on the world of sustainable and ethical fashion, the more I realize new is not always better. Even new from high quality, sustainable, and ethical brands; it’s not always the way to go.

No matter what, it’s still adding more stuff to a world that is already full of perfectly fine clothing, if you know how to find it.

A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING - This Wild Home.

When you shop second hand, it’s simply recycling goods that are already in existence. It’s not giving anyone a reason to make more. You’re not promoting fast changing trends or poorly made clothing. You’re simply promoting the reuse of products that were made, used, and put back into the world to be used again.

It’s not always easy. The good stuff isn’t always on display or on it’s own special rack. Most of the time, it’s hiding away. Waiting patiently for someone to find it and appreciate it for all it’s worth.

When you take the time to look through the packed racks, there’s no telling what you may find.

HOW TO SHOP AT THRIFT STORES

A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING - This Wild Home.
A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING - This Wild Home.
  • KNOW WHERE TO GO | Beyond just the shop itself, knowing the areas in your town can affect the quality and style of the goods in the shop. Going to second hand shops in nicer areas, while maybe effecting the price by a few dollars, is usually a good way to find newer and high quality items. Definitely look for second hand shops in swanky areas to really strike gold.

  • DON’T FOCUS ON LABELS | This one gets me every time. I’ll be browsing the isles and see something that I know was once an expensive, quality item and I’ll think, “I have to get this.” Whether I need it or not, I’ll put it in the cart and never wear it. It’ll sit in my closet and eventually find it’s way back to the racks of a thrift store.

    Whether you’re avoiding clothes because it doesn’t have the right label or you’re buying clothes just for the label, you’re really limiting yourself. Unless you are a buying specific finds to resell in a store, the labels don’t matter. Whether you like the item or not should be the only thing you focus on. If you happen to like something with a nice label, that’s awesome! But it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

  • DON’T GET STUCK ON SIZES | There are so many reasons why. To start, older clothing sizes are different than modern sizes. Different brands have different size standards. Older clothes can get stretched out or shrink. Sometimes bigger sizes are just more cozy. Plus, the racks aren’t always organized very well so smaller sizes may make their way to larger size sections and vice-versa.

    I don’t like to limit myself to just one size section. It really makes your options slim and you may miss out on items you could really love. Look through all the sizes and if you’re not sure about something, try it on.

  • KEEP A FRUGAL MENTALITY | When everything is $5 or less, it’s easy to say, “eh, if I don’t like it I’ll just give it back.”

    Overtime, $5 really adds up and if you’re not a little stingy, you may wind up coming home with a pile of clothes that you really don’t need/like just because price wasn’t a big issue.

    If you’re not sure about something, try it on. If you don’t need it, don’t get it. If it’s not your style, leave it at the store.

    Thrift stores shouldn’t be treated as a free for all just because it’s a little less expensive. Sure, you may not necessarily be adding waste into the world when you bring it back, but why waste your money, even just $5 of it, on something you don’t love?

  • GO WITH A PLAN | Along with your frugal mentality, it’s important to have a plan. Going thrifting just for the sake of thrifting is better than shopping fast fashion just for the sake of shopping, but it’s still not going to do you any favors. Taking stuff home just because it’s cheap and doesn’t break the bank isn’t a great reason to take something home.

    Before thrifting, I like to know what I need. I like to have an idea of items and colors I’m looking for. It not only saves money, but it’ll saves time in the long run.

    If I know I need sweaters, then I can just look at the sweaters. If I need a few different types of items, I can at least know colors to avoid. Bright colors and really any shade of red are not for me, so I know I don’t need to look at anything in those colors.

    Knowing the gaps in your wardrobe that you’re trying to fill will be helpful in keeping you on track with what you need.

  • GIVE YOURSELF TIME | This is the golden rule of thrifting. It takes time. Sometimes a lot of it. When I go thrifting, I leave my kids at home with dad to avoid distractions and an impatient baby clock. I make sure I don’t have a ton to do. I go during nap time so I don’t feel like I have to rush back to help. I do whatever I need to do to avoid feeling rushed.

    The racks of thrift stores are full, and often a little all over the place. There’s stuff hiding behind other stuff, things aren’t always organized neatly, and you really just don’t know what is there unless you give yourself the time to sort through the racks.

WHERE TO SHOP

  • A lot of towns will have local second hand shops. Looking out for those will hit the mark of second hand, reused, shopping small, and shopping local. Definitely a good choice if you have the option!

  • Goodwill is one that I like. There are some questions surrounding their operations and wages, but from what I’ve found, they really make a point to hire people who would otherwise struggle to find jobs and while their hourly wages may be less sometimes, they get compensated in a lot of other ways with benefits that cater to their specific health and wellness needs.

  • Facebook marketplace, craigslist, and eBay are good options! You have to be a little more careful about who you’re trusting, but you can find some really good stuff for a discount.

  • Apps like poshmark and thredup are good online sources as well. I like stuff like this because you’re directly helping an individual and these two are a little more heavily vetted so you can trust you’ll get what you’re paying for.

SAVE FOR LATER

A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING - This Wild Home.
A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING + a list of places you can go - This Wild Home
A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THRIFTING + A FREE PRINTABLE PLANNER- This Wild Home

EVERYTHING I LEARNED MY FIRST YEAR WITH A CAPSULE WARDROBE

EVERYTHING I LEARNED MY FIRST YEAR WITH A CAPSULE WARDROBES - This Wild Home
EVERYTHING I LEARNED MY FIRST YEAR WITH A CAPSULE WARDROBES - This Wild Home
EVERYTHING I LEARNED MY FIRST YEAR WITH A CAPSULE WARDROBES - This Wild Home

I am officially reaching one year of having my capsule wardrobe and I have learned more about my style and fashion in general than I ever did mindlessly shopping for clothes on a whim. 

For so long I felt like I needed loads of options, that certain cuts didn't work for me, and that accessories were only necessary when going somewhere extra fancy. I didn't really think about what I liked. I just thought about what other people would think looks cool or what was relevant at the time.  

Really, before having a capsule wardrobe and really pairing down to live with less, I had no direction. I had no understanding of who I wanted to be or how I wanted to present myself. I thought more about what other people expected and less about what really felt right for me. 

I get that fashion seems superficial and unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it's more than just outward appearances. When you take a look at yourself in what you've chosen to wear, it says so much about what you're feeling on the inside. It shows what you think of yourself and where your values lie. 

EVERYTHING I LEARNED MY FIRST YEAR WITH A CAPSULE WARDROBE

UNDERSTANDING YOUR STYLE AND UNDERSTANDING YOURSELF GO HAND IN HAND

Again, it may sound superficial. It may seem like what you wear shouldn't matter. There are much bigger things that happen in our lives that our style really shouldn't be a factor. But there's a reason there are so many fashion blogs and reality shows that give people make-overs. 

Ultimately, it's not about what you where. It's about why you wear it.

There were moments where I felt worthless and moments where I felt empowered. Insecure or beautiful. Profession or lazy. In each of those moments, my style reflected that. Not only reflected it, but perpetuated the feelings I had at the time. 

As I paired down my wardrobe and decided what I would spend the next year wearing, I realized I not only had no sense of myself, but that any sense I did have was negative. My wardrobe didn't reflect someone with confidence and a strong sense of worth. It reflected someone who had given up. Someone incapable of growing and moving forward. Someone who didn't deserve any better than what they had. 

As I role into my second year of my capsule wardrobe, I've decided to bring in more pieces that reflect where I'm going. 

It's time to allow myself the freedom to be bold. To stop blending into the background. To expand beyond my tiny little comfort zone into someone who believes they can be what they want to be.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF MORE

When I started my capsule wardrobe, I let myself keep 27 items. From outwear to everyday to shoes, it all had to fit in that number. I was all in or all out. No storage. No setting aside for later just in case. Just 27 pieces in total all together for all the seasons.

Looking back, I like that I forced myself to live with so little. I just wish I allowed myself storage while I figured out my style. Even now, I have about enough clothes to make outfits for a week. While I love having fewer choices, I wish I could cycle those choices more. 

It's hard to be creative and content wearing the same thing over and over day after day for months. It makes me feel the urge to go and buy new items more than I should, especially because my pieces are not as versatile. So for anyone starting their capsule, don't be afraid to hold onto items that might not feel like you right now.

It takes people years to define their style, and even then it can change.

When you're downsizing anything, it's good to be patient and take it slow. Once you have paired down officially, don't be afraid to add. You can always get rid of stuff later, but replacing after the fact it is not as practicle.  

GIVE YOURSELF VARIETY 

Unless you want to be a Steve Jobs or Ryan Nicodemus type wearing the same black shirt and jeans everyday, you need more than the same style shirt and pants in your closet. 

A big mistake I made was finding an outfit that worked and then getting the same type of pieces to recreate that one outfit over and over. It's horribly boring and, even though it's a perfectly stylish and acceptable outfit, jeans with a french tucked shirt everyday makes me feel drab even if my outfit is technically fine. 

For this next year, I'm going to allow myself a few shopping trips to branch out.

I want to be very intentional about the pieces I buy and make sure they still add confidence, but I want some variety. I want different silhouettes, more colors than just blue and grey, and the chance to create a mood with what I'm in. 

It's important to understand the different between style and pieces.

Styles can have over lapping pieces. Kimonos and flowy skirts don't have to fit only into a boho style. Blazers and trousers can be more than just professional wear. It's all about what you pair it with, the fabric it's made with, and the print or color that's used.  

Play with silhouettes, add things to your style board that you like but seem a little out there. Go to the store and try on things you'd never in a million years think you'd like. You'd be surprised how much fun you can have stepping outside of your "uniform" and exploring all that fashion has to offer.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF ACCESSORIES

I might be the only person who really needs to hear this. I'm terrible with jewelry and effort outside of the basics. I don't like to look overdone, but I think I'm learning that casual doesn't have to be so casual. 

Honestly, I like the idea of a world where everyone is a little more dressed up. Even if it's just a gold necklace with jeans and t-shirt. It makes a difference to add that extra bit of thought and gives an opportunity for even more variety. 

Balancing accessories with outfits is where the real fun can begin when getting dressed each day. A casual outfit with nicer shoes and minimal jewelry for a coffee date or a bold necklace with sandals. I don't know, I'm new at this.

The point is, this opens the door to more than just tops and bottoms.

It gives that little something extra that can bring an outfit from "I just rolled out of bed" to "I spent time on myself today." Plus, it gives you a chance to give yourself something nice each day.

FIT IS EVERYTHING

100% this is very important to understand. There are so many pieces that I love but avoid because I didn't take the time to find the right fit. It makes me feel ugly or like my body is weird. It makes me want to crawl into an oversized sack and hide forever.

Trying something on and watching your body transform into a potato is very discouraging. Especially when it's with an item that you've been eying forever or thought would bring a lot of joy to have. 

There are so many items that I've tried on in "my size" that didn't look right and I assumed it was by body that was wrong because that's just how the piece was made and it looks good on other people so it must be me

There are so many ways to make a piece fit correctly. The first being, figuring out how it should fit on you. Maybe one person needs a size smaller than normal because their style is more form fitting. Maybe someone else needs a larger style because the material is clingier than anticipated. 

It's not just about making sure you work for the clothes. It's about making sure the clothes work for you. 

When you've found a piece you love, don't give up when it doesn't fit the way it does for other people. Play around. Tuck it in. Tie it up. Size up. Size down. Find an awesome tailer to fit it to you perfectly. Make it work for you because ultimately, that's what matters most. 

NEVER SETTLE

This is probably the most important lesson I learned. Don't just settle for what you know. Don't settle for your average day if it puts you in something that brings you down. 

We have the power to change and our wardrobe is a great place to start. 

If you're bored, get something crazy different from your norm. If you don't have confidence, find something that makes you feel amazing.

We don't have to settle for just a uniform or just a dress code. We don't have to settle with a specific number of items or a specific style of clothing. People are versatile and our wardrobes should reflect everything we are and everything we can become. 

Give yourself room to grow. Give your comfort a bigger zone. Use your wardrobe as a tool to heal what needs healing and propel yourself forward into more than you ever thought possible.

CAPSULE WARDROBE: THE NEXT STEPS

CAPSULE WARDROBE: THE NEXT STEPS - This Wild Home

So you've paired down, solidified your wardrobe, and now it's time to take it to the next level.

Now that it's been almost a year since I committed to a smaller wardrobe, I'm starting to think beyond the pieces themselves and I'm ready to look at my wardrobe as a whole. I'm looking at how my pieces go together, what kind of outfits I can create, and what pieces I need to really round it out.

There's a lot of self discovery that happens when defining your style. The first steps to creating your capsule wardrobe are focused a lot on individual pieces and learning what you feel best in. You start to dabble in fabrics and patterns, but it really takes living with less to learn what will stand out.

Once you get a feel for what feels good, that's when you get to dive into the fun part. That's when the real capsuling begins!

Related: CAPSULE WARDROBE: GETTING STARTED

THE NEXT STEPS

COLOR PALETTE

Having a color palette is one of the easiest ways to create a cohesive wardrobe. When you're working with fewer pieces, it's important that every piece can work together. A color palette is how that happens.

In the beginning of creating a capsule wardrobe, it's intimidating defining a color palette that you're going to stick to. There are so many colors and so many pieces that are made with beautiful colors so it really is hard to choose just a few.

For me, it's helpful to think about what colors I wear the most and what colors look best with my complexion. Red, for example, will never work. I have to many red undertones that are exaggerated by the color red. Blues, however, make my eyes pop which is a plus for me. From there, I choose a few other colors that go with the color that makes me look best, mixing loud and soft colors. Pretty soon I'm thinking of venturing into greens and yellows (so send me all the links to cute things in those colors!).

If color palettes are still a little intimidating, Caroline Joy found a freeing take on creating a color palette for your capsule wardrobe. This season, she defined her colors and then opened up her palette to every gradient of those colors. Yellow then became marigold, mustard, etc. It's a great way to create a color palette without feeling like you're locked in.

PREPARE FOR SEASONS

Odds are, you started your capsule wardrobe with one season in mind: the season you were currently in. Now, it's time to think ahead.

How do you need to prepare for the seasons to come? Are you going to add to your capsule each season or do you want to have a fairly consistent capsule? 

These are important things to know. It'll help you determine what your key elements really need to be, what you're going to get rid of by next season, and how much you'll need to store. When you've determined these things, you'll know which items to invest in and which ones can be a quick, for funsies, purchase.

SUSTAINABILITY

This is the word that makes my budget cry.

Okay, I shouldn't say that. I love building a capsule and I love the idea of having truly high quality clothing that is made to last. The part that makes my budget cry is that it's a huge investment. But it's finally time. I've reach the point where I know the next time I make a clothing purchase, it will be with sustainability in mind.

One of the most important factors in a capsule wardrobe is the ability for each piece to actually last, even when worn often. Each piece should be your favorite piece and favorite pieces get worn until they fall apart. Sustainable pieces will make it so they fall apart much, much slower.

Once you've got the hang of finding pieces you like, it's time to get selective with what you bring in and commit to the pieces that will truly last.

KEY ELEMENTS

At this point, you probably have staples and accents. The staples are things like t-shirts and jeans, for some of us it's even our shoes. These are the pieces that stay through every seasons. The are the string that holds your wardrobe together. You can dress them up or dress them down. Either way, they are the basis of your signature style.

When you figure out what your staple items are, it's time to define the fit, the colors they should be, and where your go to retailers for these items are located. My husband, Ian, has been wearing the same jeans for years. Black Levi skinny jeans. They are absolutely his staple. That and vans lace up shoes. For me, I know I can always rely on a pair of high waisted, light wash skinny jeans. The only problem, I haven't found where my perfect pair lies.

These are the things to think through when venturing into the next step of capsuling. Think about those pieces you go back to time and time again and solidify them. Find the best one of it's kind and make sure it's always handy.

Photo by Shira Gill