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A Thrift-Shopping Guide: How To be Stylish AND Eco-Friendly

by Claire Petersen 6 months ago in tips

Fast fashion is so last season; thrifting is where it’s at. In this guide, I’m sharing four simple tips on how to look good and be kind to our planet by embracing thrift stores!

A Thrift-Shopping Guide: How To be Stylish AND Eco-Friendly
Photo by Luis Montejo on Unsplash

If you're not an avid thrifter, going to a second-hand shop to update your wardrobe can seem like an overwhelming chore. There are rails and rails of clothing, the majority of which isn't even your size, let alone your style. Where to begin?

You know that fast fashion is wreaking havoc on the environment. You know that thrifting your wardrobe is going to save you money. But you also know that when you walk into a busy, chaotic thrift shop, you're going to panic buy the first Ramones t-shirt you see and get the hell out of there.

Don't despair. With some simple tips, you can become a savvy thrift shopper and, in turn, do your bit to save the planet from fast fashion.

1. Look at the label, even if you’re not on the hunt for designer goods

Always take note of the little label inside the clothing you find. Why? Well, thrifting has exploded in popularity, and that's pushed up the prices. You can still find bargains today, but you need to be clever about it.

If you see that an item of clothing is a H&M brand (such as Divided), a Primark brand (such as Atmosphere), or any low-cost fashion make, pay particular attention to the price. If you could buy it new for the same price, move along. On the other hand, if it’s super cheap, you love the style, and you'll actually wear it, then go ahead and buy! Just remember that cheap clothing can fall apart in the wash, so don't expect it to last you a lifetime.

In this Instagram post I'm wearing a vintage top and thrifted jeans

2. Know what works for you, even if you are on the hunt for designer goods

It's not something that will happen on every outing, but part of the fun of thrifting is that you could land upon a designer item. Each and every thrift shop is like a lucky dip, so keep an eye out!

If you do find a big-name label, don’t get too swept up in the excitement. Most charity shop owners are fashion-savvy and have already put a fair (i.e. not super cheap) price on the item. So before you pay up, ask yourself: would I actually wear this, or am I just buying it because of the name? If you can’t think of any event or scenario where you’d wear it, walk away.

These are thrifted trousers in my signature color: emerald green

3. Decide on your signature color

Second-hand stores can be overwhelming, with racks upon racks of clothing, and oftentimes little-to-no organization. Where to start? Start with your signature color!

A signature color is a color that is totally 'you'. You look great in it, and—once you wear it enough—your friends and family will even start associating it with you.

Embrace the monochromatic trend and purchase full outfits in this color. Or, add a more subtle pop of color to a neutral outfit by choosing accessories in your signature shade.

If you're having difficulty deciding on a signature color, try asking yourself every child's go-to question: what’s my favorite color? Even if your answer is a loud or bright color that you wouldn’t usually wear, it could still work! Rather than looking for dresses, tops, or pants in this tone, you could opt for bags, jewelry, and other accessories.

Another tip for finding your signature color is to think back to one of your best outfits. Choose a look that you felt amazing in... perhaps you got a lot of compliments or maybe you just knew you were looking hot that day. What was the main color of this outfit? This could be a winner!

I found this top at a flea market, and the trousers at a charity shop

4. Know when to walk away...

One of the hardest parts of thrift shopping is saying "no" to an exciting new old purchase. I know this from experience... and from a drawer stuffed full of unworn thrifted clothes.

While a spending spree at a department store could set you back hundreds or even thousands of dollars, a 'splurge' at a thrift store might only cost $50. It's a cheap way to shop, so it's all too easy to buy more than you actually need or even truly want.

Sure, buying loads at thrift store is more eco-friendly than spending large at a fashion house. But if you're just buying for the sake of it, you're still feeding into the cycle of fast fashion. Be a conscious shopper and take a moment to pause. Ask yourself, do I actually want or need this? Will I wear it? Will I look good in it? If you've answered yes to these questions, it could be a sound purchase. If not, pop it back on the hanger. Don't feel deflated... now you can continue shopping for clothes that you're actually excited about!


So, there you have it, four tips for successful thrifting! Bear these in mind next time you're hitting your local second-hand store and you're bound to come home with some great finds.

Bonus tip: Make space in your wardrobe for your thrifty finds by selling your old clothing online! Here's how to make your first sale on Depop.


For more thrifted looks, follow me on Instagram, @byclairep. Thank you for reading and happy thrifting!


Claire Petersen

Berlin-based fashion photographer from Ireland

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