clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How To Win Big at Thrift Stores

Photo: Brian Harkin

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Fashion is a fair-weather friend; what’s cool right now will most likely feel tired and oversaturated by the end of a season and lay dormant for another handful of years (case in point: where we’re at with ruffles).

Because of this, shopping at thrift stores for cheaper versions of sometimes-risky trends just makes sense financially. (Do you really want to commit to buying a brand new pair of denim flares in the year 2016? Or just own someone else’s from the early aughts?)

Here are a few tips that’ll help you navigate the runway doppelgängers throughout New York City’s dense thrift store scene.

First, Do Your Homework

Each morning while getting dressed, pay attention to the things you wish you had. Make a mental or physical list of all these things as a guideline for the next time you walk by a consignment shop. For example, if one you’re all "I need a silk robe like Rihanna as a seasonably-appropriate light layer," then add it to the list. The biggest takeaway here: Don’t walk in blind.

Get Specific

Now that you know what you need(?), form specific criteria. Decide ahead of time your ideal fabrics, colors, and shapes. This is especially convenient considering most thrift and vintage stores are organized by type and color.

Thrift vs Consignment

Big box thrift stores, like Goodwill and Salvation Army, are a gamble. Boutique thrift and consignment stores, on the other hand, are much more curated. Items may come with a higher price tag, but you’re more likely to walk out with something great — plus, they’re much easier to shop.

Five Things You’ll Always Find

You have the knowledge: now its time to go into the wild. If you’re still not sure where to start, you can always start here.

Slip Dresses

Wear them year-round, pair them with pants, platforms — you name it. Beacon’s Closet in Manhattan has tons in silk starting at $12 for nylon and $17 for silk.

Long Denim Skirts

There are piles of denim skirts at your local Goodwill, guaranteed. And since they’ve been recently resurfaced by Alexander Wang and Saint Laurent, they’re finally cool again.

High-Waisted Denim

Pro-tip: Williamburg’s 10 Ft. Single by Stella Dallas is filled with high-waisted denim jeans for under $20. You do not need to pay Reformation-prices for vintage Levi's.

Ready to get moving?

These are the places you should hit up first:

Editor markup for Where to Resell Your Clothes and Accessories in New York City. This is only visible in the story editor.

Watch: Buyer Beware at Outlet Stores