The Signal

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Monday May 20th

Five tips for a successful trip to the thrift store, from students

<p><em>(Photos courtesy of Kerry Glacken)</em></p>

(Photos courtesy of Kerry Glacken)

By Rebecca Heath
News Editor 

In recent years, thrift shopping has gone mainstream. Consumers everywhere are drawn to the affordability of second-hand clothing, the unique finds and the chance to help the environment through reducing waste. While thrifting became a widespread trend during the Covid-19 pandemic due to social media platforms like TikTok, it doesn’t appear to be dying down anytime soon; the sale of used clothing is projected to exceed $77 billion by 2025, according to CBS News

With nearly half of her wardrobe consisting of second-hand pieces, senior special education and history major Kerry Glacken may just be considered a thrifting connoisseur. The fashion guru said she views thrifting as a convenient way to shop for both staple and statement pieces sustainably, while steering clear from hefty price tags. 

For Bailei Burgess-Simmons, a junior journalism and professional writing major, her experiences thrifting over the years have shaped her personal style.

“Going into thrift stores and finding items and just having to be creative and thinking of how I can make this into an outfit that would look good, that has helped me to kind of figure out what looks good on me,” said Burgess-Simmons. 

Whether you’re looking to revolutionize your style or simply add a few vintage pieces to your collection, Glacken and Burgess-Simmons’s expertise has you covered. We rounded up their five best tips for a successful trip to the thrift store below.

1. Create a game plan

While stepping into a thrift store with seemingly endless options, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and lose sight of potential outfits. So, Glacken finds it helpful to create a lookbook with specific items and outfits ahead of time using Pinterest. 

“When you know exactly what you're looking for, it becomes a lot easier because then it's like a treasure hunt,” Glacken said. 

During her early days of thrifting, Burgess-Simmons would often come home with piles of clothing that only cluttered her wardrobe. Through trial-and-error, she has since found it beneficial to create a list in advance to prevent her from getting side-tracked. 

“I was just really excited and would just go in and get a whole bunch of stuff,” she recalled. 

“And then you come out and only half of it fits, or you realize that you have three pairs of the same color wash jeans.

2. Stay open-minded 

Although planning ahead is essential, Burgess-Simmons warned that you may not always spot the specific looks on your vision board.

“If you go in open-minded and open to being creative with your outfits, you can almost always find something cool,” Burgess-Simmons said. 

Glacken encourages thrifters to step outside the gender binary. Her best thrift finds, including her all-time favorite, a red leather jacket, were found in the men’s section. 

“I like masculine clothes a lot,” said Glacken. “I like to push past the gender boundaries of what you can wear and what you can't wear.”

For Glacken, the “unexpectedness” that comes with a thrift trip is always a highlight. 

“You just never know what you're going to find,” she said. “You might have an idea of something you might find, but it could be like ten times even cooler.

3. Choose when and where to shop wisely

Glacken recommends shopping on weekday mornings, as weekends and weekday afternoons tend to draw crowds. When choosing a local store, Burgess-Simmons said it’s all about preference. While Red, White & Blue, which is located in Mercerville, offers more adorable options, 2nd Avenue, which is in Hamilton, has more variety, but the items tend to be pricier. 

While beginners should explore various thrift stores, as each shop has unique offerings, Glacken explained that as you become a seasoned thrifter, you’ll likely hone in on a few favorites that best suit your needs. 

4. Seek out items that can be repurposed

While thrifted pieces may not always be perfect at the get-go, just about any item can be transformed. Glacken, who has a knack for refurbishing furniture, always keeps an eye out for pieces she can elevate at home.  

“The main thing that I look for now, like in thrift stores, is furniture…thrifting doesn't just have to be fashion,” she said. “So, if I find mirrors, I'll sand them down and color them a different thing.”

Glacken’s bar cart was repurposed from an old piece of furniture (Photo courtesy of Kerry Glacken).

5. Have fun!

Burgess-Simmons emphasized that thrifting should always be a fun experience — even if you don’t end up walking away with all the pieces on your vision board. And if you seek out unconventional items that may not align with your current style, you just might find some hidden gems. 

“Pick up cool things. Find personality pieces. Try and find some unique stuff,” Burgess-Simmons said. “I think that's the best use of a thrift store.”


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