How to Thrift Like a Teen: Tips to update your 2019 wardrobe


graphic by Emily Reed

A selection of Beau Cameron’s most recently thrifted items.

by Beau Cameron, Co-Editor-In-Chief

For the past few years, we’ve seen a resurgence in the market for resale and consignment shops. Second-hand stores like Goodwill are no longer shameful places to shop. In fact, according to research by global consulting group WSL Strategic Retail, Gen Z-rs are spending 40% more time in consignment shops than previous generations.

The re-use of discarded clothes is an obvious aspect of thrift stores, but the fashion is also perceived as inherently anti-establishment. By thrifting, shoppers are rejecting the consumerism and inhumane practices associated with many large brands.

Whether you’re looking to save money, save the environment, or just want to jump on the bandwagon, here are my top tips for how to thrift.

1.Wear something simple that could match with a variety of styles

You’re going to be trying on a million different items, and it can be hard to see the potential in a cool shirt when it clashes with your leggings. Try something simple:  I wear a solid colored t-shirt and jeans, along with my favorite pair of boots.

Emily Reed
Beau Cameron sports his recently thrifted Hawaiian print shirt.

2. Try clothes on, even if you aren’t sure you’ll like them

You want to try everything. Something that looks iffy on the rack might look awesome when you put it on. I put on a Hawaiian shirt as a joke but actually liked how it looked. You never know what you like until you see it on.

Furthermore, some of the older clothes you find are going to smell a bit. Remember that a quick run through the wash is usually enough to get out any pesky odors, so it’s important not to let that turn you off from a piece you like. (For thrifted clothes, I recommend putting some essential oils like lavender in the wash. That way, you know they’ll come out smelling fresh.) 

3. Take your time

Sort through all the clothes available. Don’t skip over anything on the rack, even different sizes. (Oversize clothes are in style at the moment.) Again, you don’t want to miss any potentially awesome finds. To not rush through shopping, I try to make a day out of thrifting, spending the day going through the stores. I also try not to have any specific item in mind; that way, I’m not ignoring other items in favor of that one.

4. Know what you can do

Some of the clothes you find won’t be perfect. Some just need a good ironing, but others can need some serious work. Know what you can do: how good are you at sewing? Do you know how to hem? Can you patch that hole or fix that tear? Understand your own limitations. You don’t want to buy something too small if you don’t know how to take out a seam.

For instance, I love the jacket I found at Thrift Angel, but I’m probably going to replace the buttons. Furthermore, a lot of vintage items have specific needs when it comes to cleaning. Check the care tags; if you can’t afford dry cleaning, it’s not smart to buy something that’s Dry Clean Only.

5. Check out brands

If you’re looking for clothes that can last, then you’re going to want to pay attention to the brand names. Some of the more recognizable ones you stumble across are going to act as reassurance that the garments are of good quality and won’t fall apart after one wear. You can always look for the brands you can find at your local shopping mall (American Eagle, Aeropostle, H&M, etc), but for jeans, I recommend looking at Levi’s, Lee, and Arizona Jeans.

6. Vintage does not equal thrift

A lot of the clothes that you find at thrift stores are going to have some vintage inspiration, but vintage clothing isn’t necessarily thrifting. A lot of vintage stores will give you sticket shock, and you won’t find anything there if you’re on a budget. Know the difference between the two!

graphic by Beau Cameron
Beau Cameron’s favorite Frederick thrift stores.

If you’re a first time thrifter, it’s best to start at a place like Plato’s Closet. Although it can be a little pricier, they actually choose what goes on the racks based on current fashion trends, so you’re more likely to find something that fits today’s styles.

“When I think of thrifting, I think of it being hit or miss as to what’s in the store. But with Plato’s, we stick to later fashions, things that have been in the mall within the last year or year and a half. So I think there’s more consistency and style,” said Stephanie Smith, owner of the chain’s Frederick storefront. “Items have to be in good condition. We look for things that are free of stains, spots, holes, strong odors. Things that you don’t have to worry about having something wrong with it.”

Places like Goodwill or local stores like Thrift Angel are better for more experienced thrifters. You never know what you’re going to find there, and, although some of it may be ugly, there are awesome clothes hidden among the racks.

The most important thing to remember about thrifting is to have fun! Bring a friend, make a day of it, and don’t take it so seriously. Shopping is meant to be enjoyable, so get out there and thrift.