20 Pro-Move Thrift Tips For Your Biggest Scores, Ever

To the initiated, thrifting is a sport. In fact, in some cases — like those involving a perfect suede trench that just got red-tagged — it's a head-to-head encounter and even a test of friendship, endurance and will power. Despite all the brutal conditions on the field (lack of air conditioning, lack of organized racks, lack of budget, to name a few), there are some must-know tips that'll give any store-goer a leg up on the healthy competition.

Having made the rounds of used-clothing racks once or twice ourselves, we spearheaded the ultimate guide to thrifting. These tips were compiled from our own years of hardcore practice and those of our fellow storied-clothing enthusiasts. Simply put: These 20 practical and user-friendly rules are the ticket to your next big vintage scores. Why are we giving away our playbook, you might ask? Well, let's just say we're going in confident.

Flip through ahead to find the best thrifting tips and, if you think we missed something, leave yours in the comments below. On the playing field of fashion it's all for one and one for all, after all.
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Don't write something off just because it doesn't fit perfectly in the fitting room. Kyleigh Kuhn, of 87 Days of Vintage knows that "anything can be altered!"
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Kuhn also suggests you look for a certain garment that might be avoiding you in the current retail market.
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Lastly, she says, keep the love alive and urgent! Make sure the piece excites you.
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Kathleen McDonnell of Nomad Vintage suggests that under layers may be the ticket to your next big score.
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
McDonnell adds, "It’s simply not worth the time and headache to have to try to clean old stains or bring big projects to the tailor. Old stains probably won’t come out and you’ll have another item added to your pile of stuff that you don’t use but can’t bring yourself to get rid of! Plus OxiClean (if you choose to go down that path) destroys as much as it saves because colors in old fabrics often bleed."
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
"Pull a bunch of stuff you like and then edit before you buy. It’s really easy to start having a collection of things you don’t wear or use if you’re not careful. Many of us live in small New York City apartments and we're trying to get rid of things to keep our space clear and functional. Do not use thrifting as a way to justify your hoarding tendencies," McDonnell warns. "It’s really not healthy and will weigh you down psychologically. I may be one of the few vintage dealers that really is not a hoarder; I've seen too many people with this tendency and how crippling it can become."
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Elizabeth Parks Kibbey, who owns the tightly curated Collection LA, tells us, "Of course I'm always looking for an incredible designer label, but don't underestimate the power of a thrifted basic in a high-quality material. Once you get to know your fibers all you have to do is run your fingers along the bottom of a rack and you can feel a good score — like a great silk button down, or a perfect cashmere sweater — that quickly becomes an indispesible part of your wardrobe. Plus, it helps you quickly sift through what's true vintage and what's last season's cast-off Forever 21. Raw silk is a current fave of mine."
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Of course, we had to know which labels this vintage maven is always on the lookout for. And now we're bound to follow suit.
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Some large thrift stores like Salvation Army or Goodwill will discount certain color labels on different days. Nifty Thrifty founder Topper Luciani makes the point that doing your research beforehand could really pay off.
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In the same vein, Luciani says to "ask when fresh garments get put on the floor," so that you can always be first to the stock.
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Sue Williamson, digital editor of W Magazine, is a major thrift-a-holic and keeps a running list of gaps in her closet to be filled. This way she's always got a clear idea in mind of what she needs and the outfits she can make with her new buys. Solid advice, Sue!
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Wendy and LaRae Kangas, the sisters behind Duo NYC, a vintage shop on the Lower East Side, suggest checking every section in the store: "Some of our favorite finds come from the 'off' sections. Think vintage broken-in Levi's 501s and oversized linen tunics. Don't be shy, dig!"
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
The Kangas sisters also mention how they spot threads in the best condition, by holding pieces up to the light to see imperfections. However, they say, "We also find that not all flaws are bad — we love finding pieces that have been hand-stitched or repaired. It brings character and new life to a vintage piece, making it more special. "
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Our own Connie Wang, Refinery29 fashion features director and vintage guru, advises, "Always thrift with an enabler." That way you won't get that coulda-woulda-shoulda feeling about items that are probably worth the extra $9.99.
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She also recommends a crossbody bag for hands-free shopping. Hang it off the rack for optimal movement — just make sure to keep an eye on it while you rummage!
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Slip-on shoes are a thrift shopper's best friend. Then you can not only try on vintage loafers at your convenience, but also step into rounds of clothing without the hassle and wasted time of laces.
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Sizes have certainly changed over time. It's worth the extra few minutes to try every garment on and see how it hangs on your body, because there's no real marker or standard between pieces at a thrift shop.
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That said, use the fitting room as a styling session. Cuff pants and sleeves, try a belt, or play with knotting up extra fabric. It's crazy how these little tweaks can add extra life to old '80s garb.
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Designed by Abbie Winters.
Always make sure you're putting a cap on your spending — even discounted clothes can add up quickly!
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And finally, don't rely on the store to keep the garments up to your standard of freshness — make sure you wash everything yourself.
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