Skip to content

6 Best Clothing Items to Buy at Thrift Stores, Stylists Say

It doesn't take much hunting to find these pieces.

It's a known fact that clothing quality has gone down in recent decades—so finding items secondhand is often a great way to discover pieces with top-tier materials and craftsmanship. Plus, you can also pick up more unique things at thrift stores. But before you get started on your next shopping excursion, be aware that personal stylists say you should keep an eye out for certain things. Keep reading to learn the best clothes to buy at thrift stores.

RELATED: 8 Clothing Items That Make You Look Dated, Stylists Say.


Woman with pearl rings putting hand in back pocket of jeans
Oksana Sikorska / Shutterstock

Visit your local thrift shop, and you might come across a treasure trove of quality denim.

"Shop Levi Strauss, Lee, and Wrangler jeans, but also look for denim jackets, shackets, skirts, and shorts," says Elizabeth Kosich, certified image stylist and founder of Elizabeth Kosich Styling. "Turn your denim finds into a creative DIY project by embellishing with patches, embroidery, jewels, or a fun fabric liner. Or, reimagine denim separates and cut jeans to shorts or a jacket to a vest."

When you're picking them up for $10 a pair—as opposed to the $50 plus you'd spend buying them new—the opportunities are endless.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Find Hidden Treasures at Secondhand Stores, Thrifting Experts Say.

Coats and cashmere

Closeup on trendy woman in white sweater and skirt at modern home in sunny winter day sitting near couch checking sweaters for moth larvae or other damage.

Coats and sweaters are often top-ticket items, especially if you're looking for high-quality fabrics like cashmere and wool.

"Firstly, look at materials," says Hellana Mardasian, personal stylist and shopper. "You can pick up some incredible bargains when you focus on finding hidden gems by honing in on high-quality fabrics like cashmere and past-season designer coats for a fraction of the price."

Inspect the garment for wear and tear, as these workhorse pieces tend to show it easily, and decide if there's anything that will need repairing. Factor that into the total price when you're debating whether or not to leave the store with something.

RELATED: 6 Classic Clothing Items That Never Go Out of Style, Fashion Experts Say.


hat on hook near closet
DimSan / Shutterstock

Is there anything more fun than trying on a bunch of funky accessories at the thrift store?

"Hats were a big part of the '40s and '50s fashion and remain some of today's most well-preserved vintage finds," says Kosich. "Shop for wool fedoras, newsboy caps, cloches, straw Panama, and fur trapper hats—if you're lucky, there are even top-quality decorative fascinators."

Pro tip: Always ask if the original box packaging is available. That way, you'll be able to store your hat safely.

RELATED: 11 Fall Wardrobe Essentials as You Get Older.

Formal dresses

cape style dress
DavorLovincic / iStock

Purchasing a different dress for every occasion adds up fast. Save money by buying one secondhand.

"From gowns to tuxes, formalwear is a treasure trove at vintage shops," says Kosich. "Look for sumptuous fabrics like velvet, taffeta, tulle, and satin, and styles like tea-length hemlines, corseted bodices, bell sleeves, and waistcoat tails."

Before you swipe your card, check for holes, tears, stains, missing buttons, stuck zippers, and yellowing. While experts like dry cleaners, tailors, and restoration services can fix those issues, you'll want to consider the price.

RELATED: 5 Clothing Items You Should Never Buy Online, According to Retail Experts.

Embroidery and beading

beaded clothing items you're storing wrong

The secondhand shop is the ideal place for something truly unique, so keep your eyes peeled for cool touches.

"Look out for pieces that have intricate details such as embellishment, embroidery, and beading," says Mardasian. "It's always great to have something unique, and these additional add-ons will increase the value of the item."

You might find some interesting items on bags and belts as well as sweaters and dresses.

RELATED: 6 Thrifting Hacks from Ex-Goodwill Employees.

Costume jewelry

Closeup of gold jewelery with precious stones

Before you leave the thrift shop, take a peek at its jewelry shelves. However, keep a few things in mind.

"Be sure to inspect embedments for cracks, dead rhinestones, or loose or missing settings, and also check earring clips for a tight fit, and bracelet and necklace clasps to ensure secure closures," says Kosich. "For bakelite and acrylic pieces, check for scratches and cloudiness to cherry-pick the most top-quality pieces."

You could find some life-long pieces or just a fabulous trinket to wear with a new dress.

For more style advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
Filed Under