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8 Tips for Shopping a Thrift Store Like a Fashion Stylist

If you can't make up your mind, trust us: just buy it.

Want to spruce up your wardrobe for fall, but not sure your paycheck can handle the weight of a full-on shopping spree? Well, you know as well as I do what that means: it's time to visit a thrift store. But if you're a thrift-store newbie, know that all one needs to score some amazing clothes are an open mind and a little bit of insider know-how.

That's why we asked NYC-based fashion stylist Shea Daspin for her expert tips on the best ways to tackle the multitude of racks and bins you'll encounter at any thrift store—and compiled her best advice here. Trust us: if you know your clothes, know what you like, know how to accessorize, you've got all of the tools you need to be a savvy bargain shopper. And if you're in the market for a new hairstyle to match your new outfits, look no further than Your Complete Guide to Fall's Hottest Hair Colors and Cuts.

Scan Your Closet Before You Go

beautiful woman in her closet, preparing to go shopping at a thrift store

"Know your closet and apply [what you have] to your shopping strategy when picking out vintage pieces," says Daspin. If you have any clear holes in your wardrobe—like, say, a dress for a fall wedding—you'll be much more likely to actually spot one. Also: if you do indeed have a fall wedding coming up, don't miss The 15 Best Looks to Wear to a Fall Wedding This Year.

Scan By Color or Print

vintage clothes, patterns, thrift store

Once you're in the area of your favorite items (I'd be in graphic tee land, for example), Daspin suggests immediately scanning for your favorite colors and patterns to start narrowing down your options. "It immediately edits out everything else and brings you to what you like," she explains. "For example, I am always drawn to anything that's pink or velvet."

Anything you can do to narrow your focus is great, because wandering around aimlessly makes thrift shopping that much more difficult. After all, the layout is almost guaranteed to be only marginally organized, at best. If you're shopping for your significant other, here's the Linen Shirt He's Guaranteed to Wear for the Rest of Summer. 

Always Do an Armpit Check

woman inspecting shirt, thrift store

The stained-pits struggle at the thrift store is real. It's all too common to realize hasty purchases have resulted in blouses, tees, and dresses with a leftover gift from the previous owner—just not the cute kind. Inspect first, since you're going to want to pass on anything stained before even trying it on, Daspin says.

Don't Pass on Something That Needs Tiny Tweaks

seamstress fixing hem, sewing machine, thrift store

"Don't pass something up just because the pockets are messed up, because things like that are easy fixes for a tailor," says Daspin. "For ten bucks you can get a zipper replaced." Or, for that matter, a new set of buttons, or even a full foot off of the hemline of a skirt or a dress.

"If you're just like, 'This is perfect, except for…', you shouldn't discard an item if there's an easy fix which can really make a huge difference." And for more advice on spending money, here are the 20 purchases that are always worth the money.

Beeline It to the Bags

bunch of handbags at a thrift store.

If you're an accessories girl, the handbag section is generally a safe bet for a quality find or two. "It's pretty easy to spot good ones," says Dapsin. "Look for strong, sturdy shapes, like satchels," and make sure the handle and fasteners are functional. "If both of those check out it'll probably be a pretty decent bag. Plus, there's always carpet bags, that look brand-new chic on younger women." For those with bigger budgets, these are the best suitcases and travel bags for a sharp getaway.

Put a Ring (or Two, or Three) on It

selection of rings at a thrift store

"I like to buy stuff that looks really unique, but not necessarily if it's thrifted or modern," says Dapsin. And when it comes to vintage rings, she'll readily buy a handful.

Try stacking or layering a bunch of them, she suggests. "I think it looks cool when certain rhinestones are missing or if they're oxidized." Translation: The vintage, well-worn stuff that would never normally seem to be a top sell may just be your best bet. And speaking of rings, here are 15 Signs Your Partner is Marriage Material.

Take a Deep Dive Into the Bins of Scarves

scarves at a thrift store

The real gold mine for Daspin, though, are the bins of scarves. "They sell scarves by the bin for, like, five or ten cents, and they're always amazing." Plus, she uses the silky styles to accessorize in a multitude of ways. "I tie them in my hair or tie them on my bag a lot. I use them as a keychain—you can kind of put them anywhere. They're very versatile."

If It's Cheap and You're Not Sure, Just Do It

woman browsing thrift store in sinlight

If you can't make up your mind, just buy it. "Have it in your palms for two weeks and see what happens," she says. "After all, if that one thing didn't work for you, maybe you can give it to a friend and maybe they can appreciate it. And remember that it cost you, like, four dollars."

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