Thrift Shopping Tips

I received a few requests to write about thrifting in Toronto and to give thrifting tips in general. Enjoy!

Have you ever gone thrift store shopping? My boyfriend & I gave it a try last year and it was actually really fun! I love sifting through the racks even if I don't find anything because every thrift store is completely different. When you do find something you like, it can be a very exciting experience.

FIRST OFF: It's not "vintage"...
I noticed that some people seem to call everything they thrift "vintage", but unfortunately, that's not the case. Vintage doesn't mean "used". "Vintage clothing" applies to clothing made in a previous era or made 20+ years ago. ("Vintage-inspired" is a whole different story though.)

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Bring hand sanitizer.

If you prefer a cleaner environment with secondhand designer goods, a consignment store is a good place to start. Clients sell their designer goods through a consignment store and the store receives commission once the item is sold.

Popular thrift stores in Toronto include Value Village (called Savers in the US), Goodwill, and the Salvation Army, but there are many great independent thrift stores as well.

Outfit & Attitude
Wear something comfortable. Jeans, leggings, t-shirts, etc. Try not to wear anything fancy (that stands out). You also want something that's easy to remove in the fitting room so you can try things on quickly.

Don't be overwhelmed...
There are a lot of racks, clothes, and sections in thrift stores. Racks are usually organized by type of garment (t-shirts, blouses, etc.), colour, and size (at Value Village anyway). Don't stick to one section though. I've found a lot of cute sweaters and blazers in the men's department and stuff from the kids department as well. Oh and don't forget the housewares! I've seen sooo many cute jewelry racks and boxes for sale.

Examine every little detail...
I see a lot of new items WITH TAGS at thrifts stores, but the majority of the clothing there are used. Check everything carefully! Are there armpit stains on the white shirts? Holes, rips, stains, missing buttons? Even though Value Village allows exchanges (no refunds), I wouldn't want to go through the trouble of going back.

Bring a friend!
A shopping buddy is great for helping you make the final decision. Do you REALLY fit that dress? Or are you just buying it because of the label and/or price? I've been guilty of almost purchasing an item because of the brand name. It looked terrible on me.

Can the item be altered for a few bucks or does it need a whole makeover? Sometimes, it might be worth it to buy something that doesn't fit you, but can be altered at the tailor's. It's a bigger bonus if you know how to alter clothing yourself.

Don't forget the shoes, accessories, and bags!
I absolutely love finding unique jewelry pieces at thrift stores. Some things I found include a vintage Monet bracelet, brown leather belt, and cute bow pumps that were brand new. I tend to look for shoes that are brand new or looked like they were worn a couple of times for hygienic reasons.

Don't go thrifting searching for a specific item. You (most likely) WON'T find it. Every thrift store is different and not finding the item would just disappoint you at the end of the day.

Don't forget to wash or dry clean your new treasures before wearing them!

Hope my tips helped a bit! : )


  1. Neat post... I have never been to a thrift store but I think I should try it this year! Thanks for the post!

  2. Very good tips! Thanks for sharing!
    Tbh, I'm not a huge fan of thrifting only because I don't have the patience and I DO get over-whelmed because most of the clothings are haphazardly arranged.
    However, I do pick up the occasional accessory here and there and its really quite worth it :)

  3. Thanks for the great tips Jessy! I unfortunately cannot go into thrift/consignment shops because I am severely allergic (tried multiple times) so I envy those who can..LOL

    Ebay is my thrift shopping:D

  4. Great, informative post! Like Annie, I'm more of an eBay thrifter so I can shop from the comfort of my own home (also the fact that I live in the midwest usually means there isn't much a good selection).

  5. Nice tips! Waiting for the list of locations in town!

  6. Great tips..perhaps I will venture out to do some thrift shopping soon. It sounds so much fun.

  7. I never took time to thrift before...I do not like searching through a lot of stuff. I would imagine its like shopping at places that sell discounted clothes - Daffys, TJMaxx, etc. Prefer stores like Loft - sale racks are much more manageable.

  8. I love what you wrote for this! You gave really great advice. It's true that you shouldn't go thrifting with something in mind because I definitely learned my lesson from this. I have failed miserably in trying to find perfect silk cream blouses.

  9. I love thrifting! Though I haven't had any luck finding things, but the adventure of just sorting out through old/new treasures gets me excited!

    Super happy that you blog about this, I think many people underestimate the power of thrifting. There's many places in Toronto, you can look it up in blogTO! I think it was under the "vintage" section

  10. I think if I had lots of time on my hand, I would love to go thrifting. But sadly I equate thrifting with shopping at F21... there are gems to be found, but seems like the process is not so pleasant for the most part. It's been years since I stepped foot in a thrift store though... maybe one of these days I'll give it a try!

  11. Great guide and tips! I understand about dress code and trying not to stand out.

    And also it annoys me when people call things vintage just because they were thrifted. Just cos its not brand spanking new doesn't mean it's vintage >_<

  12. Great post, Jessy!

    Although, I do like to go to the thrift store with something specific in mind, it makes shopping a lot easier than just mindlessly browsing racks.

  13. Thanks Jessy! There's a huge NEW Goodwill store near my house that I keep meaning to pop into. glad I read your post first though ;)

  14. Thank you, Jessy! Awesome tips. I've been a little scurred to go thrifting myself... This is the encouragement I needed!

  15. Nice post. It was very informative (:
    Lol, I agree. Value Village is always in some random neighbourhood

  16. Ahh so this VV is Canada's equivalent to Savers? I just love the sort by size arrangement! I really enjoy thrifting if I surface with a good find. If I don't then I get grumpy because by then I probably already smell like the store and am in sore need of hand sanitizer.

    Glad you distinguished between "vintage" and ..just pre-owned. Most people don't know that vintage refers to 20 years back, which is actually pretty hard to find. I'm pretty sure I've called an Ann Taylor skirt I've found "vintage" before because I thought it was for sure at least 20 years old...but now that I thin about it, that's probably way overestimating. It'd be eaten up by moths by now!

  17. I've tried thrifting several times, and never really came out with any gems. I guess it's the fact that I'm always trying to dig up for designer/name brand items, and that's most likely not bound to happen. lol. My friend on the other hand is an amazing thrifter. She comes out with the coolest items. Lately, I've been wanting to go thrifting, but haven't found a great place yet. :)

  18. Great post! I'm not a thrift-shopper myself, but maybe that will change one day. Oh and I definitely use the term "vintage" loosely for some items. It just sounds nicer than "old", but I guess, it's a bit inaccurate ;) I would love to see some of your great finds! xx

  19. @Really Petite
    yes I rmb you saying that in a recent blog post! Allergies totally suck.

    haha what's funny is that I always see them!!

    I've done some searching in the past, but never came across blogTO's list. Thanks for the heads up!

    omg you gotta visit that Goodwill and lemme know if you find anything!

    Yeah I was shocked when I discovered they're the same store. I've seen a lot of Americans refer to it as Value Village though, which is odd since you've never heard of VV! It's always a big disappointment not finding anything...

    At the beginning, I made the mistake of digging up brand name items too. haha They're more "trustworthy" I guess? Def. makes your trip worthwhile if you find something like that. :P


    I loooove thrifting.. I have pretty much been thrifting since first year of university (is the reason not obvious enough? LOL)

    Most of my favourite clothes I've gotten at a thrift store!

    If I ever come back to Toronto (T__T), we should totally meet up and go thrifting hehe ;)

  21. Thank you for all the tips and for making the distinction between vintage and pre-owned. Thrifting sure sounds like a lot of fun and it’s good that thrift shops are more popular in the west. It hasn’t quite caught up here. I’ve only tried it once at Salavation Army. I wound up with a book. I didn’t get any fashion itmes coz they were seriously in a bad shape.