pink walls with pastel coloured clothing hanging

Tips for Thrifting High Quality Second Hand Clothing

  I have always loved vintage clothes, for both style and quality. Vintage clothing allows me to express my individual style in a distinctive way, mixing vintage pieces with modern ones can create unique outfits that reflect my personality and creativity. Garments from the past were typically made with higher quality textiles. For example, garments were predominately made with 100% natural fibres as opposed to blends featuring both manmade and natural. In addition, manufacturing was done domestically and typically the generations before us owned less clothing all together. Choosing to purchase only a few pieces or make their own clothing. That said, shopping for vintage clothes can evoke feelings of nostalgia, especially if you come across items that remind you of your own past or a particular era you're fond of. It's a way to relive memories and connect with the past through fashion.

  Vintage clothing often features designs and styles that are no longer commonly found in modern fashion. You can discover one-of-a-kind pieces that stand out from contemporary trends. Each vintage garment has a story to tell, whether it's from a specific era or associated with a particular cultural or social movement. Shopping for vintage clothes allows you to connect with history and appreciate the fashion of bygone eras. There’s a warm spot in my heart for homemade clothing with mis-matched seams and slightly wonky hand stitches.

  The best part about shopping second hand is that you are typically able to purchase higher quality piece of clothing for a fraction of today’s retail cost. Therefore, making that purchase even more savoury (due to the savings). So here are a few key things that I recommend to keep in mind in order to find the best quality garments.


Number One: Read the label

  The care and content tags in clothing play a vital role in guiding consumers on how to care for their garments, protecting the integrity of the clothing, ensuring compliance with legal regulations, and promoting consumer confidence in the products they purchase. In many countries, care labels are required by law. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates labeling requirements for textiles to ensure that consumers have access to accurate information about the products they purchase. Care labels contribute to consumer confidence by providing transparency and assurance that the garment has been manufactured with proper care instructions in mind. This helps build trust between consumers and clothing brands. For clothing manufacturers and retailers, including accurate care labels helps mitigate the risk of product liability claims. By providing clear care instructions, they can demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to inform consumers about how to properly care for their products.

  Personally, this is my favourite and most important rule. Content + care tags are very important to me. I use the label to tell me pertinent information about the fabric content and how to take care of the garment in addition to the types of cleaning methods that are safe to use. Different fabrics require specific care to prevent damage. For example, some fabrics may shrink or stretch if washed incorrectly, while others may be prone to color bleeding or fading. Care labels help consumers avoid these issues by providing proper care instructions. If I am looking at a wool sweater I will learn what type of wool it is and if it’s a blend. Personally, I prefer natural fibres as they inherently embody properties that work well for me. For example, if I am selecting a wool sweater, I will look for a higher wool ratio for its natural properties (durability, odour resistance, moisture wicking, and comfort) and don’t want to be fooled into purchasing a 95% acrylic sweater with only 5% wool. Personally, acrylic makes me sweat profusely…which is not cute.

**It’s important to note here that natural fibres gain a superiority complex in some fabric-snob circles, but for those with sensitivities or allergies, manmade fibres can be a much better option. There's no shame in disliking wool!


Number Two: Look For Imperfections

  The second thing I do is scan the item for imperfections. Vintage pieces often have holes, tears, or rips due to them being previously worn. Examine the seams for loose threads, unraveling stitches, or uneven stitching and look for any signs of fraying or weakness along the seams, particularly in high-stress areas like shoulders and underarms. Don’t forget to scan the fabric for stains, discolorations, or spots. Take a moment to test zippers to ensure they move smoothly without catching, check buttons, snaps, and hooks for stability and functionality. Make sure all fastenings are securely attached. Lastly, you’ll want to assess the elasticity of waistbands, cuffs, and other stretchy components. They should retain their shape and elasticity without being overstretched or sagging. Look for any signs of deterioration or loss of elasticity, such as stretched-out elastic or visible wear.

  Once these components are reviewed, I can decide whether it is worth my time and energy to repair the garment. At a place like Value Village (especially with their current over-pricing...) you can ask for a discount if you find an imperfection. Please note: the garment will likely be final sale if you decide to accept the discount. 


Number Three: Find A Tailor

  If an item is oversized, ill-fitted, or in need of a little TLC, consider taking it to a tailor. The quality of the garment itself is often worth the price of taking it to a professional for repairs or alterations. In the end, you will have a bespoke, high quality garment that you can take with you into old age that can be re-donated back into the fashion cycle for future generations.

  When looking for a tailor, seek recommendations from friends, family members, or colleagues who have experience with tailors in your area. Personal referrals are often reliable and can help you find a tailor with a good reputation for quality work. Once you've identified potential tailors, schedule consultations with them to discuss your tailoring needs, preferences, and any specific requirements you have for your clothing. Use this opportunity to assess their communication skills, professionalism, and expertise.


  Shopping strategically for high quality second hand garments requires patience as you are not always guaranteed to find what you are looking for. But the thrill of finding the perfect one of a kind piece is close to winning the lottery. Learn more about my methods and spotting high quality garments by booking a free 15min consultation. We will discuss care + content labels and what to look for in order to find the highest quality garments to make the most of your money.

  During our consultation, we'll delve into the intricate details that elevate a garment's quality. From deciphering care and content labels to understanding the subtle signs of craftsmanship, we'll equip you with the knowledge needed to make savvy shopping decisions. By learning how to distinguish between well-made items and those that may not stand the test of time, you'll not only elevate your style but also make a sustainable choice for both your wardrobe and the environment.

  Join me on this journey of sartorial exploration, where every find tells a story and every purchase is a conscious step towards a more mindful approach to fashion. Your wardrobe is a reflection of your unique personality - let's make sure it shines with pieces that are as exceptional as you are.

Happy thrifting!
Cover image from Mama Loves You
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