How I Score Unique Items at Goodwill (and How You Can Too)

What actually keeps me coming back to Goodwill every time is the potential of finding pieces that no one else will have, sure, but mostly because what I do find are pieces that feel like they were meant just for me, at least that’s how I see it. Sifting through racks upon racks of tired T-shirts and fraying jeans is quite the undertaking, so every time I do discover a gem in the midst of it all, it’s as if the item was waiting for me to find it.

So after years of scoring the most unique pieces, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to come across the best thrift store finds. I figured I’d share my savvy tips so that you too can walk away with secondhand fashion items that feel meant just for you. Just below, see my favorite thrift store finds in action and then shop my top affordable picks of the season because I know you also can’t resist a good affordable fashion find.

My first tip is to think outside the box with how you plan to style the pieces you find. Take this black top for example, that I actually bought as a size XS skirt and then lightly tailored it into a crop top. Had I not just seen this amazing Kendall Jenner outfit just days prior, I might not have even given the skirt a second glance. Which brings me to my second piece of advice: keep an eye out for unexpected colors, textures, and fabrics. Remember, you’re probably not shopping at a Goodwill for classic wardrobe staples, so the more “fun” the item, the better.

I’ll be the first to admit that I shop at thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army for fun. Blame it on having a tight budget during my college years or on being raised by my rather alternative mother, but I definitely get a thrill out of discovering crazy-affordable fashion finds (I mean, who doesn’t). Thankfully for me, vintage fashion started becoming mainstream and it’s pretty cool to wear clothing that appears to have lived a previous life. 

Since we know that older fashion trends tend to be recycled every few years, thrifting is actually pretty key because you’re shopping from what others probably kept in their closets for years and just now decided to donate. So if you know which nostalgic trends are coming back around, as you probably do being a Who What Wear reader, you’ll be able to find the authentic versions of 80s, 90s and 2000s trends. And let’s not forget the wonders that secondhand shopping can do for the environment, either (hello sustainability).

Available in sizes XS to XXL.
Available in sizes 1X to 3X.
Available in sizes 0 to 14.
Available in sizes 5 to 11.
Available in size S.
Available in sizes 2 to 10.
The sunglasses that one editor swears by to complement her face.
Available in sizes L to 4XL.
Available in sizes 00 to 24.
Available in sizes 6 to 10.
Available in sizes XXS to XL.
Available in sizes 2 to 12.
Available in sizes 2 to 26W.

You’re a Who What Wear reader, which means you’re always the first of your friends to be on top of the best trends. Let your trend knowledge guide you to pieces that are unintentionally very current, like these light yellow trousers, whose color is that of trending Gen-Z yellow.

By now I hope I’ve imparted my thrift shopping wisdom onto you so that next time you walk into your local Goodwill, you’ll be successful in finding one-of-a-kind pieces.

Speaking of pants, I’m a pants kind of girl through and through. So when I’m not searching for a “weird” item at Goodwill, you’ll find me sifting through racks of men’s trousers (yes, men’s). I can count on them to be better quality than most women’s trousers, and I’m partial to how they fit with a higher waist. It’s my secret to finding the perfect vintage-looking trousers, like these navy wool pants and the olive green pair above, that I wear all the time. So don’t overlook the men’s section.

This blazer is another men’s section find. Amidst the checkered blazer trend that blew up last fall, I found this perfectly oversized version, shoulder pads and all. Knowing it was a trending piece I could probably find secondhand, it’s the perfect example of shopping with an idea in mind of what you want to find. But I always tell my friends, don’t pigeonhole yourself into shopping just for that one item and instead be open up to finding whatever comes your way. Some of my best thrift store finds were pieces that I definitely did not set out to find, like that feathery top a few slides before.

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