A Practical Guide to Conscious Thrifting


As thrifting becomes this odd sort of fashion trend, I look back with amusement on the day in 9th grade when I went to Goodwill to find a pair of shorts to sew an American flag on them (thanks, Tumblr DIY)… only then to be made fun of at school for making my own shorts.

The shorts were actually hideous, but that’s not the point. I remember a time when “thrifting” wasn’t really even a concept, and you were just considered poor and/or a loser if you didn’t buy your clothes at Forever21 or J. Crew or The GAP or whatever other store was in your local shopping mall.

Thank goodness that era is coming to an end.

Maybe it only is (for me) because I’ve grown more confident in who I am and what I like. While I understand the necessity of buying new things, I have come to the conclusion that, aside from the truly basic essentials like underwear and socks, I don’t really need to buy brand new clothing.

There has already been so much clothing produced, never worn, and currently in landfills, so why would I need to go buy an H&M dress that won’t even last me a season?

If you’re new to thrifting, or if switching to slow fashion is something that you’ve considered, here are a few tips for your shopping experience.

Consume less = consume better

While we all know we shouldn’t carelessly buy things we don’t need, it really applies to thrifting. Buying just for the sake of having the item is not only bad for your budget, but it’s also bad for the other shoppers.

Thrifting is accessible to all socioeconomic ways of life, and being careful about buying just what you need can help out others, even if in a small way.

Make a little list to keep you on track. If you’re looking for accessories, shop only in that section to limit your purchases.

Don’t worry, I too am guilty of walking into a thrift store with no particular need in mind and walking out with 50+ euros worth of clothes that I might not even wear. But consuming less is better for you and others!

Another good idea is to bring only cash with you and to not use your card. This gives you a set limit and makes you more selective about what you buy.

Think about purpose

This goes hand-in-hand with not overconsuming. Be purposeful in your thrifting experience to make the most of your purchases.

Try to have a goal when you go thrifting so you don’t get carried away. Are you going just to look around? If so, stick to that. Try not to buy anything. Are you going for specific pieces that are missing in your closet? Would you like to completely redo your wardrobe? All of these questions give you different purposes for your shopping experience.

If you already have 5 different black blazers, even if all five have different silhouettes, maybe opt out of buying another one. The clothes you already have in your closet should adequately be serving their purpose.

Try before you buy

Because beauty standards and thus clothing sizes change so much throughout the years, it’s essential to try on vintage clothes before you buy them.

When I go thrifting, I always try to wear basic underclothing so I can easily and quickly try on pieces, even if there is not a proper changing room. Be sure to wear comfortable and easy to change clothing when thrifting: you don’t want to find yourself unlacing your Doc Martens or taking off fives different layers just to try on some clothes.

If you don’t love it, put it back.

This goes back to the first point. If you want to be a conscious consumer or begin the journey to sustainable fashion, it starts with what you don’t buy. If you are not absolutely in love with the article of clothing, you probably won’t wear it more than a few times. So don’t buy it.

According to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing every year.

Prevention is the best medicine, even in your shopping habits. Stop the waste cycle by only buying pieces you absolutely love— and then wear them out! Clothes are meant to be worn. Wear your clothes until they are falling apart.


When your clothes do happen to be falling apart, don’t trash them. Find a way to donate or recycle.

For example, I live near an associative center that remakes old clothing into brand new pieces that are equally as gorgeous! This process, called upcycling in France, is really popular here.

Also, please don’t donate extremely dirty, stained or simply unusable clothing. These can simply be recycled at your local recycling center. Depending on the thrift store and their guidelines, unusable pieces just add more unnecessary work to the employees already trying to sift through bags and bags of items.

Thrifting in 2023 can sometimes feel like the Hunger Games. You open the door and find everyone rummaging through the clothes scattered (or sometimes well organised) all around the store while trying to remember what you came there for in the first place. Don’t panic. Remember these tips next time you hit up the thrift stores.


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