Sure, you can buy vintage dresses on eBay, but if you want the good shit, you need to hit a thrift store. I’m talking about Goodwill, Savers, and the Salvation Army—places that smell like an artisanal blend of human pee, cat pee, and mold; where every coat pocket is stuffed with a wadded-up tissue. When it comes to the thrill of the hunt, nothing compares to a straight-up thrift score. Are you ready to attack this experience like a ravenous tiger with a thirst for blood and deals? Then pay attention: I’m about to share my tried-and-true secrets for full-contact thrifting.
Plan your attack. The best spots are often charity-affiliated stores in wealthy towns, so hit those rich-lady church basements hard. They usually restock on one particular day of the week, so find out which day it is, and pounce as soon as you can the following morning.
No bathroom breaks. Voiding your bowels wastes time you could be spending rifling through the sweater rack, so do not consume a venti chai latte and an “extra-caliente” burrito before hitting the thrifts. (Plus, their bathrooms are often gnarly and employees-only.) Consume only small, dry items like Power Bars, nuts, and jerky. You’re trying to go the distance here.
Your uniform. Wearing a bulky denim jumpsuit? Not to a thrift. Many stores don’t have dressing rooms, so you’ll have to throw everything over your clothes. The appropriate outfit is: thin synthetic leggings (the slickness helps the clothes not bunch up), a fitted tank, and slip-off shoes, like clogs. This is not a fashion show—this is a vitally important expedition.
Smash and grab. Do a quick full-store lap, and if you see anything even remotely appealing, put it in your cart or over your shoulder. Once you’re weighed down like a hardy sherpa, you can do a preliminary try-on. It’s the only way to keep your bounty out of the clutches of the other shoppers.
Kiss ass. You see that lady at the front register? Treat her like your long-lost grandma. That guy who’s restocking the dishware? Ask him about his day. I have received countless ridiculous deals and bags of freebie clothing from this approach. Once, a thrift shop gave me a gorgeous mid-century credenza, for free. [Drops mic, and walks away.]
Illustration by Courtney Bernard
This story originally appeared in the April/May 2014 issue of BUST. Get it on newsstands now or subscribe!