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How to find quality pieces while thrifting

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Asia Marquis first started thrifting when she was a kid, visiting secondhand stores with her mom and grandma because they were on a tight budget. Thrifting helped her figure out her own personal style. And when she went to college, people noticed.

ASIA MARQUIS: People just really - oh, where'd you get that? Thrift store. Oh, I love those shoes. Thrift store. So it just became something that I was, you know, being known for. When I started getting those compliments, I'm like, OK. Like, yeah, I shop at the thrift store, but I still look good.

DETROW: Now Marquis has a group she started called the Thrift Sistas Club in Dayton, Ohio. They meet monthly and thrift together. Maybe you're interested in thrifting, too. Whether you want to find some new summer shorts or find your own style or to shop more sustainably, buying secondhand can be a good option. But it can also be daunting. Our producer Mia Venkat teamed up with NPR's Life Kit to offer you some tips.

MIA VENKAT, BYLINE: So you've decided you want to go thrifting. Now what? Well, first step is having a strategy. Thrift stores are sometimes huge and disorganized. So Asia Marquis says to look for fashion inspiration online before you head out.

MARQUIS: You want to look up different celebrities, maybe. Look on Pinterest. Look through magazines. Look at TV shows.

VENKAT: She brings screenshots and references as a way to focus on specific items she's hoping to find. She also suggests having a thrift wish list. Think of 3 to 5 items you're looking for - baggy jeans, a pool cover-up, a work shirt. Narrow your search, and start in those sections first.

MARQUIS: And you can navigate the thrift store in a more relaxed fashion as opposed to just kind of looking around like, oh, my God. It's just too much. And then you end up walking out and leaving with nothing.

VENKAT: When you can, shop for items out of season because fewer people will be looking for them. You can also try going on a Monday or Tuesday 'cause often, weekends are when stores get most of their donations. Stephen Emery started thrifting in high school but got more into it a few years ago in an effort to be more sustainable. When thrifting, he stays away from specific colors.

STEPHEN EMERY: I know that I do not look good in yellow. It flushes out my skin. I don't look good in pinks or reds, so I just avoid those colors altogether. And I look at the colors that I know will complement me the best.

VENKAT: Look at the clothes you already love for inspiration. What silhouettes are flattering on your body? What textures and fabrics do you like? What brands tend to fit you the best? Lean on that knowledge so you can go through the racks faster. You can also save yourself a ton of time by just knowing your measurements and bringing a tape measure with you so you can assess the clothes for yourself.

MARY JACOBS: If you could just know your measurements and you have a tape measure, you can go so much faster through the thrift store, right? Because then you have to remove the part of trying stuff on.

VENKAT: Mary Jacobs is a secondhand stylist, meaning she thrifts and curates clothes for other people. She says you don't need all your measurements, but the two main ones are chest and hip. But in the end, the best way to know something will fit is by just trying it on in the store. Make sure you wear something that you can try other clothes on over. And if the fit is only a little bit off, Stephen Emery says think about getting it tailored to make it just right for you.

EMERY: That's always my goal with thrifting. I want everything I have to be unique and, like, specifically me.

VENKAT: Next, Asia Marquis says do a quality check.

MARQUIS: Is it going to rip? Is it going to pop? Is it going to stretch?

VENKAT: Look at the stitching. Make sure the piece is not about to fall apart. Scan for obvious wear and tear, like pilling and stains. And don't forget to check the crotch and the pits. And looking at the tags tells you a lot about a garment's quality, especially its fabric makeup. Fabrics that are 100% of a natural fiber, like cotton, silk and linen, are harder to come by but they're a lot higher quality, so keep an eye out for them.

MARQUIS: I honestly can see linen a mile away now.

VENKAT: Finally, there's an element of chance when thrifting. You could go every day for a week and find nothing you love. But with patience, luck and maybe these tips, you could strike gold on even a spontaneous trip.

Mia Venkat, NPR News.

DETROW: NPR's Life Kit has a full episode with more tips on the topic. You can check it out at npr.org/lifekit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.