If you’re tight on a budget or just want piles of new clothes regularly, thrift shopping is a great way to achieve a new look. But sometimes that huge store, with limited sales staff can be overwhelming! Read on to learn thrift shopping basics so you can maximize your time spent there and make the most of your budget. Have fun completing the Thrift Store Scavenger Hunt at the end!

Make a List

Before going to the store, figure out what it is exactly that you’re looking for. Maybe you need a blouse to go with that great skirt you already own, or maybe you need a new spring jacket to feminize your look year round. If you already own a closet full of shoes, don’t put shoes on your list, just focus on the aspects of your wardrobe that you need to fill.

Go Prepared

When I go thrift shopping, I always wear a tank top and nylons underneath, even if I’m wearing jeans over top. This makes trying things on much easier and gives me a good idea of what dresses/skirts or sweaters are going  to look like. If you are shopping for dresses, you may want to wear a sandal or smaller shoe, even if shopping in male form. It doesn’t look nice to wear big ugly man boots or work socks while trying on a pencil skirt! Think ahead and dress in something that will go with what you are shopping for.

Grab a Cart!

It’s inevitable that you will find more than what’s on your list and you’ll want a cart to carry it all around. If you’re still in the closet about purchasing feminine clothes, a cart is also a great way to hide things instead of carrying them around in your arms.

Use a cart to carry items or hide items

Store Layout

A store such as Talize (my personal favourite), Goodwill, Value Village, etc are all laid out by categories. There’s men’s wear, children’s wear, women’s wear, household goods, shoes, accessories, and sometimes furniture. The women’s clothing category is divided into subcategories such as outer wear (coats & jackets), dresses, skirts, casual pants, dressy pants, active/workout, sweaters, long sleeve blouses, short sleeve blouses, short sleeve tops (t-shirts), and so on. It sounds overwhelming, but if you have a list and you want to find a knee-length black skirt, just head over to the skirt aisle and you don’t even have to look at the other stuff!

Aisle Layout

Once you reach the aisle you are looking for, you will find that the racks are arranged by size. Small, Medium, Large for tops, and 2-20+ for pants, dresses and skirts. This can become a little tricky if you don’t know your size. My suggestion is that sizes 0-6 are typically for teenagers and very small people. Sizes 8-14 are for average size women and 16+ are for larger women. However, when I am thrift shopping, I tend to look through everything because sometimes things are put away incorrectly and you just might find a gem in the wrong size, or you might find something that is a bit too big that you could have altered to suit you. Another thing I’ve found is that teen sizes are mixed in with women’s racks. So something that says Large, might be a large teen and is actually itsy bitsy on a large size woman. After sorting by size, the racks are then sorted by colour! Narrowing your search for you even more. So again, if you are looking for a knee-length black skirt, go to skirts, find your size and search the black colour section. Super simple!

The fun part!

Now that you’ve narrowed your search down drastically to what you want to hone in on, you can start browsing! You will find some fun pieces, some you know won’t suit you or maybe others you can alter to fit or dress up with embellishments or accessories if you’re crafty. Personally, I love shopping for vintage or designer, unique pieces. You never know what you’ll find! The time seems to fly by and you get caught up in your own little world while looking at the racks. And guess what?! Everyone else is in their own little world too. So don’t worry about being spotted in the women’s aisles because no one is paying attention to anyone else. The racks in the dress and skirt aisles are quite tall, so you will be hidden from most of the store when you are among them anyway. Fill up your cart and let your imagination go!

The Fitting Rooms

Yes, try your finds on!!! I urge you to do this to avoid disappointment and wasted money. The great thing about thrift store fitting rooms are that they are unisex. Often they have mirrors on the inside of the fitting room as well as the outside. So you can change and view your new looks in private. Often,  you are limited to take only 9 items in with you at a time. So if you have more you want to try on, just leave them in your cart outside the door. You can switch them out after you’ve tried on the first batch. If you end up not wanting what you tried on, leave it with the fitting room clerk.

What to Avoid

Do not thrift shop for lingerie or panties. That’s just ick. You know why.

If it needs to be repaired and you don’t have the skills or bravery to ask someone to repair it, don’t buy it. It will end up sitting in your closet making you angry.

Don’t buy it just because it’s cheap. If you think you’ll “make it work” or you think “I’ll lose some weight” or you’re just not sure about something, leave it at the store.

Don’t buy outdated fashion. Unless you are going for the entire, vintage look, and know how to rock it, don’t buy obvious 80’s/90’s garb. This is a pitfall of many crossdressers. You know what woman are wearing today and what looks good, so stick with current fashions. Or better yet, stick with timeless pieces like a black dress or jeans and a nice top.

Avoid distractions and nostalgia. If you are making an effort to improve your feminine wardrobe, focus on that. Don’t wander into the books or men’s wear. Don’t buy something because you used to have it or your mom used to have it. You will only go home disappointed that you failed. Focus on your list, have fun and soon you’ll look forward to going back!

Avoid outdated fashion or nostalgia.

Scavenger Hunt List

If you are having trouble working up the bravery to go thrift shopping for feminine clothes, try this scavenger hunt list! You don’t need to buy anything, just go look around and familiarize yourself with the store. Score 5 points for each find.

  • A red satin dress
  • A black and white checkered skirt
  • Yoga pants with a blue stripe down the leg
  • A white t-shirt with a picture of a panda bear on the front
  • A floppy hat (15 bonus points if you try it on)
  • A pair of pink high heels, size 7
  • A fur coat (20 bonus points if you try it on in front of a mirror)
  • A green silk fashion scarf
  • An orange purse with more than 4 pockets in it.
  • 5 bracelets or pairs of earrings with stones on them
  • Chat with a female shopper about her purchases and what she is looking for (50 bonus points if you smile and make her smile back)
  • A chain-link belt

Thrift Shop like a pro and have fun doing it with these basic tips!

If you want a shopping friend, consider shopping with me, Leanne from Lesada! I know some great places in London, Ontario and can help you find a look that works for you. Visit https://lesada.ca/shopping-excursion/  to learn more!



One thought on “Thrift Shopping 101”

  1. Do not diss the panties at charity shops completely. You can find some with store tags and some still in really good shape.
    I have switched to ladies undies almost exclusively in either mode because they are simply more comfortable than men’s.
    And I love it when I find undies in a fabric that men’s jocks never come in.
    I also wear a loose lace bra and take some bean-bag inserts in my pockets to try on dresses and blouses…

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