The Dos + Don'ts Of Shopping (+ Selling) At a Thrift Store Or Consignment Shop

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Get this — since Marie Kondo has everyone getting rid of anything that doesn't "spark joy," thrift stores are actually struggling to keep up!

Well, to ensure we're getting the most out of thrift stores and consignment shops — AND to make sure we're giving them what they can actually use and sell — we turned to Tammy Fluhr-Gates from Michael's Consignment Shop in New York City for her dos and don'ts. (Michael's has been in her family for 65 years, so we know she's our gal!)

"Shopping consignment is really smart," Tammy tells Rach. "If you're shopping consignment, you're thinking about the environment because it's sustainable, [it's] really good on your wallet and it's really fun. The thrill of the hunt when you're in a consignment store and you find that piece is like nothing else when you're shopping."

Before we get to her dos and don'ts, let's understand what we should be looking for in a thrift store versus a consignment shop.

"Consignment stores are going to be much more well-curated," Tammy explains.

Thrift stores are less curated and better for trying out a new look without worrying about wasting money if it doesn't work out.

Now that we know ...


DO Try Everything On

According to Tammy, it's hard for shop owners to normalize all of the sizes because designers, brands and countries size their clothes differently.

And sometimes, thrift stores don't have fitting rooms, so wear leggings and a fitted tank top to make trying pieces on over your clothing super easy.

DO Inspect Before Buying

A lot of times, consignment shops are final sale, so inspect what you're buying. Our expert says you should examine pieces in different lighting and bring them to the window so you can see what they look like in daylight.

"You want to check things like collars, cuffs [and] the underarms because deodorant can stain," Tammy stresses. "Because once you get it home, you don't want to find you missed a stain or a tear."

DO Scour The Shoe Section

If the shoes are lightly worn, Tammy thinks they're a great option to shop secondhand in a consignment store.

"You may find a whole group of shoes that walked through the door for a third of [the] retail [price]," she tells us.

A third?! Yes, please!


DON'T Forget To Take a Close Look At Thrift Store Shoes

Since thrift store items are not curated as well as they are in consignment shops, thrift stores can end up with well-worn shoes that have conformed to the previous owner's foot. So, don't let a really good price trick you into not taking a closer look.

DON'T Shop At The Start Of a Season

Shopping consignment at the END of a season, according to Tammy, means "you're getting a discount off of a discount off a discount."

In fact, Tammy showed us a holiday skirt that retails at $595 — but her store is selling it for $97.50. Don't worry, you'll put it to use eventually. (The holidays come around every year, after all!)

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Yes, that's right. Smell the clothes!

"If the previous [owner was] a really great chef, there could be a garlic smell in it," Tammy fittingly gives as an example. (Rach always says she smells like garlic!) "Certain smells are not going to wash out."


DO Get Rid Of An Item You Haven't Worn In a Year

"We always recommend that if you haven't worn it in a year, you're probably not going to," Tammy says. "So you should figure out which items have value for consignment, meaning that you can make money off of them."

Unsure what items sell at consignment? Designer and luxury items and items that still have tags are a great place to start.

DON'T Make a Trip Before Calling

Before you lug a bag of clothes to a consignment shop, Tammy says you should do your homework. Some consignment shops are more selective than others, so it's best to know before you go.

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DO Give Your Item TLC Before Trying To Sell It

Let's say you have a great pair of shoes that need to be resoled. Do it!

"They're going to sell for more money if you took the time to bring them to the shoemaker," Tammy says.

On the flip side, if you find an item with a difficult to repair hole, that might be something to put into the donation pile instead.

DO Check Your Embellished Items Closely

Embellished items are very delicate.

"A lot of times when you have embellishment on a piece, it's one piece of thread that's threading through all of your beads," our expert says.

So do a thorough check to make sure there are no pulls, because if there are, the item likely won't be sellable.

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