How To: Thrifting For Your Work Wardrobe.

It's no secret that a majority of my wardrobe is thrifted. In fact, the last thing I bought new was a blouse off the Target clearance rack. I'm a bonafide bargain hunter and I have a passion for breathing new life into someone else's old duds.

But a work wardrobe is a specific kind of monster and one that often dictates a certain sense of quality and functionality - especially if you're in the corporate or creative sectors. So what's a girl to do when she wants a nice set of work clothes without breaking the bank?

She heads to Goodwill. (Or, y'know, whatever your favorite local thrift shop is.)

1.) Know Your Store.

It's important to get a feel for your store's layout so you have an idea of where everything is, especially if your thrift store has multiple floors or entire large sections devoted to certain kinds of items. For example, my Goodwill has two floor, with the entire second floor devoted to clothing. Knowing where the dresses, pants, tops, and skirts are grouped enables me to make a beeline for what I'm after.

2.) Make a List.

Take some time to think about what you already have in your closet and what you need to make work-appropriate outfits. If you already have lots of nice slacks, you don't have to worry about thrifting any of those.

Be color specific - don't just say button down blouses if you really want to find burgundy blouses.


  • Navy Blue Ankle Length Slacks
  • Dark Blue or Black Work Dress - knee length
  • Burgundy Blouse with Long Sleeves
  • Black Cross-Body Bag

3.) Take Your Time

Prepare to spend at least an hour scouring the racks. You may find exactly what you're looking for on the first pass or you may have to rifle through them a few times. Be picky - stick with your color and style preferences. Pull each garment out and inspect it carefully for rips, tears, missing buttons, or anything defect you're not willing to spend some time repairing yourself. If the fabric is pilling too much or incredibly threadbare, put it back!

4.) Try on EVERYTHING!

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give to new thrift-shoppers is to more or less ignore any and all sizing labels. Instead, hold it up against your body to get an initial judge of the fit and if it looks promising, toss it into your "try on" pile.

When thrifting, you'll be encountering items from various different brands and various different fashion eras. You might usually wear a size M in modern clothing, but that dress from the 70's you're ogling might fit more like a S, regardless of it's label. So try on everything.

Be prepared to sit, stand, bend over, shimmy a bit, and move around inside the dressing room. Is anything slipping? Does anything gape open (blouses, I'm eyeballing you)? Are any zippers just a little too hard to pull up?

If you have any reservations about the item at all, put it back. I promise, you won't wear it if it doesn't fit like a second skin (or the billowy roominess you might desire. Again, blouses.....)

5.) Take advantages of sales and discount days.

 Most thrift stores will have colored tag days, where everything in that color is 25% or 50% off. Seasonal sales are common too! I guess this kind of falls back into getting to know your store - but having a general idea of how things are priced is handy too. If the softlines processors routinely under-price certain items (like dresses) you can usually count on even designer dresses having that same price range.

I've been able to score items that originally retailed for close to $200 for as little as $8. I'm not even kidding.

Additional Tips:

~ Make sure you wash everything you take home before wearing it.
~ Once clean, wear it around the house for a while and pair it up with different items you already own to maximize outfit possibilities.
~ To keep your closet from getting too stuffed (and thrifting will cause you to accumulate more than you anticipated) always keep a donate pile of things you're not wearing regularly anymore.
~ It's my policy to always make a donation of at least something before I go in and buy anything else. Give and take. Equal exchange. Paying it forward...however you want to see it. 


  1. i always want to go shop thrifting.
    i go for ukay ukay and i can score a lot of clothes in a cheap price

    Much Love,
    Jane | The Bandwagon Chic

  2. These tips are great for any shopping excursion. Whenever I go shopping, if I don't have a list, I often walk out with something I don't really need, but decided to get in the heat of the moment.

    Kathrin | Polar Bear Style


Post a Comment