What to Look For in Thrift Shops

thrift shopping toronto

I love old clothes! Pieces that have a history or remind me of certain eras always excite me. A few times a month I wander the thrift shops in my area and sometimes I find really interesting and lovely pieces! I wear a lot of vintage clothing paired with my Gloomth and Japanese lolita brand items. I’m going to post more about that here in the future. Today is about what to look for when vintage or thrift shopping, or at least things I look for specifically.

Thrifting can be a great way to fill out your wardrobe. Once you have a few core items like dresses and jumperskirts you will need pieces to coordinate with them. I love mixing lolita items with vintage, the retro touch is always adorable to me, and era pieces look amazing in Gothic outfits. But maybe you’re just looking to save money to put towards dresses by padding your wardrobe with thrift finds, or to create a more ecclectic and unique style.

For me it’s about finding items to fill out my wardrobe, rare incredible staple pieces, accessories, and sometimes items to coordinate into photoshoot styling jobs.

Think of your wardrobe as a project, keep in mind what you have and what you need to make the items you do own go further and be used in more outfits. If you’re new to thrifting knowing what to look for, or having ideas of how to shop can make it a bit less overwhelming when you walk into a disorganized vintage or thrift shop.

Some things I am always looking for in vintage shops:

vintage cardigans toronto


I’ve loved button up sweaters since high school. Now I wear them with jumperskirts when I don’t want to layer them with a blouse, or to change up the feel of skirts and dresses. *When looking for vintage cardigans keep an eye out for lined wool ones from the 50s, they work beautifully with lolita pieces as they’re just the right length. I also look for newer cardigans in lush fabrics (wools, mohair, lace, cashmere etc) that are the cropped short length that works best with my frilly style. Stay away from cheap mall and discount brand cardigans at thrift shops, they stretch out quickly and can often look pilled and dank. Details like embroidery, fancy buttons, faux fur collars are great for adding interest to an outfit, look for cardigans with any of those.

When you’ve found one check the buttons and make sure they are all present, and also check for small holes in the armpits (from stretching) or other little worn away parts- it’s not worth repairing most thrift store cardigans so toss the ones with problems and save yourself the hassle. 🙂

vintage blouse toronto thrift

-Collared Blouses!

Blouses with collars work beautifully under dresses and jumperskirts or paired with frilly skirts. I’m always hunting for vintage blouses. *Keep an eye out for details at the neckline, the 1970s and 80s had tons of blouses with lace or embroidery at the neckline. Puffed sleeves are easy to find in 1960s and 70s cotton blouses. Try and stay away from polyester and 100% artificial fabric ones, they’re awful to wear as they don’t breathe and they don’t always look very nice paired with other clothing in natural fibers.

toronto vintage shopping


I looooove old hats. Love them! My collection is always growing and I am quick to snap up vintage and antique hats when I see them at thrift shops. *Be wary of condition, if you don’t know how to reshape or steam hats it’s best to find ones that haven’t been crushed or dented. I love vintage wool berets and straw boater hats, and they’re both easy to find and often in good condition. Stay away from modern ones with cheap polyester flower details and satin fabrics.

toronto vintage shopping

-Boots and Bags!

Old purses can add a touch of personal eccentricity to an all-brand outfit which I find very charming. I love tapestry bags of all sizes and anything beaded or 1980s formal purses. *Look for cute details like beading, fabric, and interesting straps. Leather, if you wear it, is always in fashion and looks better and better as it ages. Watch out for stains hidden on the bottom or destroyed interiors, always inspect purses and bags thoroughly before buying.

Boots are something I also keep an eye out for. I love my vintage leather cowboy boots as they were already worked in and lovely! New cowboy boots can look a bit tacky, but I love weathered ones paired with dresses in summer and they make great boots for cold days before the snow falls. *When looking at old cowboy boots and lace up boots be sure to try them on and walk a bit, worn in shoes can be really bad for your feet/ankles if the tread doesn’t match your own. This can be slightly remedied with a cushion gel insert placed inside the shoe bed, but not if the fit is so far off it hurts. Again, older and beat up is better for these (at least in my opinion).

Hopefully this little post will inspire you to add some history to your wardrobe! Some of these photos were taken at “Ransack the Universe” in Toronto and the rest were taken in Value Village.



3 thoughts on “What to Look For in Thrift Shops

  1. I love thrift stores for my combat boots as well! I agree with all your points, they’re very good. c: I am wary about hats or any headgear though. I’ve had lice in the past and I don’t really know how I would go about disinfecting a hat. It’s a scary thing, hats. :p

    1. A lot of antique/vintage clothing can’t be put in the dryer so disinfecting/de-bugging can be tricky and just washing isn’t enough really. One trick is to put the object in the freezer for 2 weeks- this kills bedbugs and probably lice also. 🙂

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