Thrifting culture is at an all-time high – and it’s only expected to get bigger.

By 2027, it’s anticipated that the global resale market will reach a value of $351 billion, thanks to Gen-Z. A 2021 global survey by Statista found that the up-and-coming generation is the most willing to buy second-hand compared to older generations. With benefits for both our wallets and the planet, thrifting has become a mainstay for young people who can find unbelievable deals at their local thrift store, giving them access to designer finds and vintage one-of-a-kind items they can’t find elsewhere. Yet, some of the fun is also in finding great pieces that are incredibly average in brand, yet a perfect fit for your wardrobe.

In honour of National Thrift Shop Day, we chatted with three extraordinaries, who have curated their best advice for nailing the art of thrifting—including how to unearth hidden gems and build a drool-worthy wardrobe without breaking the bank. Whether you’re a thrift connoisseur or a newbie, these savvy tricks will level up your thrift game.

Trust Your Gut 

For nearly a decade before starting her own curated store, Closet from Hell, Kelsey Hellyer from Kitchener, Ont., was a former buyer for vintage shops. While she has years of knowledge when it comes to finding a diamond in the rough,  there is one thing we all have in common– a good gut feeling.

“Be intuitive,” says Hellyer. “As you walk through aisles, pick the pieces that jump out at you first. I always go through and pick my favourite textures, patterns and materials.”

When thrifting, you might come across vintage items from decades ago, or pieces that have come from other shopping markets (such as Europe). Because of this, the sizing may be much different than we’re used to. Trying on items in the store, while sometimes awkward, is welcomed in thrift stores and can help avoid sizing mix-ups. While your gut may be hoping that the dress is a fit, it’s always best to be sure.

Location, Location, Location! 

Erin Jay, an expert thrifter and circular economy influencer from Vancouver, BC, notes that the unsuspecting places might be the most rewarding. “Visit the end of the clothing racks, especially [near] the mirrors,” she says. “That’s typically where people try items on and leave them if they don’t work out.”

Another thrifting pro and TikToker, Nina Stoiber, echoes this, adding that “the end of the aisles or on random racks,” can be the best spots to look because shoppers will often leave stashes behind to come back to later.

Hellyer, a self-proclaimed “vintage hunter,” says that her first stop is always the same: “I always hit up the men’s section first, it’s usually a goldmine.” She adds that the pieces she relies on finding in the men’s section include, “vintage denim, oversized blazers, button-ups and iconic tees.”

She is not alone, with Jay adding that she encourages new thrifters to check out the men’s section, especially for blazers. With the oversized look becoming popularized by influencers and street style icons like Matilda Djerf, the prices of these hot ticket items have risen sky-high for new versions. “Why purchase the Djerf Avenue Forever Blazer for $179 when you can find a basic oversized blazer from the thrift store for $10?”

Be Dedicated to the Lifestyle 

A recent PayPal survey found that almost half (42 percent) of Gen-Z Canadians report buying pre-owned goods more than once a month. A common trend among seasoned thrifters is to regularly visit your go-to spots as they receive new items on an ongoing basis, and they never know when they are going to get their next notable haul.

“Go often and go early,” says Jay. “Personally, I like going to the thrift stores in the morning when it’s not too busy and the store tends to be more organized.”

What’s more, is being able to dig in and spend the time needed to find great pieces. The perfect item may not jump off the rack at you, but a little elbow grease can yield remarkable results. Both Jay and Stoiber recall finding their favourite thrift items from getting elbow-deep in the bins. “I found vintage Gucci loafers at the Goodwill Bins for $1.50,” says Jay.

“One of my coolest finds was a pair of cream and red cowboy pants that were at the bottom of a $5 bin,” Stoiber adds. “[They] had a stain [which] came out, and they fit like a glove.”

Know Your Boundaries 

Finding a great deal on an item with a blemish can seem appealing, but it is crucial to know your limits to avoid having a damaged piece sit in your “to-fix” pile forever. With tons of experience reworking items, Jay advises that deciding between adding to your cart and leaving on the rack “depends on the item and blemish,” citing that the showstopping price may not be great if it will add up later.

“If it’s an item I don’t have in my wardrobe, [or] I’ve been eyeing it for a while, and it’s a blemish that I can fix myself, then no problem,” she explains. “If I’d have to get professional help repairing the blemish, then I’d factor the cost of the repair into the total price to see if I still want it.”

Some thrifters may be damage-averse, but others have learned to embrace it. Many creators have taken to the art of reworking and restyling thrift finds, adding their own sense of flair to it. Stoiber often grabs items that need some extra love and has shared her upcycle projects on her TikTok page.


What should I make next?! #thriftflip #selkiedress #selkiepuffdress

♬ MTA x Aline by dnldjackson22 – dnldjackson22

Scour the Digital Market 

While the thrill-of-the-find has historically been akin to thrift stores, it can be easier to find great secondhand pieces on online resale platforms like Poshmark. Hellyer echoes this, saying: “Thrifting in real life is a great experience, and you’re more likely to get a thrill or an incredible deal. Digital, however, is for those seeking something specific or more curated.”

Digital platforms can also work for those who love to shop online, those who live in more remote areas without access to a wide range of IRL thrifting options  or those who are looking for coveted items that are sold out in retail stores.

Last fall, when the UGG’s Tasman slippers went viral on TikTok, they were extremely scarce, with stores having an impossible time keeping them in stock. Jay was able to find the trending item on Poshmark, as well as some other hard-to-find pieces like the Birkenstock Boston Clogs, and the Polene Numero Dix Handbag.

Because being in the right time and place is key at thrift stores, you could miss out if you aren’t able to visit regularly. Online resale platforms have made targeted shopping easier, and allow you to set keyword alerts to let you know when something you’re looking for becomes available. Jay specifically enjoys using Poshmark because she can “search for specific pieces” and  “save past searches [and] keywords to keep an eye on [newly] listed items.”

Shop Your Closet 

Thrifting is always a fun way to spice up your wardrobe while contributing to the circular economy, but there is one spot you may be overlooking when it comes to expanding your looks.

“Although I am a huge advocate for secondhand shopping, I highly encourage people to shop their own closet,” says Jay. “Instead of gravitating towards consuming more, look for inspiration on how you can lean into trends by styling what you already have.”

Read more:
15 of the Best Instagram Thrift Stores to Snag Your Next Vintage Piece
5 Vintage Shops to Check Out in Toronto
How to Sell Your Clothes on Poshmark