6 tips on thrift shopping like a pro

fact: I love thrift shopping.

And no, I don't mean vintage stores, where they buy an 80's sweater for $3 and then put it on a fancy hanger in front of a brick wall and sell it for $60. I mean the legitimate, unglamorous, thrift shopping. Value Village. VV is my home turf.

It's easy to be intimidated by a store full to exploding with people's crapola. But you can find some amazing gems hidden in the racks between the bright purple dresses (with brass buttons, of course) and 80's power suits (with shoulder pads, of course). If you know the tricks.

1. Learn to know your size by looking at it. This is a great tip for shopping in general. Don't rely on "size 2", "size 4" - all companies' sizes are completely different and therefore completely unreliable. You should know your body well enough that you can pick up a piece of clothing and know whether or not it should, in theory, fit you. This is an especially useful skill for Value Village, where 100 different shirts are marked "medium" but some are skin-tight and some are bag-lady tents that you could live in with your 10 cats.

2. Learn to distinguish quality from crap. I'd go so far to say that this is the most important thrift-shopping tip of all. With practice, you should be able to brush past a sweater and go "holy shiza! that's cashmere!" and snag it for your personal hoarding collection. On that note, you should know to avoid polyester (that cheap, drapy fabric that magnifies all your lumps & bumps and usually comes in horrible shapes & prints), most ribbed clothing (you know it's from the 90's), any extremely pilled sweaters, etc. Pay attention! Know quality when you see it.

3. Look for problems. Not to be a negative Nancy or anything, but with thrift shopping sometimes its best to expect the worst. Sure, it's a beautiful blouse. Is it so beautiful that the only reason someone would give it away is because it has a huge stain on it? Examine everything carefully. There's nothing worse than getting a beautiful new item home and realizing it has an unfixable issue with it... and giving it back to Value Village as a donation. The vicious cycle continues!

4. Be patient. Be prepared to spend a good amount of time going through the racks. There is no such thing as power shopping when it comes to thrift stores. You will find the best items when you grab a coffee, have a few free hours on a Saturday afternoon, grab a cart and throw in everything that might possibly work. Some trips you won't find anything at all, and some trips, you'll fill your boots. Literally and figuratively.

5. Try whatever you want. One of the greatest things about thrift shopping is there is a little bit of everything - there are no suggestions, no mannequins, no stylists, no judgement, and no intimidatingly stylish salespeople. Try on some crazy stuff if you want! Try on annnnnything! Last week I tried on a camel & black herringbone poncho. My friend Alanna vetoed it, but I thought it was kinda ballin'.

6. Look closely. One of my good friends found Prada and Chanel flats at Value Village. Look closely at the labels. You'd be surprised how often you will find a designer item, hidden between items from Reitmans and Walmart - and sometimes, with a bit of elbow grease, you can restore these items to near new.

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