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How to Shop Goodwill

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Ah, Goodwill. We know what you’re thinking — how to shop Goodwill involves coming home with sequined holiday sweaters and acid wash mommy jeans. Well, there is some of that — but you may not realize that amidst the trove of fashion faux-pas, there are some bonafide gems to be discovered. If you can just get past the mothball smell, and remember that thrift shopping is a cornerstone for many a budget trend-setter.

We wouldn’t want you to head in unarmed, however, so here are some useful tips to make the most of your thrift shopping experience.

How to shop Goowill: 3 tips for success

1. Look for never-worn items

You may not know this, but Goodwill frequently has with-tags items on the racks from retailers, for super cheap prices. I’ve gotten brand new, totally cute shoes by Isaac Mizrahi for Target and Xhilaration — never worn and with price tags — for $3 to $5 a pair.

I recently picked up a beautiful brown pinstripe XOXO jacket, retail price $49.99, for 15 bucks, with tags. And this week, I saw a navy pinstripe jacket by Isaac Mizrahi for Target for just $5. But had to leave it behind because it didn’t quite flatter me. Darn it.

2. Find these gently used pieces

Even if you’re looking at items that have come from someone else’s closet, used doesn’t always mean used up. Look for items that don’t typically get worn to death.

Goodwill is a great place for winter jackets (especially the wool dress kind), suiting jackets, and work wear skirts. It seems that women often tire of — or not longer fit into — these items before they’ve outlived their usefulness or style potential.

There are some big shoulder pads and wacky tablecloth patterns in there so you’ll have to keep your fashion wits about you. But it’s not uncommon to find a classic wool coat or perfectly acceptable hounds tooth skirt if you wade through a little of the yuk.

3. Stay away from these

Of course, Goodwill is not a department store, so it shouldn’t be a one-stop shopping experience for all your wardrobe needs. Areas to avoid:

  1. Anything denim. Believe me, the previous owner got all they could get from these items.
  2. Knit tops. They’re usually washed out, stretched out, or just plain out.
  3. Anything black or white. Most people don’t wash their black or white items properly, so you’ll be hard pressed to find anything in these colors that doesn’t look worked. It’s just not pretty.

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Sunday 29th of January 2017

I digress about not buying any denim items. I had found new items still with tags on on the racks and barely used jeans as well that I had been able to wear well for several years.

Catherine Brock

Monday 30th of January 2017

That's awesome Lorena! Thanks for sharing your experience with our community!

juan blas

Thursday 27th of October 2011

i was a good will two weeks ago and i been looking for a down jacket and i was looking aroun i spoted a mountain hardware running jacket barely use i was like wow wow cool so damn happy and as i was looking for jackets i foind couple columbias rain jacket i have rain jackets so i ignore it and i was looking i spot a freaking marmot zeus down jacket i was like wtf haha so huppy and guess how much i pay ??????????? 5.98 dollars maybe twice use lucky me ha later people


Thursday 30th of June 2011

Personally, i have to agree with Sandra... it depends on the denim itself! I bought a gently worn, and i mean very gently (feels brand new), J Crew white denim jacket. Its beautiful and I went online and actually found it on sale for 98$!!! I picked it up for 5$!


Monday 27th of December 2010

I just came from Goodwill as it happens, with some nice goodies. I stumbled on this post because I really wanted to find some information on brands to look for at Goodwills. After taking time to inspect items, I think I'm finally catching on to knowing better quality fabric and structure by sight & touch. However, I would really love to find out some of the quality, possibly more vintage brand names to watch for as I'm prowling. Some things are easy, but vintage items often retain their quality, color, shape etc, as well many have classic style appeal. How about a follow up, How To Shop @ Goodwill: Brand Names Old & New? Thanks!

Menton Couve

Tuesday 27th of July 2010

Oh I love Goodwill soooooooooo much! While I'm sipping a $20 bottle of wine I make sure the goblet comes cheap for $0.25 a piece. Also: my todays "loot" was extremely benefactory. I've gotten 9 pieces of "Bougies La Francaise" candles for $0.50. (Just looked it up online: the price tag is $60 for twenty pieces.) I never even liked candles before. But burning this beauty makes all the difference. Also my wrist watch of two years comes from Goodwille. It is a copy of a Franck Mueller watch - the Crazy Times or something it's called. I've paid $7 for a brand new one. The real watch goes for $30,000!!!! I could go on and on with books, linen, some clothing items and other things. But I better get back admiring my newfound treasures for now.

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