New Threads

Thrifting Tips With Ella
On a search for a new pair of boots? A vintage jacket? Discover the world of second-hand shopping. Thrift stores are places full of possibilities, unique pieces, and amazing deals. But thrifting is not as simple as retail shopping: it requires stamina, focus, and practice. Ella shares 6 tips and tricks to navigate her favourite Nanaimo thrift stores.
Illustration of two fair-skinned female figures browsing shirts in a thrift store.

 It’s nearing the end of the day for thrift stores, and I walk into the final one before it closes. I’ve spent the day driving around the island with my sister, going into every thrift store I see, all in search of one thing: the perfect pair of brown cowboy boots. 

At this point in my search, I’ve walked out empty handed from over 15 thrift stores across the island. Despite my hopes rapidly slipping away, my sister convinces me to try our luck one final time at Funk Revival. 

I walk in, sure that this store will be as fruitless as the others, when I see them: the cowboy boots of my dreams, in my exact size, at a fraction of the price of new boots. That day, I went home with not only my favourite pair of shoes even to this day, but a new found love and appreciation for thrifting. 

~

Thrifting was once heavily stigmatized, and those who shopped there were viewed as too poor to afford new clothing. But as times change, many people seem to be turning to upcycling pre-loved garments.

Thrift stores are places full of possibilities, unique pieces, and amazing deals. But thrifting is not as simple as retail shopping: it requires stamina, focus, and practice. 

Some days, you might spend hours in one store and find nothing. But on a good day, those hours pay off and you can walk out with a garment you’ve been dreaming of for years. There’s nothing as rewarding as the feeling of searching for an item for hours, if not days, and finally seeing it tucked inconspicuously in a random aisle. 

Close-up of a pair of thrifted brown boots outside against some greenery.

My beloved—the perfect pair of brown cowboy boots.
Photo by: Ella Hannesson

Thrift stores are places full of possibilities, unique pieces, and amazing deals. But thrifting is not as simple as retail shopping: it requires stamina, focus, and practice. 

One of the reasons that thrifting became more mainstream is due to consumers’ growing consciousness of the climate crisis. The uprising talk surrounding carbon footprints and environmental impacts has led consumers to be more conscious of making sustainable purchases.

The fashion industry in particular has been criticised for its carbon footprint, and the industry is the second biggest contributor to pollution. With up to a hundred billion garments produced each year, 87 percent of the materials used in the fabrication process end up in the landfill and about 1 percent of these garments will be recycled.

Thrifting addresses these environmental concerns. By repurposing old clothing items, you are reducing fashion waste and pollution and are refusing to participate in the consumption of fast fashion. 

Of course, thrifting is also a great way to save money. It’s no secret that the cost of living has skyrocketed, and when choosing between dinner or a new shirt, people are picking dinner. 

Thrift shopping allows you to buy new clothing at a reasonable price, and the best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice quality for affordability. While retail stores typically charge upwards of $100 for a pair of jeans, you can find a second-hand pair of Levi’s from the thrift store for only $10—if you know how to look. 

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1. KNOW WHERE TO GO

I have been a regular shopper at Nanaimo’s local thrift stores for four years now, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that not every thrift store is created the same. Different stores have different specialties, and it’s important to know each one if you want to be successful in your thrifting. 

The first stop I go to is a lesser-known place called Panache, which is an artisan market. Panache is a great place to shop for a variety of unique vintage items. Their collections feature a lot of deadstock pieces, often from the ’60s or ’70s. Panache’s pricing is reasonable for vintage while still being affordable, with prices comparable to Value Village. Panache is my favourite thrift store in Nanaimo, so I recommend checking it out. 

Funk Revival is another great stop for Nanaimo thrifters. This secondhand store has a blend of current pieces and vintage items, so there’s something for everyone. Funk Revival is where I found my beloved cowboy boots, and if you’re lucky, you might find your favourite pair of shoes here as well. This secondhand store is specifically a consignment store, meaning people people donate their clothing to Funk Revival to sell in exchange for a cut of the revenue. For this reason, consignment stores tend to be slightly pricer than thrift stores, yet still fall below the average price range of vintage shops. 

Next on my route is Rumours Vintage Collective, which is a newer second-hand store located in downtown Nanaimo. Rumours is a collective, so the garments the store sells are selected by the owner. While thrift stores rely on donations, collective owners seek out vintage items from sellers, so they tend to have a better selection of items as their inventory is curated. This is why collectives typically charge more for their items, but they are still priced lower than new clothing. Rumours has a great variety of vintage and modern pieces, and I shop here when I’m looking for quality, unique items.

Friends of Haven is another thrift shop I recommend. Most notable for its low prices, Friends of Haven often has deals to make its clothing even more affordable. On certain days, Friends of Haven has promotions where coloured tags are associated with sales. For example, a blue tag designates that an item is 25 percent off. 

And, shopping here will make a positive impact in the community because all proceeds go to support the Haven Society, a local non-profit that provides a safe space for women and children who have left situations of domestic violence.

The Nanaimo Auxiliary Hospice Thrift Shop is also a good one to check out. It’s got great prices and a great selection of items. I have had many successful trips to this thrift store and have left with some cute items, like the pair of black leather boots I found for only seven dollars. Another bonus is that their profits fund services and programs provided by the Nanaimo Community Hospice Society.

Value Village is like a catch-all for the majority of Nanaimo’s second-hand clothing and household items. Value Village is a for-profit thrift store, so their prices are a bit higher than other second-hand shops but are still reasonable. Nanaimo’s Value Village has an impressive selection, from clothing to housewares, and even electronics. 

If you donate to Value Village, you will receive a coupon for 20 percent off your next purchase, which can make shopping here even more affordable. Value Village is also unique because they offer self-checkouts, which may be considered a pro for introverts or those who want to be more efficient!

However, Value Village is the only thrift store on the list that doesn’t have change rooms, so when planning on visiting this shop, I recommend wearing tight clothing so that you can try on new pieces over your own clothes.

  1. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

My biggest tip to new thrifters is to know what you’re looking for before you start thrifting. Walk in with a plan. 

Almost every seasoned thrifter I know has fallen prey to the trap of thrifting without a plan. When you first get into thrifting, you see all these different and unique pieces that are a fraction of the prices you’ve been seeing in retail stores. And even more, there’s only one of each item, so the risk of it being gone in a second is always looming over you. The thrift goggles begin clouding your vision and you don’t stop to consider, Do I really need this?

I am here to tell you that just because the $5 shirt is kind of cute does not mean you should buy it. 

I once heard someone say that thrifting without a plan is like grocery shopping on an empty stomach. I use this saying as a good rule of thumb to avoid getting sucked into buying things I don’t need. Five-dollar shirts add up—knowing what you’re looking for allows you to avoid this trap and be more efficient in your shopping. 

A cozy seating area inside a thrift shop. It has a tiny vintage television, a salmon-coloured floor lamp, and a plant hanging from the wall.

The 70s inspired interior of Rumours Vintage Collective.
Photo By: ella hannesson

Seating area with two chairs and a cubed wall shelf in a thrift shop.

A quaint little used bookstore found in the back of Rumours.
Photo By: ella hannesson

Mirror selfie taken outside featuring a floor-length floral patterned white and rosy dress.

This dress is one of my favourite Value Village finds—and it was only $8!
Photo By: ella hannesson

  1. CREATE A THRIFT ROUTINE 

Thrift stores are overwhelming! One common tip I hear is to look at everything. This is a good tip but slightly impractical. There are hundreds of garments in any given thrift store, and it’s exhausting to go through every one. 

I alternatively recommend that thrifters go for frequent, shorter thrift trips and pick a different section to go through each visit. Unlike retail stores, thrift stores don’t receive a certain inventory, so you never know what you’ll find on their shelves. In making frequent trips, you can regularly search the thrift store for the items you’re looking for and make sure you don’t miss out on new products.

  1. LEARN TO TAILOR YOUR CLOTHING

Learning the basics of sewing was a game-changer for me. I learned how to take in clothing by watching Michara Tewers on YouTube. Tewers’s videos are great for inspiration and demonstrate how to perform basic clothing alterations. You don’t even need a sewing machine!

Learning how to sew on a button or a patch can change up the item and create a more unique piece that you’ll love. The ability to tailor also enables you to purchase clothing that is either too big or too small and make it your size. 

My most used hack is sewing buttons onto clothing and then attaching a string between them to cinch the garment in. 

Last year, I purchased a vest at Panache that I absolutely fell in love with, but it fit a bit baggier than I would’ve liked. So, I did the button trick to cinch the back of the vest in. This hack requires next to no sewing skills and can really take your piece to the next level. 

  1. CHECK THE TAGS

It’s important to understand that just because a shirt is only $5, it doesn’t mean that the shirt is bad quality. Looking at the clothes brand tag can help decipher whether it is a quality piece or not. Levi’s, Wrangler, Patagonia, and Wilfred are brands that tend to hold their value across time. And while brands such as Forever 21, Zara, Shein, and H&M are always right on trend, these pieces won’t last as long.

Branding isn’t everything though, and I always recommend looking at the material tag. Every garment comes with a material tag which tells you about how the item was made. This tag gives important clues about how well the garment will hold up and whether it is worth buying for the long term. Sustainable Jungle has an article on how to read clothing tags, and RushOrderTees has one that’s great for learning which materials are worth it

6. ENJOY THE PROCESS

A colourful vest displayed outside on a brick walkway.
The back of a colourful vest.

the vest I thrifted from panache. I added two buttons and attached a ribbon to cinch in the waist.
Photo By: ella hannesson

Although it takes effort to cultivate an eye for second-hand pieces, thrifting can be a fun process. Whether you are looking to build a unique wardrobe or searching for a specific item, thrifting is great for a wide range of shoppers. 

I go thrift shopping at least twice a week, stopping by my favourite places for a few minutes on my way home from school or work. Thrifting allows me to be creative as I envision the different ways that I can style pieces and the various outfits I will put together. 

Going thrifting alone is great because you can put some music on and focus on shopping. Plus, there’s no chance of a friend finding a cute piece before you. 

Still, thrifting with friends can be really fun. The sign of a true friend is telling you whether the shirt is super cute or really ugly. My best friend and I first bonded over our love of second-hand clothing. 

Thrift stores are a place of possibility: you’re never exactly sure what you’ll find. You might walk in one day—unassuming and unexpecting—only to walk out with your new favourite shoes or a new best friend. 

Editor

Ella—short for Ellisif—is a passionate English and Liberal Studies student in her second year. She enjoys fashion and Lana Del Rey, and she spends her free time reading, writing, and thrifting.

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