Not sure where to start looking in a thrift shop? Sustainable fashion experts in Singapore share their top thrifting tips.
Did you know you don’t always need to spend hundreds of dollars on brand new clothes to stay trendy? With sustainable fashion and mindful shopping on the rise, more individuals are turning to thrift shops in Singapore to give old clothes new life. But while you might want to play your part, your first foray into a thrift shop can be daunting – especially when you don’t know where to begin. And buying clothes you won’t end up wearing can contribute to the same ol’ problem of overconsumption. To help you out, we speak to fashion and sustainability experts in Singapore for thrifting tips to shop sustainably.
Thrifting in Singapore: Tips for beginners
1. Carve out proper time for browsing
To shop mindfully and ensure you’re only adding the most value-for-wear outfits to your wardrobe, you’ll need enough time to browse and consider your options. Popping in and out too quickly can result in buying clothing you don’t actually need or want.
“Have patience! Thrifting isn’t like shopping in a store; you need to spend some time sifting through piles to find something you like,” Nicole Chin says. She runs the popular vintage and sustainable fashion Instagram account, @chinchilla.vintage.
“I typically spend a good hour or two at the thrift store,” says local thrifter Jasmine Gomez, who displays her thrifted ‘fits on her Instagram account, @therealthriftshady. “The racks are typically packed to the brim, and aren’t organised by colour, brand or size. You’ll have to comb through every piece of clothing and give each piece a once-over. I’ve found so many unexpected treasures this way.”
Don’t get too tempted by affordable thrift shops either. “The prices can be really cheap. You may be tempted to buy a million things, but it’s best to just buy what you would really wear or use,” shares Eileen Tan, co-founder of vintage and reworked clothing brand VintageWknd.
2. Make a list and be intentional about what you pick
Another good tip for thrifting in Singapore is to write down a list of items you actually need so you know you’re shopping intentionally. “Always do a wardrobe check before going thrifting,” Nicole says. “See what you have, what you wear a lot, and what styles you’d like to try out.” This prevents impulse buying.
“I find it helps me make meaningful additions to my closet,” Jasmine adds. “There are little to no repetitions and each item serves a purpose. Try asking yourself if you can imagine wearing this item in at least five outfits. If you can’t, chances are, it’s probably just going to take up space in your closet.”
Don’t forget that it’s totally okay to leave the store without buying anything. Especially if you don’t find something you like. “Realise you don’t have to settle (you deserve the best!). Use the money to get something you actually really want or need instead,” Jasmine says.
3. Say no to cheap materials
While thrift shops may be filled with pre-loved items for the picking, a handy thrifting tip is to look out for those made with quality materials. This ensures your thrifted goods last longer.
“Vintage items are usually made with better quality materials and cuts, which is why I gravitate towards those (compared to a $3 Shein top),” Nicole says.
“One way to figure out what kind of brands to stay away from is to look at what’s being donated,” Jasmine advises. “If there’s a surprising amount of clothing from a specific brand at the thrift store, ask yourself why.” She also recommends leaving ‘dry clean only’ clothing behind if you don’t want to deal with maintaining them.
The best case scenario for sustainable shoppers? Finding fashion items made with the proper sustainable labels and certifications. “Do a background check if you can, and try to make sure the materials have been sourced well,” says Keith Wo, co-founder of sustainable company We Are MBF. “There are textile guides by Common Objective and other websites on materials that are better than conventional cotton or polyester.”
4. Get creative and make pre-loved ‘fits your own
Thrifting can be a great way to experiment with your personal style and let your creative juices flow. “Be open to altering your clothing! Thrifting will make you best friends with your tailor,” Jasmine quips. So, why not turn that long shirt into a cropped top? Or even dip-dye those white jeans to create a cool new pattern no one else has.
“Thrift shops are a good place to buy items for your own DIY projects. They might not be in the best condition, but a bit of TLC can give them new life,” Eileen says. “Their affordable price tag also means you can try out new styles and expand your repertoire.”
Of course, if you prefer plain and simple clothing, that’s perfectly fine. It’s all about dressing up to feel good about yourself. “For me, basic items and easy to mix-and-match colours are timeless. Rather than chasing trends, know what you like about your body and find clothes that show it off,” Keith says.
Ready to take on that thrift shop you’ve been eyeing? These thrifting tips will help you build the sustainable wardrobe of your dreams.