A Guide to Thrift Store Shopping

The thought of going to a store where there are going to be lots of things I love in only one size that probably isn’t mine is petrifying. I love the idea of thrift stores – retro finds and quality pieces at a reasonable price, but the reality can be very different.

How many times have you attempted to shop in a thrift store, found pieces that you absolutely LOVED only to look at the tag and weep at the sight of L or XL, or worse TALL and left empty handed? It’s happened to me countless times and I had basically given up on second hand shops until recently.

I found a few stores that are full of really great quality clothes and accessories. They have huge selections, which means hours of browsing and a much better chance of finding things that might fit. But mostly, it allowed me to see the real secrets to shopping in thrift stores as a petite woman.

Focus on Layering Pieces

By this, I literally mean pieces that are easily layered. If you can get a dress that will look good with a shirt underneath or a jacket or vest over the top, exact fit won’t really matter. I look most often for shirts, dresses and jackets because I know the overall fit can be played around with. I have yet to be successful with shorts, pants or skirts so I usually focus all my attention on digging in the other areas of the store.

Try it On

I know, ground breaking, but seriously, try absolutely everything on before you say, “no, it’s going to be too big.” There are so many pieces that I was convinced wouldn’t look good, but when I put them on, I was pleasantly surprised. They fall differently than I imagined, the color is better against my skin than I thought it would be, they show me what possibilities there are for nipping them in or layering. Which leads me to the next point.

Think Outside the Box

Use your imagination. It’s like going into a house that you’re thinking about buying and it has someone else’s stuff in it. You have to picture what your stuff will look like it in, what your walls will have on them, what you’ll fill these rooms with. Think of these clothes as a shell that you can change to your own taste. If it’s too long or too wide, you can take it to the tailor. Or you can take my next piece of advice.

thrift shopping for petites

Hunt the Accessories Section

Some of my favorite accessories are pieces that I’ve picked up in thrift shops. Nice leather belts, beautiful vintage bags, shoes and jackets. While you’re trying things on, look around for what would make the outfit even better. If it’s a bit big around the waist, how does it look with a belt? Grab a pair of heels and see if that hemline really is too long or if you could rock it with a killer stiletto. Put a jacket or a vest over that dress to see if simply adding a layer gives it more depth.

Get to Know the Shop Staff

From my experience, vintage stores have very few staff and being a regular shopper there means you get to know the people who work there pretty quickly. If you’re a good customer, they’ll be good to you and they’ll get to know your style, too. Whenever I visit my favorite local thrift store, the owner points me straight to the pieces he thinks I’ll like and that he knows will fit my petite frame.

Be Different

Most of these tips can be applied to shopping in any stores, but the best thing about shopping in thrift stores is that no one else can buy that piece. Don’t you hate having a shirt or dress in your wardrobe that you see other people wearing all.the.time? Me too, and that’s one of my biggest joys in shopping at vintage stores. It’s not easy as a petite and sometimes it’s simply not possible to do anything to a garment (or perhaps just not worth the extra money), but the hunt can be fun and when you’re strutting your stuff in a beautiful vintage dress everyone will want to know where you got it.

What tips would you give to your fellow petite fashionistas shopping thrift? Let me know in the comments!

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Laura Bronner


  1. Such a great post, Laura!! I am a thrifter myself actually! At one time I actually found a vintage CHANEL at a thrift store, can you believe it?! Oh, and I will email you soon! I did not forget about you!! 🙂
    xoxo, Vanessa

    • Thanks so much, Vanessa! That’s amazing! I thought I was lucky finding a Ted Baker blouse the other day, but a Chanel!! You lucky lady!! No rush on the email, whenever you get the chance 🙂 x

  2. So many good tips here, I adore heading in to charity stores. I’ve picked up a gorgeous Reiss dress recently for £5 and it was perfect for walking around Madeira. I love it!
    Bee | QueenBeady.com

  3. I LOVE finding blogs dedicated to petite women like myself – I consistently reply that I’m “5’2″ on a good day” when asked (instead of the more accurate 5’1.5″ haha)! I’ve also recently been more interested in shopping at thrift stores, so I couldn’t have happened upon this post at a better time! Thank you so much for all the tips! I personally adore Nell Jones’s style on NCIS:LA, played by Renee Felice Smith, and would love to emulate it – she’s super petite as well. And I know that she has a wardrobe staff dressing her for the camera, but I’ve noticed that off-camera, she dresses in a similar fashion, pun intended. But it’s nice to be able to find petite women whose style you adore in a world that always seems to look over our heads, so to speak! 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Jennifer! I totally agree – it’s always nice to be able to have petite women to look to for fashion advice/inspiration – it’s so much easier to gauge how it will actually look on me! Hope you continue to find a bit of inspiration here on CL – thanks so much for commenting 🙂 x

  4. Amazing post lady! Such great tips and hints! I absolutely love thrifting as well. You can find so many unique and fun items. I almost think most of my compliments on items I wear are from thrifting! It’s like a little adventure! 🙂 Love your blog, glad to connect!

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