How to Use Thrift Shops to Find Your Style Expression

How to Use Thrift Shops to Find Your Style Expression

Are you trying to figure out your style but don’t have a massive budget to blow on clothes that may or may not last the distance?

When you’re in a process of exploration and learning about your style expression, one of the best places to play and discover more about your style without spending a fortune, is the thrift store as it can be a treasure trove of items that you can try, and donate back if they are just not what you’re after.

What are Some Ways You Can Use a Thrift Shop to Find Your Style Expression?

Firstly, know your style essence – that’s what you get in your Style Type Report.  This is the key to unlocking your authentic style.

Secondly, get some information about what suits your physicality (because of course, you know that your psychological type does not tell you anything about your body or colouring – that is unique to you).  You can find lots of great information about what suits your body shape (here is a free body shape calculator quiz) and putting together outfits on  Inside Out Style blog – all for free – or if you want some professional advice (it sure does make it quicker) you can find this in 7 Steps to Style  (including which colours suit you, body shape, proportion and scale recommendations plus more) – where you get the specifics for you.

Now that you’re armed with the information you need, it’s time to play.

It’s important that you remember that style is a journey, not a destination. Fashions constantly change and you grow and change throughout your life.

What we know for sure, is that the more knowledge you have about yourself and what suits you, the better your purchasing decisions are in the long run which is why learning about what suits is so important.  But even with this knowledge, as every garment is cut slightly differently, every pattern has its own personality, every piece is unique, finding the right ones for you is a process of trial and error, and if your budget isn’t the size of Oprah’s, then the thrift store can be your best friend as you arm yourself with more knowledge.

If you’ve gotten your Style Type Report you’ll also have your Style Profile document (which you can download from the same page as your Style Type Report).  Hopefully, you’ve started filling this in to help you identify more about your key style elements.

Take this knowledge about what you like and dislike to the thrift store.  Then start playing.


Accessories are a great place to start in a thrift store – there are usually lots of scarves and necklaces, bangles and bracelets, hats, belts, shoes and bags to experiment with.

Staring with necklaces and scarves can be a way to experiment in a more understated way, without changing everything about the way you currently dress.  You can try different colours, scale and styles to find out which kinds of styles, patterns/prints and elements you really like and resonate with you in a low-cost way.

How you can use thrifting to experiment with your style and discover your style expression

If you’ve ever thought about adding in a coloured or patterned shoe, why not look through some thrift stores to see if you can find any you like, shoes can be such a high-cost item in your wardrobe, that it’s a good way to learn if they really do work for you (or not).

Prints and Patterns

Are there prints and patterns that you’ve never tried?  Prints and patterns are such a personal thing – often you love or hate them, just as Jill loves leopard print but wouldn’t wear a floral (unless it also included leopard print – and then only just, maybe), if you want to try some different prints thrifting them is a great way to experiment with a smaller outlay in cost.  And if you wear and don’t love, you can just donate them back to the store.

Possible patterns to try:

  • Stripes
  • Checks
  • Floral
  • Paisley
  • Ikat
  • Animal
  • Hawaiian
  • Abstract
  • Stylised
  • Tartan
  • Polka dot

The list is endless – when you look at this list which appeal and which are you repelled by?  So many of us end up with a wardrobe of solids as we’re too scared to try a pattern for fear of getting it wrong and wasting money (because so many of us have wasted money on prints we just don’t wear).

How you can use thrifting to experiment with your style and discover your style expression

Learning about your print preferences, you’ll also want to look at aspects of prints and patterns including:

  • The scale and size of print that works for you – large, medium or small.
  • The contrast of the print – low medium or high.
  • The style of the print – natural or stylized, angular or curved.

Knowing which of these work best for you (lots more tips on choosing prints over on Inside Out Style) can easily be discovered with a little knowledge plus some experimentation.  Taking photos of your outfit will also help you to see more objectively what works well for you.

How you can use thrifting to experiment with your style and discover your style expression

Find out more about choosing great prints for you here to get some additional tips.

Fabric Selection

What kinds of fabrics do you prefer?  Which are the most flattering for you?

Have you thought about your preferences for:

  • Soft or stiff?
  • Lightweight or heavyweight?
  • Textured or smooth?
  • Slinky or loose?
  • Crisp or draped?
  • Matte, sheen or shine?

Different fabrics will work differently on different bodies (find out more about which are the most flattering for your body here) and they also communicate differently.  Classic clothing is more stiff, crisp, smooth and structured and communicates professionalism, confidence and competence, whilst casual clothing is usually more loose, matte and textured and communicates approachability, being down-to-earth and unpretentious.

How are you expressing your personality with the material that your clothes are made from?  Use a thrift store as a place to find all different textures and fabrics – you’ll get a much greater variety than in any regular store  – and it gives you the opportunity to try some fabrics that you may not otherwise have considered at a low price point to see how you feel when wearing them.

Clothing Shapes and Styles

If you’re experimenting with what suits your shape – then use thrift stores to your advantage to try out all your body shape guidelines  and then make your own set of rules that work with your unique shape (did you know that there are 9 elements to the style puzzle and body shape is just one piece of that puzzle – find out what all the other parts of the puzzle are here).  You may also find this Body Equation a useful starting place on putting together your own set of guidelines.

Armed with your own body shape guidelines try on all the shapes and styles that are recommended and see which suit your individual body.  Thrift stores are great as they are not limited by what’s currently in fashion so that you really can find a wider variety of clothing styles and shapes to explore.

Your personality will always influence what you choose to wear – even when you know the styles of clothing that flatter, it’s all those other elements that go into a garment that will make it something you love (or don’t).

Thrifting for Style Types

Whilst there is not a direct link between each of the Style Types and specific shopping (and other style) strategies such as where you’ll want to shop and what you’ll want to buy, here are a few pointers that might help you in your thrift shopping adventures, depending on your Style Type.

Complex Stylist INTP might look for items in her colours that blend in with her overall look.

Enterprising Stylist ENTP might look for something different that catches her eye, that can be employed to create an entirely new look.

Independent Stylist INTJ might look for whatever she is focusing on with her style right now.

Standout Stylist ENTJ might look for bolder, more dramatic pieces that make a statement.

Individualistic Stylist ISTP might look for the novel, the nifty and the versatile.

Resourceful Stylist ESTP might look for anything that can be upcycled and changed up.

Appropriate Stylist ISTJ might look for quality basics at great prices.

Effective Stylist ESTJ might look for brand items in excellent condition.

Whimsical Stylist ISFP might look for quirky cuts, fabrics, textures, patterns or colours.

Vivacious Stylist ESFP might look for fun and different pieces nobody else has.

Harmonious Stylist ISFJ might look for the high-end/quality items still in fashion, that others are still wearing.

Charming Stylist ESFJ might look for items from her signature style – enjoying looking at lots of things but being discerning in what she actually purchases.

Charismatic Stylist ENFP might look for the fun of it, including as an enjoyable experience with friends, with no particular shopping goal in mind.

Original Stylist INFP might look for anything – from school uniforms to boots, bangles to backpacks it’s how it’s combined with existing pieces that will make it her own.

Expressive Stylist ENFJ might look for pieces that speak to her (yes, they are speaking to her – at least some things are!).

Subtle Stylist INFJ might look for unique pieces that fit her self-defined style rules.

The More You Know, The Better Your Experience – and Choices

Remember that the more you know about your likes and dislikes and what suits versus doesn’t suit your unique body and features, the better your experience of thrift, charity, op, vintage and pre-loved shopping will be.  You’ll also make better purchasing decisions and you’ll feel more comfortable and confident in your clothing.

Further Reading on Thrifting

How to Thrift Shop Like a Pro

9 Tips on Finding Unique Items that Honour Your Style in a Mass Market Retail World

Charity Store Shopping

How To Stop Buying Junk Clothes

11 Tips to Know if it’s a Winner and Should Be Added to your Wardrobe

How to Use Thrift Shops to Find Your Style Expression

©2024 16 Style Types


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