The 6 Emotional Stages of Thrift-Store Shopping, From Itchiness To Total Victory

For Olympic-level, marathon shoppers, few things are as thrilling as thrifting or vintage shopping. Browsing racks at luxe consignment stores is an emotional experience. There's a real rush that comes along with the hunt for unique items, a name-brand piece with a crazy affordable price tag, or a totally unexpected score that you happen upon while sifting through piles of old sweaters. But thrifting is not without its negatives, either.

These are, after all, used clothes that belonged to someone whose hygiene habits you have no knowledge of. If you have OCD, fuhgeddaboudit. Just the thought of the possible germs could totally take you out of the game.

You have to approach thrifting with one thing in mind: These clothes are lived in and come with a story. They have a history you may never know, making the pieces even more exciting to own.

I love to spend hours browsing thrift shops, high-end consignment resale stores, and vintage boutiques. I often visit Addiction in Philly, the various Greene Street boutiques in the tri-state area, and whenever I am in L.A., I make a beeline for both the Santa Monica and Melrose Wasteland outposts. But there are several emotional stages we all go through while hitting up our favorite thrifting spots.

1. The "OMG I Am Itchy" Stage

As I said, I love browsing racks at thrift shops and consignment stores looking for rare, cool, unique, and vintage finds. But I always and immediately find myself feeling itchy and scratchy, since these clothes are, well, used. I think it's mostly psychosomatic. You don't know who did what in these clothes, and therein lies both the thrill and the apprehension.

2. The "Am I Only Buying This Because It's Cheap?" Stage

When I see something that I might want to purchase, I have to ask myself about when or if I would wear it and with what items I already own, just like when I'm shopping for full-priced items. I don't want to nab an article of clothing simply because it's cheap. I have to make sure I love it and have a vision for it or it'll be a wasteful purchase.

3. The "Is This Worth Paying Dry Cleaning For?" Stage

Once I decide to nab a piece that’s as steal, I have to consider the cleaning process. Is it worth paying dry cleaning for? If it's a high-end item, it likely requires dry cleaning and will need it basically immediately to freshen it up. If it's a cheaper item, I'd rather just buy it brand new than have to deal with dry cleaning.

4. The "Should I Just Buy New Stuff?" Stage

If it's basics, I tend to inspect them and usually end up leaving 'em on the rack. I'd rather buy those new unless there is something totally cute and unique about it. Same thing with pricy pieces. When I roam the aisles at consignment boutiques, I wonder if I should just shell out the cash for something brand new and totally mine. I ask myself, "Am I buying this because it's Elizabeth and James at a bargain basement price or because I love it? Would I buy it brand-new?"

5. The "I Wonder Who Wore This Before Me" Stage

When I inspect a piece, I always wonder who wore it, what they did in it, why they got rid of it, and where they bought it. There's something intriguing about wearing something that has a past. Maybe it belonged to a princess! Or that girl with the dead eyes who serves me my coffee every morning!

6. The "Victory!" Stage

When I find something that is inexpensive from a prestige brand, one that I can see myself wearing with other pieces in my closet, I get stoked! It's a victory-like feeling. That is the absolute best, and makes all those other slightly scratchy stages worth it.

Images: Zoë Biggs/Flickr; Giphy (6)