Works For Me: Thrift Store Jeans

Maybe you haven’t taken the plunge into thrift-store shopping yet.  That’s okay, take your time.  It’s a learned skill, but know that you are missing some serious fun and bargains.  It’s like a treasure hunt for grown-ups.

You know what first sucked me into it?  Jean shopping.  I loathe that chore because a) I feel like I should be wearing a certain size, but every single tag seems to be saying otherwise, and b) jeans that feel good just cost too much.  A friend clued me in to the notion that thrift store jeans are heads and shoulders (or legs and ankles! HA!) above their new counterparts.

For starters, thrift-store jeans are already washed and worn.  They have likely shrunk all they’re going to shrink.  Also, they’re not stiff and crinkly, which means you get a better feel for how they really fit.  They’re nicely faded and vintage-looking.  AND (let’s not forget the important part) they’re CHEAP.  I went to the thrift store on half-price day last week (and let us pause to appreciate the pathological cheapness of that previous phrase), and I found a pair of like-new Ann Taylor jeans for $3.  THREE DOLLARS.  So get over yourself with the whole thrift-store hang-up and get thee to one right now.  I promise, you’ll be bitten by the bug.  I mean the thrift store bug, not the dust mite bug, although you might be bitten by that too, but that’s why we have laundry detergent, right?

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93 thoughts on “Works For Me: Thrift Store Jeans

  1. Kitty says:

    I do appreciate thrift stores. However, with jeans I have always been a bit concerned that they may already be a bit too “worn”. Probably because I wear mine until they have holes in them. But obviously not everyone wears theirs until they give out. I’ll have to look for some the next time I hit a thrift store and give it a try.

  2. Amy @ MomsToolbox says:

    Hmmm. I’ve been holding out. But I think I just might give it a try. You’re right, jeans are at their best when they’ve been worn. Like really worn. And not only are they pre-shrunk, but they are also pre-stretched. Maybe that means I’ll like the size on the label a bit more, too. 🙂

  3. Rena Gunther says:

    oKKKKKAAAYYY! I think I’m finally ready to do this! One of my very best friends LOVES, LOVES garage sales and thrift stores.
    If I’ve asked her once, I’ve asked her a million times….”WHERE did you get that?”
    The endless racks of clothing to plunge through have always deterred me.
    BUT, I’m willing to give it a shot. Never mind that I just dropped off a bag or two of stuff there yesterday. I have been in need clothing and have been praying on this. I need to heed your advice. I’ll give it a shot. And then I’ll let you know my finds..
    Rena Gunther

  4. Shalee says:

    I still shop at the Junior League store. I took my daughter a couple of weeks ago and we walked out with 3 big bags of clothing for under $90. We’re set for winter now. Used clothing is the only way that we go now! (Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Harolds, and a nice new pair of leather boots with heels that had never been worn – now that’s what I’m talking about!

  5. Jack's Mommy / Homeschool Fever says:

    Darn, I just noticed that I forgot to add the name of my tip to my link! That’s what I get for trying to be first, huh? Fast fingers do not a good typer make.. 🙂
    The #1 spot should read
    Homeschool Fever (Converting Word to PDF Free)
    …I LOVE shopping at thrift stores! I have probably a hundred pair of jeans from the pay per pound goodwill – old navy, abercrombi, american eagle, gap. I especially love finding Nautica jeans for my hubby – they always feel so soft that I wish I could wear them myself! It’s outrageous to pay retail when you can get them for pennies on the dollar at Goodwill and such!
    (Is it just me, or is there something wrong with typepad’s commenting feature? I can’t seem to get my comments to go through)

  6. Stretch Mark Mama says:

    I am a TOTAL thrift-store jeans-buying convert. I usually pay around $7. I’ve noticed in my 7 years of mothering that I get holes in my knees just as fast as the boys do.
    The other thing I like about buying used jeans is that my expectations are so much lower. I used to spend days, no–weeks–shopping for the Perfect Pair Of Jeans. Now I just walk into the thrift shop, and buy whatever feels good enough for 7 bucks. No stress.
    I just discovered our local thrift shop (not Goodwill) has half-price days as well. Hello! JESUS LOVES ME!!!

  7. Judy says:

    We have THE BEST thrift stores here. I love shopping there, but so does most everyone else, so it is mad rush to get the good deals each day!
    Great tip, Shannon!

  8. Holly says:

    Every pair of jeans I own came from a thrift store or garage sale. They just seem to fit me better, too. A couple weeks ago I got 2 pair Gap and 1 pair Ralph Lauren jeans at a garage sale for $1 each!

  9. Bay says:

    How do you know the jeans will fit? Just take a gamble and buy them?
    {Note from Shannon: My favorite thrift store has dressing rooms, so I try stuff on.}

  10. Sarah says:

    I’ve been blog stalking so I guess I should come clean. I know you popular blogs like when we do that right. I absolutely love thrifting, mainly to buy funky ties for my husband, clothes for my kids, and stuff for the house (on a good day, I actually venture into the clothes for me!). I have a huge (well some may know) secret to tell about The Goodwill Store….they sell NEW TARGET ITEMS. That’s right folks, un-used items from Target clearance racks often go to your local Goodwill Store. Go check it out! And thanks Shannon for your awesome blog!

  11. Stacy says:

    I used to love thrift stores, but the prices seem to have gone up at the ones near us lately. They’ve started just saying that any of a certain type of clothing is a certain price (for example, all jeans are $7.99 unless otherwise marked higher). Some of the prices end up being the same as what I was just paying for new clothes clearanced 90% at Kohls. There’s a 1/2 off tag color for the week, and usually a $1 day for a certain tag color. Generally I only hit the thrift stores on the $1 day, although unless you go early its really picked over.

  12. frugalchick says:

    My most favorite maternity pants came from a Goodwill Outlet and I swear it’s so comfy (it feels like I’m wearing PJ’s) and yet so stylish that I probably will wash and wear this thing until I give birth!

  13. kelli says:

    I don’t know if you read my post from tonight yet, but jeans are on my mind.
    Now, so are you.
    Tomorrow? It’s Goodwill day.
    Hallelujah and pass the vintagey-cheap goodness.

  14. Trace says:

    Hi Shannon! I’m a newbie and this is my first time joining WFMW! I’m a fashion & beauty blogger & so I just love your jeans post, awesome advice! There’s a great thrift store near me (Plato’s Closet – I think it’s sort of a chain) that offers high-end designer jeans for under $25! I’ve gotten some fab deals there. Anyway, thanks for hosting WFMW, I’m excited to participate and read everyone’s tips. Take care.

  15. Heather L. says:

    I LOVE thrift store jeans! I am forever on the floor with my kids and I wear the knees out easily. I couldn’t bear to pay $30 for jeans that are going to last all of a year.
    I used to work at a high-end department store and some of my regular cusotmers would let us know when they had taken things to the local thrift store so we could get the deals.

  16. SheilaG says:

    I always buy jeans at thrift stores and resale shops! I bought a pair of Ann Taylor ones recently for $6, and they look so dressy!
    Jeans just have to fit, and I think a lot of people buy jeans, realize they don’t, and then give them away. All the better for the rest of us!
    Come on over and visit me today! I’ve got great downloadable charts and housework lists and calendars!
    Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

  17. Leanne says:

    I love thrift stores but my mum has a funny reaction to them. Little does she know a lot of the beautiful scarves I’ve given her as gifts over the years have been second hand.

  18. Toni says:

    I totally agree, my favorite jeans, (well when they still fit me before pregnancy) were a Land’s End thrift store steal I think I paid 2 or 3 dollars!

  19. prasti says:

    yay! we love thrift stores. why buy new when you can find plenty of wonderful items second-hand? i like going to look for vintage-like sweaters…among other things 🙂

  20. Amblin says:

    I love thrift stores! I’ve been doing a Thrift Store Thursday on my blog every now and then. It’s fun to list the finds. 😉 Congrats on the jeans…that’s a terrific find!

  21. Carol says:

    Oh, the shame! I tried on a pair of Lucky Brand jeans at the mall this past weekend. I almost paid the full, stinkin’ $118 price tag. Fortunately, they made my butt look awful.
    Jesus loves me, too!
    Am off to the thrift store.

  22. Tracy says:

    I’ve never had success for myself at the thrift shop – but my size is a problem, I think (plus size). My 12 yo dd thinks it’s shopping nirvana, especially for jeans. Which reminds me, it’s time to take her again since she’s outgrowing everything again! Last time, we got 4 pairs for under $20. It’s certainly making it easier economically getting through this very quick growth time!

  23. pam says:

    I love that, Shannon! I am an avid thrift store shopper, and nothing is better than looking down once I’m dressed . . . tallying up the cost and finding out my whole outfit was less than $10. I did it yesterday, wearing pants for $2 and a shirt for $4. Name brands on both!
    Great post, friend!

  24. Megan says:

    I love this! I desperately need new jeans as the “losing weight with breastfeeding” plan isn’t working quite as well for number 2 as it did for number 1. I have totally been planning a thrift store trip to hunt up some jeans. Great encouragement!

  25. angela says:

    I LOVE thrift store shopping, especially for jeans. As you mentioned – they are already worn in and you don’t have to pay an extra $50 for the fake “worn in” factory feel. Even if you find jeans for $10 at a thrift store, it’s a heck of a deal from the price you’d pay retail since jeans rarely go on clearance

  26. Angela says:

    I, too, love Love LOVE the thrift store for jeans in particular! I also get all my kids clothes there. In my WFMW post (#170) I mention some canning jars I got for only $3/dz at our local thrift shop!

  27. Kirsty says:

    I am SO with you on this. I have this weird body type with short little legs, a long torso and a small waist and jeans shopping can be a nightmare. What I love in addition to all the things you mentioned is that there is such a wide array of different styles and brands so you don’t have to go from store to store to find the one that works best for you. It rocks. I recently spent big money on a pair of jeans (gift certificate) and find I am back to wearing my thrift store ones.

  28. Heather says:

    I LOVE thrift store jeans too!! That’s the only place I get them now! I can’t fathom paying the insane prices for jeans nowadays, and I, like you, love that the jeans in the thrift stores are already shrunk and nicely broken in.

  29. Bailey's Leaf says:

    As an artist, I started buying thrift store jeans when I was in college. At least at 2.00 a pair, if they got trashed it wasn’t such a horrible thing.
    I’ve continued to buy thrift store jeans. Yes, I too have scored Ann Taylor jeans for 3.00 a pair. Beautiful sweaters and all sorts of things for prices that are a steal! In fact, a lot of my child’s outdoor play items came from the thrift. I actually got a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe for 2.00.
    I love the thrift!

  30. Jennifer says:

    Mercy. Just in the last year, I’ve decided I’m not buying my clothes anywhere else. people who think thrift stores are “ookie” or whatever just befuddle me: people try on clothes in regular retail, too, and you will pay often thirty times as much just to have the priveledge to be the first person to take something home.
    I just bought my sister’s Christmas present at Saver’s yesterday: four beautiful, high-end sweaters. Total: $15. (I understand that not everyone is into thrifted gifts. Luckily, she understands that I can find much more quality on my budget by careful thrift shopping).
    I also play a game with myself, where I try to wear the least expensive outfits I can. I don’t count underwear over a year old or shoes over three, so somedays I can dress for work for $3. (I’m a thrift store nerd, obviously.)

  31. Erin says:

    Thrift store shopping, yeah! Thrift store jean shopping, umm I’ll think about that one. Shopping for jeans is such a frustrating event for me, I really don’t mind paying $50 a pop if I know a certain brand consistently fits me. However, if I can find that brand at a thrift store, you have a sale!

  32. Valarie Lea says:

    Ok, I don’t know if I am ready for clothes just yet. :[ I can’t get over the whole “I don’t know who has been wearing these clothes” thing. My sister did say she would help me though. If I picked it out she would take them home and wash them and then I would know they had been cleaned before I wore them. 🙂

  33. Mommy, the Human Napkin says:

    My entire jeans wardrobe for my senior year was purchased from the Salvation Army. My best friend and I spent hours one day, trying on clothes. It was awesome, and I spent less than $20 for TONS of clothes.
    I love thrift stores.

  34. Yvonne says:

    Thrift Stores are so much fun! This is the second time in 2 days it was mentioned as a source of saving money and finding cool stuff. Thrift stores are my favorite places to find photography props too! Thanks!

  35. Sara says:

    I recently went to a thrift store for the first time. I purchased two pair of jeans. I am making my boys denim quilts with flannel backing for Christmas and ran a little short. I paid $3 a pair and got two of the biggest pair I could find. I think I will do that more often!

  36. Leslie says:

    I blogged about these chic to-go cups I’ve been coveting — but I couldn’t agree more about thrift-store shopping. As recycling goes, I think it’s the most fun! I’m a particular fan of used baby clothing, where the pre-softening is extra nice.

  37. Lisa says:

    Yeah, but, gee whiz, Shannon! All these newbie Thrifters are ruining it for us old timers! Used to I could diddybop casually up and down the deserted thrift store aisles, choosing from amongst 30 pairs of jeans in my size that I could get for a buck-fifty. Now that the rest of the world is figuring out the beauty (and necessity, unfortunately) of second-hand, I have to fight the teeming masses to choose from 15 pairs of jeans that I have to buy for three bucks! Fewer people are getting rid of their good clothes and the thrift stores have all raised their prices! Agh! (Shshshshshshshsh! Girl! Quit letting the good secrets out!)

  38. Melissa says:

    Hmmmm. I love thrift stores so much, but my favorite one of all doesn’t have a trying room. It’s basically a huge warehouse with racks and racks of cheap clothes. I usually wear a t-shirt with a tank top under it when I go, so I can take off the t-shirt I’m wearing and try other shirts on, but there’s no good alternative for pants. And I can’t buy jeans without trying them on! Maybe I need to find another thrift store. Because my jean supply is running low.

  39. LeAnna says:

    A hearty amen, there! I grew up thrift shoppin’ and wouldn’t have it any other way. The jeans are the best part! I’ve found it to be the same with maternity jeans, even though they’re worn they are SO much more comfy. I rarely buy anything new, save for a shirts at Kohls when I have an extra 20% off coupon. 😉

  40. Anna says:

    Um… well, I am commenting that yes, I love thrift shops in general, including jeans… BUT I also messed up Mr. Linky and my first post on Mr. Linky is not the right link.
    Please don’t put me in front of a firing squad. Please. I messed up the mr. linky!

  41. angela =^) says:

    I just went to 50% off day at Goodwill this morning!!! And, guess what? I scored a Dolce & Gabbana top in perfect condition. I am NOT even joking. I am always a little wary about the jeans, though. I’ll have to be better about looking through them. I get lots of great kids tops in perfect condition, especially button downs for the boys. Yay for thrift stores!!!

  42. Stephanie says:

    Okay, you’re pretty convincing.
    I typically avoid thrift stores because the thought of stinky, possibly unwashed clothes makes me cringe. But I think maybe I should just give in. As you pointed out, we do have laundry detergent…

  43. Wendy says:

    Yep – me too. What I currently love about jeans from the thrift store is I can usually find a pair that is not low rise and covers all my bum. That is a blessing.

  44. Tara says:

    I have only one complaint on thrift store clothes. Usually I find a pair of jeans or workout pants or whatever, fall madly in love with them, wear them until they fall apart and can never find another pair just like them!
    Another note of caution…make sure that when you buy jeans from a thrift store that they’re not ones you donated a couple of months ago because they didn’t fit quite right. Not that *I’ve* ever done something so silly. Ahem.

  45. Lucy says:

    I LOVE thrift store jeans! I’m so with you on this one. I’m able to buy brands that I never would be able to afford. I have a store near me that stocks only brand name, currently in style things, so I don’t even have to worry about if it’s too outdated. LOVE IT!
    I love thrift store purses, too. Although you have to be more picky, since who wants a worn-looking purse? But I’ve gotten some really nice, great looking purses at thrift and consignment stores.

  46. Kim says:

    But here’s the rub on thrift store jeans: they are making jean sizes much more “generous” these days, so I would actually have to look in one or two sizes larger for jeans that fit compared to the newer counterparts. The plus would be finding jeans that don’t feel like they’re falling off all day. I guess I’m getting old . . .

  47. Patricia says:

    As I read this post, I was thinking that my luck with finding jeans at the thrift store is kind of hit and miss. Then, I pop into the thrift store yesterday and find 2 pairs of jeans and 1 pair of denim capris and 2 gorgeous shirts. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Not to mention all of the jeans were my size and the brand I usually wear anyways!!!!
    I also wanted to say I was born in Arkansas and lived in Oklahoma too. 🙂 Now I live in Australia….

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