How to Thrift the Iowa City Way


Figure out your style

It can take years to find your style, and it will probably change anyway!

I really didn’t pinpoint my own style until I began thrifting. I wasn’t into the racks and racks of look-a-like clothing at department stores and outlet malls. The joy of finding that piece that was so me was worth the extra time (and sometimes resources) spent.

Before I knew it, my closet was full of corduroy pants, used sneakers, and Christmas sweaters. I’m pretty girl-next-door, but I like to pull off crazy outfits at times. (My fiancé calls these my old lady clothes.)

Now my wardrobe mainly consists of acrylic sweaters, printed Ts, scarves, and vintage dresses.

What’s in your wardrobe?

Find stores

Iowa City is a pretty thrifty place, if you didn’t know. Check out the IC ∴ IT list.

Find sales

Thrift stocking isn’t terribly different from traditional department store stocking. We only want what’s in season! Most thrift stores have semi-annual sales to clear out their out-of-style or out-of-season items. Be sure to follow your favorite stores on social media to keep up to date with great sales!

Learn store schedules

Many traditional thrift stores have weekly tag specials and monthly deals. Here are a couple Iowa City deals you should know about:

Crowded Closet

  • weekly sale color tag 1/2 off throughout the week & just $.25 on Saturday!
  • monthly whole store 1/2 price sale


  • “The Great 88” – selected sale color tag just $.88 every Tuesday!
  • also sign up for daily deals at their website

The Savvy Boutique

  • 10% off all non-sale items during your birthday month

Make a budget

Every person’s budget is going to be different, depending on the month or store. I like to go into a store with a set spending limit – normally somewhere around $30, depending on how much I’ve already shopped for the month. At Plato’s Closet, I’m usually willing to spend a bit more.

Set limits, and don’t go over them! While you may want to spend more to get more, buying less actually makes each item more special.

You can also make a plan to donate or consign as often as you can, to balance out your spending or just free up closet space!


Free up your hands as much as possible before heading into the store. Purse? Don’t need it.  Phone? Keep it in your pocket. Coat? Leave it in the car.

Thrift stores can be pretty crazy and unorganized, depending on where you go. Some places group items by color, others by type and size. Figure out what each store does!

Also be willing to dig! Your size medium might not actually be on  the medium rack. Plus, sizes run weird sometimes, so check out the racks a size up or size down. You never know, maybe that too-big sweater can be turned into a dress.

Try clothes on

Whatever you’ve heard about thrift stores and/or their clothing being dirty – get rid of that misconception.

Let’s be real. No one is going to donate dirty, completely worn out clothes to a thrift store. If they are taking the time to donate, it’s likely that they took the time to make sure the clothes were in suitable condition.

So don’t be afraid to try things on! Every store I’ve ever been to has had a dressing room. Utilize it! Even if you like a piece, it may look not-so-great on you. Or maybe you’re not sure about a piece, and trying it on seals the deal!

Check the tag

I am so amazed by the brands that people donate to thrift stores. Most of my favorite finds have been from stores like J. Crew and Nordstrom. I also love discovering old brands and unique tags!

What can be really helpful by checking the tags, though, is stopping yourself before you a buy a piece of lesser integrity. Have you had a bad experience with a certain brand? Don’t buy it again.

Make repairs & changes

Although I do stress checking tags and inspecting the piece, most little tears are totally reparable! If you don’t own a sewing machine, invest in a sewing kit. Or head over to Home Ec. Workshop, which has sewing tools for rent at a low hourly rate.

Stay tuned for DIYs and check out Posts I ❤ for other cool DIYs.


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