A Guide to Thrift Shopping

One of the most important aspects of the harajuku underground fashion scene is the strong feeling of individuality, and every day the desire to "stand out" is taken to a further level.

Trends are created, set and changed by people instead of leading brands and designers. Instead of looking for the expensive trench coat that everyone wears, they will hunt down that old coat that was in vogue 20 years ago and add lace, studs, or paint on it. That's the key to the underground harajuku spirit: make everything you wear your own. I'm not saying that brands aren't present at all, but they don't predominate and they, most of the time, have little influence and importance, as people will prefer shopping in resale and thrift shops over shopping malls and high class signature stores.

Thrift and resale stores are gaining more and more popularity (and not only in Japan) because practically everything you will find in them is unique. Every time I go thrift shopping, I personnaly feel like I'm on a treasure hunt, and every single find is precious.

Why you should shop in thrift stores

Thrift shops are perfect if you're a little low on money like me and you can't always afford mainstream stores' price ranges. They are so avantageous price-wise that when I occasionaly find myself at the mall, everything seems infinitely more expensive, and any purchase hurts.....

This said, you think twice about it and decide that it indeed is a dream come true! You can buy five times or more the amount of clothes and accessories you'd have bought online or anywhere else, really.
However, thrift shopping is somewhat like lottery. You never know what you're gonna find, or if you're even going to end up buying something. Be patient is the first thing I'd tell you. Then, don't have any expectations. You're not looking for your dream item here, because chances are you'll never find it. Just start the day without any specific set goal, and just look around anywhere you can.

Where to look (in chain thrift stores like Vallue Village and Goodwill/Rennaissance)

Anywhere is the key word here, or okay, almost anywhere. Most of the time, you can avoid the electronics or underwear section without missing anything...
Yet, some relevant sections are sometimes overlooked. Never be lazy while thifting! You don't wanna miss a perfect opportunity!

For example, even if you avoid the underwear section (those are kind of unhygienic and I wouldn't reccomend them even if they've been "washed".), the lingerie and nightwear section is one of my favorite. It's a must for styles like Spank!, Cult Party and Fairy Kei. It's where you'll find all those sheer nighties and long pretty nightgowns, corsets, and if you're lucky, garters that are a must for layering in Cult Party. You'll also find cute pajama tops that can be remade in dresses or t-shirts.

 nighties from the lingerie/nightwear section

The men section is another pretty useful area that you'll forget but wait! It's awesome for baggy sweaters and really large t-shirts ( just don't think about the fact it might have been worn by a dirty obese man... and it will be okay...). I once found a huge old Adidas t-shirt and cut it into a tank top/dress!

baggy t-shirts from the men section

This part here isn't available for everyone, but if you're small and thin, never overlook the children section. I'm not saying the baby section, but in the racks for 8-14 years old, you'll find pretty big sized clothes that will fit (sometimes with little adjustments here and there). I've found all sorts of dreamy clothing there: vintage grimoire-looking dresses, old pastel sweaters and milklim worthy skirts~

vintage dresses from the children section
(they all fit me, some with small adjustments here and there)

What you should know about Vallue Village and Goodwill/Rennaissance

The difference between the two is that Goodwill is a non-profit organisation helping reintegrate people into society, and Vallue Village is a commercial group making money on every item bought, while Goodwill barely does. In other words, Goodwill's prices are slightly lower but unfortunately their items are usually less taken care of; you'll be more likely to find ripped or stained clothes, so verify ever piece carefully. Vallue Village has, on the other hand, a more strict policy, so while their items are in better shape, their policy is more strict. That means no selling items without a price tagg. It happens often I'll find something  awesome and they'll refuse to sell it because the tagg fell off without me noticing, saying "come back tomorrow"... so be careful about that too. Both have their good and bad points~

Other places to check out

Aside from chain stores, which are the easiest choice because of their wide selection and various accessible locations, don't forget to look for smaller independant stores.

Another good option, if you're not bothered by money and you're willing to pay a bit more for the hunting job all done for you, resale stores are always really interresting. They're in fact all over harajuku: Spank!, Virgin Mary and Grimoire to name a few, are all resale stores where the employes search in every thrift store they can (even overseas!) and select the best items, or in this case, items that fit in a specific theme: Rockabilly, Antique, 80's, Pop, the list goes on.
It'll be easier for you to find what you want; just look for stores that appeal to your personnal style! I'm not saying you'll find shops like Spank! in your city (I highly doubt it, unfortunately), but resale stores' stocks are way more interresting and inspiring!
The only "bad" point is that they actually know the value to items they sell, so it might get expensive sometimes...

Prepare yourself mentaly

Thrift shopping isn't the hardest thing to do, really, but it's always good to know what to expect beforehand. To have an efficient thrifting session, you will need:
  • A lot of patience. When going to Vallue Village, it's worth it to look around for at least two hours, and don't be mad if you don't end up finding anything good. Try again soon, the stocks change frequently!
  • An open mind. Don't narrow your research too much, you could find something nice in nearly every section. Don't limit yourself to only the obvious!
  • Experience in a certain style, or just a good fashion/coordination sense. While it is not a necessity, it's certainly a huge plus. In opposition to mainstream stores where they guide you with color palettes, mannequins and proposed coordinates, how you should dress, how you whould wear this particular top with that particular skirt and those specific jeans with those specific shoes, thrift stores leave you with nothing but your intuition and it might get difficult to find something if you have no idea how you'd wear it. Having an overflowing imagination is a good point too, that way you can easily visualize remakes and customs, buying pieces you would never wear and modifying them into something new and unique.

Tips and warnings

  • Be careful for stained or ripped clothes when shopping in any used clothing store that isn't resale.
  • Sort out your finds to narrow your purchase; the low prices make it even more easier to flush all your money in one go, and you'll rarely have to reflex to "only buy what you really need" (believe me, I have a hard time reminding myself, sometimes...). This way you'll spend less, and you'll avoid useless items you bought for a "why not, maybe i'll use it one day" pilling up in your room.
  • Choose your shopping places well, especially if you're going to a more underground store. A place filled with old clothes and furniture is favorable for ticks and bugs, and you don't want them invading your house because of this. I wouldn't reccomend stores in really poor neighborhoods or badly kept places. Trust me, finding something in those places isn't worth the risk of dealing with extermination fees and mattress shopping.
  • For the trip to be worth it, allow a period of time for the stock to renew itself. Select various shops in your city and alternate between those places. I try to go alone about twice every month to one of my two favorite spots.
    You can also plan big thrifting days with your friends and make an itinary with 6 or 7 different stores. (This is only a reccomendation, but going with friends who have a very different style from yours is normaly easier because you won't end up fighting over anything and this way you can all help each other finding stuff~)
  • Don't forget to put all the clothes you bought in the laundry as soon as you go home and wash them as soon as possible before wearing them. This applies to plushies too. Hand wash toys and disinfect earrings with alcohol before wearing them. You never know where your purchases come from, so better be safe than sorry. You usually don't have to do this for resale stores of course, for they're normally equivalent to mainstream shops in therms of hygiene and the washing was done by the staff.

All in all, thrifting is a perfect way to indentify yourself through fashion by finding unique pieces. It's perfect for creating your own style without being limited by brands and seasonal trends. With a little effort, it's easy to dress exactly the way you want!

Good luck and have fun!


  1. This is a great article! Very clear and useful! Thank you! \{◕ ◡ ◕}/

  2. I have a post about thrifting on my blog too :D This was helpful <3

  3. Super article ! Sa représente tellement se que je pense des friperies <3
    Malheureusement, en France cet esprit est vraiment pas autant développé que chez vous, quand je suis venu j'ai halluciné par la taille, la variété et le contenue de vos friperies. En France la mode c'est trop une histoire de Chic et de Brand hors de prix .... Mais heureusement il y en a quand même pas mal à Paris qui sont cool <3 Et la pluspart des merveilles sont enfouis dans de énorme bac un peu comme la piscine de vêtement de EvaB haha
    Bref je m'étale un peu la haha juste pour vous dire que vous avez de la chance d'avoir autant de frip :)

    Et je me permet juste de citer ça :
    "Sort out your finds to narrow your purchase; the low prices make it even more easier to flush all your money in one go, and you'll rarely have to reflex to "only buy what you really need" (believe me, I have a hard time reminding myself, sometimes...). This way you'll spend less, and you'll avoid useless items you bought for a "why not, maybe i'll use it one day" pilling up in your room."

    LOL ça devrait juste être le premier et THE ULTIME conseil hahaha parce que malgrés tout ce temps j'arrive toujours pas à le respecter /o/


  4. I find a gem in your new posts. So, i try to visit some your other post and i find this articles. Great >


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