Budget, budget, budget. If your New Year's Resolution was to treat–yo–self, there's no reason to fall off the wagon just yet. There's still time to be frugal and self–caring. Enter thrift shopping: an affordable, environmentally friendly, alternate retail therapy. Whether you’re looking for that perfect pair of distressed mom jeans or a sweater that says “sensitive intellectual,” Philly’s thrift scene has it all.
Where to Shop:
The Local Option: Raxx Vintage West
3661 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA
Located at 37th and Walnut streets (RIP American Apparel), this colorful storefront boasts an eye–catching array of eclectic finds, curated by very helpful staff. Word on the is it that Raxx may not stay past January, so shop while you can!
The Hardcore Option: Bulk Vintage Clothing
4324 Tackawanna St, Philadelphia, PA
Located in Frankfort, Bulk Vintage is not for the faint of heart. A converted warehouse, Bulk houses over 200,000 pounds of vintage clothing organized by material, style, and era. You could easily spend a full day searching through their clothes. Thrifting veteran Thomas Calder (C '20) prefers Bulk Vintage even though it’s further outside of town. Other Philadelphia thrift shops such as Raxx source from Bulk Vintage, “so the options are curated and organized but the price is marked up four times,” says Calder.
Top Picks on South Street
Philly AIDs Thrift
710 S 5th St, Philadelphia, PA
Down on South Street, Philly AIDs is a thrift store mecca with two jam–packed stories you could easily spend hours combing through. On the ground floor there’s a mix of men’s and women’s clothing including oversized leather jackets, band t–shirts for The Clash and a few bands I’d never heard of, and jeans of every hue imaginable. Upstairs there’s a curtained–off room for vintage and designer pieces. My steal of the day was a $12 Vince Camuto long puffer coat, potentially the ideal fracket. If you’re not shopping for clothes, check out the records and old books interspersed throughout the store. The proceeds go towards local organizations fighting HIV/AIDs.
508 South St, Philadelphia, PA
Just down the street from Philly AIDs, Retrospect is its slightly classier, more subdued cousin. Boasting a mix of name brand and cheaper options, there’s something at every price point. A chocolate faux fur Marc Jacobs came in at $58, not jaw–droppingly cheap like Philly AIDs but definitely tempting and splurge–worthy. Be sure to check out the shoe section in the back featuring Converse sneakers, vintage Adidas, and an extensive collection of cowboy boots.
Tips for First–Time Thrift Shopper
- Patience is key. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by racks and racks of overflowing clothing. Unlike retail stores, thrift shop clothing is loosely organized by type (jeans, sweater, dresses, etc.) but not always by size. It takes stamina to sort through dozens of options but treat thrifting like a treasure hunt and you won’t be disappointed. Note: the overall thrift shop smell can be off—putting, a mixture of detergent and musty clothing, but just be sure to wash your purchases before wearing.
- Inspect closely. While signs of use are to be expected, check for tears, missing buttons, or other indicators of damage. This is especially true when thrifting shoes. I once purchased a great pair of strappy wedges only to find myself hobbling on uneven heels. On that note, ask about the return policy. For many thrift stores, once you buy it, it’s yours (no take backs).
- Thomas advises tunnel vision: go in with two pieces in mind, so you stay focused and can sniff out the best finds. I disagreed. I prefer to browse and keep an open mind, so I’m never disappointed.
- Check out the housewares: for first–time apartment renters, it’s expensive decking out your place. Thrift stores offer cheap plates/mugs/bowls as well as unique furniture and decoration. Sure, your cutlery might not match, but you’ll have a cooler place for it.
- Half the fun is in the search, so enjoy and bring a friend!