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How To Thrift Shop Like A Boss

Because that's where the best fashion finds are

BY Joan Thatiah

Apr 07, 2023, 11:28 AM

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You know one of those women who’ve never used a matatu in their lives or lived in a hostel? That’s my Friend Wanja. Wanja is a lawyer. A few weeks ago, after months of hearing us go on and on about how chic and sustainable thrift shop fashion can be, she decided to give it a shot.

Somehow, she found her way to the Gikomba market and thought she was lost because everyone was shouting, “Camera! Camera!” 

But the girls told me I would find dresses here, she was thinking bewildered for a solid ten minutes before she found her way around.

If you are an uptown girl like Wanja, welcome to Gikomba. Camera means the best quality clothes from each mitumba bale. If you are thinking of going thrift shopping, here are tips that will have you winging it like a boss.

Ditch The Online Shops.

Sitting on your couch with a warm blanket and a hot cup of chocolate and taking screenshots of clothes you like off Instagram pages with names like Thrifting with Tiffany or The It Thrift Shop is not thrift shopping. That’s online shopping.

To have you shopping from your couch, Tiffany went thrift shopping early in the morning, had the clothes ironed, took nice photographs of them is now selling them to you for four times what she got them at. Thrift shopping means leaving your house.

Dress For The Occasion.

Now that we’ve established we will be going to the open-air market, the next goal is to dress like you’ve no money. Sis, you are not going to be able to negotiate any prices down if you’re wearing 22 inches of Malaysian hair on your head.

You’ll probably be walking around for some time so you will do well to leave the high heels and the mini-dress at home.

It’s Like A Sport.

Over half the time you spend at the open-air market will be spent either walking around or rummaging through bundles of clothes to find that one pair of jeans. This means you will need a lot of patience and body strength.

Prepare for it. This is not the day to get onto the intermittent fasting train because after you are done rummaging through the clothes, you will need to carry your finds around with you. You will need to eat breakfast and if you are there long lunch.

Make Friends.

Once you have found a spot with styles that you love, make friends with the vendor. If you are on a first-name basis with them, you will get discounts but more importantly, they will give you information on when the best stuff comes in.

This way, you are not just going in on random Saturday mornings hoping that there are new bales. If you are lucky, your vendor friend might even stash away the really good finds for you. That almost sounds better than a backstage pass to a Sauti Sol concert, right?

Get Creative.

The only downside of thrift shopping unlike going to the boutique or the tailoring shop is that sometimes you will not get a sweater in that exact shade of teal you were looking for or a dress that fits like a glove.

This is where you get creative. If you can’t find the shade of distressed jeans you want, you buy regular jeans and then use a razor blade to work your magic. Could that blouse be your style if you changed the buttons or shortened the hems? Buy it and fix it.

Be Ready To Hustle.

At times, the open-air market can be a sport and you need to be ready to hustle your way through because thrifting in the market is on a first-come first served basis. If you don't have the strength to fight through a crowd to get that top you've spotted and you've liked, then the open-air market is not the place for you.