Thrift your way to couture with Seattle’s many affordable second hand shops



Keep up with fashion trends and then some at one of Seattle’s thrift shops.

Seattle fashion is hipster chic, and it’s a perfect slice of northwestern style. But rather than buying a North Face rain jacket or high waisted jeans off the rack, why not try buying them second hand at one of Seattle’s many thrift stores?

Thrifting is a great way to get tons of unique clothes for a reasonable price. Wearing second hand clothes is also good for the environment. It can take 2700 liters of water to produce one new cotton t shirt, so imagine how much you can save by buying gently used clothes rather than new ones.

Goodwill is the tried and true of second hand clothes shopping, and in Seattle, there’s no shortage of Goodwills to choose from. There are locations in Ballard, Lynnwood, on Capitol Hill, in the University District, and more.
Because Goodwill operates on donation rather than consignment, buying or trading, there isn’t a specific style or type of clothes on the racks here. This is both a blessing and a curse because although you have to sift through many items, you could find tons of hidden gems on the packed racks. I’ve found White House Black Market dresses, Ralph Lauren tops, and Levi jeans all at Goodwill.
Another bonus to Goodwill is the prices, which are low among Seattle thrift.  It’s rare to find a piece of clothing sold for more than $10, and there’s always a daily tag sale. This means that every clothing with that colored tag will be a certain percentage off. Ask an associate what the tag sale is and pay attention to the tag colors on the things you are selecting. 

Buffalo Exchange
There are two Buffalo Exchange locations in Seattle with one in Ballard and one in the University District. The University District store is larger than the Ballard location, but both have a host of great clothes. This eclectic shop operates on a “buy, sell, trade” system rather than simple donation. Hired buyers sort through items brought into the store and select specific pieces that are in style. These pieces are then sold in the store. The personal curation of items means less sifting for the shopper. Each item is guaranteed to be in style and in good condition.
Buffalo Exchange is great for vintage clothes and out-of-the-ordinary finds. If pin-up dresses, 80s windbreakers, or colorful sneakers are in your wardrobe, you’ll love Buffalo Exchange. The prices are higher for thrift, with an average of about $14-$28 per item. However, some good deals are mixed in to the racks as well. There’s also a decent sized clearance rack at each store, so make sure to scope that out as well. In the end, the quality and style of Buffalo Exchange’s clothes are worth the slightly higher price. 

Red Light Vintage
This store is an emporium of vintage threads and a treasure trove of long lost finds. Located on University Avenue in the University District, Red Light Vintage is perfect for finding clothes and accessories that are truly one-of-a-kind, mostly because most of them can’t be found in stores anymore. The racks at Red Light are meticulously sorted into style, color, and decade distinctions, making it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. There’s a full rack of just Hawaiian shirts, and one of retro University of Washington fan gear, for example. Another bonus to Red Light Vintage is that their selection also includes accessories of every shape and style. There’s a chest of buttons and pins, a bowl of patches, and multiple trays of rings. Don’t miss the fanny pack collection by the dressing rooms.
Because the pieces here are vintage and rare, the prices are mostly over $20 per item. However, there is an entire room in the back of the store dedicated to clearance. It includes an entire bin of items for $2.95 or 2 for $5, and it’s full of shirts, hats, bags, and more. 

If you’d like to make a day of Seattle thrifting, I’d suggest parking near the University of Washington and walking along University Avenue. This way, you’ll get to visit all three of the stores featured in this article, including the University District locations of Buffalo Exchange and Goodwill. 

Seattle’s thrift shops offer stylish customers the chance to incorporate renewed items into their wardrobe. Plus, shopping second hand is also an earth-conscious practice that is easy to incorporate and affordable. 

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