A (very) Beginner’s Guide to Thrifting in Singapore



Image credit: Nadiah Halifi


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Disclaimer: I am not a self-proclaimed thrifting expert, and never will be. There are plenty of amazing people who are—namely, one of my favourite Tik Tokers, @chinchilla.vintage. However, I can confidently state that in the past few months, I’ve only spent a good 5-10 percent on fast fashion—and only when it’s necessary. (For hygiene purposes, some clothes are better-off newly bought.)

Most of my wardrobe is thrifted; and for those that come from indie fashion brands and blogshops, these are part of my capsule wardrobe. A funny thing about that, actually, is that I have four beige pants, of which my friends and family cannot distinguish between. But don’t knock it till you try it—beige is a neutral colour and quite literally goes with everything—plus I’ve been cycling through these clothes for four years. 

Looking them over once more, one of them is cream. But that’s besides the point. They all have different buckles and look different on me. Hehe.

But what I’ve come to realise is that for many thrifting shops, prices are often marked-up on the basis of the clothes being ‘vintage’ or ‘cottage-core.’ And for a broke student like me who’s working four to five jobs, it’s a little infuriating. So I’ve gone out on a limb to compile a list of (actual cheap finds). Today, I bring to you a beginner’s guide on thrifting. (Keep in mind: Beginner.)

  1. Telegram channels

Honestly, I’m genuinely shocked when people tell me they haven’t heard of this. Telegram channels are by far and large the most viable source for me to get my clothes, especially for a homebody like me who refuses to step out of the house. In these channels, you essentially scroll through listings of clothes, which come in the descriptive style of: picture, prize, size, brand, and new/old. 

While there are fixed prices on listings, bidding wars are also quite common on branded second-hand goods. For this, the seller will place a minimum starting bid, and minimum raising price, just like at a real auction.

I think these channels are wonderful, because when you join one, there’s usually inter-channel promotions; meaning that channel A will promote channel B by sending out a message on channel B, and vice versa. On that end, there’s no worry about not having enough clothes to look at—the thrifting community is well-connected and well-supported. Take it from me, then, that you will always be inundated with listings, and will keep joining new channels.

I also love how personal the channels are. The owners often share about their day, and it makes the channel feel a little less transactional and a little more relatable and homely.

Clothes are also absurdly cheap. I’ve snagged a dress for $2.50 before, and have been wearing it ever since. My lowest buy by far is a $1 item.

Tips:

  • Always ensure that your seller takes a picture of your package before mailing it!
  • Check all the defects of the clothes before buying it.
  • Telegram has a risk to it. Ideally, your first purchase should be small so that you know the seller is trustworthy. For instance, always buy something for $2 or less, and ensure that the package arrives at your place, before you embark on another second-hand clothes shopping spree.
  • If your gut tells you not to buy from the seller, do not buy.
  • Some channels show reviews from customers; make sure to diligently do your homework before buying from them.
  • Sometimes, I search the channel’s name on Carousell or Google to cross-refer with the possible presence of other online shops. You can check out the reviews on that platform if it exists.
  • Telegram still has lower risk than Carou-hell because the people there tend to be younger adults, which means that they’re really there to sell clothes rather than waste your time. And though you can prevent people from seeing your Telegram profile and name, Telegram often doubles-up as a messaging platform for people to stay in-touch with family and friends. Such uses therefore prevent people from abusing it. 

I’m too embarrassed to put a list of stuff that I really like…

But if you want to see really random freebies from people: https://t.me/Sgfreebie. My friend also recommended a NUS-based shop at https://t.me/ASWteleshop. Otherwise, you can directly email me at theridge.commentary@nussu.org.sg and I will give you a genuine list that I use. Nonetheless, if you’re looking where to start, you can check on Carousell listings, as some sellers list their Telegram clothes channel on Carousell posts to expand their reach.

  1. Obviously, Carou-sell.

Or should I say, Carou-hell? I’ve had many pleasant experiences on Carousell, but generally speaking, the sellers there are a little unhinged. Given that it practically offers full anonymity, there is no guarantee that you get what you’re paying for. Items may go missing, sellers may flake on your meet-ups at the very last minute, and you may even get hit on. My friend has even been approached for pictures of their feet before. (Wrong platform, buddy.)

But the benefits aren’t a zero-sum. While this is few and far between, some of us may not like using PayLah!, or would prefer a guarantee on the products we’re getting. This is where Carousell comes in handy. Though the pandemic has made it such that most sellers prefer selling online, it’s also possible that you can meet-up with them in real life to check the product, especially before handing over the cash for big-ticket purchases. There’s also CarouPay and Protection if you want to stick to delivery options, which enables money to be withheld until the buyer receives and verifies that they have received the parcel.

Nonetheless, I think Carousell is a good option for many second-hand goods. This is particularly if you’re looking outside the domain of clothes. For me, I depend on Carousell for a lot of my technological hardware. Considering that the Telegram scene is also mainly dominated by women’s wear, Carousell is the best option for men who are interested in thrifting as well.

A fun thing about Carousell is the myriad of free items as well. Simply filter through the ‘FREE’ listings and you’re good to go and snag one. For these, though, the seller usually requires you to go down for self-collection, or to pay extra for mailing. At the end of the day, then, it’s not really free.

Tips:

  • Do not give away your name. Always stay anonymous.
  • Like the above, ensure the person is taking a picture of the parcel before they drop-it-in the slot. Even better if they can video it.
  • Always, always, always check the ratings of the person. It’s not enough to check if they’re at the full 5-stars; also verify if these ratings are believable or fabricated by robots or spam accounts. To do so, check the reviewers; accounts as well. See their listings and reviews of other accounts.
  • View the other listings of the person. After doing so, you can more-or-less discern if the person is trustworthy.
  • Once you use enough keywords to search a particular thing (e.g., ‘off-shoulder top’), it eventually starts to show up on your algorithm even if it’s not included in the title of the listing. That’s one way I use to start seeing listings that I want (that leave out those keywords), even if I myself can’t find it through a keyword search.
  • Sort by lowest → highest price (or the other way around, depending on your motive).

Editor sidetrack: For other free applications, try out Olio—they give away free stuff all the time!

  1. Instagram shops

Instagram shops were the predecessors to Telegram channels. Far from primordial, however, Instashops can be quite professional, organised, and easy to scroll through. If you’re someone who’s also purely looking for clothes and won’t stand the extra chit-chatting, then Instagram is probably the place for you.

Instead of manually scrolling listing-by-listing as in Telegram (or real-life trips), Instagram provides a neat 3×3 grid for you to easily browse through. Most importantly, because IG culture elevates the concept of aesthetics, you always get the best view or angle of the dress. This can be good or bad; your item received may not live up to your expectations, or you’re able to accurately get what you need. In short, simply slide into the seller’s DMs, and you can cinch the product.

Similar to Telegram, Instagram also has bidding wars in the comments section. Look out for the reserve price, opening bid, and the cap (if there is one) on the product. One of my favourite stores which I want to give a shoutout to includes @attacmycloset! 🙂

  1. Real-life shopping trips

TLDR; Lucky Plaza, Queensway Shopping Centre, Salvation Army.

I’ve given you a fair warning there: Real-life shopping trips are not for the weak. It sometimes takes me a mere four shops before I collapse from the fatigue of sifting through mountainous heaps of clothes. It’s also not an infrequent occurrence that you go home with nothing on your hands.

Lucky Plaza

So far, though, my favourite spot is Lucky Plaza. Presuming that everybody knows this place, this complex of seven floors is full of thrift shops at its nooks and crannies. Many are hard to name because there are not many names to look at, but generally speaking, the best shops are on the first floor, second floor (corner stores—my favourite being a nameless, rented-out nook), and the top floor (6th). The latter is a haven of sorts for thrifters like me. Placed side-by-side on the 6th floor are Thrifting SG and Lucky Plaza Bazaar, which offer you hours-upon-hours of treasure hunting to find ‘the one’ piece that clicks with you.

The best find for me was what I call fortuitous! Aeons ago, I bought this oversized shirt from a Cotton:On factory outlet for around $6. Over the years, however, the shirt started tearing at the seams, and holes became a part of its new look. I’m not kidding when I said I was devastated. My parents even nagged at me to throw it away. To my extreme shock and surprise, I found this very same shirt in a pile of 50-cent clothes at Lucky Plaza. The second-floor corner shop didn’t even have a name, but the shirt came in perfect, brand-new quality. It was even the same exact size. I was beyond elated and immediately bagged the shirt. Almost instantly, I mockingly took a picture in the Lucky Plaza bathroom to show my family. They were stunned too.

Last August 2021! I can’t find the old one…I sure hope they didn’t throw it away…

Queensway

There are plenty of other locations as well. Like many others, Queensway was a staple of my (shoe-buying) childhood. This time, however, rather than purchase new shoes, I’ve come to discover some second-hand shops there. I would like to thank my friend, Sofea, for bringing me there. The shop we visited was the 3rd-floor @daisiesyard, the more affordable sister shop to @daisypaisie.

Though the shop was small, the pieces were all curated and very worth looking through! I don’t usually end up buying anything from a store unless I really like the items, and the first time I went, I ended up buying a long skirt (I love long skirts) for $5, and a lace camisole for $1. I’ve worn these multiple times since then, so you really know that you’re milking your money’s worth. Looking at their line-up, I’d recommend this shop for pastel-wearers, vintage-curators, and lace lovers. And if you’re directionally-challenged like me, you might want to follow @daisypaisie’s Instagram reel directions to their shop, before asking them where @daisiesyard is.

At Queensway, there’s also the option of Nightingale Thrift Shop (2nd-floor). Having breezed past the store a few times before, the clothes there are quite a randomised rack; somewhat like Lucky Plaza Bazaar. I would recommend this place for adults, especially if you need to find clothes suited for working attire. But don’t be surprised if you go down and there’s nothing of that sort; like I said, it depends on your luck.

Charity and Social Enterprise shops

There are too many to go on about, but here are some:

  • New2U Thrift Shop
  • Something New, Something Old
  • Salvation Army
    • PraiseHeaven Mega Family Store
    • Tanglin
    • Hope Centre
    • Bukit Merah
  • And more…

May the odds be ever in your favour!

Phew. I tried to compress everything in there. I hope it helped. Of course, there are other options as well. However, I’ve made a conscious choice to exclude some organisations because I didn’t agree with their business practices. Let me know if I left out any at theridge.commentary@nussu.org.sg

I’m also a serious thrifter of books, and big on thrifting-and-selling hardware (now this is the hobby that’s draining my money). If you’re interested to hear more about my favourite spots in Singapore, you could always DM our Instagram or drop an email at the same place! Happy thrifting!