Nearly two years after the start of the pandemic, one in seven people in the U.S. are living in poverty. That means millions of people across the U.S. may not be able to afford essential clothing items like a winter coat.
The right clothes can help you land a job, boost your confidence, and affect your mental performance, according to research by psychological scientists from California State University, Northridge, and Columbia University.
Whether you need new clothes for your children, a suit for a job interview, or you just want to update your wardrobe, there are a lot of ways to get free clothes when you’re short on cash or on a strict budget.
Check out this list of places to get free clothes:
Local churches often have clothing closets or clothing ministries, which offer free clothing to anyone in need (and you usually don’t have to show proof of income). You can get new, nearly new, or gently used clothes, depending on the types of donations the church accepts.
Churches may operate clothing drives on certain days of the week and at specific times, so you’ll need to contact churches in your area to find out when to stop by.
Some larger nonprofit organizations may also partner with local churches to provide free clothing. Search “free clothing at churches near me” to find churches that provide free clothing in your community.
2. Clothing swap
Organize a clothing swap with neighbors, friends, family members, or co-workers. Make sure everyone invited has at least one other person who wears the same size so everyone has clothing to browse.
You can run the clothing swap at your home or find a free place to set up like a community room at your local public library.
You can also do a virtual clothing swap using tools like Facebook Groups. Go to Facebook Groups and use the search feature to find local clothing swap or single mom groups. You can search “clothing swap” and then add your city. For example, “clothing swap Austin” or “free clothing Newark.”
3. Consignment shops
Have you ever thought about selling your clothes on consignment? Depending on where you go, you can get some cash upfront for selling clothes you no longer wear that are still in good shape.
To get top dollar, make sure the clothing is:
- In good condition and high quality
- From an in-demand brand
- In line with style trends or a timeless classic
You can use the extra cash from your consignment sales to purchase new or gently used clothing. Keep in mind, some consignment shops only pay after your items sell, so if you need money right away, you might want to consider another alternative.
Search “consignment shops near me” or search Consignment Shopper online, a nationwide database of consignment shops.
Craigslist can be a gold mine for connecting with people who want to give away free or discounted clothes. It is a nationwide online classified marketplace connecting you to people in your community looking to part with apparel and other unwanted items.
To find free clothing, look for the “For Sale” section. Then, click the “free” link to see what’s available nearby. You might have to sort through the items to find clothing or type “clothes” in the search field.
Just remember to take safety precautions when using Craigslist. Always use the Craigslist proxy email address for initial contact to avoid future spam. Use an app like Google Voice to get a phone number that will ring to your phone and protect your real phone number. Meet in a public place and take a friend with you.
5. Credit card rewards
Do you have a credit card that rewards you with points you can use like cash to buy clothing (or anything else you need)? If not, search for and apply for a 0% interest cash back card.
On Amazon, you can shop for yourself and your children on Amazon Essentials. It’s a brand of Amazon clothing that offers affordably priced wardrobe basics — everything from underwear to coats for all sizes, children and adults.
6. Facebook Marketplace
Don’t overlook Facebook as a place to get free clothing. Facebook Marketplace is a great option for finding free clothing.
Navigate to “Free Stuff” on Facebook Marketplace and browse what’s available nearby. Or, you can use the search bar and type in a phrase like “free clothes” to narrow your results.
You can send messages via Facebook Messenger to ask questions about the free clothing and communicate about how you will pick up or receive the items.
The Freecycle Network is a free membership site that connects you with local people who are giving away free stuff. With over 9 million members represented in 5,300+ towns and cities, it is an excellent resource for free clothing.
Not only can you get free clothes, coats, and shoes, but just about anything else you can think of. Create a free membership, browse Freecycle groups in your area and join the groups that interest you. Freecycle is a nonprofit focused on reuse and keeping as many items out of landfills as possible.
8. Garage or tag sales
Saturday mornings are usually the best time to seek out garage sales or yard sales. Clothing might not be free, but you can usually get it at very low prices. You can use apps like NextDoor or search for community groups in Facebook Groups to find dates and times of nearby garage sales.
Tag sales are a step up from garage sales, so prices are usually higher, but so are the quality of goods. They are usually handled by professionals who price, list and sell the goods of an estate on an online auction site or at a person’s home.
You can search EstateSales.net, a nationwide search tool that shows local tag sales, in addition to estate sales and auctions.
If you need clothes for your children, ask your network of moms if they are willing to part with clothes their child has outgrown. You can also use Facebook as a resource, since some people use the social media platform to give away items.
You could post, “Is anyone looking to clear out some clothes your kids never wear?” on your Facebook profile. You might be surprised by how many helpful responses you get.
If you have time, you can set up an Instagram account or use your existing account to become a fashion influencer. Clothing brands often send fashion influencers clothing for free. Then, they wear the outfits and post them to their followers.
This idea does take some initial effort to amass enough followers to become an influencer, but if you enjoy getting dressed up and snapping pics, it could turn into a lucrative opportunity. Search “how to become a fashion influencer on Instagram” for ideas on how to get started.
11. Referral programs
When you set up a free account with either (or both) and use the online marketplace to buy or sell clothing, you’ll get a referral link you can share with family, friends, or even your social media network.
When someone uses your unique link to make a purchase, they’ll get a credit to use toward their purchase. Once the purchase is complete, you’ll get a referral credit you can use on a future purchase. Translation: Shop for free clothes!
12. Salvation Army
While the Salvation Army doesn't offer free clothes, you can get items that are steeply discounted (especially if you shop on discount days). Each store has specials they run on certain days of the week. In some cases, you can get 50% off. To find out what they offer, contact your nearest Salvation Army store directly.
13. Thrift shops
Thrift shops, just like consignment stores, are perfect for finding bargains on new or gently used apparel. You can get clothes for next to nothing when you combine already discounted clothing with special coupons and offers from thrift stores.
Some popular thrift stores include Goodwill, Plato’s Closet, and Salvation Army. You can also get great deals on clothing from online consignment shops like Poshmark, Mercari, and ThredUp.
Here are a few tips on thrifting:
- Search multiple shops: There’s nothing wrong with comparison shopping. This works more efficiently online because you can look through multiple stores with a few clicks.
- Ask about specials: Most thrift stores have special discount days or offers you can combine for a huge discount.
- Know the return policy: Always educate yourself on a thrift shop’s return policy before you make a purchase to avoid buyer’s remorse.
TrySpree is an app that connects you with retailers who offer free samples. It’s a forum-based community where members post leads for free samples and share their experiences with the retailers. Each post is vetted by other members who are champions of finding and sharing the best freebies. While offers vary, you can often get free underwear, T-shirts, sweatshirts, or hats.
But the freebies aren’t limited to clothing. On TrySpree, you can get free samples from retailers and brands across 16 different categories, including items for your car and free stuff for your baby. Samples are available from major brands like Fruit of the Loom, Timberland, L-Occitane, and Conair.
15. Dress for Success
Dress for Success is an organization that helps women prepare for job interviews with a professional outfit and career coaching. The organization has affiliates across the U.S. and accepts referrals from any 501(c)3 nonprofit for women ages 15+. Visit the Dress for Success website to find your nearest affiliate.
Other ways to find helpful and free resources for low-income families and individuals: