One thing that I can't deny about shopping secondhand: it takes more time and commitment than just doing a simple online search and getting my brand new item. I pretty much treat every purchase these days like a dad buying his daughter a used car, but consumer reports don't really exist for Chelsea boots. There are still plenty of good reasons to give shopping secondhand a go, but you may be a little lost when you first start. I have picked up a few tricks when it comes to finding the best items on the best sites. Rather than giving you a huge list of nonspecific strategies, I'll detail some of my most frequently visited places and websites along with what you can expect to find there.
There are some things you should always keep in mind if you're buying secondhand online. First of all, if you are buying ANYTHING designer make sure there is a buyer protection policy in place. You should also know your exact measurements for whatever clothing items you want. Alternatively, trying on name brand items in stores then searching for them online is a good way to get an idea of your size as well.
I get on Poshmark at least once a day. If you aren't one of the millions of users of the app, it is basically a social media platform for buying and selling clothes. They have some sellers who do full retail; however, I'm most interested in finding secondhand clothing from stores I love. This is a great set up because it is also easy to sell your own gently used clothing.
Things to look for: Name brand clothing that is less than 3 years old, occasional high end designer goods or vintage, basics like skinny jeans or coats, things from high street retailers, specific items that are about a season old, NWT items.
My best find: A pair of Sam Edelman Petty boots for $40 after I applied credit.
Helpful hints: Knowing the style name of what you are looking for is key here, otherwise you will have to sort through a lot of listings in the same brand or color that aren't exact. For instance, if you want a pair of Topshop jeans, it is most helpful to put the cut (such as Jamie) in as well.
Referral code or discount: Use code BYAYQ on your mobile device to get $10 and give me a $10 credit after your first purchase!
Thred Up is the last service of its kind as far as I know. I have seen both Twice and Threadflip get sold to larger companies within the last year or so. I sincerely hope Thred Up doesn't take the same path. It's like the world's biggest consignment store all in one convenient, filtered location. I have seen some truly insane deals (like $8 J. Crew pants insane), but what I like is the clean out service. They send you a giant bag, you fill it up, then they offer you an amount based on your items and donate the rest.
Things to look for: Basics and classics from mall brands like Gap and J. Crew, some mid range designer pieces, name brand but slightly older handbags, kids' clothes!, every cut and color of jeans under the sun.
My best find: A silk Brooks Brothers lady bow tie.
Helpful hints: Filter, filter, filter! This is without a doubt the site's best tool because you can even filter things like jeans style or skirt length. It is also helpful to note that most of their items with an extra discount are final sale, which can mess you up if it doesn't fit right. Also, it is convenient to send your items in their big bag, but you'll get more money if you sell them individually somewhere like Poshmark.
Referral code or discount: Use my referral link for $20 off your first purchase and I will get $20 store credit.
Some of my all time favorite purchases are from Etsy. Pretty much everyone knows that Etsy is a great source for one of a kind vintage and handmade pieces, but I tend to find unique basics here as well. If there is something trending on runways or in fast fashion, chances are it has already been done in decades past. This makes Etsy the perfect place to scour for lower priced versions of trends.
Things to look for: Trends from past decades, formal dresses, denim jackets, vintage Levi's, cool leather boots, old school Coach and Dooney & Bourke for a decent price, funky vintage ski gear, old leather hiking boots...basically you are only limited by your imagination.
My best find: The perfect A-line denim skirt (sans buttons!).
Helpful hints: Etsy can be a doozy if you aren't precisely sure what you want since there are so many sellers. Also, vintage is something 20 years or older so if it seems mislabeled, it probably is. Don't buy something you will have to get altered unless it is a prom/wedding dress because otherwise it isn't worth it. Knowing your measurements, even your heel to toe measurements, is absolutely key since vintage sizes are totally different from modern sizes.
Referral code or discount: None unless the seller specifically has a sale!
My love for eBay is pretty longstanding. I have found everything from a $10 Dior silk scarf to my Barbour jacket thanks to the handy service. However, the flip side is that people intentionally buy limited release items like sneakers in order to resale them at sometimes triple the value. True, you're shopping secondhand, but is it ever ethical to spend $450 on a pair of sneakers? But you can almost always find specific styles from past seasons here if you take enough time to comb through the domestic AND international listings.
Things to look for: Specific styles that are sold out online or in stores, sneakers if you are brave and rich, slightly used versions of bigger ticket or name brand items, vintage items from name brands, very well-verified designer goods, vintage Levi's, band tees, old iterations of current trends, cool outdoor clothes and gear.
My best find: My Barbour jacket is pretty hard to beat, but I recently found the extremely popular Boden Monte Carlo dress in my size for about a fourth of the original cost.
Helpful hints: Get the app! It will notify you 15 minutes before items you have bid on are closing. Check seller ratings for the same reason you read reviews for anything online. This will usually let you know if their items are legit. Be aware that shipping costs can get pretty high since most are individual sellers. Set a budget because bidding can be a rush but only you know what is appropriate to spend. I refused to spend over $200 on my Barbour jacket, but I finally found one in my size that was "Buy it Now" so I didn't even have to worry about bidding. Honestly, I could do a whole post on eBay alone. Don't be a brand snob since you can find some of the cheapest and most unique things that way.
Referral code or discount: If you buy enough on eBay, you'll qualify for eBay bucks. They compile every three months but only cash out if you have over $5.
GOODWILL OR LOCAL THRIFT STORES
Along with antique stores, Goodwill is where my love of secondhand shopping began. There are so few things that you can't find. It's also kind of therapeutic to dedicate a few hours to scoring awesome finds. However, that means I can rarely just pop in and leave like I can with traditional retail stores. Thrifting is all about the hunt for me.
Things to look for: White button up shirts, quirky local tee shirts or sweatshirts, oversized sweaters, mom jeans galore, vintage leather goods, loafers, slip dresses, coats and old school windbreakers, jeans you can make your own, school uniform clothes for a preppy vibe, heritage brands at a super good discount, shrunken blazers in the kids' department, silk scarves.
My best find: Like half of my wardrobe, I kid you not.
Helpful hints: Go alone! Thrifting with friends can be fun but only if they are as into it as you are...and few people I know fit the bill. See past what's in the mirror and think of what you can do. I made a really trendy pair of jeans by finding something cheap and letting the hem out. Be super nice to the employees, especially if you are a regular. Go to the nice neighborhoods or the stores close to colleges because they likely have a higher donation rate.
Referral code or discount: Your local store probably has tag sales or monthly half off promotions, which makes the sweet deals even sweeter.
SPECIALTY VINTAGE AND CONSIGNMENT STORES
Although some consignment stores carry vintage and some do not, I'm lumping these in together because the shopping experience is much the same. Basically, an employee at one of these stores has done the legwork for you. That's why there's a hipper vibe, a more curated collection, and definitely higher prices that the thrift store.
However, a lot of people want money for their mall brand stuff, so these places tend to have a pretty high turnaround. At dedicated vintage stores, a buyer has sorted through a lot of crap with a careful eye so you will probably find some pretty neat looks. While you may have more options online, nothing beats being able to try something on and see in person how it looks.
Things to look for: Vintage dresses, hipster looking sweaters and boots, slightly used mall brand or fast fashion in the consignment stores, nicer brands of shoes, unique handbags, formalwear!, a huge variety of jeans, work clothes, menswear pieces, costume jewelry, fun hats.
My best find: My senior prom dress and a wool navy blazer, both vintage. This fish shirt.
Helpful hints: A lot of places have their own specific vibe. For instance, there's one store in Knoxville that sells nothing but funky vintage tees which is perfect for my casual tastes. If you go to an antique mall or a vintage store with a lot of booths you will get a wider variety of tastes and decades. Consignment places like Plato's Closet are awesome for finding stuff from Forever 21 marked down to an actual appropriate price for the quality, but places like Crossroads Trading or Buffalo Exchange have a better variety and cooler looking clothes. Always try to go to local stores if you can, though.
Referral code or discount: Be sure to like your favorites on social media because that's where they are likely to announce discounts as well as what they are looking to buy. Vintage stores usually have discounts by booth rather than storewide.
Those are the sources I rely on most frequently for finding secondhand clothing that I love. There are also flea markets and garage/yard sales to check out, but those are a bit too seasonal for my tastes. I feel like thrifting or buying secondhand clothing sometimes has very specific looks associated with it, but you can dress however you want with a little persistence. What's more, it's best to buy things that aren't super trendy anyways. Buying something more classic reduces the risk that you'll donate the item right back.