A Beginner’s Guide to Shopping Second-Hand Shopping

August 26, 2022

Fast fashion is an environmental problem on a myriad of different levels. The US throws out 11.3 million tons of clothing per year, or 2,150 pieces of clothing per second, 10% of global carbon emissions are caused by the fashion industry, and it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans. The good news is that second-hand clothing is a sustainable, and an increasingly popular option. Buying second-hand clothing avoids the carbon emissions and water waste used to make new clothing, and it prolongs the life-span of clothing by keeping it out of a landfill. Although buying second-hand clothing is great for the environment, it can often be difficult to know where to start. There are many ways to shop second-hand, and the best option for you will be different depending on your budget, personal style, and the amount of time you have available for shopping. This guide should help you get started on your thrifting journey!

Shopping in Person:

The main differences between physical stores depend on their size, price and level of curation. Out of physical stores, thrift stores are the most cost-effective, as they are mostly donations-based. Thrift stores are often the largest and include big stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army. Vintage stores are the next step up from thrift stores. These stores are more curated, sometimes focusing on a specific style or era of clothing, but that means that prices are higher. Vintage stores are a great option if you are particular about what you want to wear, and want to avoid spending time searching for it. Finally, the most expensive type of second-hand store is a consignment store. Consignment stores focus on luxury items, and they have much higher prices. Consignment stores are often a more affordable option than buying designer clothing new, but they are still very pricey.

To find second-hand stores near you, a Google Maps search is the best way to start. You can also look on local bulletins to find information about temporary sales, like garage sales, rummage sales and flea markets.

When you first go to a second-hand shop, you might be overwhelmed by the amount of options. A good place to start can be by deciding if you are looking for something in particular- like long skirts, or fun graphic t-shirts. Before going shopping, look through your closet and make note of your favorite pieces, and what you wear the most. When deciding on a clothing item, you can think about how well it would go with what you already own, and how much you would realistically wear it. A good rule of thumb is to try to come up with 5 ways you could wear a piece of clothing with the clothes you already own.

Finally, the best tip for shopping in-person is to have fun with it, no matter the outcome. Shopping second-hand can be unpredictable, and the selection of clothing can vary dramatically. If you use shopping as a way to hang out with a friend, or have fun browsing sections like books or cutlery, you’ll be less likely to be disappointed if you can’t find any clothing you like.

Shopping Online:

Recently online second-hand shops have exploded in popularity, and they are an excellent way to buy clothing in an easy, time-efficient way. Like physical stores, there are many different websites and apps for second-hand shopping, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

One of the best places to start for people who are new to thrifting is the website  ThredUp. ThredUp sells clothing at a vast array of price ranges, based on the condition and original price of a piece of clothing. They sell clothing from over 35,000 brands, at discounts of up to 90% off of the retail value. This website is particularly good for beginners because unlike other websites where individual sellers upload photos and descriptions of clothing, ThredUp photographs and measures the clothing themselves. They also include verified information about the condition, fabric and original price of clothing. The website also lets you search by brand of clothing, and size, making it easier to find clothing that you know you will like. ThredUp also stands out from many other second-hand stores because it allows you to make returns on clothing. Finally, if you are eyeing a piece of clothing on ThredUp, hang on to see if a sale is coming up. The website frequently has sales of up to 60-70% off!

Another popular way to buy second-hand clothing is the website and app Poshmark. Poshmark is different from ThredUp because all of the clothing is sold by individual people and boutiques, and not by the company itself. Poshmark also makes it easy to search by size and brand of clothing, but prices are set by the sellers, so they are not as consistent as on ThredUp. This can be good, because you can find great-priced vintage clothing from people clearing out their closets, and you have the option to negotiate on prices, but it also opens up the possibility of getting scammed. If a seller lies about the condition of an item of clothing you will be able to get your money back, but you are not protected against overpaying for clothing. Make sure that you look at the reviews of a seller before buying anything, and check the prices of the new clothing from a brand when deciding if the second-hand price is fair.

Another website and app that is very popular right now is Depop. Depop is structured to resemble a social media feed, and therefore tends to be more creative than ThredUp and Poshmark. People sell their homemade and upcycled clothing as well as thrifted items on Depop, and sellers usually go out and source clothing to sell, instead of selling what they already own. This means that very unique items are often available on Depop, but also that prices run higher. Like Poshmark, you should be wary of scams while shopping. Depop is a great option for people who are comfortable using social media, but the format may challenge those who are unfamiliar with it.

Finally, online consignment stores like The RealReal and Vestiaire Collection are great options for vintage designer clothing. Both websites are very safe, and they authenticate their items, but they run on the pricier side.

Shopping second-hand can seem daunting at first, but it gets easier when you get used to it, and have a chance to come up with your own tips and strategies. This guide should give you a good start, but the most important thing you can do is experiment and find out what fits into your life best. Doing this will make your second-hand shopping experience both sustainable and fun!

By Julia Krushelnycky

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