If you follow me on Instagram, used me as your wardrobe stylist or ever talked about shopping with me you have probably heard me mention secondhand shopping a time or two before!
I LOVE it and have shopped secondhand since I started walking...honestly! My mom was a huge secondhand shopper and taught me how from a very young age to love it, so now I don't even think twice about buying something secondhand as gross or overwhelming. I actually go to secondhand options before buying traditional retail when I can. I personally love the hunt and love the opportunity to find something unexpected.
But, I have had tons of friends and even clients that would rather put needles in their eyes than even walk through the thrift or consignment store...
As an adult if you have never been in a secondhand store it can be a tad overwhelming and even kinda weird since it is NOT the traditional shopping experience you expect when you go somewhere like a mall, boutique or department store. Sometimes secondhand shopping is a lil rough around the edges and there might be a little bit of a stanky smell going on but it can also be a gold mine. I have found unbelievable vintage dresses, cashmere sweaters with tags still on, the PERFECT leather booties, gold jewelry, Levi's denim jackets, awesome designer leather bags and even amazing home goods that are unique, high-end that I have had + loved for years.
Secondhand shopping isn't really for the inpatient or faint of heart. You gotta be super open, willing to dig, willing to alter as needed, willing to not judge and understand that it is a shopping experience that is just different than the one you are used to. Sometimes you hit the jackpot and other times it sucks and you find nothing at the end. It is all about having fun with the process and being open!
As you may know, secondhand shopping is growing unlike never before. It is becoming a huge industry within the fashion industry and paving a new path for shopping. It is changing the perspective of shopping for the masses by making us think about the full cycle of an item's life and its value. It is a standard (addition to the) solution for shopping sustainable and keeping clothing from ending up in the ocean, landfills or dumped in other countries where we think we are doing "good" but we are actually hurting their local economies.
The secondhand industry isn't perfect (cus nothing is) and there are some sucky things about it, but it is a great way to help us think about clothing differently (which I am all about).
Clothing has gotten to the point where the majority of people unknowingly fall into a cycle (aka trap) of fast fashion. They buy cheap crap, it falls apart, they buy more of the same cheap crap, it falls apart and it goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. This cycle has become the norm for us. We don't even realize how messed up that actually is and how wasteful it is. Since clothing is so cheap we don't realize how much of our hard earned money is wasted on it or even how much it affects our personal style, home, storage or self confidence. Clothing should be looked at more as an investment than it currently is.
We also all tend to own more clothes then ever before, but aren't happier or feel any more special when wearing any of them. The cheap crap doesn't fit us well, doesn't let our skin breathe and because it is so cheap we tend to diminish its value and unconsciously think of it as disposable. It is not that we are literally in the front of mind thinking "This shirt will be trash tomorrow, no big deal" but we just don't cherish, repair, alter or value our clothing like we once did. We think just because it is cheap that there is no point to care what happens to it and therefore, we tend to not be intentional about it.
You know what I mean, we have alllllll done it "Oh that top was only $10 it doesn't matter if it gets ruined tonight"....but when you really think about it, it realllyyyyy DOES matter because it still takes up just as much space in the world and took just as much energy and resources as a designer top that costs $200. We just value it differently because of its price tag. I am not saying that the $10 shirt from Zara is the same as the $200 designer top in all ways of course, but they still take up just as much space in the world, so one shouldn't be cared for differently than the other.
Think about how if the $10 top ends up being thrown out a month into its life then that object used alllll of that energy/resources to make, you used your money to buy it and then it only gets a month of life?! Just because you "throw it away" doesn't mean it actually goes away - it still exists in the world and can still create damage after it's time with you.
Secondhand shopping is one of the awesome options for making fashion more circular and sustainable which is awesome and just another reason that makes it so great!
So, let's start with breaking down exactly what some of your options are when it comes to secondhand shopping and where you can shop!
WHAT KIND OF SECONDHAND SHOPPING OPTIONS ARE THERE?
- Online (high-end/designer, name brand, trendy etc) Online has a ton of options and I have a feeling this will become an even bigger existence in the next few years. You can shop websites like The REALREAL, ThredUp, Ebay, LePrix, Mercari, Refashioner and even Etsy.
*I also think renting clothing falls into this category kinda because it gives clothing longer lives and is technically kinda "used" >>> Websites such as Rent the Runway or LeTote.
- Apps: Poshmark, Tradseys, Depop etc //
> I personally use Poshmark most often. I have gotten it down! I get lots of Free People, silk, amazing boots, bags, All Saints leather moto jacket, dresses, jeans etc.
If I want something super specific such as Levi's Ribcage wide leg jean I go here before shopping it new. I can get it for a lot less and you can bargain with the seller. I have found some AWESOME pieces on here that are some of my favs of my wardrobe now.
I of course have had some purchases that sucked, but 8 out of 10 times it is great.
Now, it isn't the easiest app to navigate at first and it isn't very much fun to browse and isn't aesthetically pleasing in its design but it works once you get the hang of it. Again, I save it for when I am looking some something superrrr specific and don't just browse through it.
~ Be patient and enjoy the hunt ~
- Resale/Consignment stores - a sorta nicer version of Goodwill but not curated well and feels kidna old ladyish. I don't usually go to these places to be honest. I feel like they are too close to the Goodwill vibe but are twice as much so I usually save that sorta shopping trip for actual Goodwill.
Now, that doesn't mean I wont try new ones out or even bring things there to sell ever. I have found some gems in places like this before but it isn't my first choice.
- Curated Consignment boutiques: Places like, Buffalo Exchange, Platos Closet, small locally owner places.
I LOVE a good, clean well curated consignment store! When you find a good one stick to it!
I am beyond a regular at my local consignment store (in Old Saybrook, CT - Fantasia). I have purchased tags still on or very gently worn cashmere, Lululemon, Beyond Yoga, Eileen Fisher, silk, jeans, gold plated jewelry, amazing bags & shoes and more. I look here for awesome staples and statement pieces often.
- Thrift Stores: This type of store is like Goodwill or Salvation Army.
This kind of shopping is fun and you neverrrr know what you are going to get, but it is not the cleanest feeling option for secondhand shopping.
I personally just don't think about it and wash my hands as soon as I get home and wash or dry clean all of the clothing I get from there immediately. Once it is washed I never think about the fact that it came from Goodwill again. That is helpful - I just look at is an another piece to the puzzle that makes up my wardrobe once it is all clean!
I look for unusual statement items here like a funky blazer I can cut the shoulder pads out of (or not lol), a silk blouse, leather belt or fun skirt. I avoid basics here - I don't look through the plain t-shirts or anything because I personally just don't think it is the place for it. I think investing in nice quality/new basics or basics from a curated consignment store is a better way to go.
I also pay attention to my body type and what would work for me. Although this would be a great place to find some cool, vintagey style "mom" jeans for example, my bod just doesn't work with that look and I avoid looking through their jeans. I have bought 90's mom jeans and turned them into shorts though, but that isn't my usual go to place. If you are 5'7" and long and lean than looking through their jeans might be awesome for you. It all depends on the person and their personal style!
PRO TIP: I love going to thrift stores that are near places where a lot of rich people live...sounds funny, but rich people drop all their unwanted NICEEE $h*t off and then I get to scoop it up! I have found some mind blowingly awesome finds that people are shocked to hear I got from Goodwill. Just gotta be in the mood to hunt and again, go on the proper days & be open to the process!
- Vintage Stores: Usually very curated and a lil bit pricey. Sometimes vintage stores can be hard to shop in because things don't feel like things you can wear in your everyday life, the fit is much different than modern fit but again it all depends on the store!
It also kind of depends on your personal style for what you would buy and not buy here. I love looking for unusual accessories, bags, jackets or dresses here.
SECONDHAND SHOPPING TIPS:
#1: Be open & Patient
understand it isn't the same shopping experience as the mall and that is OK! Just make sure you are looking at it through a different lens than traditional shopping.
If you are shopping in person make sure you are hydrated and feeling good. Secondhand shopping is no place for a grumpy hangry - dehydrated person. You will get discouraged and frustrated and it will ruin your experience/outcome!
#2: Make a mental list of what you don't need!
Since things are less expensive here it can be easy to fall into the same cycle as the fast fashion cycle I explained before. Make sure you take note before you go of what you don't need and what you do need! If you find a skirt you like but you don't need anymore skirts, skip the skirts and look at the jackets or sweaters instead!
#3: Find what works for you!
Not all secondhand shopping experiences are for you and that is OK! Find what does work for you and stick to that. Don't force yourself to suffer through Goodwill if you hate the experience. Stick to shopping secondhand online or find a great curated consignment boutique instead!
#4: Understand your style & your wardrobe before you go + Think outside the box!
Try to be more intentional about what you consume in general. Think about your wardrobe as a whole and what it could benefit from having added to it.
Think about your personal style and what works for it!
If you find a funky silk blouse that is 10 sizes too big for you but you can see yourself wearing it off the shoulder with leather pants, statement earring and a bold boot than rock it!!
Secondhand shopping can open your mind to new possibilities and new ways of wearing things you may not have thought of before. Get creative with it!
I get a lot of questions on how to not look dated when shopping secondhand - I always say: It allllll depends on your personal style and how you style it!
You can find unique pieces secondhand, but you just have to have a good understanding of your personal style before diving in. Unlike fast fashion where it feeds you constant trends and you follow those trends blindly - shopping secondhand gives you the ability to shop based on you and what you like!
I personally buy things all the time that are probably considered dated but I style them in ways that make them feel superrrrr modern. Like if I wear an oversized blazer with shoulder pads for example > I would pair this will big gold hoop earrings, straighten my curly hair, where a silk mini dress under, wear sheer black tights and very modern black pointy booties. This way I look unique and like me and it doesn't make you think of the 1980's lol
Have fun with it and use the inexpensiveness & flexibility to experiment a bit!
#5: Don't be afraid to alter an item to make it PERFECT!
Since you are shopping for less you can invest in the piece a little more after you purchase it. It it needs a good hemming, new buttons or a new zipper, but you really love it get it and invest a little bit more money in it to make it perfect for you!
I do this all the time with second hand stuff and it makes the items even that much more special because then they fit me and look exactly how I want them to!
#6: Be thoughtful/picky in what you buy!
Just because it is on it's second or third life with you doesn't mean you shouldn't be thoughtful when you purchase items!
Make sure you really love the item you buy it and that you can see the potential for your outfits and wardrobe as a whole after you purchase it.
I would suggest avoiding buying cheap brands like HM, Forever 21, Target etc etc secondhand. There is always an exception to the rule here and I don't want to discourage something from the chance at a second try at life but just be picky in what you choose.
Still pay attention to the quality, fabric contents and how it fits/feels on you! I still try to avoid polyester and shoot for finding silk for a fraction of the cost!
#7: Use it as a way to always have new
As a shopping lover myself I know how hard it is to not impulse buy, shop from fast fashion places or rake through every sale in the mall.
That is why I sell to buy.
This helps me really understand the value of the future clothing I buy and even think about how much something will be worth after my time with it.
I sell my unwanted clothing and then save up the earnings to invest in better items later. I have done this to buy all new quality workout gear, update specific items or shop new pieces to make my wardrobe better as a whole.
This is also a great way to create a more sustainable habit for yourself and avoid the impulse shopping!
Hope this was helpful & has you thinking about secondhand shopping in a new way!
If you have any questions at all or if you would like to share your experience with me I would LOVE to hear it! Please reach out via social media or email!
Georgia Caroline // RUBA RUBA