I love second-hand and consignment shopping, but many people I know have never gotten into it. This seems like a shame to me. Shopping second hand is a great way to get amazing pieces at a fraction of their original cost. Plus, it’s great for the world–I’m currently feeling very inspired by Emma Watson’s ethical fashion Instagram account. When you buy used you’re embracing the tenants of the EPA’s three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Anyway, let me step off of my soapbox and get down to business. Here are my five favorite ways to get the most out of consignment shopping.
1. Find the Right Place to Shop
Right off the bat, let me be as transparent as possible: ThredUp contacted me and asked me to do a post. They gave me a $30 shopping stipend. But let me assure you, while this is a sponsored post, I love ThredUp and have shopped there many times with no stipend at all. They’re a fabulous online consignment store, and here’s why:
- They let you save your sizes, including pants sizes, bra sizes, small/medium/large sizes, numbered sizes, you name it. As soon as you start searching for a particular type of clothing you can immediately filter out anything that won’t fit you. So. Nice.
- They let you save your favorite brands. This is key. Shopping brands you know and trust is a huge part of being successful with consignment shopping, and being able to turn on a filter that will eliminate any brand you’re not interested in with one click is hugely helpful.
- They take quality photos of the garments they sell and provide helpful details on whether the item is basically brand new or a bit worn and faded.
- They have a huge array of items and are constantly updating their offerings, so things never get stale.
- They take great care to send you a nicely put together package (complete with tissue paper). All the garments are clean, nicely folded, and many have the retailers original tag.
2. Narrow Your Search
The first thing many people feel when shopping consignment or second hand (online or in store) is overwhelmed. There are simply so many options, so many types of garments, so much stuff! I think this feeling alone turns a lot of people off from consignment shopping, but I have a handy solution: only shop for one garment type at a time. This will take the amount of items to shop through down to a manageable number. When I was putting together this post, I narrowed my search down to skirts–my wardrobe needs a bit of help in that department. I spent some time thinking about what type of skirts I was after. When I had a good idea in my head, I went to ThredUp’s skirt section, applied the filters for my sizes and my favorite brands. This narrowed it down quite a bit–I got down to something like 15 pages of results, which felt doable.
3. Order a Ton of Stuff
I can’t emphasize this enough. With consignment, whether it’s in-store or online, you have to be willing to try on a lot of stuff and weed out the duds. Very often a garment that you think should look great will just not fit quite right, will run large or small, or will end up with stains or fading you didn’t notice (though ThredUp takes care of a lot of that for you). For example, I ordered 17 skirts from ThredUp and I kept 4. I think you can reasonably expect to end up keeping about 25% of what you order. What that means is that you have to be willing to spend a little time going through all the results for your narrowed down search and order a lot of stuff with the intention of returning most of it. At ThredUp, they charge a flat fee for returns (it’s free if you do store credit), so you don’t have to worry about expensive shipping costs for returning a heavy package.
4. Be Aggressive About Your “Nope” Pile
This may be the single most important of my five tips. I can’t tell you how many items I’ve purchased second hand thinking “I can fix this,” or “I can take this dress in,” or “I can hem this,” or “I can remove this stain,” or “I have nothing to wear with this but I’ll build an outfit around it.” For almost all of those items, I never did fix, take in, hem, or clean them. They simply sat in my closet until the guilt I felt about taking them to Goodwill waned enough for me to give them away. If you find yourself thinking anything like the above while trying on your items, immediately toss them in the “nope” pile. Be merciless.
5. Never Buy Unreturnable or Final Sale Items
I have a confession. I made this mistake with this purchase. I bought this skirt on final sale thinking that there was no way it wouldn’t work out. It didn’t work out. It looks silly and weird on me and now I’m stuck with a skirt I don’t want and feel guilty about donating. Don’t fall into the “I’m sure this will look good” trap, lest you end up like me. Incidentally, does anyone want this skirt? I’ll give it away for free–lord knows I don’t want it.
So what skirts did I keep? Check them out below! I included the brand and the sizing with each so you can see which brands and sizes I tend to shop.
↑ White House Black Market – XS
↑ Ann Taylor – Size S
↑ Ann Taylor – Size 4
↑ J.Crew Factory – Size 4
Update! ThredUp is currently running a promotion featuring J.Crew. Use the code JCREW50 for 50% off J.Crew items for first time purchases, discount up to $50.