Shopping secondhand, whether in a thrift store or online, can at times be overwhelming if you have never done it before, or if you don’t do it often. It takes practice to get comfortable with buying used clothing, but the beauty is, you never know what you will discover, which is what makes the experience so unique and fun! Here are some tips to help you navigate your way through secondhand shopping and find great pieces you’ll love and cherish for years to come.
Take Your Time and Be Patient
Every secondhand store (whether online or in-person) has its own unique layout and is not as neatly organized as traditional fashion stores due to the many styles, colours, and sizes of garments. It takes time and patience to sift through it all and find something special. You should make sure you have the time to get familiar with the store and browse carefully. You might also want to look at the size up or down from what you typically wear in case it was put back incorrectly. If you only have 5 minutes or are in a hurry, then secondhand shopping is best to wait for another time.
I recommend having a plan in mind before going shopping, especially if you’re looking for something specific, and dedicate at least one hour to browsing. Another tip is to set aside time each week or each month to visit your favourite secondhand store, as new pieces are being donated on a regular basis and there is plenty of turnover. You may not immediately find what you’re looking for, but trust me, once you do find that perfect piece, it will be so worth the wait!
Be a Conscious Secondhand Consumer
Second-hand clothing tends to be less expensive than new clothing, and therefore, you are more likely to be tempted to buy more than you need. We have all seen the excessive Shein hauls on social media and are aware of how damaging they are both from an environmental and social perspective, but ‘thrift hauls’ can bring some damage of their own. Consider the environmental impacts of the packaging, cleaning, and footprint that are associated with getting your secondhand item to you (especially if purchased online). If we are buying these items on a regular basis, we are fuelling this overconsumption and turning a once sustainable alternative into an unsustainable one very quickly. Therefore, it’s important to be a conscious secondhand consumer – meaning only buy what you need or buy versatile, timeless items that you can pair with pieces already in your closet. Make sure to take an inventory of your wardrobe before going shopping in order to only purchase items you really need.
Know Your Measurements
We all know how frustrating it can be to find your size at regular fashion stores, but it’s a whole other ball game when it comes to secondhand clothes. This is especially true with vintage or European sizing, which is very different from US/Canadian sizes (see size chart below). Therefore, it comes in handy to know not only your size, but your exact measurements (bust, waist, hips) especially if you’re secondhand shopping online, or if you don’t have access to a change room. I recommend measuring a piece of clothing you already own that fits you well and either bringing tailor’s tape with you if you’re shopping in-store or asking the seller for the exact measurements if you’re shopping online.
Have Imagination & Consider Your Unique Style
Be sure to bring your creativity when you are shopping secondhand! The lighting in stores may not be the most flattering and the merchandise set-up may not be ideal, so try to envision what each piece would look like with your existing wardrobe, shoes, or accessories. If you don’t know what your style is, then second-hand stores are a perfect place to find out! You will have an array of styles and prints from different decades to choose from, and you won’t be restricted to the current trends found in most fast fashion stores. And as a bonus, it’s very unlikely that you will end up wearing the same thing as someone else!
Consider joining Secondhand September and commit to buying only secondhand items for 30 days in the month of September. Use the hashtags #SecondHandSeptember with any secondhand item you buy to spread awareness, help reduce the harmful effects of fast fashion, and refresh your wardrobe without costing the earth.
Written by: Elle Magana Mireles