Does secondhand shopping online seem overwhelming and complicated? Then read on to discover some of my favorite tips and tricks.
When I began to curate my capsule wardrobe and decided to invest in quality instead of quantity, I was determined to do it in a sustainable and ethical way. In the past few months, I have grown increasingly concerned and upset by the fast fashion industry and I couldn’t justify buying something from a company that uses sweatshops and slave labor (but more on that in a future post.) In an effort to create a wardrobe that harms nothing and no one, I decided to shop from ethical companies and secondhand.
Purchasing an item secondhand is sustainable and saves it from becoming just another piece of waste in a landfill. It’s also cost-effective. Whenever a piece of brand-new clothing is purchased, even if it’s from an ethical or eco-friendly company, that purchase requires packaging, processing and shipping – all of which add to the massive amounts of waste created by the fashion industry each year. It takes 900 gallons of water to create a pair of jeans as compared to the zero gallons it takes to buy jeans secondhand. Fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world after oil and agriculture and Americans throw away over 14 million tons of textiles every year. Out of all of those discards, only about 15% get resold or recycled.
This is why I make an effort to shop secondhand whenever I can. A lot of people are familiar with common thrifting practices at thrift stores and goodwill. Shopping for secondhand clothing online, though, seems confusing and daunting when you’re just starting out so I’m going to share some of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned.
Make a list //
This is an easy step for those of us who have capsule wardrobes. However, for those of you who don’t, when you go through your closet, identify any gaps or missing pieces. This will save you so much time so you don’t spend hours browsing through pictures of thousands of listings online.
Know what you need. A new pair of jeans? A pencil skirt for work? A cozy pullover sweater? Don’t even start looking until you know what you’re looking for. Otherwise you will get lost in the depths of clothes for sale and end up making spontaneous purchases that you don’t really need.
Be as detailed as possible //
That new pair of jeans you need? Are you searching for bootcut or skinny? Light wash or dark wash? What size and inseam? And that sweater? What color would best match the other items in your wardrobe? Did you have a particular brand in mind that you know fits you well and makes good-quality clothes?
For example, let’s talk about a secondhand Madewell dress I bought. I don’t purchase Madewell clothing new because there are some ethical concerns that I have with the company (that is owned by J. Crew) but I know that, if I purchase secondhand, I am saving a piece from ending up in a landfill. Madewell used to make a comfy and versatile dress called “The Sweatshirt Dress” that I looked for for a long time. My search terms weren’t “Gray Dress,” “Madewell,” or even “Madewell Dress” because I knew that I would have to weed through hundreds of listings. My search was for “Madewell Gray Sweatshirt Dress” and, after a few weeks, I found a used one on eBay and got a like-new dress for a tremendous discount.
All of that to say, be as detailed as possible. It always helps.
Patience is key //
When I purchased my secondhand leather jacket, I had to wait for over a month as I negotiated with the seller and waited for her to get back to me and be able to ship the item. And that was after at least three months of searching and waiting and not being able to find anything that fit my search criteria.
When secondhand shopping online, you have to be willing to be patient. eBay has an amazing feature where you can save a search so you’ll get emailed if someone lists something that you are searching for and I would definitely recommend taking advantage of that service so you can be notified with your waiting as paid off.
Check multiple sources //
When I identify some key piece that I am missing in my wardrobe, I will add it to my list, do a lot of research to be able determine the most specific search criteria that I can, and then I will check all of my secondhand shopping sources.
First, I check Poshmark. I’ve had the most success buying (and selling!) on the Poshmark app. The items tend to be a bit pricier, but I love being able to communicate and negotiate with sellers and ask as many questions as I have before making a purchase. (If you download the Poshmark app and use the code PNMUF to sign up, you get $10 to spend!)
Next, I’ll check eBay. eBay is massive and overwhelming, but, if you have specific search terms, you can find exactly what you are looking for.
If I can’t find what I’m looking for on either Poshmark or eBay, I will try ThredUp. I’ll be honest with you, searching for anything on ThredUp is incredibly frustrating. Specific searches lead nowhere, so I find that it works best for me if I just browse a certain brand in my size. I’ve found some steals through ThredUp, but just be aware that it takes more time and patience to weed through their inventory.
This isn’t an option with ThredUp but I negotiate on Poshmark and eBay all the time. When I see an item I am interested in, the first thing I do is contact the seller asking any questions I have. Then, on Poshmark, I’ll make an offer. If I’m on eBay and there is no Best Offer available, I’ll message the seller asking if they’d consider one. I’ve had several back-and-forths with sellers that have sometimes lasted several days before we reach an agreement, but that’s how I manage to get the best deals wen secondhand shopping online.
Be willing to alter and repair //
I am not a seamstress. However, when shopping online, you have to know that the item you receive might not fit properly and may have slight flaws. I ordered a sweater from Poshmark and, when it arrived, the seam at the top of the slit in the side had come undone a bit. It wasn’t obviously visible and that’s how the seller missed it, but took me only five minutes to fix with a needle and some yarn and it was totally worth it. Another example is a pair of Made in the USA Levi jeans that I got for $10. They were too long on me so I took them to get altered professionally. Now they are perfect.
In conclusion //
Online secondhand shopping can seem overwhelming as you try and weed through countless battered, stained, and poor-quality cast-offs. However, if you are willing to do your research and be patient, you can give some gently pre-loved times of clothing a new home, save them from ending up in a landfill, and reduce your consumption by not buying something brand-new.
Do you shop secondhand?
What are some of your online secondhand shopping tips?
Keep a lookout for my upcoming post on issues with the fast fashion industry and my manageable and realistic tips for how find ethically-made clothing.