Secondhand Shopping Tips

Secondhand Shopping Tips

Secondhand Shopping Tips

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.

Negotiate //

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.

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  • I pretty much shop second hand exclusively. These are all great tips and tricks. I haven’t bought on ebay or online second hand as much since I like to touch things before I buy them…but I will look into this.

    • Yay for shopping secondhand! It can be a bit of risk buying something you haven’t touched, but being able to ask the seller questions has kept me from making purchases that I’d regret.

  • Great tips! You can sometimes find the best items shopping second-hand, and unique ones at that. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for stopping by! Glad you found the tips helpful! 🙂

  • Really great tips! I definitely score a number of my designer pieces from Consignment. I tend to like to go into shops in comparison to shopping consignment online only because I really like to insect the item, especially if it’s shoes or clothing. I have sold and purchased though on a number of sites and do think it’s a great way to get amazing closet staples without having to spend an arm and a leg!
    xo, Laura
    Have Need Want

    • Inspecting an item in person is definitely helpful. Often times I will ask a seller to take more detailed photos for me and that tends to help when buying online. Have a great day, Laura!

  • Great tips! I 100% agree on patience!
    -Lee Anne

    • Patience is definitely key. Have a wonderful week!

  • These are all great tips! I love getting great pieces at great prices, but you are so right the patience comes into play!

  • “Don’t even start looking until you know what you’re looking for.” <—Such a great tip! I try to abide by this all the time when I shop and it has saved me so much time!

    Keep smiling!
    Molly |

  • I definitely think it is worth it to alter/repair when buying a great quality item online because the price is lower! I often find things on mega sale and will get them altered to have a higher quality fit too!

  • I haven’t tried shopping secondhand online yet – in stores all the time. I will have to give some of your ideas a try 🙂

    • Glad you found the tips helpful! Hope they end up working well for you.

  • I love secondhand shopping online! Hands down the best deals around. Poshmark is my favorite. You can score some gently pre loved items for mind blowing prices.

    • Poshmark is the best! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  • Love your suggestions of patience. I think way too often women buy things that is almost right, but not quiet. Or things they think will work but never really do. And all because they didn’t take the time to sit back and look/shop/wait for the perfect piece to come along. – Katy

    • Exactly! Impulsive and spontaneous purchases are almost never a good idea. But saving up and waiting for the right thing almost always pays off in the end.

  • Love all of these tips! I’ve never purchased anything second hand as far as clothing and would love to start. I so often think about what happens with all the clothes that people don’t want and of course they would end up in the landfill! I feel so silly for not even thinking about that. I am striving to live a minimalist lifestyle as well to not only save money but to have less clutter and stress in my life! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Hello Cristin! So glad you enjoyed the tips! I started buying secondhand when I started to strive to live a more minimalist lifestyle too.

  • Great tips! I feel like a sucker when I see second hand instagram clothing shops that have all these cute clothes… I have to hold myself back! haha! a

    • Those Instagram Secondhand Clothing Shops are amazing!

  • I think for me I would prefer to see and feel the physical condition first before buying second hand things… We have many flea markets, car boot sales and thrift shops here for people to sell their pre-loved things, you can almost always end up finding a gem there…

    • Flea markets are fantastic for that! I don’t mind ordering online, but I have a lot of friends, who, like you, need to see a piece of clothing in person before making the purchase.

  • I am going to check poshmark out. I use for my kids stuff and LOVE it. They are very picky about what they accept so I know what I get will be well cared for! Great tips!

    • It’s so good to know that a site is picky so you know that the secondhand clothing is going to be top-notch quality.

  • Great tips!
    I have purchased clothing off of eBay and Posh and always had great experiences.
    I will keep these tips in mind for next time I do this.

    xoxo, Jenny

    • Awesome! Thanks for stopping by, Jenny! 🙂

  • These are great tips. I have a girlfriend that scores amazing finds at second hand store. I felt like I never could. But, if she goes in knowing what she’s looking for, wait until she finds it and checks multiple places like you are saying it makes a ton of sense why she’s nailing it. I just walk in. Thanks for the tips!

    • You’re welcome! So glad the tips are helpful! And yes, it always helps to know exactly what you’re looking for.

  • This is a great list. I am working on reducing the amount of clothes I “consume” and like the idea of 2nd hand, as applicable!

    • Secondhand is definitely a great way to reduce our consumption of clothing. Thanks for saying hi, Amanda!

  • Love shopping second hand, the thrill of finding something amazing t such low prices. I will definitely be checking out poshmark I have heard quite some good reviews about them. Nice tips btw

    • There is certainly the thrill of a treasure hunt while secondhand shopping. And the low prices are an amazing bonus!

  • The bulk of my wardrobe is made up of secondhand clothing. I usually buy at the flea market or thrift stores though. I did try a couple of online sites but got overwhelmed quickly. These tips will be helpful the next time I try.

    Also I’ll have to share this post with my sister. I know she uses ThredUp, but not sure if she knows about Poshmark.

    • Yay for secondhand wardrobes! So glad that you’ve found ways that work for you and I hope that your sister is able to find some amazing things through Poshmark. 🙂

  • I have never shopped second hand clothes, I know I could really save so much money no! I will definitely take your awesome tips into account and give second hand shopping a try, thank you so much for sharing such posts to inspire me to do things I wouldn’t otherwise 🙂
    xx, Kusum |

  • These are great tips! I love buying quality pieces secondhand! <3

  • These are great tips! Although I should be cutting down on online shopping, not doing it more!

  • I am loving this list! I am a huge fan of thrift store shopping. I have never done it online though so this is a great list!

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