My best tips for shopping secondhand
Some people just don’t like shopping secondhand. It’s true that it can be frustrating and overwhelming to walk into any shop when you have no idea what you’re going to find. But there are so many amazing benefits to shopping secondhand, for our wallets and for the planet. When we buy used, we save money (obviously), rescue something that was possibly on its way to the landfill or to a third world country to disrupt their economy, and we score something unique without having to purchase a new item with a freshly minted carbon footprint. Its a win-win-win!
If you’re new to shopping secondhand (at thrift stores or vintage shops), I want to share my ten best tips for making it a success.
1. The best stuff will be in the stores in the best parts of town. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something a lot of people don’t consider. Although used items do travel to different stores, the majority of donations are going to stay at the store they were dropped off at. If you live in New York for example, it’s worth it to make the trek to thrift stores in the more affluent parts of city like the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, SoHo, etc. I used to live around the corner from the UES Goodwill and Housingworks and Oh. My. God. The deals... If you’re not sure where your town’s thrift stores are, let this awesome website direct you. Check out Yelp reviews to get an idea of the best shops to try.
2. Understand that thrift store shopping is very hit or miss. Did you spend an hour or more in the store only to leave totally empty-handed? It happens. But your next trip might be full of cold hard scores, so don’t give up.
3. Found a favorite store? Figure out the best times to visit. Talking to the employees might reveal some great information, like that they put out new items every Thursday morning. A lot of avid thrifters do this, and they’re the ones getting first dibs.
4. Shop the mens’ section and other sections that might not seem obvious. I pick up all my perfectly broken-in Levi’s 501 jeans and high quality oversize buttondown shirts in the mens’ section, and my all-time favorite score is an authentic Chanel tweed mini dress from the Halloween costume section of my local Savers!! (Coco Chanel is rolling in her grave...)
5. Just because it’s a good deal and you kinda like it doesn’t mean you need to buy it. The cheap price tag can easily cloud your judgement, but stop and ask yourself, is this something I would consider even if it was full price? Is this high quality enough to be worth washing and caring for it? If you’re unsure, move on.
6. That said, just because it’s a high-end brand name doesn’t mean you need to buy it. When I first discovered my aforementioned UES Goodwill, I bought everything and anything that had a luxury brand name, just because I assumed I was getting the deal of a lifetime. Eventually I realized that I didn’t actually like a lot of that stuff. I had just been blinded by the high end label. Be thoughtful when purchasing anything, and don’t be afraid to be discerning.
7. If it’s truly a great find but doesn’t fit, consider getting it altered. I usually don’t buy anything that needs altering, because 90% of the time I end up never actually taking it in for alterations. But once in awhile if something is truly special, it is worth it. A good tailor can hem a skirt or pants, take in the waist of a dress, and shorten or lengthen the sleeves of a jacket for a fair price. Just make sure it’s not a top that’s too big in the shoulders (unless it’s really special). Changing the shoulder seams can run you around $100.
8. Check out the care tag before you buy it. This is usually on the inside left hand side of a garment, a few inches from the hem. If it has special needs, like dry-cleaning, ask yourself if you’re willing to care for it properly.
9. Don’t buy anything with a stain. If the item has a big visible stain and you think oh, I can probably get that out, think again. Chances are the original owner already tried and failed, and that’s why it was donated. That said, some things get donated just because of a simple rip or missing button that the owner wasn’t willing to deal with. Any dry cleaner or tailor (or watching a YouTube tutorial) will be able to help you fix the blemish.
10. If you’d just rather stay home, then did you know Goodwill has a website and the prices are insane?!? You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.
I hope this has made you a little more confident to tackle the world of thrift store shopping. If everyone did a little more secondhand shopping in lieu of always purchasing new, imagine the impact!!
[photo from thetab.com]