how to shop second-hand online

Let’s talk shop. 

So you miss the thrift store and want to try second-hand shopping online? Great, there’s an almost unlimited market just waiting for you to dive in. But with so many options right at your fingertips, the shopping process can sometimes feel overwhelming. Unlike physical stores, online thrift stores don’t have a clear beginning and end, making it easy to miss out on hidden gems.

The following tips & tricks are designed to help you easily navigate the digital second-hand market and find more opportunities to incorporate used clothing into your wardrobe. 

WHERE TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

First, you need to know where to look. After getting acquainted with the offerings and format of each of the following apps, you’ll be able to decide where to focus your time and monaaay.

What you’ll find: Each app has its own niche. Some offer more mainstream brands, others luxury or streetwear. Get to know each app’s “vibe” and use those observations to avoid information-overload. 

Consignment vs. direct-to-seller: Consignment means the items for sale have gone through quality control & authentication. In direct-to-seller, the seller lists and manages their items independently. This process will affect the cost of what you’re buying. Consignment typically is more expensive because it’s been vetted by a third party.  

Buy, Barter, or Trade: Apps sell their products in different ways. Bartering usually gives you a better price than buying outright. And if you decide to sell on any of these apps, trading with another seller could get you a mutually beneficial deal. 

Restocks: Second-hand stores don’t follow typical inventory. That makes striking while the iron’s hot and checking back regularly critical to finding the items you’re after. 

Poshmark – The People Pleaser 

  • What you’ll find: Caters to major brands like Madewell, Everlane, Zara as well as some sustainable brands, like Eileen Fisher and Girlfriend Collective 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Barter & Trade 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Be cautious when buying designer brands. Unless you spend above $500, items aren’t authenticated by the app. Also, note that ‘boutiques’ are not always second-hand, so do your research before buying!

Depop – The Rebel with a Cause 

  • What you’ll find: Streetwear brands & vintage
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy, Trade & Barter
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Going in with some knowledge of obscure brands will help you navigate the app 

ThredUp – The Cool Mom 

  • What you’ll find: Popular mid-range brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Great for basics, but not as many interesting statement pieces 

Etsy – The Girl Who Doesn’t Wear Labels 

  • What you’ll find: Eclectic styles, hand-made clothing & vintage 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Varies by seller 
  • Wise words: Try finding sellers you like & following them to narrow down your options

Curtsy – The IT Girl 

  • What you’ll find: Trendy styles & popular brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Direct-to-seller  
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy & Barter 
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet  
  • Wise words: Not as many high-quality/long-lasting brands available 

The Real Real – The Luxe Lady 

  • What you’ll find: Authenticated luxury & designer brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: Yes! If an item has sold, you can sign up to be notified when it’s restocked 
  • Wise words: Pricey compare to other second-hand sites 

Lovanie – The Sustainable Sister 

  • What you’ll find: Sustainable brands 
  • Consignment or direct-to-seller: Consignment 
  • Buy, Barter or Trade: Buy
  • Restock Waitlist: No, checking back is your best bet
  • Wise words: The site is new & in Beta testing 

HOW TO SHOP SECOND-HAND ONLINE

Unless you have incredible patience, apps are not necessarily a great place to browse. To find the right pieces, try going in with a gameplan. This will prevent you from buying things you don’t need and help you cut through the clutter. 

Brands & styles 

Go through your closet. What brands do you have the most of? Which fit you best? What styles do you wear most often? Many of these apps do not accept returns unless the item you bought is damaged. That makes it all the more important to feel confident that what you’re getting will work for you.  

Want list 

If you follow brands on IG or email, you probably have a sense of what they’re selling each season. When you spot a new item you like, copy & paste the name into any of the app(s) to see if you can find it gently used & nicely priced. You’d be surprised just how often you can find what you’re looking for. 

Search Terms 

Know the correct names of styles by doing some research beforehand and you’ll be able to weed through options more quickly. 

Size(s) 

Each of the apps lets you create a size range. To allow for some wiggle room, I recommend you set this feature to your size, slightly smaller, and slightly larger. 

Colors 

Pictures can distort colors. Always ask questions or, better yet, try to find the item on its original brand website for a more accurate portrayal. 

Read the Reviews

If a listed item is still available on its original brand’s website, read the reviews before buying. The site will have more specifics on fit and quality to help you make a better informed purchase. 

Saved Searches & Waitlists 

Some apps let you save your searches. If you’re consistently on the lookout for something, using these in-app features can save time and ensure you’re first to know if an item you want is available. 

KEYS TO SECOND-HAND SUCCESS 

Persistence 

Listings can happen at any time, so if you really want something, check in regularly.  

Know an item’s true value 

Just like you’d negotiate your salary, know what you’re buying and how much it’s really worth. What was its original price? Does it have signs of wear? How much are similar items being sold for? Factor all this in to know you’re getting a fair price. 

Shop them all 

The more apps you use, the more likely you are to know what’s available, where to get the best deal, and which app you have the most success on. 

Know your dupes

Be cautious when buying designer brands direct-from-seller. There are tons of videos out there on how to spot luxury dupes that can help you do this. If you’re looking for a fool-proof purchase, remember The Real Real and ThredUp do authenticate and perform quality checks. 

Start on Google 

If you know the name of the item you’re looking for, try searching “Item name Used” into Google’s Shopping tab. From there, you can go directly to the apps selling that specific product. 

Avoid cheap brands 

Most second-hand clothing is preloved. That makes cheap, used pieces even more likely to be pilled or damaged by the time you get them. Unless it’s a style or color you’re obsessed with, I’d say leave cheap brands in the cart. 

Like & Favorite

It’s hard to remember everything you see when browsing. Use in-app saving features to your favor. Depending on the store, you’ll be notified about sales, price drops, and if something sells.  

Okay, you’re officially ready to shop! Give these tips a shot and let me know which work best for you! 

sustainability style: my 2020 glowup

I’ve been making the transition to a low-impact lifestyle for a little over a year now. I say “transition” because so much of this process is about me forming and settling into new habits, none of which happens overnight. It’s all a work in progress and no matter what, there always seems to be some room for improvement. 

Taking into account the past year’s downfalls and successes, here are six ways I’m reevaluating my lifestyle & consumer decisions to make an even greater impact in 2020: 

No more stockpiling

The daughter of a chronically overprepared woman, I was born into a world where there was always a reserve of household supplies. Lotion, toilet paper, the same shirts in black, white and red. There was never a shortage of anything—sometimes to a fault. 

As I got older and began to pick up my own buying habits, I kept up with stockpiling. From white blouses to the perfect mascara, I was obsessed with having more than enough of everything. Unfortunately, this too often meant loading up on something I’d just end up donating or throwing out because it was no longer cool, necessary, or had passed its expiration date. Wasted money. Wasted space. Wasted resources. 

I still love being prepared—I keep a lip balm in every one of my bags for christ’s sake. But this year, I’m trying not to cross the line into over-preparation…toilet paper being the only exception. 

No fast fashion. No exceptions.  

I’m normally really good at dodging unethical brands. But, admittedly, I did make a few exceptions while traveling abroad in 2019. Figuring in the reduced shipping distance (most of Spain’s Zara garments are made in Morocco and Turkey) and timeless design, I ended up bringing back a Zara belt, jacket, dress, and shearling coat on two separate occasions. Have I worn the items? Yes, absolutely. But, let’s be honest—I know better.

Although they’re not coming from China or another country notorious for poor working conditions, there’s no way those garments were made by healthy, well-compensated Turks or Moroccans. Zara uses the same production model across its factories and buying from any store is supporting unethical practices. 

In trying to reevaluate why and where I shop in 2020, I’m cutting ties with all fast fashion brands and instead, exclusively buying from second-hand shops and ethical labels. The ‘no exceptions’ thing is going to be tough. But if I can’t say no to a piece of clothing, knowing all I do about its negative impacts and even though most of the time I can afford to find an alternative, well, let’s just say I’m not loving what that’s saying about me.  

Cutting back 

In tandem with my oath to not shop fast fashion, I’ll also be cutting back on how much I buy. My goal is to limit shopping to one or two indulgent/non-necessity (new or used) per month. This could be clothing, housewares, technology—anything I could really live without but want nonetheless. I’m hoping this change will help me to stick closely to my monthly shopping budget and consistently force me to take into account what I already own. 

No more guilty gifting

When it comes to gifting, there’s enormous pressure to buy, buy, buy. I’ve had so many experiences, both on the gifting and receiving side, where quality has been sacrificed for quantity. For my birthday this year, one of my friends didn’t know what I needed or wanted. Instead of guessing, she got me a gift card to a zero-waste store. It was perfect. I got exactly what I wanted and didn’t have any extra stuff I didn’t need lying around after. 

Whether it’s weddings, birthdays, or baby showers, I’m choosing to no longer give in to the social pressures and instead get people fewer, better quality items and/or experiences. 

Bye, bye subscription boxes 

Causebox, it’s been fun. I’ve loved trying all the new products and reading about the different brands. But after regifting up to half of each box, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it. The thing about subscription boxes is that they let you try products you wouldn’t otherwise try…which probably means you didn’t need them in the first place. I love putting on a new lotion as much as the next girl, but by making my own beauty items or buying locally, I discover new brands without using or spending more than I really need to. 

Slowing down 

Instant message. Fast food. Our culture grooms us to expect everything now, right now. The problem is, the more we speed, the less time we have to really think about what we’re doing and, more importantly, why. Just last week, I found myself on a RayBan bender. I flew through Poshmark for hours, looking for THE PERFECT PAIR. In the past (reads: even a month ago), I would have closed the deal then and there just to satisfy the hungry consumer in my head. But I just couldn’t justify it. I have perfectly fine sunglasses. I could hate the way the style looked on me and not be able to send them back. Was I feeding into brandom? Bottom line—there were just too many cons and not nearly enough pros. 

Instant gratification feels great in the moment. It’s a buzz…until it’s not. The limelight of new items seems to fade for me after just a few uses. So rather than jump at the first fish I see, this year, I’m making a concerted effort to stop. Think. Then buy. This new mindset allows time to try to find an item used or of even better quality before ever reaching for my credit card.

thrifted ootd: 1 blazer. 5 ways.

With the holidays around the corner and winter already in full swing, I am in desperate need of a new wardrobe rotation. On a recent trip to Savers, I was searching through the racks of blazers, intending to find a nice nude or black, when I found this beautiful plaid number. Still wearing all its original tags ($168!) and in perfect condition, I knew she was coming home with me. And that $20 price tag (plus 20% off) sealed the deal. 

Blazers are the peanut butter & the jelly to any capsule wardrobe. Navy, black, corduroy, silk—they come in every variety and are ready to uplift virtually any closet. But when it comes to finding the right blazer, cut is everything. As much as I love Eliane, her blazer game, or lack thereof, had me skirting the garment for years. 

But as I’ve learned, the blazer doesn’t have to be all business. It can be fun, sporty—even chic. And best of all, it plays very, very well with others. Take a look, I think you’ll see what I mean. 

Look #1 

I’m a simple girl at heart. And nothing makes me happier than a subtle color palette. So for this outfit, I made sure it was architecture, not color, that spoke the loudest. I love the way this loose, playful jumper pairs with the structure and business of the blazer. Add a little bootie action and I’m ready to go to the office or the wine bar.  

Look #2

I’m all about layers, especially during the winter. When pairing similar shades, layering helps create some dimension and prevent grout-fit situations. The pointed leather boots keep this outfit sophisticated and still oh-so-very comfortable.

Look #3

Truth is, my legs won’t see the light of day until at least May. But for the sake of this post, I’ll skip the tights and pretend like its possible to wear this outfit in 35-degree weather. The Eileen Fisher chunky knit and denim skirt are already living so well together. The blazer just steps in to frame the overall look and finish it all off with a touch of maturity. 

Look #4

There’s an undeniable love affair happening between graphic tees and blazers. Men, women, even children rock the duo and nobody can complain because you really do look put together. In hot offices, the t-shirt’s perfect for layering up and down. Plus, even though the look is fairly common, everyone brings their own unique spin to the outfit, making it a signature part of their weekly rotations.

Look #5

The thing I love most about this blazer, in particular, is just how many colors its made up of. Maybe you can’t see all of them, but this blazer has pink, blue, tan, and dark brown hues in its fabric, which makes it all the more versatile for pairing. I can’t get over how perfectly it lives with this satin skirt. The sheen of the fabric is toned down just the right amount by the tans in the blazer. And with my favorite Vans, this outfit is ready for every holiday gathering next week has in store.

5 steps to slow shopping

In a sea of influencer posts and bulging content, style envy is more real than ever. On any given day, it’s rare that you leave the house without happening, or scrolling, upon a style or aesthetic you admire. But there’s so much that goes into our personal style, and appearance, that’s just the start. 

Compared to when I was sixteen, or even twenty-two, I know so much more about myself, including what I genuinely feel comfortable putting on my body. I’ve come to love baggy, oversized tops and slim fit jeans. I can’t live without espadrilles and black boots. And when it comes to underwear, the more coverage the better. 

But none of this evolution happened over night, something I am forcefully reminded every time I clean out my closet. Instead, realizing my style required a long and thoughtful process of trial and error that eventually helped me tap into my very own je ne sais quoi. 

Pin it to win it. 

Every time I see decor or an outfit I like, I screenshot it. Some of these pictures get posted to my literal wall while others stay on my phone until I don’t find them relevant anymore. 

What exactly do I get from this? The screenshot is like a mental pause. Instead of reaching for my credit card, it gives me a visual reminder I can keep coming back to until I decide to act, or not. Pinterest, the save function on Instagram, and magazine clippings are all great ways to identify styles you’re interested in without making any rash financial commitment. 

Fit over flatter. 

I remember flipping through Seventeen Magazine as a highly susceptible teenager and racking my brain over which body type I was. A pear? An apple? A hotdog? Okay, that last one was a joke. But according to the magazine, the rest of these strange categorizations were key deciders of what I could and couldn’t wear. 

Looking back, that system was a load of hot crap. Overall, I think the editors meant well and wanted to encourage body acceptance but their execution needed some serious work. As companies like Girlfriend Collective now show us, a thoughtfully designed line can look good on literally every body and it’s up to companies, not consumers, to cater to our bodies. 

Rather than feeling pressured into certain looks, find fabrics, cuts, and colors, that make you feel comfortable in your skin. Then, make it your mission to identify trends that incorporate at least one of those elements into their design. 

Ride it out. 

When it comes to trends, no one’s an equal adopter. Some pick up a trend and run with it for the rest of their lives. Others are willing to take more of a risk and incorporate fads liberally. 

But Alexis, you say, aren’t trends wasteful? In theory yes, but just because you buy into a trend doesn’t make it inherently unsustainable. Think about it—you could go out and buy 50 white t-shirts, all in the same style. Or, you could buy five different trendy pieces. Which is the better option? In this scenario, the latter would be more sustainable because it creates the least waste and unnecessary excess. When purchasing, why you buy something is usually just as important as what you buy. To stop an impulse purchases in their tracks, ask yourself: 

  • Do I already own something similar? Will this be a repetitive purchase? 
  • How often will I wear this piece? (More than 30 times is a good place to aim for.) 
  • Will this piece help me get more wear out of other items I own?

Think outside the store. 

If you think you’re ready to take the plunge but don’t want to swim in the deep end, try finding alternatives to buying new. Sites like Nuuly and Rent the Runway are great examples of rental options. Buffalo Exchange, Savers, and local thrift stores also let you try out a garment with minimal impact or investment. Better yet, raid your friends and family’s closets. Because most trends are simply recycled from another time period, it’s perfectly feasible that you could find the look you want from a decades-old piece. 

Locked and loaded. 

If you are ready to go all in and buy a piece new, shop around to find a high-quality option. Brands that produce smaller collections, like Reformation or Hack with Design, put less stress on resources, like water and oil, compared to fast fashion brands. What’s more, sustainable materials tend to be more timeless than synthetic fabrics, letting you make the piece a staple of your wardrobe for more than just a season. 

slow fashion lookbook: july

July was a scorcher. As one of those AC-deprived people, this time of year is particularly focused on me not melting. That means putting my makeup on directly in front of a fan, wrapping my hair in all kinds of unflattering contortions to keep it from touching my neck and back, and, of course, wearing as little clothing as socially acceptable. 

Fortunately, one of my more recent wardrobe evolutions has been the adoption of light-weight fabrics, many of which happen to be made from natural fibers. Without me saying anything, you can probably think of a whole slew of reasons why natural fibers are superior to their synthetic counterparts. They can support small-scale agriculture and farming, tend to use less energy in their production process, and most are designed to be very breathable. Check, check, and check. 

Wicker Shopper: 

Lately, my feed has been full of woven purses and totes, like these ones featured on The Good Trade. Needless to say, wicker is definitely having a moment and I’m not mad at it.

I found this gem at a farm stand just outside of Saratoga, NY. I regret throwing away the label but I can remember the bag was crafted in Africa and every purchase helped support small, women’s cooperatives. The bag itself is woven from thin straws and the straps are made of either leather or vegan leather. 

I love wicker because it offers a unique type of construction you can’t find in other matierls. It makes this bag a rare breed of accessory, one that’s suited for the beach and a five-star restaurant—not that I see a lot of the latter. 

Yacht Club Shorts: 

Savers for the win. Again. These pre-loved Gap shorts came into my life on the way back from Acadia, ME. A big fan of high waisted shorts, I admittedly had never had much interest in non-denim options, that is until I stumbled upon these 100% cotton bad boys. 

I think we all know cotton is natural. However, not all cotton is produced the same way. Uzbekistan, for example, one of the world’s leading producers of cotton, has been front and center in human rights debates due to child labor and worker exploitation, amongst other issues. On the other end of the spectrum are companies like Knickey, who are getting smarter about cotton by paying attention to both its sourcing and manufacturing processes. 

Because these shorts are Gap and likely a few years old, I’m willing to bet they were not made from sustainable cotton. But, I did buy them second hand—no money is going back to Gap—and despite any ethical issues, they are made from a natural fiber so they won’t shed microplastics in the wash. 

Silky Smooth Tank Top: 

When I was a kid, I remember stealing my mom’s silk scarves…well, momentary, until she took them back only minutes later. Honestly, I still feel a little child-like when I wear silk. But I’ve found the imposter syndrome wavers a bit when I find the right pieces.

This tank top, another post-Acadia find, has a sophisticated cut that’s easily paired with any bottom in my closet. To be honest, I really only bought this piece because a fashion sustainability panelist once said to buy vintage silk whenever you can find it. That said, the top’s grown on me since then and I have no regrets about the purchase.