Kicking off the new year with a discussion of a not-new wardrobe sounds pretty good to me. The nuts and bolts and behind-the-scenes of building a secondhand wardrobe is something I'm looking forward to talking about here in 2018.
Everyone approaches secondhand shopping differently, but I've really gravitated toward purchasing secondhand items online. Online secondhand stores have a leg up on local joints in that they allow you to search more easily: rather than digging through racks of clothing in every style, you can simply search for the styles and brands you love and used to purchase new.
In high school and college, I loved the experience of thrifting in person with friends; but back then, only a few pieces of clothing in my closet at any given time were secondhand. Now that I'm working toward purchasing a much higher proportion of thrifted goods (about two-thirds of my closet, at the moment), spending the time to scour physical racks of items one by one doesn't seem as feasible. Instead, I've turned to websites that are easily searchable. Some favorites:
ThredUp is one of my favorite online places to hunt for secondhand clothing. Folks send in their used pieces to ThredUp, which gives folks a payout for the clothing items before photographing, detailing them, and listing them for sale. The site allows you to save a list of your sizes and favorite brands, which makes it easy to check in every week or so to see what's new. The photographs of items are clear and well-lit, and measurements and condition details are provided as well, so you know what you're getting (though they offer returns, too).
For an online retailer, their packaging isn't so bad, either; purchases come shipped in a cardboard envelope, with just tissue paper and a paper tag inside. One major caveat: I don't recommend selling things here, as you may be disappointed with how your items are valued. But of course this translates to better prices on the for-sale side, which is primarily how I use it.
Good for: Everything except jewelry and smaller, independent brands. Since you can order multiple items in one go, it's a good place to stock up on basics if you need them: sweaters, t-shirts, exercise clothing, and more.
Another site that allows you to easily search for clothing by your favorite brands, only on this site they're sold directly by individuals. I find that Poshmark often has items that are slightly more current than those on ThredUp, and that Poshmark tends to have a higher number of items from popular brands like Everlane, Madewell, and more.
Since items are photographed in people's homes, I sometimes find myself getting overwhelmed by all of the options and unwilling to sort through hundreds of differently staged or poorly lit photos. But their search feature is really helpful, and you can put in as much information as you want or have: item names, brand names, sizes, or simply item types. You can also follow specific accounts, so when you find someone who routinely offers things you like, searching for your next piece becomes easier.
If you're new to Poshmark, you can sign up here and use the code "litterless" for $5 off your first purchase.
Good for: Everything, especially if you're looking for something very specific. Not as good if you need multiple items, since they'll all be shipped separately to you.
I turn to eBay mainly when I have a specific item in mind. A dress I tried on at a store but couldn't justify buying new, something I loved on a coworker and wanted to shamelessly try to find myself, or an item from a smaller designer that I'd had my eye on and wanted to see if I could find it secondhand first. Though I don't always find eBay's interface to be the easiest or loveliest to use, I have a few favorite pieces that I've gotten from there that make it worth keeping on my list. Pictured above are favorite dresses by Dolan, Ace & Jig, and Steven Alan, all found on eBay.
Good for: Everything, eventually, though you may have to be patient and keep checking back. Since you're buying directly from an individual seller, you can ask them to ship your package in upcycled, reused materials, if possible.
Good for you vintage lovers out there. To make shopping for vintage clothing on Etsy easier, one way to approach it is to measure a few favorite items in your closet. What rise do you like your jeans to be? What length are the dresses you reach for most often? What is the sleeve length on the jacket you typically wear? Keeping these measurements jotted down somewhere handy can help you sort through the plethora of options and narrow it down into items that will fit how you want them to.
Good for: Vintage, especially things from the 80s and 90s, like ever-popular vintage Levi's and Wrangler jeans. Plus, since you're buying from a seller, not a large company, you can easily include a note asking them to please ship your item without new packaging like tissue paper or a brand-new mailer.
An online consignment shop, Slowre focuses on re-selling items that were ethically made in the first place. You'll find lots of smaller labels with a commitment to ethical manufacturing in some respect: maybe they produce their items in the United States, emphasize natural materials, or are made by hand. Signing up for the e-mail newsletter will help you call dibs on items as soon as they're posted.
I've added links to each of these websites to my essentials page, so that you'll be able to find them next time you're hunting for something. You can also find more ideas for places to secondhand shop, including some tips for browsing in person rather than online, here.
Up next in this series, I'll be tackling specific wardrobe areas, like exercise clothing, workwear, and more, plus delving into how to care for items so that they last as long as possible. And if you have questions, leave 'em below: I'd love to hear them