Secondhand Wardrobe: Fall 10x10

How to dress in all secondhand clothing this fall | Litterless

As a teenager, the secondhand items in my wardrobe – from thrift shopping with friends, from family member’s closets – tended to lean toward the outlandish. Vintage cardigans, printed t-shirts my dad had held onto since the 70s, one particularly notable pair of bell-bottoms passed along from my mom, and anplaid shirt snatched from my youngest brother were all mixed together, in the way of teens everywhere, with more standard pieces bought new.

The only secondhand item still hanging in my closet from those thrift store runs is a gold-and-black dress that I occasionally wear to winter holiday parties. It’s both fuzzy and shiny, but in a cool way, if you can even imagine such an article - I know. After college, I thought thrift shopping was no longer for me. I was weary of combing secondhand racks and finding nothing remotely like what I’d want to wear day-to-day.

It can be frustrating to search for secondhand clothing until you know where to look – and then a treasure trove can open, and it can be hard to restrain yourself. Over the past several years, I’ve gotten back into the secondhand shopping, only this time I’m able to find pieces I’ll wear every day.

I thought it would be fun to share ten days of secondhand-only outfits for the Fall 10x10 wardrobe challenge. The premise of the challenge is this: choose ten items of clothing, and wear them (and no others, if you can help it) for ten days.

How to dress in all secondhand clothing this fall | Litterless

The ten items I’ve chosen are all secondhand. I’ve included where I originally bought them in the notes below, in case the sources help you in your own secondhand hunt. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means Litterless may make a small commission on items purchased.

-Elizabeth Suzann olive twill Clyde pants, bought secondhand on SellTradeES.
-Levi’s black jeans, bought secondhand on Noihsaf Bazaar.
-Atelier Delphine cream jacket, bought secondhand on The General Economy.
-Madewell plaid shirt, bought secondhand on Noihsaf Bazaar.
-Everlane black-and-gray striped long sleeve shirt, bought secondhand on ThredUp.
-Madewell chambray short-sleeve shirt, bought secondhand on ThredUp.
-Elizabeth Suzann navy linen Georgia top, bought secondhand at Crossroads in Chicago.
-J. Crew gray sweater, a hand-me-down from my mom.
-Linenfox navy linen dress, bought secondhand on Noihsaf Bazaar.
-J. Crew black leggings, bought secondhand on ThredUp.

How to dress in all secondhand clothing this fall | Litterless

I’ll be sharing my outfit every day for the next ten days on Instagram, in the hopes of showing that it’s possible to look stylish and eminently normal while wearing ENTIRELY USED CLOTHING. Used, secondhand, thrifted, whatever we call it: secondhand isn’t embarrassing, shameful, or the exclusive purview of teenagers. It’s for everyone, and it’s kinder to people and the planet. 

Do you have secondhand items in your wardrobe? If not, are there any stumbling blocks or questions I can help with as you think about adding a few? 

You can follow along with other folks doing the Fall 10x10 on Instagram, here.

More resources on building a secondhand wardrobe, here.

Secondhand Wardrobe: Activewear

How to shop for secondhand activewear and exercise gear | Litterless

Spring has finally - finally - arrived in Chicago, and after one of my first outdoor runs of the season yesterday, my thoughts turned to what I reach for these days when pulling on exercise apparel. 

Everyone exercises differently, so of course I mean only to share my own philosophy, not dictate one for you. I mostly do a mix of yoga, pilates, and running. For the former two, I wear leggings, a sports bra, and a cotton sleeveless tank. For running, my attire depends on the season of course, but I usually wear athletic shorts, a sports bra, and whatever old high school or college t-shirt comes first to hand.

The rule I try to keep to for purchasing activewear is: if I'm buying it secondhand, it can be synthetic. If I'm buying it new, it should be mostly made from natural fibers. Because synthetics are made from plastic, tiny microfibers shed from clothing in the washing machine and enter the water stream, winding up in drinking water, fish bellies, and many other places they shouldn't be.

Whether you can make space in your wardrobe for a few pieces of cotton workout apparel to replace synthetics depends on your feelings about wicking materials. You may be devoted to them, in which case, congratulations: the majority of secondhand sportswear out there is made of these quick-dry types of fabrics. You'll be walking into a bonanza of wonderful options.

If you're hoping to phase out a few of your synthetic pieces and replace them with cotton, the secondhand market is a bit harder to navigate. I either purchase these pieces new, or repurpose apparel from other categories where cotton is more commonly used. For example, most of my yoga shirts are secondhand sleeveless tops like this one - not officially intended for exercise, but perfectly suited to it nevertheless. Many of my yoga leggings are pulled not from the rack of exercise gear, where synthetics abound, but from a selection meant for everyday wear, where cotton is more common.

Cotton without any elastic or spandex tends not to hold its shape, instead fitting more loosely than cotton with synthetic fibers added for stretch. So while you'll find that t-shirts are often one hundred percent cotton, fitted apparel like leggings and sports bras tend to have at least a small percentage of synthetic fibers to allow them to mold to your shape when wearing them. Still much better than nothing, I say.

Below, where I look for secondhand exercise gear, and a few brands to keep an eye on. (Note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links).

How to shop for secondhand activewear and exercise gear | Litterless

Secondhand options

As usual, I recommend ThredUp, Poshmark, and your local secondhand stores as good places to start your search. Look for the brands you already like and know work for you. For me, I search out secondhand sleeveless tanks by Everlane, mostly-cotton leggings from any brand, and sports bras by Patagonia. Although I'm always open to a stellar find from another source, I don't want to spend all of my days seeking out secondhand athletic wear. Knowing what I like, and searching mostly for that, helps narrow the field and speed up the task.

A few specific places to consider searching:

-Patagonia WornWear: Though their selection tends to fall more on the spectrum of outerwear and travelwear than activewear, this is a good place to look for used Patagonia items - you'll find jackets, shorts, vests, backpacks, and lots more for whatever activity suits your fancy. Items are sold directly by Patagonia, not an individual seller, so you can trust that they'll be fairly clean and of useable quality.

-REI Used: Find secondhand outerwear and sportswear, especially great for camping and hiking enthusiasts looking to replenish their supply. They sell more than clothing as well, like tents, shoes, yoga mats, foam rollers, and more. REI checks over each item before re-selling it, ensuring that though your purchase is secondhand, it's still high-quality.

-eBay: The place to turn to when you're in the market for especially specific secondhand pieces, or for sports items beyond clothing. Since no one is checking the quality the way they are on sites like Patagonia's and REI's, carefully reading the description and peering closely at the photos helps ensure that you'll get an item in good condition.

-Local secondhand sports stores: Growing up, the one near me was called Play-It-Again-Sports. There might be a similar option near you, too. These local spots tend to emphasis gear over clothing, so search for balls, rackets, nets, and all manner of sport-y things. Bonus: this is especially great for finding deals on gear when you're tired of constantly buying your kid a larger tennis racket as they grow.

If you play a sport or prefer an activity with a specific set of gear or clothing, of course, where you look will be different. I'm not sure I've ever seen a rack of secondhand swimsuits, for example, but my partner is a cyclist and often sells and buys secondhand jerseys online (he recommends eBay).

How to shop for secondhand activewear and exercise gear | Litterless

New Options

In case secondhand exercise clothing skeeves you out - understandable - or you can't find things you like, a few brands to turn to to for new gear:

-Conscious Clothing: Working in Michigan with natural fibers, these folks make lots of different types of clothes, including exercise basics that don't scream exercise. They generously sent me a pair of their leggings and sports bras to test out - pictured here - and the cotton feels cool and comfortable against my skin; I also love the unconventional shape of the sports bra. For yoga enthusiasts especially, this is a lovely place to shop for ethical, made-in-the-USA sportswear.

-Patagonia: Whether new or secondhand, I try to prioritize buying from these guys. When you no longer need your Patagonia garment, they'll take it back for resale, repair, or recycling. Plus, a portion of their profits goes to protecting wild lands. Many of their items are made from synthetic plastic fibers, but a few are made from natural materials.

-Pansy: Their pieces are sewn in California from fabric with a 90% cotton content, and are pricey but pretty. (Like these leggings and this sports bra). 

-Everlane: A good spot for affordable cotton basics; many of their cotton and linen tanks would do dual duty as exercise gear (and are easy to find secondhand on ThredUp); their recently launched cotton bras have a sports-bra vibe that could be a good option.

-Girlfriend Collective: Though the cute tops and leggings here are synthetic, they're made from 80% recycled plastic. If wicking material is your jam and secondhand shopping is not, this is a good possibility for you. I'll be looking for a secondhand version of this pretty set; in the past, I've bought a few pairs of their black leggings on ThredUp. (If you're interested in buying a brand-new piece, you can get $10 off using this link, if you'd like).

Since winning a perfection prize isn't the goal, do whatever you need to do to exercise comfortably and happily - even if that means you don't have a single piece of secondhand gear in your arsenal. In that case, your focus can turn to maintaining your clothing's longevity: scrupulously taking care of your swimsuit, goggles, watch, climbing shoes, or whatever you use most.

Questions? Suggestions? Other brands doing good work in the athletic wear space?

Secondhand Wardrobe: Workwear

How to find secondhand clothing for wearing to work and the office | Litterless

When starting this series on a secondhand wardrobe, I put out a casting call, of sorts. I wanted to know what’s been the most challenging part of your wardrobe to tackle finding secondhand. Many readers wrote to me to say that finding nicer pieces to wear to work has been an issue; cotton t-shirts abound in the secondhand world, but what about finding silk blouses that don’t have someone else’s tiny grease spot on them? Seems like every silk button-down I pull off the rack at my favorite thrift store is in perfect shape except for that tell-tale blot on the front. No thanks.

When choosing items of clothing that are a bit more polished, I apply the same criteria that I use for choosing everyday items, too. I prefer natural materials like cotton, linen, wool, and silk, which I think feel nicer on my skin and additionally aren’t made of plastic, like synthetic materials are. I like pieces that aren’t incredibly form-fitting or structured, which has the added benefit of making them more comfortable on a long day.

No matter what I like, though: you probably already know what you like to wear to work, and are just looking for ways to buy your normal garb secondhand. Here are some places to start, plus a look into some of my favorite secondhand office-ready items, and where I found them (some of the links below are affiliate links):

In general:

-For workwear, many folks do choose to go with polyester because it’s a washable silk look-a-like (ish). If this describes you, then buying those pieces secondhand is important because it makes use of existing synthetic materials rather than using virgin plastics to weave new fabrics. And consider investing in a Guppyfriend, which enables you to wash your synthetic fabrics without allowing the microfibers that inevitably peel off them in the washing process to hit the water stream.

How to find secondhand clothing for wearing to work and the office | Litterless

-Check items out carefully before you purchase them. Because office items tend to be a bit more precious than the everyday, they’re often donated because a small stain that could easily be removed from, say, a cotton t-shirt, just wasn’t possible (or worth the effort) to remove from silk, or the wool sweater became peppered with just a few tiny holes. It’s worth a careful once-over to make sure that what you’re getting meets your standards before you shell out. Pictured above, a stain-free silk shirt, bought secondhand from ThredUp.

-Arguably the biggest trope when talking about building a polished wardrobe for the office is getting things tailored. “Just tailor it!,” style blogs and books alike cry. I admit I am rarely on top of my tailoring game, but getting familiar with what can be tailored can help make your thrift searches more productive. Easy wins: replacing hideous buttons, hiking up hems, tapering in skirts. Harder: altering items to fit in the shoulder area, letting items out to make them larger. If you find something that would be perfect if if if an alteration is possible, check the store’s (or site’s) return policy: perhaps you can buy it, take it to your tailor for a second opinion, and simply return it if the alteration is a no-go.

-The things that we wear to work are often less fun to think about than the things we wear for, well, fun. There are surely folks who get excited about a heel and a structured wool dress and a blazer – maybe that’s you – but it’s not really me. In that spirit, I’d suggest taking a targeted approach to searching for secondhand pieces. Instead of taking the time to scan the whole breadth and gamut of what’s out there secondhand, stick to searching for the brands you already know work well for you. It’s a time-saving strategy, sure, but one that also seems likely to turn up better results, too.

Where to search:

How to find secondhand clothing for wearing to work and the office | Litterless

-ThredUp: If I’m a broken record, so be it; this is one of my favorite spots to find secondhand clothing online. If you have a beloved mass-market brand you rely on to stock your working wardrobe, you can likely find clothing from it here: Ann Taylor LOFT, J. Crew staples (pencil skirts, sweaters, and blazers), Banana Republic, Zara, and more. For brands that don’t have ethical or sustainable credentials but that have been good staples for you, find them secondhand here as a better alternative to buying them new.

I like that you can search items on ThredUp by brand, color, and size, and that each item comes with a detailed description of its condition (so you’ll know if there’s a concerning stain) and fabric composition, so you can eliminate synthetic pieces if you so desire. Above, a favorite dark-gray dress found on ThredUp. (And here’s a code you can use for $10 off your first purchase, if you’re interested).

-Poshmark: Excellent for finding secondhand versions of pieces you’ve had your eye on at their original stores. Search here for pieces from Everlane, leather satchels from Madewell and Baggu, shoes from Nisolo, and lots more.

How to find secondhand clothing for wearing to work and the office | Litterless

-Consignment stores: When searching for secondhand office-wear in person, not online, look for spots in your city that are labeled “consignment” rather than “thrift.” These tend to stock nicer pieces in better condition than typical thrift stores. They’re a little more expensive – and certainly there are workwear gems to be had at traditional thrift stores – but the higher likelihood of finding something that will work makes the search less frustrating, I think. Pictured on top of the stack above, a silk Equipment sleeveless shirt found on a random consignment-store wander on my walk home from work last year.

-The Real Real: Same principle as the physical consignment stores, above, these guys accept better-quality clothing than other online resale shops. Search here for silk shirts (like this creamy beauty from Everlane), suede boots like these, and lots more.

Where to shop online for ethical, secondhand polished office wardrobe staples | Litterless

-Etc.: It’s easy to get tired of clothes you wear often, and in the case of clothing you wear to work, it's easy to get tired of clothing that you may have never really adored in the first place. In that case, swapping clothing with friends – or simply making a mutual pact to share donation piles with each other prior to selling or donating – can be a source of gems. The cozy gray sweater above was snagged from my mom before she gave it away; it's become a simple, versatile favorite for traveling and winter evenings at home.

Ethical workwear brands to keep in mind:

Whether purchasing them new or searching for them secondhand, a few folks doing good work in the ethical office-wear arena:

-Amour Vert: Clothing made in the U.S. from sustainable fabrics, where possible. I'd recommend avoiding their cotton t-shirts, which are super-soft but pill quickly. Instead, search for basics like silk shirts and dresses, or shoes that are just the right amount of demure-meets-interesting.

-Everlane: Responsibly made basics for both weekend and workday. Since it can be hard to find secondhand sweaters that aren't already pilly, I often turn to these guys when I need a new sweater or other wool items. (This hat has been a recent, cozy addition to my winter gear, and I also love this sweater). But they also offer wool work pants like this slim variety, cotton and silk shirts, and crisp work dresses.

-All offices have different vibes. A few other places to browse for something that suits your style: Eileen Fisher, Ali Golden (made-in-the-U.S. basics that are versatile enough to dress up or down), and It Is Well LA.

-Shoes: Good-condition secondhand shoes can be one of the hardest things to find. Everlane has beautiful leather loafers, mules, and heels at the moment, as does the Tennessee-based Nisolo (these perfect slip-ons have been on my wishlist for ages). I also like Fortress of Inca's leather booties and deconstructed oxfords. Anyways. Perhaps some work shoes to stalk on Poshmark, or to bite the bullet and just buy new.

Have any working wardrobe tips for folks seeking to build a secondhand closet? Other topics you’d like to see tackled in this series?

Previously in Secondhand Wardrobe: The opposite of workwear, and a deep dive into the online resources out there.

Secondhand Wardrobe: Sweatshirts

Ethical, sustainable sweatshirts | How to find secondhand sweatshirts | Litterless

Above is a tale of two Everlane sweatshirts, one new, one secondhand, both loved. In case you too are searching for sweatshirts in which to live out the winter, I wanted to share some favorite sources for sustainable versions. When I look for sweatshirts, what I'm after is a version that I can pull on over jeans and feel like I'm not exiting the house in my pajamas. You might be looking for a cozy hoodie to wear to yoga, or a zip-up to layer in. No matter: there's plenty of secondhand out there for all of us.

I tend to look for pieces that are 100% cotton, which sometimes excludes the ultra-cozy fleece versions, which tend to have some polyester in the mix. But I think pure cotton holds up better over time and pills less, it doesn't release plastic microfibers when washed, and I just like the way it feels a little bit better. There's a particular too-warm, slightly-weird feeling I come to associate with too-fleecy sweatshirts since I was young: I can't tell you why that is. Anyone else feel the same?

With sweatshirts, it's key to look for secondhand items that are in really good, like-new condition. Otherwise you risk having someone else's stretched-out neck and pizza stains on your new-to-you purchase, because the ease of sweatshirts sometimes means we treat them, well, too easily.

Here's where to look for some secondhand, and a few brand-new, finds (some links are affiliate links):

-In a store near you! Despite what sometimes think after a particularly discouraging stop by a once-favorite secondhand shop, in-person thrifting isn't dead. If you have a spot that consistently turns up gems for you, chances are you can find a sweatshirt you love there, too. (Especially this time of year, when they're nice and stocked with winter gear). Go forth and thrift.

-Online secondhand: I've talked about a few of my favorite resources for this before. ThredUp, Instagram, Swap.com, whatever strikes your fancy. If you've had an eye on a particular sweatshirt from a company you love but are reluctant to buy it new, choose something with a search function, like Poshmark or eBay.

-Etsy: If you'd only like vintage sweatshirts to appear in your search, you can search "sweatshirt" or "cream sweatshirt," etc., then check the box for "vintage" rather than "handmade," ensuring that all hits will be secondhand. I particularly like the selection of vintage sweatshirts curated by Rawson here in Chicago.

-Patagonia / REI: If you're okay with a part-cotton part-synthetic blend for your sweatshirts, it'll open up a whole new world of fleecy choices. Check out Patagonia's WornWear site for secondhand Patagonia sweatshirts and fleeces, for one, or REI's used clothing site for more outdoorsy goodness.

Ethical, sustainable sweatshirts | How to find secondhand sweatshirts | Litterless

And, some options for a brand new sweatshirt as well, with sustainability and natural fibers in mind:

-Everlane: I've purchased two of these crewnecks already this winter, and I'm keeping my eye out for a secondhand one in a third color. They're 100% cotton and hold up so well. Everlane also just released a few new sweatshirt styles, like this oversized model and a comfy, but not sloppy, hoodie. (I've often had good luck finding secondhand Everlane sweatshirts by searching online, as well).

-Amour Vert: This pretty version, with a slightly cropped sleeve, is made in the USA from cotton and modal, both natural fibers.

-Rudy Jude Co: Rudy Jude's organic cotton crewnecks are naturally dyed and ethically sewn in the United States, and come in pretty shades like a deep, rusty salmon. They're meant to be hard-wearing and long-lasting, and because they're made of naturally dyed organic cotton, you could compost them many years down the line once they've kept you warm for years and been cut into rags for years after.

-Baserange: My things by Baserange are some of the very softest that I own, favorites that I reach for several times a week. Their crewneck sweatshirts are made in Portugal from 100% cotton. I like the cream colored sweatshirt, but all of them are subtle basics you could wear day in and day out.

-Noble Denim: Pure cotton goodness, grown and sewn in the USA for men and women alike. (Their crewnecks, like this one, are currently on sale, too).

Particular favorite secondhand sweatshirt finds of yours, or any thrift shopping questions? I'd love to hear.

Previously in Secondhand Wardrobe: Favorite spots to shop online for secondhand clothing, and a primer on the subject.

Secondhand Wardrobe: Online Resources

How to shop for secondhand clothing online | Litterless

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:

How to shop online for secondhand clothing | Litterless

ThredUp.

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.

If you want to try it out, here's a code for $10 off your first purchase on the site. Pictured here are two of my favorite closet staples from Everlane, purchased on ThredUp.

Good for: Everything except 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.

Poshmark.

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.

How to shop online for secondhand clothing | Litterless

eBay.

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.

Etsy.

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.

Slowre.

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.

Good for: Small, ethical, or made-in-the U.S.A. labels, like No.6Everlane, Tradlands, Eileen Fisher, or Zady.

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

Previously in Wardrobe: An introduction to this series, and notes on letting clothing go.

A Secondhand Wardrobe

How to grow a secondhand wardrobe | Litterless

"Twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five...". Counting under my breath yesterday morning, I worked my way down my closet to make a note of how many of the items in it were secondhand, ethically made, or handmade, as a way to chart my progress on moving away from fast fashion. The verdict: just over half of my closet is comprised of secondhand items, and about two-thirds of my closet is in some way a secondhand or ethical purchase.

If I'd seen those figures three years ago, I might not have believed them. Back then, I had the best intentions for shopping mainly secondhand, but I wasn't finding the things that I wanted to wear in the thrift stores I tried. I would read the stories of women who'd made the leap before me, women who said things like "I only buy secondhand clothing" or "I mainly buy secondhand clothing," and I would think, "But how???"

Happily, I now find myself on the other side of the equation, with a comfortable routine for finding things I love on the secondhand market. Inspired by Slow Fashion October, a month of taking time to be thoughtful about stepping away from fast fashion - whether to secondhand items, handmade things, mended garments, or ethically or locally made clothing - I'm excited to start sharing more of my secondhand finds here, as well as thoughts on how to grow the percentage of your wardrobe that's secondhand, in a new series called "Secondhand Wardrobe."

I hope to demystify the process a bit: secondhand shopping isn't just for people with heaps of time on their hands to browse thrift stores. It isn't just for folks who live in areas where the thrift stores are nearly as good as the regular stores. It isn't just for that mythical person who just has an eye for combining older items with new ones, who walks out of the vintage store in a leopard-print coat that should look terrible but somehow just doesn't. That person is decidedly NOT me - and yet, here I am, solidly in secondhand world.

When I think about zero waste done successfully and well, I don't necessarily think about keeping trash to the bare minimum. Instead, really the crux of it is that all of our consumer choices need to be looked at more holistically. In other words, purchasing a cheap fast fashion t-shirt can be technically zero waste if you refuse the bag at checkout and recycle the paper tag. But in the true spirit of reducing one's impact, saving up for a higher-quality, ethically made piece, finding a similar t-shirt in a secondhand shop, mending the small hole in one you already own, or hosting a clothing swap with friends is another way to achieve the same end.

That's not to say that I'm perfect at this, by any stretch. Two weeks ago found me hobbling around San Fransisco on blistered feet and dashing into a big department store to buy a more comfortable pair of sandals, provenance unknown. The jeans I wore on repeat this summer were white Levi's, not ethically made nor secondhand, and yet beloved nonetheless. I still own many items from that time, three years ago and before, when I was just beginning to look at what a slower approach to fashion might look like and thought finding what I needed secondhand to be nearly impossible. You might be at that point, too. But, that's always been the ethic of this space: start where you are, do what you can. Hopefully this series will give you some new tools to do so.

If you have specific questions about secondhand or ethical shopping, I'd love to hear them (and take a stab at answers) in the comments below. Otherwise, this past post of mine on my method for secondhand clothing shopping is a good place to start. Back soon with more, on this and other things zero waste.

Pictured above, two new-to-me (but not new), clothing items for fall.

Shopping for Secondhand Clothing

Secondhand clothing

I probably don't need to tell you that secondhand clothing is typically kinder to the environment and to garment workers than clothing bought new (though if you want to know a little more of the story behind why, you can start here or with the documentary True Cost). I probably don't need to tell you either that thrift shops can lend themselves well to certain style sensibilities and not others. They've got all the plaid button-downs and oversized mens' sweater a girl could want, but what if a girl no longer wants plaid button-downs and oversized mens' sweaters?

Years ago, I fell out of the habit of buying used clothing, because the pieces I was finding at stores didn't quite match what I wanted to be wearing. Over the past two years or so, though, I've found my way back to secondhand shopping, because I've figured out a few ways to make it work with my style, rather than trying to make my style work with it. Consider this a primer on secondhand shopping for those who dislike (or are stymied or overwhelmed or less than thrilled by or could use a leg up with) it.

One thing to keep in mind here: Though the methods below are cheaper than straight up retail shopping, they're not always cheap. There are bargains to be found anywhere, of course, but the land of $2.99 secondhand buys wasn't cutting it for me anymore, and I would get discouraged by flicking through racks and racks of clothing without spotting anything I loved. With an easier time finding things your style comes a little bit of a higher price. I've found it to be doable and well worth the cost, but if not - keep doing your thing, and know I'm a little in awe of you, you amazing thrift queen / king.

Shopping in person.

-Find your favorite thrift stores. If a particular store hasn't been a jackpot for you in the past, you're not obligated to keep going back. (This sounds obvious, but took me ages to start to practice). There's always the fear that you'll miss finding the perfect thing, but if the clothes just tend not to be your style, you probably won't. My thrift shopping has gotten happier since I severed ties with the Goodwill clothing aisle. (Goodwill kitchenware, however, is another matter).

-Look for curated secondhand stores. Stores that buy or consign clothing in lieu of taking donations are typically pickier about what they accept. Search around for "consignment," "secondhand," or "recycled fashion" spots in your neighborhood, and when you find one that seems to fit your style, stick with it. They're typically more expensive than charity and donation shops, but that makes sense, because they've done some of the hard work for you. A few chains I like near me: Crossroads & Buffalo Exchange. If you have other regional faves, pop them in the comments below!

-Swap with friends. I always though this sounded a little bit like a magazine ideas that you'd bookmark but never do. Well, proving my own self wrong, friends and I met for a little swap in February, and now I love seeing my friend Alaina rocking the red plaid Madewell shirt I never got around to wearing.

Shopping online.

-Browse secondhand-only sites. I've found good things on ThredUp (here's a $10 off code if you'd like to sign up!), which lets me save my sizes and preferred brands so that I can just drop by the website once a week or so for a quick glance through pieces that might interest me. A Madewell chambray shirt, J. Crew silk dress, and a few cute t-shirts have come my way via ThredUp. Other online stores to try: Poshmark, Slowre (all secondhand & ethically made! hat tip to Fairdare for that one), and TheRealReal.

-Search Instagram. You can buy directly from individuals via accounts that accept and post submissions. The accounts I keep an eye on are @noihsaf.bazaar, @thegeneraleconomy, and @aceandjiglove. The clothing listed on these three accounts isn't always inexpensive, but they're things I might have bought anyway (or lusted after to no avail), and I'm happy to have the chance to buy them secondhand. Both of the pieces pictured above - an Everlane silk dress and Elizabeth Suzann silk tee - were special pieces purchased secondhand on Instagram. Weirdly, it might be where I buy most of my clothing these days (including the Madewell satchel featured in this post). These accounts make it easy to stay zero waste, too, because you're buying directly from someone - I always ask sellers to use whatever old, used packaging or boxes they have lying around. A few other accounts to search for are Noihsaf VintageNa Nin Vintage, and Persephone, and you can always just browse the hashtag #closetsale, too.

-Use eBay. I don't find eBay incredibly easy to use (anyone else?). But, there are so many things on there, and using really specific searches can turn up items you've wanted, maybe even that are still in stores. If you're truly looking for secondhand only, avoid "NWT" or "NIB" (new with tags and new in box), although sometimes I still technically consider those offerings "seconds," too. Favorite eBay find of mine: a navy blue silk Steven Alan dress for $26. Thank you, eBay.

-Etc. Just like Goodwill isn't my jam but works so well for other thrift mavens, you can find your own little corner of the internet that is your thrift shopping paradise, too. Maybe it's browsing vintage goods on Etsy, or an email thread with your friends where you post pictures of clothing you don't want anymore, or the online secondhand section of Eileen Fisher, REI, Patagonia, or Over the Ocean (for kiddos). Or, maybe it's off the internet, at garage sales, a favorite neighborhood store, wherever. Once you've figured out your niche, haunt that thing like none other.

So, good things are out there, go find them! And I'd LOVE to hear how you find secondhand clothes these days, and what have been your favorite places to check out, too.