How to buy used clothing

When I was a child, I remember getting hand-me-downs from my cousins as well as my older sister. This was in part because my parents decided to spend their earnings on paying off our house quickly which didn’t allow for a lot of money for buying clothes. Hand me downs are either cheap or free but as a young child I was oblivious to this and the understanding that buying second hand can often be cheaper came later though it is still not the main reason I buy second hand. I remember the garbage bags full of clothes that my cousins no longer wore and it literally felt like Christmas to me! I would scour through all of the items to see what treasures I could find, trying them on for fit, styling them with other clothes and accessories that I already had and literally reinventing myself over and over again. Often my cousins would buy things that I wouldn’t even consider and brands that our parents wouldn’t so often they had good quality materials and craftsmanship so I could feel really good in my “new” (to me) clothes! Fast forward to today and I still love getting hand-me-downs. I am the person who when invited to go to an event or a party, will request getting ready at your house so I can search through your wardrobe and accessories and borrow some of your items or re-style what you have to create new looks for you to wear out! It is just so fun for me! And whether I am just borrowing, re-styling for my friend, if I am actually gifted the item or if I have found it and bought it on my own, it is always fun to see an item given new life, especially if that item was not being used before, taking up space in a wardrobe or a shop that could be used to express a particular mood for that day!

This love of wearing other people’s clothes, shoes and accessories has grown over the years and I feel like I am well versed in how to buy and style used clothing and now with such a focus on sustainability and a growing awareness of the environmental impact of fast fashion (where clothes are made now to wear out quickly and are being thrown into landfill, taking many decades to break down) and the cost of actually producing new clothes (insert political statement about sweat shops or the gallons of water used to make cotton here), I thought I would share a few of my tips on how to buy used clothing so you too can enjoy the advantages of reinvention.

Define Your Why

Think about what you are trying to achieve by shopping second hand. Are you trying to reduce your carbon print? Are you looking for something unique? Are you looking to save a bit of money? Keep that in the back of your mind as you shop as it’ll help you make decisions of when to buy and when to say bye.

Get Inspired Beforehand

I really enjoy going shopping in mainstream stores to find what is trending and how the mannequins are styled, what colours are in etc. I also love to look on Pinterest for looks I love and pin them to boards for quick reference. I also enjoy buying Vogue Magazines and following Instagram accounts of people that have great style. These images will be in your mind (even subconsciously) and will influence the things you pick up in the shops and how you style them.

Wear separates

If you are going shopping to a physical location, I find it helps to wear separates (like pants and a top, or skirt and a top) so that you can see what the item looks like with other clothes you already own but also because there is nothing worse than trying on a top when you are wearing a dress and not having any pants to see how it looks.

General or Specific

In my experience, it’s best not to look too specifically while shopping second hand, but more look for unique or interesting things or aim to create a particular outfit or something similar to what you’ve seen but with different colours and different items. Though I do know many people who set intentions on a specific thing they want and have success doing that too so do what works for you!

Wash Before Wear

As you would before you wear anything new, make sure you wash items that you have purchased secondhand. If it is an expensive item, like a formal or wedding dress that needs to be dry-cleaned, check with the seller if it has been dry-cleaned. If not, factor the dry cleaning cost into your overall cost and weigh up if it is still worth it. The last thing you want is to be smelling the perfume (or worse, their body odor) of the person who wore the item before you (this is speaking from experience!).

Accept The Condition As It Is

As the items have often been worn before, you may find some minor wear and tear, like a missing button for example. The price should reflect this. Do not be put off by these details as they are an easy fix so learning a few sewing basics like sewing a hem, a button or a zip can help or otherwise, getting someone else (or pay someone else like a tailor or dressmaker) to do it for you. If you or someone else need to do work on an item to make it work, factor this into your overall price when deciding whether to purchase or not.

Quality over Quantity

Ok, I don’t always stick to this rule but in general, if you already have a denim jacket, do you really need another? (I have literally just handed on one of my four denim jackets because I wasn’t using it). Unless you are in desperate need of some basics, look for unique items or items you love and also, check out the quality. As above, some small repairs may be worth it but check out the fabric itself- is it starting to fade? Is it stretched in places? Is the fabric thin and unlikely to last? Are the hems and other seams likely to pull away in time? Unless you really love it, there is no point in buying an item that will only last you a couple of wears before you need to get rid of it. Another thing I look for is the care tag. If it has a list of instructions of how to properly care for an item, I will weigh up whether the item is worth my time to care and wash. I am a busy mum after all! With a job and study to juggle. If an item is too hard, I generally won’t bother!

Shop all sections

have heard this said many times! Particularly the advice I hear is to shop in the men’s department as an androgynous look is super trendy and men’s jackets and blazers look hot on some women but honestly, as a petite, I don’t do this that much because men’s clothes are usually swimming on me but if you are a petite with broader shoulders for example, then a man’s jacket may work for you. I do, however, shop in the children’s section (boys or girls actually) and also the linens section. I have a couple of woolen plaid blankets that I am in the process of up cycling into other items which is really fun! The blankets were both under $10 and I’m sure they cost over $100 new. So it can be a really cheap way to buy fabric if you are handy and love to sew!

Look for cool design features

I once bought a shirt because it had really cool buttons that I cut off and sewed onto another shirt. There are so many things you can do like that if you look at the item as fabric and haberdashery rather than the form it is currently in.

What do you think of these tips? Do you have any more questions about how to shop second hand? If you have some tips, I would love to hear them! Please comment them below.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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