Secondhand Shopping Tips

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Aemilia Madden

Yes — I’m a fashion editor who buys most of her clothing secondhand. Over the years, I’ve managed to amass some crazy-amazing finds, and there are some days when I walk out the door only to realize not a single piece of my outfit is brand new. Currently, I am lucky enough to live in New York City, the land of opportunity, especially when it comes to shopping. With so many stylish women concentrated in one place, I know their old clothes must be going somewhere, and I’m on a hunt to find the best of their discarded duds. But even before I moved to America’s chicest city, thrift shopping was my high-fashion hobby, an adrenaline rush only other style enthusiasts can understand.

My devotion to consignment shopping began as early as middle school. From the moment I scooped up my first J.Crew peacoat (which I still wear to this day), I was hooked. The realization that with a little sleuthing and some good luck I could find something exceptional for a fraction of its original price was a style awakening — and I never looked back.

As I grew older, the thrill of the find never faded, especially as my taste in clothing leaned more and more toward the unattainable. What college student can afford a $100 t-shirt? And while it wasn’t often that I found a silky T by Alexander Wang gem hidden among the racks, when I did, I left the store beaming. I also grew to love the shock and awe from my friends upon discovering that I had found my treasured Prada heels at Crossroads Trading Company. And it’s not just about the major designer scores; it’s about finding pieces that slide on perfectly, that fit like a glove, and that make you feel excited to wear them every opportunity possible. I’ve had both good friends and Victoria’s Secret models go wild for my $10 shearling and denim vintage Levi’s jacket.

These days, my continued devotion to secondhand shopping comes from both a love of the sport and a budget-conscious lifestyle. Making it in NYC isn’t always easy, and when push comes to shove, the first thing to go is new clothes. While some of my friends allot their spare funds to fast-fashion shopping from Forever 21 and H&M, I would rather snap up a single higher-priced secondhand piece that is truly something special. Yes, the quality is better, but I also feel more attached to a pair of Stella McCartney shoes than I ever would to a few trendy dresses. And while not everyone may agree with me, in my closet it’s the designer pieces that stand the test of time.

I know that walking into a used-clothing store can be totally overwhelming. Racks overflow with musty Harley-Davidson t-shirts and ill-fitting bandage dresses while aggressive shoppers elbow you out of the way — I’ve been there too. But practice makes perfect, and with more time spent browsing, I’ve picked up some tricks for managing the anxiety and the chaos. Read on for six tips to help you become a successful (and satisfied) secondhand shopper (just like me!).