How to find secondhand, thrifted and consigned designer clothing and accessories online
I really enjoy secondhand shopping because I can buy items for a fraction of their retail price.
Take for instance Manolo Blahnik shoes (I keep coming back to this but it’s so true).
Instead of paying $1000 for a pair of boots, I paid $250 total or 25% of the price, for 75% savings.
Instead of paying $700 for a pair of heels, I paid $60 to $150 per pair or 8% – 21% in total for 78% to 92% savings!
Yes, they’re used, but they’re also SUPERBLY well made and with a little cobbler love and care, they will never look like new, but they will still be fabulous for years to come.
(Plus they’ve already been broken in…)
CHOOSING BETWEEN STORES VERSUS ONLINE SHOPPING
I prefer stores. I’ve always preferred trying on items because you just never know what the cut of each designer is, and you can’t guess at that stuff until you try it on.
Plus, it may look great on a mannequin or in photos, but totally horrible on your body shape. You have to know your body type and size REALLY WELL to shop online.
For instance if you don’t know that you’re an inverted triangle who is stick thin (like I am), then you won’t know that skinny straps, strapless anything, halter tops, padded shoulders and any kind of embellishment or ruffle around the shoulders should be avoided at all costs.
So if you aren’t 100% sure on this, stick to shopping in stores.
Otherwise, online shopping is a dream. You have access to SO MUCH MORE stuff in your size around the world. The possibilities are endless, and very bad for your wallet!
The frustration with shops is that if you find something amazing but it is not your size, it demoralizes you. Some see it as a challenge, or the hunt for an awesome piece.. others see it as a waste of time.
Either way, it cuts down on buying stuff in general because it needs to:
- actually fit you
- flatter you
- be at the right price point
..whereas if you shop retail and not secondhand, you can always find your size.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SECONDHAND, THRIFT & CONSIGNMENT
Secondhand means the market of pre-used, pre-loved clothing in general.
Thrift to me, tends to evoke the feeling of Value Village, Goodwill, Salvation Army and like.
That is not to say that you cannot EVER find great things there, but it will take longer, and the items are not being picked through and rejected by a discerning eye. You may find a great gem like St. John pants there for only $10, but right beside it will be a hideous Forever 21 ruffled peasant blouse.
Consignment is where I tend to end up, because it is pre-owned clothing that has been curated by the shop owner, and is usually pretty high-end stuff (designer labels).
That is not to say that all designer labels are worth purchasing (a high price or a name does not equal quality AT ALL), but the clothing tends to be better taken care of, in better condition, nicer, and way less expensive than if you bought it at retail.
WHERE DO YOU FIND THRIFT AND CONSIGNMENT SHOPS?
As mentioned above, there are chains like not-for-profit Goodwill & Salvation Army and others that are for-profit like Value Village. Just Google their names and your location.
You can also try using a local review service like Yelp, and searching for the words consignment, thrift or secondhand.
Or just Google your city, and any of those three words to find other bloggers or articles online reviewing stores in your area.
The best places are of course big metropolitan cities like Manhattan, where there is a great market of people to provide the source of clothing (e.g. people who want to sell their designer items), and an even greater market of buyers, which results in a fabulous supply and demand chain of designer goods.
In Toronto, here are my recommendations via my Yelp Reviews, although keep in mind I am not really a vintage shopper unless it’s from the 50s, but otherwise I find most things that are vintage to be polyester horrors.
I prefer more modern labels and brands…
- Haute Classics (my 100%, absolute, favourite consignment shop in all of Toronto)
- LAB Consignment (she has an actual shop that moved and is also online now)
- Remix Clothing (It’s a love hate thing with them, I find them unprofessional at times)
- Coco’s Closet (I don’t come here often because the location sucks)
- Chosen Vintage (I like the store and the layout, but it’s not my style)
- Cabaret Vintage (I just really like the people here, come here for flapper dresses)
- Magwood Vintage (Overpriced, but they have some things I could buy if it wasn’t $500)
- Cat’s Meow (if you want vintage, 50s clothing that costs an arm and a leg)
Otherwise, I just take a wander through Kensington Market (more vintage, older pieces).
There are also plenty more places I haven’t personally gone to in Toronto, which can be found here.
WHERE DO YOU SHOP ONLINE FOR SECONDHAND CLOTHING?
My favourite sites are:
- The Real Real (use my referral code for a $25 credit)
- Vaunte (under construction)
- Couture USA (U.S. only)
- Poshmark (U.S. only)
That’s it. Those are the only ones I tend to check occasionally.
Of course, some consignment shops also have their own websites, and you can go on there to check out what came in without having to go into the store.
HOW DO YOU GUESS AT YOUR SIZE IF YOU BUY ONLINE?
I normally go into actual shops because I never really know what size I am due to manufacturers’ vanity sizing.
Take for instance the following:
- @ Banana Republic — I am a size 2 on top (for a dress), or an XS or S, but a 0 on the bottom (pants and skirts)
- @ J. Crew — I am a 00 (is that even a real number?!) for everything or an XS
- @ Burberry — I am a size 4 in jackets
- @ Diane von Furstenberg — I am a size 6 (her wrap dresses are a bit too low cut and I have broad shoulders)
- @ Aritzia / Wilfred — I am a size 0 on top for jackets, but an XS or S in everything else
- .. etc etc
Even within the same brand, depending on the fabric, cut and style, I would need to think about if it’s stretchy or not before guessing what size I could be.
In general, I am a US 4, but what that really means across the board for retailers is up for debate. I wish they would come up with some bloody rules surrounding all of this so that we no longer have to guess at our sizing.
My mother feels the same angst, although she is larger than I am. She takes a Size 10 – 14 normally, and always feels so huge when she looks at a tag that says “XL” (she’s not big, she’s just curvier), so I also understand the pain of curvier women.
My only advice for sizing?
Go into a store and try on the brand you are thinking of purchasing, and figure out what size you are there, and then look for that size online.
I know for instance that I am definitely a 37 in Manolo Blahnik heels / pumps. Not a 37.5 or a 36.5.
A true 37. I can only break this rule if I am looking for Blahnik boots so that they are more forgiving (you can wear thicker socks, or put in Birkenstock half insole supports), but otherwise, I am a true blue 37.
And that’s how I find thrifted, consigned, secondhand items online and in shops.
LASTLY, IT’S BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Used items repurchased means that you didn’t cause a new item to be added to the landfill this year.
You’re reusing and recycling what someone has already purchased, getting a great value out of it (a fraction of the retail price!) and looking well-heeled to boot.