I get this question a lot, and this is where I find my secondhand pieces:
- Thrift Stores
- Consignment Stores
- Vintage/Antique Stores
- Online Shopping
And a few links to my favourite places of course, even the physical locations of the consignment stores.
1. THRIFT STORES
For me, thrifting means stores where items are donated for free, and then resold for profit. You have thrifting stores that are non-profit and donate the proceeds to charities, and also employ local people who are in need of jobs, and gives them work experience. Other thrift stores (for me), can also be for-profit, and their net proceeds don’t necessarily go to charity, though they may say they do donate a percentage.
These places are in almost every city.
Value Village – For Profit
I come here, but not often.
I find their prices higher than in actual thrift stores, and their jewellery options are good in the locations I go to, but can get pricey sometimes because they know brands better here, and tend to price the “designer” stuff higher. Some of the quality of the goods are also slightly higher, and they’ve definitely picked through bins to put the ‘good’ stuff out. Hit and miss for me.
I have found a lot of great pieces, like these rainbow bow wedges like new with the stickers still on:
Goodwill (Renaissance) Non Profit
Salvation Army (L’Armée du Salut) – Non Profit
Both of these places have lower prices and are interchangeable for me, like $5.99 for a skirt for instance, but to find a gem, takes a lot more work as the large stores have racks to sift through. I sometimes don’t have the patience for this. I have found some really good pieces here, but again – hit and miss going through the racks. I have found a lot of great pieces here.
Other great pieces such as this black wool skirt by Alfred Sung for $7.99:
2. CONSIGNMENT STORES
My favourite place to shop and it is far more expensive, is consignment. OH I LOVE CONSIGNMENT STORES.
These are places where people like me, who know they have really good designer pieces and they bring them in to resell via a store. These stores are TOUGH. They curate what they actually put on the racks, they make sure the items are clean, in good condition, sometimes recently released (no old ‘designer’ items that look ancient), and they certainly charge for it. Instead of finding a bag for $10, you’re going to pay $500 or more, upwards to even tens of thousands for a bag like an Birkin or a Kelly.
I really enjoy consignment shopping and I find stuff to buy all the time. When I go in there, I tend to walk out with something if I am not disciplined and focused. You can still find really good deals here. I’ve found designer dresses that were $4000 for $100 just because no one else fit into them, or wanted to buy them, or didn’t like the bright prints or colours.
I have found lots of great pieces here, like this dress in a custom print by Erdem for only $100:
3. VINTAGE / ANTIQUES STORES
Vintage stores are great because you find gems there. I wander around the city, and anything that looks like an antiques store, or an antiques store, I walk in and take a look. Sometimes I find great items like an old nightshirt, or jewellery that is unique.
4. ONLINE SHOPPING
This is I’d say, 70% of how I find most of my great pieces.
Lots of great websites that are consignment stores (but global ones), individual reseller sites or auction sites, and I love them all. Some of these websites have stores in-person, but I have listed consignment shops I enjoy shopping at online, only because they’re not in my city but they ship to me.
Poshmark (use code SHERRYISH for $15)
Wrote all about how to buy from Poshmark, and how to sell on Poshmark here. I love this site. I shop on here 90% of the time these days, and I sell on here as well as on eBay and other venues. I found some great gems on Poshmark such as this Reiss assymmetrical top:
And all of my YSL arty rings:
As well as my vintage Chanel purse which I talked about here in extensive detail:
I have had the most luck here (obviously) as I have found so much from global sellers, mostly Americans. Found all of my Manolo Blahniks on eBay…
Along with some really choice pieces like this charcoal Dior wool coat for $100 as well as these Aquatalia over-the-knee flat boots:
…and my Alice and Olivia dress to name a few gems I have found there:
I find some great vintage pieces on Etsy, such as my vintage Victorian nightshirt in linen which I am wearing as a dress now:
I have found a few J. Crew pieces on here, and sold as well.
These two above sites Vestiaire Collective and TheRealReal are very designer-focused with global sellers around the world. You can find the MOST AMAZING pieces on here, and frankly, I’d waste a lot of money if I were ever tempted to just browse online and get obsessed over the pieces I see.
Mine and Yours
Love this Mine and Yours site from Vancouver. They have such a well curated collection of items, a lot of the pieces do tend to be on the smaller side like US 0 to US 4, and the pieces are in very good condition. Very clean and stylish. Well curated.
Another great site Lab Consignment to buy from, she also sells new beauty products and perfumes. Well curated, and fantastic, clean pieces, lots of great bags as well.
I visited Haute Classics all the time when I lived in Toronto but nowadays they’re mostly selling handbags online but I am all designer-bagged out at the moment. They had some great pieces in person, but they mostly do footwear and bags mostly.
The Fifth Collection
They’re based in Singapore and have very beautiful pieces, The Fifth Collection is where I found the most amazing Elizabeth Cole necklace:
…and my YSL arty Love ring in red:
And that’s where I shop!
HOW I FIND REALLY GREAT PIECES
The answer, as with anything in life, is: CONSISTENCY.
CONSTANTLY ON THE LOOKOUT
If you thrift, you need to go often, at least once a week. This one was harder for me because it’s a commitment, but that’s how people find deals.
I am always low-key browsing just to see what they have, with ZERO intention to buy anything. I just want to see what’s out there, and only once in a while if I stumble across something that is just too good to pass up, then I consider my budget, and buy it. Just the other day, I had a cashmere sweater that normally retailed for $1800 for sale like new and I bought it immediately for under $125 because it was worth it.
Or I pass along the good deal to friends. (Pays to be my friend, I pass along deals all the time).
I like just browsing on sites, in stores, I go in, I check out what is there, I flip through the racks, file away cool pieces that may not fit me, but I take a note of the brand, or the style and I try to find it in my size secondhand, or I make a note of just the brand if I seem to like their pieces, and I save it aside as a key search word for later.
SET UP ALERTS
I have eBay alerts on specific pieces I know I still want and am looking for, or certain brands or items in my size. You can set them up on eBay, The Real Real and Vestiaire Collective. I set keywords up for things like:
- Manolo Blahnik US 7
.. because I am always low key searching for more heels in my size, or for a specific look or pair in heels secondhand of “the pair that got away” I wasn’t willing to pay $1000 USD for. I sometimes find great pieces, and I know exactly what size I am in everything so it makes it easier.
SEARCH WITH KEY TERMS
In Poshmark, there are no alerts but you can search with terms and filter. I search by words like this:
- Brand (APC, ALC, The Row, etc)
- Style (“vien skirt”, “Stam tank” top, or any style name that I know specifically refers to a product I want)
- Fabric (Natural ones – silk, cashmere, linen, wool)
- Colour or Pattern (Striped, Magenta, Teal, Turquoise, or any colour that I want specifically)
- Details (“Draped cashmere”, or “Leather details”)
If people put these key terms in their listings, I will find them. Sometimes, people write NOTHING in their listings and just by chance, I search for a term, and I find a gem because they have no idea how to list things for max exposure. I once on eBay, found a Dolce and Gabbana (D&G) wool overcoat for $100 because I was searching “wool car coat”, and their listing popped up without any extra notes, style information or specifics, considering it was a jacket STILL SELLING IN STORES!
They could have copied the information in there, with clearer photos, but didn’t so it didn’t really sell. It also helps to know obscure brands and styles that you like, as well as what you are looking for specifically, like “black lace bralette cropped top”, and to be very specific.
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE MISSING
I low-key browse 100% of the time because it is my hobby/passion, but you must know what you are missing in your wardrobe and have a running list. I don’t need any navy pants, so I don’t have it in my list. But I am currently looking for a magenta, silk tank top in a specific shade of pink, with a certain kind of neckline. I have yet to find it, but it is one of the many items on my list I am browsing for.
I also always look for black lace items, leather details on jackets, cashmere and silk blend sweaters, or anything assymmetrical, so I may search “assymmetrical cashmere sweater” as a search term. Once I thought I was missing a really great navy peacoat, so I found one I liked from Rag and Bone with leather details and then stalked it until I saw it secondhand.
NOT EVERY DEAL IS A GOOD ONE
Be wise with your money and don’t waste it on something that you don’t really love, and not have enough for something you truly want later on.
Just because it is designer and cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a deal.
- Would you wear it?
- Love it?
- Use it often?
- Is it a classic staple for you or a fun piece?
I see lots of impractical items like 4″ heels that I would think look cute for photos but I wouldn’t wear often out running errands or in my daily life, or clutches in leather or in beautiful prints that I know are also not practical either. Other impractical items include things like silk kimonos because as much as I really want to think I am that person who can wear that, I would rather just wear a shawl blazer as a kimono feels too casual for me.
Just because I see something like a sequin blazer for $50 doesn’t mean I should buy it. Or a leather pleated skirt when I won’t wear it often.
Or just because it’s a designer brand for only $50, doesn’t mean I should also buy it. You have to hold back your money for the good pieces, otherwise you won’t buy anything you really love, and lots of stuff you just like.