Shopping secondhand is one of the best ways to replenish your wardrobe more sustainably, as well as saving money along the way! There’s a lot of stigma surrounding secondhand shopping and it’s totally unnecessary. There are so many brilliant bargains to be had and a circular approach is so much better for the planet too. Secondhand does not need to mean tatty and smelly; plenty of items have barely ever been worn by the original owner. Here are my top tips for shopping secondhand and nabbing yourself a bargain!
7 Tips for Shopping Secondhand
1. Shop on eBay for poorly listed items
Some sellers just don’t take the time to photograph or describe their listing well! This will automatically put you off clicking on it. However this is one of my favourite tips for shopping secondhand! These poorly listed items are where some of the best secondhand bargains are to be had. Less shoppers will be interested so you’re far more likely to nab a deal…so place that cheeky bid! Listings that use stock imagery are also usually less popular.
My best eBay finds include a pristine cashmere jumper for £7, a Per Una utility jacket for £5 and a French Connection dress for £1.20!
2. Search by misspelled listings
Talking of poorly formulated eBay listings, some sellers don’t even check that they’ve spent the brand name correctly in the title! There are plenty of websites that take advantage of this such as Fat Fingers, Bargain Checker and Typo Hound. A quick search of ‘Whistles’ and ‘Reiss’ brought up plenty of listings with zero bids where these brand names had been spelt wrong! This is a great tip for shopping secondhand because less competition equals greater bargains…
3. Use Facebook Market Place for furniture and local items
Facebook Market Place is a lot smarter than it used to be. It now has a search function and it learns the kind of items you look for and click on, so will show you more of them! Most sellers just want items gone and the ease of someone who can collect locally means that you can normally make a sensible offer.
This is a particularly good tip for shopping secondhand if you’re up for an up-cycle challenge. I bought these IKEA bedside tables for £40 for the pair; they retail at £80 each new. I then gave upcycled them in rattan! You can find a full tutorial here. My beautiful pink bicycle was also an upcycle project and I’ve since seen several of the same or similar models for less than £100 on market place. Read the post here.
4. Use specific apps for designer goods
There are specific apps and sites to use if you’re after tips for shopping for secondhand designer goods. The prices are higher to reflect the RRP of the goods, but often these sites will authenticate them so you can guarantee they’re genuine and that the condition is as listed.
Vestiaire Collection is my favourite site for this and you can sign up for email alerts too if you’re after a particular piece. A quick search tells me that if you’re after a Gucci ‘GG’ belt, you can find one secondhand for £139.61, compared to £295 new.
5. Make a ‘wish list’, then be patient
One way to slow down the consumption of fast fashion is to get rid of the ‘I want it now’ mentality. Easier said than done! I’m as guilty as the next person for impatience, in a world of Prime and next day delivery of practically anything. I have a note on my phone of items on my secondhand ‘wish list’; I also save things when I see them on people on Instagram. You can set up email alerts, keep an eye out in charity shops and do a regular search on eBay, Depop etc for the piece you’re after. Remember: you don’t actually need it NOW.
5. Shop in charity shops in affluent areas
I know this one is a bit icky (actively seeking out well-off areas) but it is one of my most tried and tested tips for shopping secondhand. There’s a natural correlation between the wealth of an area and the likelihood that its residents will part with higher end items to charity shops. If you’re London based, my favourites are on the King’s Road in Chelsea. It’s really commonplace to find designer labels on the rails and it also means that lots of high street brands that would usually be deemed more expensive (French Connection, Reiss, Whistles etc) are the ‘cheap’ items in the shop.
I think my best find was a brand new French Connection coat. I bought it for £30 and it had retailed at £225 the previous winter! I still wear it 4 years on.
6. Shop out of season
People clear their wardrobes out at all times of year and are actually more likely to get rid of something out of season. A spring declutter might bring up a host of unwanted winter clothes, for example! Or a pre-Christmas clear out a collection of summer dresses. Whilst it might feel odd purchasing something at the wrong time of year, it is one of the best tips for shopping secondhand.
That coat I mentioned previously was bought in August during a heatwave! Two months later I was really glad to have it, and the shop probably would’ve priced it higher then too…
7. Hire occasion wear
Technically not a tip for shopping secondhand, but rather for sustainability in general. How many times have you been to an event and worn something once? Or wanted a new outfit for Christmas, that will end up in the back of your closest come the new year? HURR is great for designer pieces, whilst Hirestreet offers rentable dresses for all occasions. If you’ve got a wedding to attend, a £206 dress is yours for £32 for 4 days.
Thankfully, societal attitudes towards shopping secondhand are changing. We need to normalise saying “…thanks! I got it on eBay!” The amount of waste, pollution and poor working conditions being churned out of fast (and designer!) fashion labels is unacceptable. Shopping secondhand helps to alleviate the issue by keeping what has already been produced – even if that was by a fast fashion brand in the first place – in circulation. It’s also a much more accessible means to sustainability for many then shopping with small, handmade businesses (as lovely as they are!)
What are your best secondhand bargains?