How To Shop Secondhand and Vintage Like An Expert

Buying secondhand clothing is an affordable and sustainable option that everyone should take advantage of –but, at the same time, if you end up buying clothes that will just sit in the back of your closet, what’s the point?

Thrifting and shopping secondhand can sometimes be a bit daunting; it always feels like there are too many options or none at all. But we’re here to help!

Here is our how-to guide to shopping second hand successfully.


Find the Good Thrift Stores in Your Area

Thrift stores and secondhand shops are more common than you would think – odds are that there are several good options in your neighborhood. New York City practically has one on every other block. All it takes is a quick search on the web so you can map out as much as possible ahead of time. This allows for browsing a few different spots in terms of price and style.

Most shops will fall into one of the following categories:

  • A lot of thrift stores double as charity shops; these are a great option because they are super affordable and, as made obvious by their name, all of the profits from your purchase are donated to charity!

  • Vintage and resale stores are another option, tending to have more luxury items and rarer pieces from earlier eras.
    Tip: If your area’s a thrifting desert, you can even thrift and secondhand shop from the comfort of your home – See No Kill’s article on our favorite online thrift and vintage stores

The low prices and large selection of different items in any given store can easily cause shoppers to get carried away and buy items that they may not ever wear. It is super important not to impulse shop because who has the space in their closet anyways?

 So, some things to keep in mind while you browse would be whether the piece is:

  • your size

  • something you would actually wear

  • in your price range

  • fits into your personal style.

Also it’s important not to buy something simply because you think it’s a ‘good find’; Instead ask yourself “Does it work with what I already have? “


A few more quick tips to keep in mind while browsing the secondhand racks!

1.     Make a list.

What’s been on your mind? What’s missing from your closet? This can be as simple as a quick numbered list on your phone, or you can create a Pinterest board filled with style and outfit inspiration. This can serve as a reminder not to get too distracted while you shop!

2.     Does it fit?
I mean like really fit. Don’t settle for the almost looks good because there’s always another piece that might just do better. Better to wait it out until it’s a piece that makes you smile. If it doesn’t fit perfectly but you really love it decide that you’ll take it to a tailor to have it altered for you –yes this will add to the cost but will also add to how often you’ll wear it and how good you’ll look.

3.     Consider Color
Color is a wonderful starting place when there are a lot of items to sort through! This can guarantee that your purchases will be worn time and time again. Then, before you decide on an item, think of some of the clothing you have back at home and plan out some outfit ideas. If these outfits are something you would be excited to wear, then the choice is a no brainer!

4.     Would You Buy It Full Price?
If you are debating whether or not an item is for you, a question to ask yourself is whether you would buy it for full price. This is almost fail-safe and might help you not buy something simply because it was inexpensive versus items you are actually fond of.

5.     Inspect the material.
Does it need hand-washing or dry cleaning? (that’s fine, if you’ll do it!) Is it a lovely old cashmere that’s got a hole? Is it repairable? Is it (re)designable? So many pieces allow for a creative bent to bring them back to life. If that’s something you’re good at, the sky’s the limit for second hand shopping has more than come of age. Synthetics like polyester and rayon wear well but are terrible for the planet. If you’ll wear it for a long time you’ll keep it from the landfill longer which is a good thing. But be sure to check carefully for any stains because they’ll be impossible to come out.

Shopping secondhand or thrifting has amazing benefits, from protecting the environment to your wallet, it can pump on the volume on your old wardrobe while expanding our notions of what’s on trend. How much more cool when you’re not chasing trends but creating a wardrobe of pieces as unique and special as you?

–Carolina McCormick