I am by no means a thrifting expert, but since my move to LA 3.5 years ago, it has become one of my very favorite hobbies. In fact, a majority of the clothes I now own are secondhand. And I love it – for three reasons.
- I can buy clothes that I normally couldn’t afford at retail price.
- I’m recycling – giving clothing new homes instead of supporting the waste that comes with used clothing.
- I get to hunt for that perfect item or rejoice when I come across a treasure I didn’t even know I needed.
Let me be clear – used clothing used to freak me out. I’m a germophobe by nature, so wearing someone else’s clothing or shoes struck a nerve in this anxiety ridden body. So if you’re new to this game, or feel the hesitations I did, I think some places on this list will be a good avenue to start. And once you start, you can’t stop (a la Pringles).
Poshmark / Vinted: If you’re especially new to buying secondhand clothing, these apps are a wonderful place to start (I basically redid my entire closet with Poshmark – I’m @wonderlandsam). Sellers create their own personal closets with photos and descriptions – it’s much easier than sifting through a thrift store. You can ask the seller as many questions as you’d like, read their past sale reviews, and even haggle with them on the price. The only downside is you cannot try the items on or return them if they don’t fit. But! This is why you can ask the seller to model the item and ask as many questions as your heart desires. Poshmark is a great tool for finding the brands you love (i.e. Madewell and Anthropologie) at an affordable price – and past seasons’ clothing that you can no longer find in stores. Many sellers even list items new with tags. And, if you’re really going for it – you can create your own closet to sell those unworn clothes just sitting in your closet (and use the proceeds to buy more or send that $$$ straight to your bank account).
Buffalo Exchange / Crossroads: You can find these secondhand shops in most of the big cities. They are fairly curated (if you ever want to sell your clothes to them, good luck!), so you probably don’t have to dig quite as much as if you go to a legit (like $2 an item) thrift store. They sell items on trend, so if you’re looking for vintage or really unique pieces, these aren’t the stores to go to. But, if you want current styles and clean clothing items, this is another great place to start.
The Closet: This is a boutique consignment store in Santa Monica (on Main Street) that I absolutely love. The selection is small, which means you are not overwhelmed when you walk in. Every single time I have come in here, I’ve walked out with something. They generally have a great selection of jackets (blazers, coats, bombers, etc.) and jeans, as well as designer items. If you’re looking for some higher end used clothing, this is the place to go.
Goodwill: I know, I know, Goodwill? Honestly, my only impression of Goodwill (in Texas) was that this was the place clothes (that nobody wanted) went to slowly pass. But if you’re living in a big (read: expensive) city, chances are people will have nice clothes they no longer want. There’s a Goodwill by me where I’ve found Anthropologie dresses, Cole Haan and Seychelles Shoes, Madewell tees, and more. And with price points from $4-$8 or so, well, that can’t be beat. You do have to keep in mind that Goodwill takes everything, so you will have to do a bit of sifting (and checking for stains, holes, etc.). In fact, for a bit I tried to buy and resell Goodwill clothing for a profit (on Poshmark). And though it works, I just didn’t have the time and energy to devote to that endeavor.
Timeless Treasures: This is a very small consignment store located in Culver City. This one, and other small (local) operations will have less options, and you’ll need to dig more. Often they are volunteer run, so their open hours aren’t as generous. However, I’ve found a pair of denim flares for $2, as well as some great home items (coasters and wall art). These kinds of places are the real “thrift” stores – they can be hit or miss but generally have those nice thrift store prices.
Flea Markets: Probably my favorite place to hunt. You usually have a wider range of options, but they’re also curated to specific booths (i.e. one booth for vintage, one booth for denim, etc.). Prices aren’t necessarily cheap (as flea markets are very popular right now), but you’re also more likely to find something unique that no one else has (and are free to haggle). I love going to the Melrose Trading Post (occurs every Sunday) because it’s not too overwhelming. The Rose Bowl Flea happens the second Sunday every month and is GIGANTIC – you could easily spend an entire day there. I also recently discovered that Artists & Fleas just moved to Venice every Saturday. Fleas are all about the hunt, and it’s so fun to come across awesome pieces. My last trip to the Rose Bowl I so desperately wanted a pair of vintage roller skates (that just so happened to be my size, as adorable things at fleas tend to be), but I already have a pair, so I walked away. And on my recent trip to NYC, I went to the Brooklyn Flea and came home with a new purse, sandals, and pair of sunglasses – I’d call that a win.
Resale Sites: I’ve spent the least amount of time on these, but since everything is online, it makes the shopping experience so much easier. Also, if you wait until one of their sales, you can snag some really awesome deals. I’ve purchased from Like Twice (which is now closed), but thredUP is a similar platform (you can also send your clothes to them in exchange for a little cash). I believe they also let you return purchases.
Explore: And of course, be open to exploring the city you live in (or are traveling to), and walk into those small shops you’ve never heard of. You just might be surprised. I found a pair of completely unworn Ferragamo shoes at a consignment store in Paris and an adorable denim dress at one in Copenhagen. Those are the kind of souvenirs I enjoy.
If this seems overwhelming to you, don’t let it be! Start small.
- Go into your venture having a list of items you’re looking for – because nothing says overwhelming like just browsing through racks and racks of clothes. This will also help you come home with items you will actually wear.
- If you’re going to a flea, bring a large tote (for your finds), and wear a skirt or dress (something easy to try pants on under, as most places don’t have a changing room). Most places accept card, but it doesn’t hurt to have cash on hand (in small denominations – you don’t want to haggle over a few bucks only to hand the person a $50 bill).
- If you want to start as small as humanly possible, go scour your mom’s, aunt’s, great aunt’s closets – you just might find something in there (for free!).
- And as far as what items I personally draw the line at, I do not buy used swimsuits or undergarments – I do however buy used shoes.