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Secondhand Shopping: 20 Essential Dos And Don’ts

The appeal of second-hand shopping is undeniable, whether you're trying to save money on a cute new outfit or reduce your carbon footprint.

There are some of the best hidden gems in fashion available at thrift stores and other secondhand sellers, including deep discounts on designer goods and one-of-a-kind vintage clothing.

Use these 20 tips to find good quality, secondhand clothing, shoes, and accessories that won’t waste your time or money.


Don’t Forget To Measure

The sizes of clothing vary drastically between brands, especially when it comes to vintage clothing. In the case that you are shopping online or there isn’t a dressing room at your favorite thrift shop, use a measuring tape to take your measurements and keep them in a note on your smartphone. To check if the garment you want to buy fits perfectly, use the tape in the store.

Make Sure There Are No Stains, Rips, Or Other Imperfections

Some rips and tears are easier to deal with than others, but most vintage or secondhand garments won’t be in perfect condition. You probably won’t be able to get a stain out of something great if it’s how old. But if a jacket has a small tear in the armpit, you can fix that yourself — or have a tailor do it.

Make Sure You Understand Your Materials And Labels.

Check out the tags and maker marks on vintage furniture and clothing to determine the quality and provenance of the item. Solid wood furniture and woolen coats are timeless, so check out the tags and maker marks when browsing vintage items.

Before You Buy Appliances And Electronics, Test Them Out

If you get your $6 Instant Pot home and it doesn’t work, it’s a total waste. If you find that the lamp or vintage stereo won’t work, you should give it a quick test drive since most thrift stores have outlets or power strips near their appliances.

Make A Shopping Strategy

When you walk into a thrift store or resale shop, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the vast selection of items. Because of this, when you go to a store, you’re more likely to go through one section — the t-shirt rack or the housewares department. Consequently, you’ll be able to pay more attention to items that you might otherwise miss, like the cool band tee in the back corner.

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Take A Friend With You

If you’re staring down an antique mall, it’s easier to divide and conquer. If you have limited time, grab a friend who’s also looking for thrifty things, and split up the store. You can text items the other person would love back and forth without having to go all over the store.

Fast Fashion Is Not For You

You should skip the fast fashion t-shirts and skirts (like for example, cheap Forever 21 t-shirts) and opt for classic, well-made items from premium brands.

Take A Look Around

It can be a source of great exhilaration to find a treasure at thrift stores, but it isn’t always an easy win. Browse through the racks, look through piles of books, and other collections of secondhand items — sometimes the best items are hidden behind the less interesting ones!

The Size On The Label Is Irrelevant

Clothing sizing is notoriously inconsistent, especially with vintage pieces. Try something on if you think it’ll fit; you might be surprised.

Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment With Your Appearance.

You can experiment with looks in thrift shops and vintage stores that are much more exciting than what is available at department stores. Want a killer pair of bell-bottoms? Score the real deal at a flea market or antique shop.


Check The Price Online Before Buying Anything

With the internet, you can find out the value of almost anything in a matter of seconds. Make sure that the resale shop has the item priced fairly when you find the perfect end table or designer blazer. Sometimes you will get lucky and make a big score!

Give Your Finds A Facelift, But Don’t Be Afraid To Do So

You sometimes find the perfect armoire at a resale shop, but the color is just off. Fortunately, a coat of paint can fix almost anything in the furniture world. If you want to upgrade used furniture without breaking the bank, opt for faux finishes, new drawer pulls and handles, or fun shelf liners.

You Shouldn’t Forget To Take Your Own Donations

Take the bag of clothing that’s been sitting in your closet for months and drop it off while you’re thrifting. As well as keeping the selection fresh and helping the organization that runs the resale shop, you’re also making room for new merchandise.

Avoid Being Afraid To Bargain

The art of haggling is a hallmark of places like secondhand shops and flea markets. Make an offer on an item you’re interested in. If the seller declines your offer, decide whether to pay the asking price or move on. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but it doesn’t hurt to be polite.

Don’t Buy Secondhand Items That Aren’t Safe

Secondhand items with safety risks, such as car seats and bicycle helmets, should never be purchased secondhand. Before buying items with safety risks, inspect them thoroughly for any damage or avoid them entirely.

Beware Of Fake Designer Goods

If you stumble upon a haute couture piece in the wild, ask yourself if the price is too good to be true. Designer knockoffs have become increasingly difficult to distinguish from their authentic counterparts over the past few decades. The piece may be a total fake if it has bad threading or an irregular logo placement. Otherwise, be on the lookout for these hallmarks.

Do Not Buy Anything You Are Not Absolutely In Love With

The best part about thrifting is the bargains — for many of us, a $13 skirt is too good to pass up. The $13 skirt is just waste of money if you don’t wear it. If you don’t absolutely love a piece, skip it. It won’t hurt you in the long run.

Stealing Is Never A Good Idea.

There are countless items stolen from vintage shops and thrift stores every year due to unscrupulous thieves. These shops are often owned by small businesses or nonprofits, such as women’s shelters, that need any extra income.

Buying Items That Don’t Fit Just So You Can Alter Them Or Your Body Is A Bad Idea

You shouldn’t buy that gorgeous blouse if it doesn’t fit right, unless you have great tailoring skills or want to spend more on alterations than the blouse itself. You shouldn’t buy something that is too small just to fit into it if you want to go on a diet for it.

Don’t Buy Larger Sizes With The Intent Of Altering Them

On TikTok, teens have been buying garments three or four sizes up and wearing them oversized or tailored to fit, which is a real bummer for people who are in those sizes themselves. Let those pieces go to those who need them — plus size clothing is already hard to find.

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