Second-hand shopping tips

I know second hand shopping isn’t for everyone and although the stigma of shopping in charity shops thankfully has worn off the past few years, I know a lot of people still find it difficult.

As mentioned before, my job means I spend a good deal of time in second hand and vintage clothing stores sourcing costumes. I’ve been doing this for around 7 years now so along the way I like to think I have picked up some hints and tricks along the way to make it as painless as possible.

Apologies in advance if some of these are super obvious, but hopefully there is something useful in there for everyone.



1. Shift your mind set

 Just because it’s second hand doesn’t mean it’s going to cost you nothing. Do your research, know the true value of the items you want, Primark and H&M items will be dirt cheap because they are dirt cheap new, but they probably already look washed out and old.

 If you are going for higher grade brands that you know are good quality (not just with a big name) then be prepared to pay a realistic price, they will be considerably cheaper than buying new but you are still paying for a quality item.

2. Visit regularly

Scope your most visited areas, and walking routes so it’s easy to visit regularly. New stock is put out daily in most places so it’s worth stopping in at your favourite shops for a quick browse, often. Also check google maps as sometimes there may be a gem a street or two away and you would never know!



3. Know your sizes, or carry a measuring tape.

Or you know try them on, to be honest though I rarely do this as I’m usually short on time (or on someone else’s).

Don’t be blinded by an amazing item that might be a size too small but it’s such a good deal you might just buy it anyway and hope it fits / one day will fit – Speaking from experience here, it wont, you will regret it and it will be a waste of money.

However things that are too large for you could be made to work, see below!

4. Get to know a good dry cleaners

Not just for cleaning, but also for alterations and tailoring! I just said not to buy the wrong size items but if something is a little big and you really do love it then why not take it to get fitted to you? Most dry cleaners do alterations and it’s usually pretty cheap.  Of course if you know how to sew and can do it yourself, bonus points!




5. Check the items over thoroughly.

A bit of an obvious one, however I have made the mistake before of not checking the armpits of something and being very disappointed once I got it home. Depending on the shop, they will usually check over stock and make sure it’s clean before putting it on the shop floor, but not always.

6. Keep a wish list

Personally, most of the items I find are spontaneous, but it’s always useful to keep a general wish list. It stops you from having mind blanks or small panics when faced with so many options and also works as a control system so you don’t end up with 20 shirts when what you actually need is a pair of trousers.




7. Look through the whole shop.

Don’t just stick to one area, each shop merchandises differently and different people are putting out the stock, so it’s always worth to have a quick browse throught all the rails as you never know what you might find. I once was lucky enough to snag a Maison Martin Margiela which had been placed in the wrong section due to their unique sizing system.

8. Carry a spare tote bag.

I’ve noticed that recently a lot of the chain charity shops now offer (for the obligatory 5p) their own branded plastic bags, however they are (along with being un-sustainable) really uncomfortable to carry, the handles really dig in to your hands if there is more than one item in there.



9. Don’t forget about designer re-sale shops!

As I spend all my time in charity and vintage shops I sometimes forget these exist, but they are great. They sell high grade designer and high-end high street clothing and accessories. Most of them have strict policy’s on what they take so you know you are in safe hands. If you are looking for something in particular they may even keep their eyes peeled for you.  

10. Be in the mood.

Don’t force it. If you are stopping in quickly and regularly this wont be such a problem but if you have planned an afternoon or day of ‘doing the rounds’ just make sure you are feeling it!

If you are looking for on-line thrift shopping tips then check out my other post by clicking here!


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