Online second hand shopping tips

My first ‘second hand shopping tips’ post covered bricks and mortar shops so I thought it would be a good idea to do another one targeted to on-line stores.

A large portion of my working life is spent shopping. If I’m not hitting the streets looking for perfect costume items, I am hitting the web, trawling through sites looking for things such as; out of commission US army class A uniforms in forest green or the perfect peach 1960’s dress. So along the way I have picked up a few tips and tricks which can make it as quick and painless as possible.

Again like high street charity shops, knowing what each site is good for is key and saves time in the long run. There are lots of new sites popping up all the time and I really should pay more attention to them but to be honest I tend to just stick to what I know works.

The 3 main sites I use are:


  • Mid to high-end high street (Cos, Whistles), low-end high street (Topshop and Zara) and some designer (Vivienne Westwood, Matthew Williams).
  • Some vintage – There just isn’t that much on there any more but it’s always worth a quick check (I’m talking about 1900’s – 1960’s there is plenty 1980 and onwards)


  • Vintage (good quality and unique pieces)

Vestiare Collective:

  • Designer and high end highstreet (APC, The Kooples to Vivienne Westwood and Chloe)

computer note book still


  1. Use the filter tools!

So apologies if this seems really obvious, but I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been helping a friend search for something and have to direct them to the category filters!

ebay see all selection

  • As soon as I’ve searched for the general item I am looking for I then go straight to the side categories and select ‘See All’. This then brings up a smaller menu with all search options available, for some reason they don’t all always show up on the main page.
  • You can get as specific as you want this way if you are looking for an item in particular, or if just browsing at least fill in the sizes you would purchase.
  • Probably my favourite category to fill in is the ‘material one’ – I personally don’t like wearing polyester so this is a great way to make sure none comes up in my search.

ebay materials selection

  • Also as we are looking for second hand I always make sure to select ‘Used’. I’m sure this means I might lose out on seeing some new items from personal sellers, however it’s worth it to automatically filter out all the new items from fast/cheap fashion companies (usually from China).

ebay condition selection

  1. Read the description and look closely at the pictures

Again this is an obvious one or not even a point I should make as it’s how ebay works… but I have done this many times myself, I see an item I like the look of, I see the counter counting down so I place a bid before I’ve properly checked the details, only to discover after I’ve won that there is a large stain on it, there is a huge zip detail I didn’t see before and don’t like, the colour is actually different than the photos, many things that could have been avoided if I had just taken a few more seconds to read the blurb.

  1. Ask questions

If the description box is sparse or the pictures are poor quality send a polite message to the seller and ask for more details, be specific about what you want (I.e chest size, photo of the neck etc), also if you need an item quicker than the postage suggests I have found most sellers to be accommodating.

  1. Use the ‘Follow Searches’ function

This is particularly handy if you are searching for something specific. For example, how I found my ‘The Kooples’ coat (read here).

  • Type in your search keywords, and narrow down to your perfect search (as above)
  • Click the ‘Follow this search’ button
  • Now the searches should show up on your home page so you see them straight away and you don’t need to go through all the filters again and again.
  • E-mail alerts are also sent to you which is handy if it’s a specific item you are after but you can turn them off if it gets too annoying and they will still show up on your home page.

ebay follow search function


  • The only tip I have here is again maybe an obvious one but if you are searching from the UK  just make sure you are searching for ‘UK’ only. The majority of sellers on there are US based and although a lot of them do ship to the UK you then have to pay customs on top, so purchases usually work out a lot more expensive, personally I just try to stick to UK sellers to avoid disappointment.
  • Do contact sellers if you are looking for a specific style item, if they have a lot for sale in the style of something you are looking for, a lot of them will have a lot of stock not yet listed and might have the perfect thing tucked away.
    (I was recently looking for a bulk lot of victorian undergarments for a costume job and a lovely lady had a huge lot stashed away un-listed, I managed to take about half of it off her hands for a very good price!)

Vestiare Collective:

– No tips that I can think of, the site is heavily regulated so each item goes through them first to check authenticity and quality. The only thing I would say is I have found it’s not really worth selling through them if you are looking to make money as they take a pretty hefty cut, but if you just want to clear out items it’s a great choice.


Do you have any recommendations for second-hand shopping on-line? Like I said these are they 3 I am most used to but am always on the look out for other great sites!


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