5 Must-Have Tips for Shopping Secondhand


As Earth Month comes to a close, we’re all dreaming about how to cultivate that eco-friendly atmosphere year-round. One of the best ways to recycle also happens to be a favorite hobby of mine: vintage shopping. As a longtime lover of vintage — that’s how ModCloth got its start, after all — secondhand clothing has a permanent place in my closet … right alongside my ModCloth faves.

While there are many ways to approach the secondhand shopping adventure, I have some trusted tips that can help make your experience a bit more enjoyable (hint: always wear leggings). Here are my top 5:


Keep a List: Before you embark on your shopping excursion, take some time to survey your closet. Note what you already have, and what you may be in need of. Need a little inspiration? What comes around goes around — grab the closest fashion mag and take a flip through, making note of anything that you feel you could reasonably find. Once you’re feeling fired up, create a list of the items you’re on the hunt for — I keep mine in the notes on my phone. You can also keep pictures of hard to match items in your closet on your phone, so you can always pull them up when you’re considering a purchase. A “new” vintage blouse is an even better score when it can help you finally wear that amazing vintage skirt! Remember that you may not find all of the pieces you’re looking for in one trip, but as you become a vintage pro, you’ll slowly check those items off your list.

Create a Game Plan: Whether you’re headed to an estate sale or hitting up a string of local boutiques, a plan of attack will help to streamline your day. Always stop for cash first (you can’t expect to be able to use credit cards at all your stops) and pair up with a trusted friend and swap shopping lists, get there early, and wear a hands-free bag to easily maneuver between racks and crowds of people. As you become more familiar with the secondhand stores in your area, remember which ones lack dressing rooms. Wear an easy outfit, like leggings and a fitted tank to slip dresses over, or memorize your measurements and stash a measuring tape in your purse for on-the-go fittings.

Know When to Hold ‘Em: So, you’ve perused the racks and found something you love, what’s next? How do you know if your find is worth investing in? While many have their own rules of what to purchase and what to leave behind, I recommend asking yourself the following: Can I easily clean it? Does it fit, and if not, will I actually take it to the tailor? Can I envision this easily fitting into my current closet? If the answer is “yes!” to all three, you found yourself a winner.

… But Know When to Fold: Likewise, sometimes you find something that seems truly remarkable, but upon closer inspection might actually be a dud. It can be difficult to admit to yourself that a piece may not be worth your time and money — especially when you’ve fallen in love with it and have already dreamt up all the fabulous events you’ll wear it to — but just remember that you’ll likely find something even better down the road. To ensure you’re purchasing the best quality vintage, check the following: Hold the garment up to a natural light source and check for staining on the body of the garment and in any trouble spots, such as under the arms and around the collar or neckline; inspect the stitching and seams, if the construction looks shoddy, the piece most likely won’t last; finally, check for wear and tear, if the fabric feels flimsy or too delicate to withstand everyday wear, leave it behind.

Mix n’ Match: Now that you’re all stocked up on vintage and secondhand goodies, it’s time to style ‘em up! While I’ll always love an all-vintage ensemble, older clothes and accessories also look incredible styled with more modern accompaniments. Once you’ve given your new finds a good cleaning (check the web for tips and tricks on how to do this), lay em all out and get styling. I love turning to personal style blogs and our very own Style Gallery for inspiration on how to mix vintage with modern.


What tips and tricks do you have for secondhand shopping? Be sure to share in the comments!

About Susan

Susan's all-time favorite things include pugs, eating outdoors, and absurd mushroom-themed housewares. Her current obsessions include nail polish, wedges, and anything high-waisted. Her ultimate style icon is her grandma, and she's one of the founders of ModCloth!

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