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Don’t be snooty! Wearing “old” used clothing is very cool. According to a CNBC report of retail analytics by the GlobalData firm, pre-owned clothing sales are currently $24 billion and may scoot up to $64 billion by 2028 — outpacing even fast fashion. While scrounging around consignment shops, thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales in person has a certain appeal, shopping online resale sites (some with apps) is a whole new adventure. How to navigate this secret fashion world? Here are my top reality tips.
1. Take a look at high-end resale sites
Don’t be intimidated by luxury sites like The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective. Yes, they sell clothes and accessories for thousands of dollars, but if a little research turns up affordable vintage wins, it’s more fun than Pinterest. I found a classic vintage Gucci leather hobo bag for $270 and a vintage Yves Saint Laurent trench coat for $189. Take my pro advice and look for timeless classic pieces that will upgrade your basic everyday wardrobe.
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2. Check out all-inclusive sites, too
Some pre-owned fashion sites like Tradesy and thredUP offer popular contemporary brands like Ann Taylor, Loft and MICHAEL Michael Kors along with big labels like Escada and Giorgio Armani. They’re a surprisingly great source for affordable work dresses like those from Banana Republic, Diane Von Furstenberg or Eloquii, and cocktail/evening-out dresses from designers like Carmen Marc Valvo, Aidan Mattox and David Meister. ThredUP has a “choose your neckline” feature that makes finding your favorite cold shoulder, V-neck, boatneck or cowl-neck easy, in addition to the usual dress shape, length, color and size checklist.
3. Scour for signs of quality
If you usually shop new, going pre-owned means scoring older but better-made clothes for the same price as fast fashion (think H&M), mass retailers or mall chains. Clues include natural fabrics (like cotton, silk, cashmere and leather), expert tailoring (well-made covered seams; fine; even stitching; a full silk lining; finished buttonholes) and upscale hardware (metal — not plastic — zippers, elegant buckles and closures). On printed blouses and dresses, the patterns will always line up perfectly at the seams so there are no stripes or askew matchups at the sides, back or sleeves — a dead giveaway to cheap.
4. Realize gently worn items are fine to a point.