A Dirty Job - Navigating the Wonderful World of Used Clothing

A Dirty Job - Navigating the Wonderful World of Used Clothing

Our always clever and sometimes irreverent guest blogger is back - this week to talk about her love / hate relationship with shopping used. Robyn weights in and gives us a higher-end view of Ebay, consignment stores, and how to navigate them with the ease of a professional shopper:

The trouble with shopping and consuming in general is that, even with rules, even with a conscience and high-ideals, you can suddenly find that something you didn’t know was harmful was actually very harmful, and then, if you’re me, you spiral and decide to just sew your own clothing out of jute from hemp plants you harvested in your backyard that you grew after composting your own feces.  But a more appropriate response to this dilemma would be to simply find a way to remove yourself at least one step away from the manufacturing process, and I’ve found buying used, whenever possible, to be excellent solution.

Buying used cuts down on waste, cuts down on cost, and puts some distance between your money and the manufacturing process, a win-win (or win-win-win, if you’re counting). I recognize that lots of people have hang-ups about buying used, because it can be gross, because it can be time-consuming, because you might get crabs/bedbugs/a staph infection. But it all depends on how you shop. Mostly, I tend to avoid giant Goodwills or similar thrift shops for clothing, purely because you have to spend so. much. time. digging. to make it worth your while, and I just don’t have the wherewithal to do that anymore. If, however, you do, then more power to you; there are some seriously great finds to be had if you have the stamina to do it (back in my younger days, when I didn’t need to eat and pee every hour on the hour as I do now, I used to spend gobs of time doing this, and found some real treasures including a vintage Hermes Kelly bag for $3.) And while shopping used invariably brings on a level of work that doesn’t come with retail, I find the benefits far outweigh the costs.

For example, let me break down an outfit for you.

Shopping Used

Jacket: Smythe; Top:J Crew Factory;Jeans:Rag & Bone;
Shoes: Vince Camuto; Headband:Lululemon; Glasses:Warby Parker;
Bag: Balenciaga; Cuff: gift

    • The blazer, which was about $500 new, I got on Ebay for around $100. That may still seem like a lot, but I wear this thing all the time (Clearly). And I’m telling you, once you discover the difference between a well-made blazer and a cheap one, you will never go back.
    • The top is J Crew factory. I really wanted it but they’re back-ordered until July on the website, so I found this one used on, surprise!, Ebay. Tip: if you find a shop/seller on Ebay that you like, stick with them. The ones with good prices and return policies are worth frequenting. Also, setting up saved searches when you know what you’re looking for is a great time saver, as Ebay will just email you every day with new finds.
    • The jeans are Rag & Bone, a Buffalo Exchange find. I think I paid around $80 for them, and that was with the tags still attached.
    • The shoes are Vince Camuto, and I literally paid $8 for them. They were clearance at DSW, plus I had a credit from my reward points, plus a coupon.
    • The bag is Balenciaga from Last Call. Originally $1,015, I paid a little over $200 for it. It pains me to recommend anything Neiman Marcus (their customer service is abysmal) but there are some really good deals to be had at Last Call.

Mind you, this is not an outfit I put together in order to impress you with my shopping skills -- I just randomly selected a photo from a stack of outfit pics my friend Claire took for me a few weeks ago. This is mostly to illustrate that, at any given time, at least half of what I’m wearing is used clothing.

In addition to Ebay, I’ve found great things on Etsy and heard good things about Copious (though I have yet to try it. Anyone want to check it out and report back?)

Ethical Shopping Tips

Vintage faux-python clutch and Ralph Lauren belt both via Etsy

I’ve had really good luck with an online consignment store called The Real Real. My most recent purchase from them is this pair of Lanvin platforms I got for $80. Yes. Lanvin. $80. It can happen.  The Real Real is a lot like a brick-and-mortar consignment store in that you have to really dig around to find the deals, but when you do, they’re worth it. Word of advice: about once a month they have site-wide sales and mark everything down 20-40%. Stalk what you want and wait for it to go on sale.

Waiting for a good sale

My giant, hard-to-fit feet are the only thing keeping me solvent

As far as brick-and-mortar stores go, in Austin I’m partial to the GW (a pickier version of Goodwill, there’s one on Far West and one of Bee Caves), and Moss always has great finds .Buffalo Exchange (which I recognize is a chain that can vary greatly depending the location) is pretty great, especially for jeans, contemporary American designers (you could build a pretty good fort out of the amount of Marc Jacobs and Robert Rodriguez pieces they have), and pretty much anything you’d ever want from Urban Outfitters.

 Tips for Shopping Ethically

My Precious

I’ll admit, it takes effort to shop used. Much like exercising, it’s all about finding what works best for you and keeps you coming back; it’s all about trial and error. Just remember to wash your hands.

 - R. S.

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We'd love to hear what you've found that works for you when shopping used. Any favorite spots around town (if you're willing to divulge your secrets!) or on the internet? Any horror stories of things you've found at a thrift or consignment store? 

May 08, 2013 by Jen Lewis
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