3 Vintage Experts Told Me Their Online Secondhand Shopping Tips

Jasmine Fox-Suliaman

I’ll admit it: There are very few things I miss more than being able to enter my favorite local secondhand shop and dig for hidden gems. But while continuing social distancing is of the utmost priority right now, that doesn’t mean the thrifting has to stop. In fact, in its 2020 resale report, the popular secondhand shopping app ThreadUp revealed that the online secondhand market is projected to grow 69% from 2019 to 2021. 

Given the current state of the world, it comes as no surprise that used clothing is booming. Not only has the already unstable retail market been upended by the pandemic, but also more people have been cleaning out their closets and reassessing how their consumption impacts the environment.

For editors such as myself, secondhand shopping has been a long-time passion, however, I understand that not everyone knows how to efficiently thrift, much less online. So now seemed like the perfect time to tap three vintage experts to demystify digital secondhand shopping. Ahead, you’ll hear from the curators behind some of Instagram’s and coolest vintage shops about their secondhand shopping tips, a bit about their passion, and why shopping used clothing is the future. Spoiler alert: Gems in all forms can be found ahead.

Roam Vintage 

About: Roam Vintage is an online vintage shop founded by Natasha Zoë Garrett. In Garrett’s own words, "Vintage is in my DNA." She recalls  her childhood shopping with her mother at flea markets and antique shops. All pieces sold on her site are handpicked by her, and the jewelry featured on her site is made-to-order.

Roam Vintage Summer Prairie Dress ($120)

What’s the best piece you’ve found secondhand online?

I scored a vintage Celine cream safari jacket online recently for a steal!

How has secondhand shopping changed your approach to your personal style?

It hasn’t changed it as much as it informed it. I grew up shopping secondhand out of necessity. We didn’t have much money growing up, so I found ways to dress creatively with mostly thrifted pieces. It helped train my eye to find pieces with potential out of a pile of otherwise not so special clothes.

What’s one of the largest misconceptions you think people have about secondhand clothing?

I think there has been a stigma around secondhand clothes being dirty and dated. Yes, there certainly are a lot of pieces that could use a good cleaning, but there are also a ton of magical, well-made, and timeless gems to be found. With Roam, I really try to show people that vintage doesn’t need to look or feel retro and that it can absolutely translate well into a more modern wardrobe.

Roam Vintage Orfeo Bronze Ring ($154)

Why do you think people are apprehensive to shop secondhand online? What advice would you give to someone afraid to take the plunge?

I think the apprehension comes from not being able to try pieces on first. Vintage sizing can really be all over the place. I recommend that people know their measurements before shopping and make sure that the sources they are buying from providing measurements (such as bust, waist, hips, inseam, etc.) of the pieces they are selling.

I also recommend reading the listing to see if a piece is being sold with any significant wear before buying, as most shops do not offer returns on vintage items. Personally, I love a  great vintage piece, but I know the hunt isn’t for everyone.

Roam Vintage Linen Trousers ($110)

Where is your favorite place to shop for secondhand gems online?

Instagram is pretty great for vintage browsing nowadays. There are so many shops that use Instagram as the primary platform to sell their pieces. I also love eBay if I want to look for something specific and possibly rarer. Lately, I have been absolutely obsessed with Facebook Marketplace for vintage home goods!

How do you think COVID-19 will change the way we think about the secondhand and vintage shopping experience?

I think the pandemic has actually created a really beautiful support system for the online selling community. I think it’s shown people that buying and selling online really is the way of the future. I’ve seen a lot of shops get creative with virtual studio appointments and pop-ups. I also think that in light of the recent uprising and amplification of Black voices, I’ve witnessed and been a part of a really beautiful support network of Black-owned online businesses, and I’m so grateful for that.

Why is it more important than ever to shop secondhand?

Our planet is hurting because humans continue creating and consuming without examining their intent. With my shop, I aim to remind people that there is already so much beauty out in the world that exists and to help them find ways to love pieces that have lived lives before reaching them. 

Roam Vintage Serafina Sterling Silver Ring ($198)

What tips can you offer for those who are shopping for vintage online?

Tip #1: Thoroughly check the pieces for stains, tears, etc. Look out for tags or zippers which might give clues to how old the piece is, and always trust your gut!

Tip #2: Know your sizing and thoroughly read the listing.

Tip #3: Look at what it’s made of. Personally, I try my best to source mostly natural fiber vintage-like cotton, silk, linen, and wool. It’s more breathable and comfortable. Make sure you know what the care requirements are for the pieces. I try not to sell too many pieces that require dry cleaning or expensive upkeep.

Tip #4: Find vendors you really love and constantly check in to see what new pieces they have. You can even feel free to reach out to some shops to see if they can look out for something specific for you. I do that often for customers.

Thrilling

About: Thrilling is an online marketplace founded by Shilla Kim-Parker that curates hundreds of secondhand and vintage items from small stores across the country. Kim-Parker grew up in New York City shopping secondhand.

Why do you love shopping vintage and secondhand?

I love the adrenaline rush of the hunt and discovering that one of a kind piece that just sings to you, almost always at a great value. 

Jean Paul Gaultier Classique Maroon Crepe Mini Dress ($325)

What’s the best piece you’ve found secondhand online?

Honestly, every time I purchase vintage online, I think it’s my best find. Right now, I’m obsessed with vintage caftans. I just scored one that feels both subtle and striking. 

How has secondhand shopping changed your approach to your personal style? 

Once you realize you can get off the relentless treadmill of mainstream fashion, it’s incredibly empowering. I became much more honest with myself about what genuinely brings me joy and comfort, and not at all concerned with what others think about my personal style.

What’s one of the largest misconceptions you think people have about secondhand clothing? 

Secondhand shopping is not a niche sport. It is just shopping. And it happens to be a more effective medium to express your personality any way you want, for any occasion you want. 

Why do you think people are apprehensive to shop secondhand online? And what advice would you give to someone afraid to take the plunge? 

All vintage sellers absolutely love engaging with shoppers and welcome questions or the opportunity to explain their item in greater detail. Don’t be shy about asking for more information regarding condition or material or for additional pictures. Also definitely know your measurements (at least bust and waist) and feel free to ask for measurements of the item if it isn’t already listed. Last, many secondhand sites (including ours) offer the ability to return the item in case it just doesn’t fit in the way that you had hoped. 

Givenchy Gold Chain Clip-On Earrings ($60)

Where is your favorite place to shop for secondhand gems online? 

Besides Thrilling? Instagram for sure.

Thrilling '60s Wicker Barrel Basket Handbag ($60)

How do you think COVID will change the way we think about the secondhand and vintage shopping experience?  

Secondhand shopping pre-COVID-19 primarily occurred offline and in person. Just as we have gotten used to meeting, working, celebrating, and learning online, the pandemic has accelerated the trend of shopping and selling vintage online. 

Why is it more important than ever to shop secondhand? 

The apparel industrial complex has devastating consequences on the environment and on human rights. Shopping secondhand is not only the most genuinely sustainable way to buy clothes, but it also often supports small indie shops who are the lifeblood of every local community and economy.

Mayaro Orange and Green Tie Dye Slip Dress by Mayaro ($75)

What tips can you offer for those who are shopping for vintage online?

Tip #1:  Have fun on the journey. 

Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions.

Tip #3: Only buy the pieces that make your heart skip a beat. When your pulse quickens and your heartbeat accelerates, that’s the piece for you.

Sororité Vintage

About: Sororité Vintage was founded by a team of French sisters and their mother who have a passion for vintage clothing. The team curates vintage reworked lingerie, jewelry, and other pieces that are sold at exclusive drop times that you can keep updated about on their Instagram. 

When did you first get into shopping vintage and secondhand? How has secondhand shopping changed your approach to your personal style? 

We’ve been shopping secondhand for as long as we have been able to hold a purse. Individuality has always been ingrained within us, and shopping from vintage stores allows us to find pieces that express our own personal styles. Vintage stores offer more variety than fast-fashion retailers and their selection changes daily. 

Dior Lace Bustier ($257)

What’s the best piece you’ve found secondhand online? 

We happened upon a vintage 1956 Chevrolet 3100 that needed a lot of tender love and care. We’re currently in the process of converting it into an electric vehicle. We already drive an EV on our vintage-hunting travels and want to do the same for the truck to give it a new, eco-friendly life. 

Where is your favorite place to shop for secondhand gems online? 

You can find everything on Instagram. We actually found our truck on Instagram, so don’t assume what you can find. 

What’s one of the largest misconceptions you think people have about secondhand clothing? 

People tend to think that clothing found at secondhand stores is out of style. Designers actually purchase and find inspiration from vintage clothing for their modern lines. Garments you see on runways in 2020 are often renditions of pieces that were already on the runways in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Burberry Silk Lingerie Set ($120)

Why do you think people are apprehensive to shop secondhand online? What advice would you give to someone afraid to take the plunge? 

Prospective clients who love vintage clothing but are unsure if anything vintage would ever fit them reach out to us all the time. This is why we make sure that our descriptions are detailed and have accurate measurements and sizing information. We also created a concierge service on our website called La Conciergerie where anyone can request particular sizes and styles to arrive in our shop.  

The Sororité Large Farmer's Market Net Tote ($30)

If you’re new to shopping vintage online, we recommend taking the time to find trustworthy vintage stores that share your values and match your personal style. Once you find a store that you love and feel that you’re ready to purchase, invest in one staple piece that you know you’ll wear forever.

How do you think COVID-19 will change the way we think about the secondhand and vintage shopping experience? 

COVID-19 has completely changed the way that we think about in-person shopping as a whole. People’s love of vintage clothing will continue, but the way that society shops has changed. It’s a brand’s responsibility to ensure that they’re providing a superb and safe online shopping experience. 

Why is it more important than ever to shop secondhand? 

As consumers, it’s important to align our purchasing power with our values. Vintage clothing no longer has an impact on the environment. Sustainability is what drives our brand. We not only offer exclusively vintage and pre-loved clothing in our shop but also ship these pieces in fully recyclable and biodegradable packaging since plastic packaging can end up in landfills and oceans. Shopping vintage is an excellent way to lower your personal carbon footprint and to help the planet. 

Versace Corset ($463)

What tips can you offer for those who are shopping for vintage online?

Tip #1: Trust the source/seller. We are grateful to have traveled the world and created
and maintaining meaningful relationships with other vintage collectors that still exist today.

Tip #2: Have an open mind. You may not know what you’re looking for until you see it.

Gucci Silk Wondergarden Monogram Square Scarf ($215)

Tip #3: Find a forever piece. We curate timeless, statement, and staple pieces that can stay in someone’s wardrobe forever.

Tip #4: If you find a gem that you love, don’t let it go. Vintage pieces are often rare and one-of-a-kind, and you may never see it again. That’s part of the beauty of shopping vintage and secondhand. It’s like a treasure hunt.

Shop more secondhand gems:

Mansur Gavriel Bucket Bag Tumbled Leather Mini ($335)

Love finding a staple designer bag secondhand.

Hermès Bucket Hat Nylon With Cashmere Large ($280)

If you’ve been vying for a designer bucket hat without the tag, shopping this piece secondhand may be the best route. 

Balenciaga Sunglasses ($113)

Love a good statement pair of sunglasses, especially when they’re a steal. 

Celine Silk Camisole ($94)

Crochet is a fabric that our editors predicted would come back with a vengeance this year, and what better way to adopt this trend than by finding it secondhand? 

Prada Tessuto Nylon Pochette Bag Black ($375)

Still looking to get in on the ’90s shoulder-bag bandwagon? Try shopping the look secondhand.

No matter the trend, some of the best pieces can be found used on Instagram and other fabulous retailers online—you just have to know how to search and be willing to do a virtual dig for hidden gems. 

Next: What Do Lady Gaga and Zendaya Have in Common? This Vintage Jewelry Curator

This article originally appeared on Who What Wear

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