An expert’s guide to shopping second hand
I have been thrift shopping for as long as I can remember.
Flash back to the early ‘90s and I was living in Brisbane. My sister, Sarah, and I would spend weekends hunting for fashion treasures at the Teneriffe Woolstores; now coveted luxury accommodation but then floors upon floors of second hand markets. A thrift shopper’s dream!
My favourite find from that time was a tan suede jacket with shearling trim around the collar and cuffs.
It’s a skill and a hobby that has endured. I love designer bags but rarely buy them brand new, instead choosing to give a second life to a piece that’s no longer loved by its original owner. It’s meant I’ve scored some beauties from the likes of Chanel, Gucci and Bottega Veneta.
With the second-hand clothing market reportedly set to be twice the size of fast fashion by 2030 and demand - fuelled by social media - booming, it’s never been easier to access such quality (and quantity) pre-loved pieces. But how do you separate the finds from the filler?
Here are my top tips for second-hand shopping:
1. Purchase from a trusted consignment retailer. They know their stuff and often have more accountability than a faceless account online. They’ll have scoured the globe for the real treasure, done the checks and vetting and be able to provide you with all the details and information you need. It’s second-hand hunting, without the hassle.
2. Check the returns policy. Obviously this may not apply to your local op shop, but if you’re buying from a retailer, be sure you’re across the returns policy in case you have any issues. At After Eight, you have seven days to return for a full refund.
3. Read the garment conditions and ask the seller any questions you have about it. If a pre-loved piece has been really loved, it can mean it’s more worn. If you’re buying online, the time to ask questions is before you purchase, not after. Pick up as much detail as you can then so you won’t be left disappointed.
4. Authentication, authentication, authentication. If you want to be sure you’re holding the real thing, ask for authentication. Original receipts and authenticity cards are a good start.
5. If you are shopping second hand in person, be in the right mood for it. Feet hurt already? Come back another day. As all the pieces are one of a kind, it can take some time to hunt through to find the real treasures. It’s rewarding, but it takes time.
6. Have a list/idea of what you want or need. While buying second-hand is better for the environment, quality is still better than quantity. Before buying, ask yourself if you have an occasion to wear it or how often you’ll wear it.
7. Altering is always an option. Fit and sizes can vary with older pieces. So don’t stress if it’s not a perfect fit; for the right pieces, tailoring or alterations are definitely worth it (our Styling Hacks article has some great tips). And there’s plenty of upcycling inspiration online. So if you find a one-of-a-kind piece that’s not quite right, but has amazing fabric or details, consider getting creative with it.
8. Be patient and look for quality. Just because it is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Our After Eight motto applies here too: buy once, buy well.