I’ve always had a soft spot for thrifting. I practically grew up trailing around charity shops and browsing trendy vintage stores. I love it all: the endless hours spent meticulously flicking through the rails, the joy of finding something that fits like a glove and the oh so humble brag of “thanks – it’s vintage!”
When the pandemic forced the secondhand shops shut, I was left with a thrift-shaped void in my life. So, I did what I’ve always done best – thrift, except online. And I’m not only one: according to ThredUP’s 2020 Resale Report, online secondhand is set to grow 69% between 2019 and 2021. Virtual thrifting, it would seem, is pandemic proof.
This guide will help you find some thrifted gems from the comfort of your own home.
Putting Secondhand First
Thrifting is ultimately the most sustainable way to shop because you’re giving a new lease of life to a pre-loved garment. This prevents unloved clothing from going to waste and joining the 13 million items of clothing that end up in a UK landfill every week. The mass production of clothes places a huge strain on the earth’s resources. Opting for secondhand eases this pressure on our planet by prioritising textiles already in circulation. It is estimated that extending the average lifespan of our clothes by just three months would lead to a 5 to 10 percent reduction in each item’s carbon, water and waste footprints. In theory, buying secondhand also reduces the demand for brand new and curtails the need to extract raw materials. A recent study commissioned by luxury retailer Farfetch found that 65% of secondhand clothing purchases in the US and UK prevented the purchase of something brand new.
Thrifting is not only beneficial for the planet; it’s good for your bank account too! Secondhand clothes usually come with heavily discounted price tags, making thrifting an accessible entry point for anybody looking to kickstart their sustainability journey. The best part is that these purchases won’t directly fund the fast fashion industry or its exploitative practices. Whether you’re helping a charitable cause or supporting a small vintage seller, thrifting allows you to direct your money exactly where you want it.
New to You: the Best Places to Thrift Online
Depop: This is my favourite on-the-go app for thrifting stylish, branded pieces from individual sellers. Combining the best bits of a shopping app and a social media feed, Depop is a great way to participate in general trends without directly funding unethical retailers.
Vinted: Similar to Depop, you can buy people’s unwanted clothes on Vinted. They also have a chat function that lets buyers and sellers make direct offers so you can cut out the awkward haggling talk.
eBay: Yep, I was also pleasantly surprised to learn people sell their clothes on eBay! To aid your search, filter the results to ‘used condition’ and scroll through tons of secondhand bargains. Or you could sell your own clothes for some extra cash.
One Scoop Store: For a more curated thrifted experience, One Scoop Store sell the most beautiful pre-loved pieces in one convenient place. The owner, Holly, does the hard work for you by scouring car boot sales, charity shops, thrift markets and a network of private sellers.
Retold: This is another gorgeous, curated store that sells vintage pieces for those who want to shop sustainably without compromising their style and time.
Gem: For the antique thrill seekers, Gem is a vintage search engine which compiles millions of products from thousands of online stores at once.
Vestiaire Collective: If you’re after some secondhand designer, Vestiaire Collective sell authenticated luxury goods for up to 70% off retail price.
Oxfam: If you want to take charity shopping to new heights, you can shop 24/7 at Oxfam’s online store. You can ever filter your search by decade to find the perfect vintage steal.
Re-Fashion: Speaking of charity, Re-Fashion sell thousands of secondhand clothes to raise money for sustainable causes and keep clothes in the loop.
Loopster: If you have any little humans in your life, Loopster sell secondhand clothes for children. This is perfect for youngsters who quickly outgrow their clothes.
Top Tips From a Seasoned Thrifter
Optimise your search: My favourite thing about online thrifting is that you don’t have to spend hours blindly rifling through the rails; you can skip straight to the best bits. Most apps and sites have a variety of filters that allow you to optimise your search, emulating the more joyful aspects of online shopping. You can now specify your size, the brand, the condition, the colour and the price point. This also means you need to know exactly what you’re looking for which reduces impulsive purchases and buyers regret.
Give it the virtual once over: When thrifting online, it’s important to double check the quality of potential purchases. Most sellers don’t accept refunds, so you want to make sure you’re getting what you paid for (I recommend following @depopdrama for some surprises). I also want to make sure I’m being mindful when thrifting. When the pandemic first struck, I found myself obsessively scrolling through Vinted. A mantra I now live by is “just because it’s secondhand and cheap, it doesn’t mean I need it”.
Here are some questions I ask myself before purchasing but if I can’t find the answer, I ask the seller directly:
- What material is this made from? Is the garment made to last?
- What condition is the item in? Are there any nonrepairable rips, stains or tears?
- Does this fit true to size?
- Am I going to wear this enough? Does it complement my wardrobe?
- Do I really need this or do I already have something similar?
Name your price: Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price with the seller! Sellers are often looking to shift their unwanted clothes fast, so will be more than willing to lower the price. Many even state in their bio that they’re open for offers. As a general rule of thumb, ask the seller politely if they would consider selling the item for £x. As long as you don’t totally lowball them – nobody is going to sell their Dior bag for a tenner – there’s no harm in asking. The worse that can happen is they say no! And if they do, you can always shop around for a better price.
Beware of drop shippers and scammers: With the rising popularity of resale apps, it’s becoming ever harder to determine whether something is genuinely secondhand. Drop shippers are middlemen who order their stock from a foreign supplier to be shipped straight to the buyer. These accounts often pose as individuals who trick buyers into thinking something brand new is vintage. While drop shipping directly violates Depop’s rules, it is still quite prominent on the app. Tell-tale signs include items that are available in multiple sizes or colours, shipping that takes over 2 weeks and the use of stock images. If in doubt, always message the seller for clarification.
Always, always, always check a seller’s reviews before buying: Scammers are rare but I have been caught out once when, after purchasing some heels, the seller ghosted me and never sent me my item. If I had read the less than rave reviews, I would have thought twice about purchase. Luckily, Depop and Vinted both have in-built buyer protection, so I raised a dispute and was refunded within the fortnight.
Take your time: Online thrifting is somewhat of a treasure hunt. Countless searches might leave you empty-handed before you strike gold with a designer piece. It’s moments like these that make the entire hunt worth it. A favourite hobby of mine is spotting something on the high street, waiting a few months and then tracking it down on Depop. It feels so much more rewarding to thrift online because you’ve put the work in to source a piece you genuinely love. The dopamine hit is the same, if not better, than buying brand new.
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