Follow these 16 top tips from our Craft Expert Penelope Quinn to help you bag a bargain when buying secondhand clothes.
Those of us that already buy secondhand know the joy of finding that perfect bag or that designer jacket and paying a fraction of the price – but for others, it’s understandable that countless piles and racks can be overwhelming.
However, with a few bits of know how, you too can find the hidden gems that will make your friends seethe with envy – especially when they find out how much you paid for it.
And there’s the added bonus of giving back to the community (especially if you buy from an op shop) reducing landfill and your carbon footprint.
Here are my hot and fast tips on how to sort the wheat from the chaff when buying secondhand clothes.
1. Think outside the box
I pick up my clothes from garage sales, thrift shops, secondhand consignment stores, car boot sales, vintage shops, city and country markets, and clothes swaps, even friends. Scour your local newspaper and community websites to find out what’s happening in your area.
2. Pick your time
A change of season is when people usually have a clean out of their closets, so this is when you’ll find some great buys.
You’ll also find some real bargains at markets by visiting an hour before everyone starts packing up. Stallholders don’t want to take their clothes home with them!
On days that are blustery and rainy, or blistering hot summer days, vendors will be more keen to get rid of their clothes cheap.
3. Pick your area
Try regional areas or small country towns for markets and op shops – they tend to be cheaper. If you’re shopping in the city, try op shops in an affluent suburb and you might just finding something amazing.
If you get overwhelmed with the endless options and chaos, try scanning. Look for colours that you know suit you and the patterns and fabrics that pop. Once you find a fabric you like, you can then check out the style and the fit. That way you’ll be able to get through a lot really quick.
5. Buy it right, buy it once
Having an eye for quality is paramount - and the key to scoring some great buys. A designer trench, tweed jacket or handbag may be something you can’t afford brand new, but it will always be in style. Apply the ethos ‘I’m too poor to buy cheap’.
6. Try out those harem pants
But if there is a new trend you’ve been sniffing out , buying it cheaper secondhand is the perfect way to try it out.
7. Don’t be afraid to haggle
Most people at markets just want to see a little money back from their initial investment; this puts you in a great position to haggle. I always find bargaining with a smile yields best results, and don’t start too low. But note that haggling at an op shop is considered bad form.
8. Go with an open mind
Don’t go with something specific in mind - keep your options open and you’ll find it much easier to find gems. ‘
9. Prepare to rummage
Be patient - half the fun is ferreting through the over-stuffed racks and bargain bins! When you’re rummaging, look for fabrics that pop.
10. Clothes karma
Have a one in, one out policy. When you buy something new, donate another item back to charity or sell it online.
11. Always try it on
I’ve made this mistake more times than I’d like to admit. Sometimes markets and op shops don’t have glamorous changing rooms, but if you buy cheap items that don’t fit, it’ll soon add up. Sizes vary widely between manufactures and eras
12. Inspect it
Missing buttons, a wayward zip or a small tear are an easy fix with a needle and thread or sewing machine. If you’re not that way inclined, put it back – unless you’re in love with it, you’ll probably never get round to fixing it.
13. Upcycle it
If you do see something dazzling that you can’t live without, take it to a tailor – it will still be cheaper than buying it new.
14. Look for vintage
Because clothes from the 60s and 70s were so well made, vintage holds its value. Look for a wardrobe staple rather than something kooky that you won’t wear.
15. Go online
Sites like eBay and Gumtree are a frugal fashionista’s dream – and since they are catalogued with some kind of order, if you’re looking for something specific, this is the way to go.
16. Get clothes swapping
If you’ve got a bunch of girlfriends all complaining that they don’t have anything to wear in their overstuffed wardrobes, why not hold a clothes swap night? Just bring all the clothes you haven’t worn in six months, have fun swapping, and whatever isn’t claimed donate to charity.
Keep an eye out for community clothes swap events - For a small door fee you can go in and swap your clothes with dozens of others.
For more upcycling and recycling tips, head to darnsexysecondhand.com