Frugal Living

What I’ve Learned About Buying Second-hand Clothing.

I LOVE SHOPPING. It’s therapeutic for me! Some of my earliest memories are of me and my mom, shopping. She took me everywhere with her for the first 5 years of my life. Shopping is actually a really special thing that Mom, myself and my sister share. Living a couple thousand miles apart makes it difficult to do this but when we are all together, we get in a few shopping trips. We also text each other pictures of things we are buying which makes me so thankful for technology!

I did not wear second-hand clothing growing up unless it was my sister’s things but we were built so differently. It took me 2 years to grow into her clothing because she was much taller than me. My parents were so good to us-we got a pile of new clothing each school year. I remember this very distinctly because we didn’t have lots of extra money but this was something my parents saved for, for us. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

clean-laundry_925xI didn’t catch on to the whole buying second-hand until my mid 20’s and even then it wasn’t something I cared to do, knew how to do or tried to practice. I didn’t think much about the impact fast fashion has on our environment and society. More on that later! It wasn’t until I was married in my late 20’s that I literally jumped into it with both feet. When I moved here to Canada the wardrobe that I brought with me was very impractical. I had been living in Southern California for 10 years so most of the pieces in my wardrobe were thin, breezy, summery things. The only truly practical thing I purchased for this wintry climate was my Baffin boots. Talk about being unprepared!

I discovered a store called Plato’s Closet, in the town where I live-shortly after moving here. They have a buying system were they purchase your clothing from you and you can choose to receive cash or store credit. I traded in literally my entire wardrobe for a new one. Now, to be honest I still didn’t buy very wisely. I still had a few things to learn as I lived through each season here in Ontario. But my adventure in buying second-hand began! Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. You can overspend even when you are buying secondhand. It’s really easy to justify impulse purchases when you buy secondhand because everything is way cheaper! I learned this the hard way and ended up with a lot of pieces in my wardrobe that I never wore.
  2. You can find great quality clothing when you buy secondhand but it takes a lot of time searching the racks. You have to be browsing-clothing_925xwilling to invest your time to build a great secondhand wardrobe. If you don’t want to sift through racks and racks of clothing then it might not be for you.
  3. If you find a GREAT piece that you love you should probably buy it. This might seem to contradictory to my first point but if you can establish that said piece is functional and practical to your wardrobe you should buy it. In most secondhand stores there is usually only one of each thing so if you wait to buy it, someone else may scoop it up.
  4. Know your brands. It’s so important to know what is quality and what is not. There are some popular brands out there thatactually aren’t that great of quality. Don’t buy something just because it’s brand name and less than it would be if you purchased it new.
  5. Go for quality-not quantity. This can be said of a lot of things. This also plays into  what type of weather predominately exists where you live and what kind of life you live. I had to get rid of most of my summery clothing. I still own some key summer pieces but I would say the bulk of my wardrobe is sweaters, warm leggings and jeans. This is because our longest seasons are mostly cool to freezing. Even our summers can be cool and damp. I do not like being COLD and one winter we lived in a place with electric heat ($$$$ to run) so I literally lived in 5 layers of clothing. Also, I’m currently a stay at home mom and plan to be for a while so my wardrobe reflects this relaxed style.
  6. HAVE A GOOD LAUNandy-fitzsimon-107470DRY ROUTINE. I do 95% of our laundry because I am SO particular about how I wash our clothing and baby boy’s cloth diapers. I’ve been doing my own laundry since I was 12 or 13. I learned a few things from my mom about whites, delicates and hanging things. But I still cringe when I think about how I used to wash things in college. I would throw everything in together and hope for the best. Then I would dry everything on high. Used or brand new-these are sure-fire ways to wear down and essentially ruin your clothing. Now that 75% of the clothing in our house is secondhand, I have a very specific laundry routine. I actually read the tags on clothing now. I separate lights and darks. I adjust water temperature according to different types of material and I used fabric softener sparingly. The only things I dry on high heat are towels, rags, wash cloths and the cloth diaper inserts. I never dry sweaters, pants, shirts or any of baby boy’s clothing. Yes-that means I hang most of our clothing. During the winter this is tricky because our laundry room isn’t heated. I have to dry the cloth diaper covers on low which takes forever. It takes a few days for everything to hang dry and it takes me an entire day to wash everything which is a pain but in the long run it is so worth it. I want my clothing to last especially because it isn’t brand new. This laundry routine can also be a pain because we currently share laundry with the tenants who live above us.
  7. Not everything is worth buying second-hand when it comes to clothing. There are things that I’ve saved and saved for to buy brand new. Namely shoes. I would say at this point I have 1 pair of great quality shoes for each season. I got into the habit of buying cheap but fashionabmossy-forest-hike_925xle winter boots EVERY year. But they eventually fall apart from the salt and snow damaging them. What a waste! I’d been eyeing Blundstones for a while and started to save for them. I was gifted Christmas money and finally able to get my Blundstones. They have been the most expensive thing I’ve ever purchased but they are worth.every.penny. Besides my heavy-duty winter boots, they are all I wear right now. I also saved for my Birkenstocks this past summer and they were a God-send during my pregnancy. I linked those two styles of shoes I have. ***I highly recommend going into a shoe store to try these on. The fit varies by the person and you don’t want to spend all that money to find they don’t fit.

In closing, I will admit this that clothing is the area in which I have always struggled with overspending. That is the catch with buying certain things secondhand. You have to have a plan going in or you will probably end up with things you don’t need. I’m still working on a minimalist/capsule type of wardrobe. I haven’t achieved this yet but it’s on my to do list. I also wanted to share something that impacted the way I purchase clothing now. While I still buy new clothing it is not often and it isn’t without some guilt. Fast fashion (think Forever 21, H&M, Zara’s etc.) has an extremely negative-even deadly impact on our environment and people. There is an excellent documentary called The True Cost that exposes the consequences fast fashion is having on our world today. The fact that people are actually dying while producing the clothing that we wear is horrifying. pexels-photo-236748I highly recommend this film. It’s sobering and thought-provoking. It has pushed me to consider the ethics behind the brands I purchase. If I had the monetary means I would purchase mostly brand new from ethical companies that ensure their employees work in a safe environment, receive a fair wage and whose materials have the least negative impact on our beautiful earth. Second-hand is the option that I can afford at the moment.

I hope I’ve been able to offer some helpful insight and tips on the investment of buying clothing secondhand. Stay tuned for part two of buying second-hand where I’ll talk buying second hand for the home and baby and what I’ve learned thus far! Please leave your thoughts and comments below, I’d love to hear from you =)



8 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned About Buying Second-hand Clothing.”

  1. Good info. The Plato’s Closet near here is pretty gross–lots of stained or holey items. I have fallen in love with thredUP, an online resale shop. I sell (mine, my husband’s, and my kids’ things) through thredUP and purchase things for the whole family from them. Have you tried them? If not, you can get a $10 credit if you use my referral link

    1. That is such a bummer that your Plato’s is no good! They need to step up their game! I think it definitely varies by city. There is one about 45 minutes from where I live in a very affluent town and everything is very high end. I’ve heard great things about thredUP but haven’t personally tried it yet. I don’t even know if it works for Canada? I’ll check it out. Thanks for taking the time to comment =)

      1. Im not sure if it works for Canada, but definitely worth exploring! I just outfitted myself for vacation (shoes, swimsuit, dresses, etc) on thredUP! It helps to stick to brands you know will fit you. I just search via brand name and size and go from there!

      2. YES! I love that-being able to get some nice things for a trip or special occasion and NOT break the bank. Such a good feeling =)

  2. Great article! I’m glad dad and I made you feel special each school year 😉 And I have many great shopping memories with you and Laura. But YOU are the one who taught me how to be thrifty. As I leave this comment I’m actually dressed head to toe in second hand clothes. Great brands. My shirt is Lucky Brand and my denim capris are Ann Taylor Loft. My shoes are Aerosoles. I’m not sure what brings me more joy. Knowing I did not pay full price, knowing that these are really cute clothes, or knowing that I am making a small difference for someone who is enslaved to this whole fast fashion industry! We can all choose to make a difference. Thanks for inspiring me and hopefully others who read your blogs. Good job sweetie!

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