Once upon a time, my mother used to vehemently admonish against wearing “other people’s tat”. However, after many an intense discussion, I seem to have persuaded her of the benefits of shopping for second-hand clothes and accessories. Often, we buy pieces from the same high-street label, except my Karen Millen tends to be a decade older than hers. Although it is still not enough for my mother to convert to the thrifting shift, she is constantly reminded, partly by her experience, partly by my own tastes, that the quality of new clothes has gone downhill.
So far, I have emphasised the importance of quality and have made no mention of cost, even though the latter is what motivates many to shop second-hand or vintage. However, finding older pieces that last longer is an equally exciting prospect. A steal is a steal, so I shall provide expertise about where and how to acquire one online.
Founded in the UK in 2011 and now perhaps the most globally accessible app or website for buying and selling second-hand pieces, Depop is the one that comes to mind when one thinks about buying ‘vintage, streetwear, one-of-a-kind, Y2K’ for the first time. Though I have found and bought some of my favourite staples from here, I recently decided to limit the types of garmentI purchase from Depop given how much the prices have inflated since I joined.
If your reason for thrifting involves no financial compromise, then Depop’s plethora of independent vintage sellers will certainly appeal to you. Lots of people set up shops and businesses with a curated aesthetic and a consistent style of stock. Since these sorts of accounts are aiming to make a significant profit rather than selling old unused wares, the prices are ultimately going to parallel those on the high street. However, you can occasionally appreciate that the higher cost reflects not just the quality of the piece, but the effort put into garment sourcing in the case of more established sellers.
That said, if you hunt closely and ‘like’ or ‘save’ all the pieces you at least like the look of (despite the price), you can develop a curated ‘Suggested for You’ page, which might help you get closer to finding more pieces you like. I reserve Depop personally for pieces for formals and balls, and general style inspiration.
As soon as you open the app, Vinted presents you with a curated newsfeed that considers not only your preferences for sizes and brands, but also takes into account the descriptions of your commonly favourited or searched items. This algorithm thus makes Vinted one of the easier websites to navigate through and find new wardrobe pieces. Though there are signs of inflation here and there, I find the prices to be generally more reasonable than on Depop, to the point that Vinted is my go-to app for hunting for new clothes and styles.
There are fewer people trying to make big buck from selling their clothes and more who want to simply clear out their wardrobes. The app also encourages buyers and sellers alike to send in offers, and this insistence on price negotiation can really impact how much money you save depending on whether the seller approves it.
The only drawback is the additional fixed buyer protection fee that goes on after the item and shipping prices. As the name suggests, it is a regulation in place to help you in case of damages, losses, or scams, and it only amounts to about a pound more, but is certainly off-putting when your total skyrockets from £3 to £6.85. Other than that, I could not recommend Vinted more.
There was a point in time when I used to adore eBay, as it was the best website for finding anything second-hand at affordable prices. The demographic of sellers tends to be like that of Vinted, with most people prioritising the decluttering of their homes as opposed to making substantial profit. It is also easier to find items that are being sold overseas than on Vinted, so you might have more luck finding what you want due to the broader catalogue on offer.
You can purchase items through auction or instant buy, and, in many instances, you might even be able to put forward an offer. Another benefit of eBay’s buying process is that it is less complicated than that of Vinted due to the absence of additional buyer fees. I would say that more people have caught onto the rising popularity of second-hand shopping, and this is reflected in rising prices, but I still find eBay to be a good place to source unique jewellery and cool accessories.
My main piece of advice for navigating eBay is to know exactly what you are searching for, and how other people might describe it. Sometimes people give details in the description but write nothing about size, colour, or era, which means filtering your search might cause you to miss out on some good pieces.
Some final online thrifting tips:
If you start to recognise common brands, research them before you buy. I tend to search for specific names and labels because I know that I like their styles and I can trust the sizing – when you buy second-hand online there is often a no-return policy except in the case that something arrives damaged.
Just because a piece is no longer sold or the brand itself is discontinued it does not guarantee that you are buying a one-of-a-kind item. If you get beaten to a purchase, fear not – there is still a chance that you will find it again, perhaps at a lower price.
Ask the experts – if your parents donated all their best clothes long ago, they could still advise you on brands and pricing. Most of the brands I end up buying from are the same high street shops that my mum used to frequent – she informs me about the brands that were worth it and those whose prices are now heavily inflated on Depop, and this has influenced my shopping habits for the better. She loves to remind me that Bay Trading for £20 is an utter rip-off, and that Jane Norman is slightly tacky.
It is okay to deliberately buy fast-fashion second-hand since it is already in circulation and will not constitute to financially supporting unethical practices. Honestly, the longer it avoids landfill the better.