What should you look for when shopping for second hand clothing with a functional wardrobe in mind? Definitely, go for the quality materials. Natural materials such as silk, leather and wool are usually from the pricier end of products when bought as new, so flea markets of all kind are the optimal places to get those investment pieces for a fraction of what they used to cost.
Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Number one rule: don’t go for good-enoughs. You’ll just end up with a wardrobe that is truly uninspiring. Try to buy what you need, for occasions that are really part of your every-day life.
2. Check the seams! Especially with delicate silk garments, it’s very common to find that the seams have started to stretch out and the fabric is damaged in a way that it can’t be easily repaired later on. Double check for stains too.
3. Look for holes. Minimal holes can often be easily mended, but it’s also wise to check the item for several holes. Especially with wool items, you can hold the garment against light (with a knit, hold it up, as if you were putting it on) to double check for holes that would be hard to spot at first glance.
4. Consider trying different sizes. If you’re used to using a specific brand, remember that now you’re looking at a wide selection of brands that all have their own idea of what “small” or “medium” means, so don’t instantly judge a piece by its size. Try both one size smaller and bigger than what you would usually go for.
5. Spot the stains. If you find a stain on the item (and otherwise you really like it), you should always try and guess what caused the stain and then try to remember how successful you have been in the past in removing similar stains off of your clothes.
6. Try the shoes on. Most importantly, when holding the shoe in your hands, also try and gently bend the shoe to see in what condition the soles are really in. Those cool, 90’s pumps look ready to hit the dance floor, but with a closer inspection, it might be revealed that that’s exactly why they ended up at the flea market. They just might not have many miles left in them (I’ve seen vintage shoes cripple down to pieces…). Enough said.
7. Go for cashmere! A high-quality wool that is easy to keep in good condition by using a wool comd every now and then. So even if you find a used one that looks like it’s seen it’s best days, you might be able to completely give it a second chance by taking the layer of lint off.
8. Avoid the sequins. If you’re looking for a good bargain, look for items that can still take heavy use. Usually winter coats might be the most expensive items at flea markets, but if you find a really good one and use it throughout the winter, it has a pretty nice price-per-use ratio as compared to a cool sequin top that you’ll use once or twice and which will just end up taking space in your wardrobe.
That being said…
9. Explore. I once read an inspiring article about second hand playing an important role in trend setting, especially among young people who might not be able to express themselves or their personal style with buying new, expensive items. Instead, they go for second hand clothing, which can be an exciting exploration of decades of style and design! And that’s exactly what you can do with lower priced second hand items, try something new without such a big financial commitment to it. Who knows, interesting combinations might happen!
10. Keep your friends in mind. I’m accustomed to sending Whatsapp messages to my sister and friends if I see something they might like. This is also how I’ve personally managed to introduce some of my friends to second hand as an option to buying new, which still excites me every time.
Did I miss something? Is there something that you’ve found useful when buying pre-loved items offline or online? Let us know about it below in the comments section!
Sara Nyyssölä is a co-founder of WST, an online store for quality second hand clothing. She started hustling at the flea market scene at the age of six, selling her used toys onwards. Now, she quality-checks second hand items on a daily basis, so that when shopping at WST, you don’t have to.