Shop Secondhand Like A Pro: Tips For The RealReal, Poshmark & More

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The thrill of the hunt. That’s what it usually is for me. It’s the process, it’s getting closer, it’s smelling my prey. It’s elusive…hard to find, rare. And then? There it is. Caught you. Add to cart.

My mom taught me a few things at a very young age.

  1. Percentage math. Just take the 2, multiply it by the 4 in $40.00, and 20% is $8. I’m talking, like, 6 years old.
  2. Thursday is T.J. Maxx’s shipment date.
  3. Never pay full price. Ever. There’s always a way.
  4. When someone compliments your outfit, you immediately tell them how little you paid and where you bought it.

Every single thing you see below was purchased secondhand. And now, my children, I’m here to pass on my knowledge to you. And you will pass it to your children, and we will become generations of legends.

The Beginner’s Guide To Online Resale: Secondhand Fashion, Designer Discounts + More

Clothing consumption & fast fashion are some of the largest contributors to waste. The avg. American generates 82 lbs. of textile waste each year.

The internet is cool and everything, but one of the best parts is resale sites. Fashion from all over the world at a serious discount, in great shape, available to your doorstep in three to five business days. If you aren’t using resale, literally every single time you want to buy something, you’re missing out. So, let’s dig in to the how, where and why.

We all know that clothing consumption and fast fashion are some of the largest contributors to waste. The average American now generates 82 pounds of textile waste each year. So, not only is resale a great way to save money, it’s also necessary. This sustainable shopping has to be our new normal before just consuming newness all of the time.

We’re going to talk about the major players today: The RealReal, Poshmark, Etsy, eBay and Vestiaire. They can be overwhelming, but if you know when to use which one and how, you too can crack the code, my friend.

Why shop secondhand resale? Discounts on pre-owned designer fashion & sustainable! We're talking The RealReal, Poshmark, Etsy, eBay & Vestiaire.

1. The Best For Higher-End & Designer: The RealReal

Let’s start with The RealReal, which is at the forefront of luxury resale.

What is The RealReal?

A resale site that caters to those shopping and selling higher-end pieces and designers. Many celebs and stylists will sell pieces here that were worn once or gifted to them. Regular people sell things too. The pricing is higher but definitely less than retail.

When do I use The RealReal?

One of the best features on the site is MyTRR. You create very specific searches that show up in your feed, so you can see what’s new, in your size, price range, color, designer, etc. For example: I have a search that shows me everyday La Ligne sweaters, in cashmere, size small and medium, below $100.

So, The RealReal, for me, is primarily proactive. I check my feeds, make my wish lists, and when I see something amazing, I buy. Usually, you can use the code REAL for 20% off.

Downsides to The RealReal:

  • Pricing with shipping is still sort of on the higher end.
  • Double-check each item to be sure it’s returnable. The clearance/sale is sometimes final sale.
  • It’s gotten some bad press about authentication and have let some fakes slip by. I think this has improved, though.
  • Descriptions of items are sometimes vague.
  • You have to have an idea of what brands you love, what fits, etc. It’s more for the fashion girl who knows her stuff and less for the casual browser.

Secondhand Fashion I Purchased On The RealReal & Other Resale Sites

In the RealReal, you create specific searches that show up in your feed, so you can see what’s new, in your size, price range, color, designer, etc

The Best For Scoring A Specific Piece: Poshmark

And here we have a very different beast. Poshmark is the Amazon of resale sites. It’s literally everything, and it’s so overwhelming.

What is Poshmark?

A resale site where anything and everything fashion-related can be sold. I’m talking about everything from that random Target dress you saw three years ago but didn’t buy and regretted it, to a vintage pair of Levi’s 501s in exactly your size, to a Dolce cocktail dress. It’s a lot. This can be good and bad.

When do I use Poshmark?

When there is a specific item that I want in a specific size, I go to Poshmark. For example, the other day, Laura posted about a pair of Citizen jeans. I buy everything Laura tells me to, so I checked the retail site and then checked Poshmark. There they were, in my size, $100 less.

And then, you have the ability to make an offer to the seller. I always offer less and negotiate. Usually, the seller is happy to have an offer since there is just so much for sale on the site. The items are then shipped directly from the seller.

Some of my most recent purchases from Poshmark:

I also use this site when I’m looking for something moderately specific and vintage. I collect vintage New Balances in cool colors. and searching the men’s section is primo for this. I also recently bought the coolest dad-jacket leather bomber from the ’80s.

The way you search here is by entering a search term and then narrowing it down with the filter. For example, when I was looking for the jacket, I entered “leather,” narrowed it down to the men’s section, then jackets, then to bombers. I entered size XS or S and sorted prices low to high. After “hearting” my faves, I made an offer on one, she accepted and bam.

Sometimes, if my search has to be vague, I sort prices high to low to pass through a lot of the junk.

Downsides to Poshmark:

  • Because it’s shipped directly from seller, there can be quality issues — but this is rare.
  • There are “boutiques” that also sell on Poshmark, but you can filter them out.

Secondhand Fashion I Purchased On Poshmark & Other Resale Sites

You have the ability to make an offer to the seller on Poshmark. I always offer less & negotiate, & the items are then shipped directly from the seller.

The Best For Something Unique: Etsy

Ah, Etsy. If Poshmark is Amazon, Etsy is your friend’s boutique that sells incense and mood rings.

What is Etsy?

Etsy is geared toward creators and vintage. Think: handmade jewelry and vintage dishware and a sweatshirt that says “dog mom.” It’s not all great.

When do I use Etsy?

I love using Etsy when I want something unique or so specific that the internet literally doesn’t have it. Believe it or not, this happens. Vintage jewelry is one of my favorite things to look for. I search in the vintage category and filter for jewelry, green, and between $40 and $100. It helps to set a minimum to weed out some of the junk.

Etsy’s leather sellers are great too — wallets, tote bags and even shoes.

One of my favorite parts about Etsy is that you can contact the shop owner directly and ask them to make something custom for you — 90% of the time, they will. I’ve had costumes created, dresses made exactly to my measurements, bags designed in different colors…the list goes on.

Keep track of your favorite items and sellers by favoriting them (the little hearts). I have heart items going back 10 years now. Looking back, my most-purchased items have been for the home. I often buy digital art and have it blown up and printed on a canvas.

Downsides to Etsy:

  • It can be harder to get a very specific search and you have to weed through a lot.

The Best for International & Vintage Buys: eBay

Well, if Etsy was that little boutique and Poshmark was Walmart, eBay is North America. You know what eBay is. It’s been around since covered wagons and NSYNC. But just for consistency…

What is eBay?

A seller-buyer auction site (however most of the auction part has changed over to “buy it now”) that sells everything from furniture to velvet Elvis portraits, to Jesus on toast, to Prada.

When do I use eBay?

I use eBay in a few different ways. If I need something very cheap, I go to eBay. For example, I needed four pairs of exactly the same white pants from an adult size 38 to a kids size 25 (don’t ask). That is eBay.

I wanted an authentic Kilim rug for my living room, and I bought one on eBay from an international seller. If you want something international, head to eBay.

I wanted a vintage (old) Penn State T-shirt. I checked eBay because I could definitely see some older human only knowing about eBay and putting up an old T-shirt out of their old closet.

Downsides to eBay

  • Beware of fakes. Just do your research on seller reviews, check their other items for sale, and you should be good.
  • The seller sets shipping cost, so if you’re buying something large, the shipping could be astronomical.

The Best for Affordable Designer Gems: Vestiaire

Now we have that shop that’s next to the little cafe on the streets of Paris. I use Vestiaire sparingly, but it does have it’s own unique advantages.

What is Vestiare?

A primarily international higher-end resale site. Think TRR but mostly from around the world. The benefit of this is, many luxury items are cheaper in other countries and therefore are sold for less at resale.  

When do I use Vestiare?

I bought Golden Goose sneakers on Vestiaire a few years back because they’re supposed to look dirty, and I’m a genius.

When you look at an item on the site, it tells you what country the item is coming from. I don’t know why, but I like to know that my Bottega bag is coming from Portugal. The item ships FIRST to Vestiaire and then to you. It authenticates it before it comes to you. However, they don’t authenticate it before it goes to the website, and this is a downside. One time, I ordered something that didn’t make it past the quality check, so the order was canceled.

Use this site if you’re dying for something, anything from a brand that you love and can’t afford. Browse it, filter it, and chances are you’ll find something cool.  


Bonus: In-Person Consignment

I know, I know. We have to actually get into our car for this one, but you can find GEMS.

In-person consignment shopping tips:

Go directly to the men’s section. Look at the men’s button-down shirts first. They’ll be cheaper and better quality. Next, men’s sweaters. Again, cheaper, better. Men’s jeans are next. This is tricky if you’re a smaller size, but I have found some cool oversized Levi’s in this section. Last, men’s jackets/blazers.

After you hit that section, go back to women’s jeans. Just search in your size and a few sizes up for the brands that you know and like. Look at the wash and cut of the leg. Then, try them on.

I also look in general for cashmere, leather and costume jewelry.

My consignment shopping tips: Go to the men's section & look for button-down shirts, sweaters & jeans. They'll be cheaper & higher quality.

Now, if you made it this far and you’re saying, “But, Amanda, I don’t know what brands fit me well and what I really like.” This is what I say to that:

Get a few friends, make a day of going to high-end stores. Try on everything. When you find something you like, take a picture of the tag. You’ll start to know what brands work for your body.

Also, I can’t forget to mention The Mom Edit Buy, Sell, Trade page. The best thing about it is the community. We love the same things, and it’s full of lovely humans.

Let me know what questions you have!

Xo,
Amanda

Hey, Pinners…

Why shop secondhand resale? Discounts on pre-owned designer fashion & sustainable! We're talking The RealReal, Poshmark, Etsy, eBay & Vestiaire.
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After multiple existential crises, I've been an interior designer, a store window designer, a personal stylist (when I want to say something fancier than friend who went to the mall with another friend to "help"), a teacher, an author and illustrator, a graphic designer, NFT creator, a t-shirt designer and cat and Broadway enthusiast. But NOT Cats on Broadway. Just cats, the animals. What have I learned through all of my careers? You can really do a thing and then call yourself whatever you want. No one will check. But before all of this, in the year 2008, I was a blogger. And now I'm back with my favorite blog of all time. Let's go.

13 COMMENTS

  1. I love this so much. That flow chart! I have maybe half my clothes from Poshmark. I browse brands to make it more manageable. I’ve had better luck with shirts and sweaters where fit is a little more flexible than pants or jeans, since there are no returns. Also, so much cashmere. I stalk Jenni Kayne sweaters, and if I ever buy one it will be from Poshmark.

  2. Thank you for the great tips and I love your style! I have really been trying not to buy new so this article came at the perfect time.:) Any other tips for shorties?

  3. yeeeessss! 99% of my wardrobe is second hand! Such great pieces are out there, and now you can thrift shop from your sofa. WAHOO!

  4. Like Mary, I’d love to hear extra tips for those of us who wear uncommon sizes. Is it worth buying something and tailoring it, for instance? I’m a petite 0/2 on top which means I get overwhelmed by a typical “size small” top, and boy are there are lot more S than XS clothes in any thrift store. Same problem for jeans (hemming is an extra $20), and we won’t even get into shoes because I have a hard enough time finding a size 5 in a full-price shoe store that isn’t Nordstrom, much less at thrifting.

    Sorry for all the doom and gloom… I do love thrifting for home goods though, because fit and sizing is much less of an issue!

  5. This is a great post! I recently ordered from The Real Real for the first time and had a super positive experience. I’ve also found some good things on Mercari. I believe you’re in the Philly area (I am too) — are there any consignment shops in the area you’d recommend?

  6. This is one of the most helpful articles I’ve read in a long time! Thank you, Amanda. (I LOVE the flow chart!). I’ve been trying to move away from fast fashion and into more secondhand, but actual thrift shops tend to overwhelm me, so I really appreciate having this “if X, then Y” chart to reference and save me time and stress.

  7. I think it is absolutely worth it to have things tailored. I concur with most of this article, however, I tend to lean heavier on in-person consignment and thrifting than online. For online, I’ve used The Real Real for bags and some fancier designer pieces that I knew I wanted. I use Poshmark for mid-designer pieces (think Retrofete, Mother denim, Veronica Beard jackets, etc.). For online, I usually know what I am browsing for and/or sort by brand. But, thrift stores can be absolutely amazing for hidden gems. Just today I found a 100% cashmere turtleneck sweater (made in Scotland) for $3.99. It is vintage, a gorgeous color, and so incredibly soft. I also found a pair of black leather (including leather sole) Diane Von Furstenberg pumps with a reasonable 3 inch heel for $6.99. It’s literally pennies for high quality items. I’ve found a Theory cashmere coat, Alice + Olivia dresses, ALC wool + silk blazer, a pair of brand new Valentino heels and Barney’s New York leather bomber jacket all for under $10 a piece. I’ve also found incredible steals at my local consignment store. Not quite pennies, but 70+% off retail prices for amazing designer pieces. I estimate that 85% of my wardrobe is secondhand. I also feel like it allows me to really curate my own style and vibe because I’m not beholden to whatever is all the mall or department stores at any given moment.

    All that to say, YES! get things tailored and dry cleaned if they are good quality fabrics and just need a little alteration to make them fit perfectly. I am pretty small, and often find an amazing selection of almost new clothes in thrift stores and consignment stores in my size. You have to be somewhat patient and know what you are looking for in terms of brands and fabrics.

  8. I’ve kind of embraced the oversized look. I try to follow the rule of “big, slim, skin.” Meaning, every outfit has something big or oversized, slim or fitted and some skin showing…whether it’s ankle, collarbone, wrists…anything. This helps with balance.

  9. So, I’ve found that on resale sites, you can actually find more in unusual sizes, because less people are shopping them. Also, people are more willing to negotiate, because there are fewer buyers out there. For example, I buy men’s size 4 sneakers for like 5 dollars.

    I think it also depends on exactly what you’re buying. If it’s specific (i.e. a melon colored floor length gown with puff sleeves) and you find it, buy it in any size and get it tailored. If it’s just a regular blouse that isn’t so special, stick to your own size.

    I do have a long standing relationship with a great tailor though. (Ann’s Tailoring in the Gateway shopping complex in Wayne, PA)

  10. This is the best article I have ever read in a long time, Amanda. You really nailed it. Thank you for all the research you put into it. And, agree about Ann’s tailoring! I used her all the time when I lived in Haverford.

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