The Joy of the Find: Is Consignment Shopping Worth it?

The Joy of the Find: Is Consignment Shopping Worth it?

Living in New York City got me in touch with the joy of the find. I found a beautiful hunter green duffel bag with leather trim that I carried around for so many years. New Yorkers love their fashion and they are not particularly snobby about where they get their fashion from. Labels are great at all and from time to time, there are trends, but real New Yorkers are very savvy about finding unique statements that are true to their personality. They elevate it to an art. I remember one of the first fashion impressions that New York City made on me was a woman in a bright 1950s lipstick red A-line skirt. It was a flash of exuberance in a crowd full of people wearing black.

I find things in thrift stores that have people coming up to me to talk to me about what I am wearing. Some people have a stately poodle or an adorable cocker spaniel. I have leopard print pants, a linen embroidered skirt that I found for less than $20 and saw at an upscale vintage store for $84, a silk floral patterned Brooks Brothers shirt that I got for $16 and things that I pull out of my closet that people can’t believe how much I paid for. There is a reason why New Yorkers will dive into bins and fight over an Alexander McQueen blouse.

Fortunately, with the advent of online shopping, you don’t have to do that. In this blog post, I will share recent online consignment finds from ThredUp and tips and tricks on how to zero in on what you want. If you would like to dive in, I have a promo code for both of us to have some fun! $10 for you, $10 for me.*

In the pictures above, I have finds from Eileen Fisher, Gap, Anne Taylor, H&M, and Free People. I like to be comfortable. Some of my criteria are: natural materials, lightweight, breathable, softness, interesting patterns, and packable for travel. The thing that is awesome about women’s wear is that it can often be much more lightweight and packable than menswear. I am a petite size, 5 ft nothing and wear a size zero, extra small, 24 waist, size 36 shoes. What is fantastic about that is I can pack more in a smaller luggage piece while my partner gets grumpy that I seem to be more prepared than him.

A while back, I sent a message to the Thred Up team asking them to make the searches filterable by material. So now, if you look up all clothing and look to the left hand side of the web page, you can check the boxes and look for just cashmere, linen, or cotton. In addition to this, select your sizes, the colors that you are interested in, the brands, price range, and the condition of the clothing. I usually select all colors except for black and gray because I believe in expressing yourself more confidently than that.

Always select “new with tags” or “nearly new.” You don’t want to get something that you throw in the wash and it falls apart. Don’t be afraid of dry clean only, just get a mesh laundry bag that you can zip up and throw the piece of clothing into the washer on hand wash and line dry afterward. If you really want to extend the life of your clothing, get yourself a fabric shaver, sweater comb, unscented and sensitive laundry soap or garment shampoo, and a steamer. If you have the money to drop, get yourself a dry cleaning locker. I think you can get them from LG (Styler) or Samsung (AirDresser). Asians are really crazy about taking care of their clothes and they are light years ahead of us Westerners. I actually found out what a dry cleaning locker was from an Asian supermarket near my partner’s mom’s house. It is really fun when you find a cashmere sweater for $20 or $30 or you find a smashing dress that turns everyone’s heads. There are also some European fashions that land into this online consignment store, so sometimes it helps not to search by certain brands that you know of. There are clothes from Italy, Germany, England, and France that you could miss out on.

All of my finds except for the crazy snakeskin viscose pajama set thing from H&M were brand new with tags still attached. I took the tags off of the Eileen Fisher cotton pants (Sean calls them my karate pants but I really don’t care) and the Gap modal shirt. Sometimes, there are materials that you can’t filter by. For this, I have saved searches for materials that I’ve researched and like to look for every now and then. These are: cupro, ramie, tencel, modal, and lyocell. All of these are derived from natural products and are more breathable.

This piece was a splurge that I really wanted to try. Tag still attached, with an extra button. Retail value $148, found for $76.50. This was the most I have ever paid for a consignment piece.

There can be a risk of getting something that doesn’t fit you well. Most of the clothes that I buy more often are from old familiars like Gap, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Anne Taylor, Eileen Fisher, Anthropologie, and Free People. There is a restocking fee and you do have to pay for shipping. A way to offset the restocking fee is to buy a bunch of clothes that you’re sure you would like to try and get points for them, then return the ones you aren’t sold on all at once. It will always be the case that something looks good online but when you try it you’re not feeling it. You can cash in the points to waive the restocking fee (see photo below). The shipping cost is feasible when you really are getting the best bang for your buck.

The first time that I used Thred Up, I had a first time user coupon code and really needed clothes for a new job that I had just landed. I loaded up on just about $1,000 worth of clothes that I got for less than $200. If you are building a professional wardrobe, I recommend trying Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, J-Crew, Theory, Eileen Fisher, Tahari, Joie, and French Connection. Look to Claire Underwood’s classic high-class wardrobe, on House of Cards, Olivia Pope’s wardrobe on Scandal, or Joan Watson’s smashing ensembles worn on the set for Elementaryare great sources for inspiration. Bravo to the costume crews. You can also find a killer fashion mood board here (courtesy of moi).

Overall, I feel that it is good to mix it up and have some consignment finds along with other new clothes that you love at first sight. The joy of consignment shopping is finding something unique that you won’t be able to find elsewhere or to stock up on good quality classic basics that sharpen your look.

Voila! you don’t have to fight with a New Yorker for something you like. That easy! Never be disheartened that you don’t find something that sparks joy, as Marie kondo puts it, or that you didn’t score a find. There is always going to be something in the fashion world for you to be jazzed about. You have an entire lifetime a fashion finds out there and the world will never run out of options. They are currently having a January sale with 35% off that ends at midnight but don’t worry if you miss it. There will be more sales. You will not be left alone with a sowing machine and old linens to patch your own clothes together. The fashion world will keep producing more clothes.

If you are curious to follow the global journey of cotton being picked in Texas and turned into a t-shirt, being bought at a store and donated for consignment, and finding its way to a used-clothing bazaar in Africa, read Pietra Rivoli’s book The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy*. It is a fascinating read that will forever change what you think of what you wear.

*I use affiliate programs and links mindfully. I share what I actually find valuable and relevant. Like, for instance, you won’t find me suddenly sharing fast food promotions or anything from a company or product I have not done my own research on. I do encourage supporting independent businesses like book retailers but am also not above shopping Target and Amazon from time to time.

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