Fashion Friday: The Best Site for Pre-Owned Fashion

A few readers have asked me to discuss my favorite places to shop for pre-owned clothing.  I estimate that approximately 75% of my wardrobe is pre-owned, as in secondhand/used/thrifted.  I love pre-owned clothes for two main reasons: I can buy a lot more/better quality for less and I can minimize my contribution to the fast fashion system, the one that causes stuff like THE DEATH OF 1,000 HUMANS.  (Please think about that for a few moments and consider how important cheap new fashion is to your lifestyle.)

Locally, I prefer Salvation Army on Grand Avenue.  The goods are grimey, but if you sift through the racks long enough, you’re guaranteed to find some gems, like the $4 Burberry dress shown below.  (Remember, “God made dirt; dirt don’t hurt.”  Am I the only one who heard that a hundred times in my childhood?)

But since most of you do not live in Chicago, I’m sharing my favorite online shop.

And my choice is The Real Real, a site with daily flash sales of pre-owned designer items.  When I say designer, I mean designer, with oodles of options among Chanel, Prada, Stella McCartney, Chloe, Givenchy, et al.  (Thanks, rich people who wear a dress twice and then consign it!)  This is not just about fancy labels.  In my experience, these clothes are generally better made with higher quality materials, resulting in superior fit and longer lifespan.  BUT if designer is not your thing, scroll past the flash sales to the “Contemporary Designer Sales” section – that’s where the real deals are: Diane von Furstenberg, Trina Turk, Nanette Lepore, Kate Spade, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Steve Alan, and a crap load more.  Of course, these are not Salvation Army-level bargains, but that’s the price you pay for well-edited and dry-cleaned goods.

Through this site, I’ve found that I can buy used, high-quality designer items for the same price as new clothes at stores like Zara and J.Crew.  And unlike with eBay, I never have to worry about authenticity and returns are accepted.  Here are all of my purchases from the site to date:

(Oh my gosh, suddenly I wish I had my long hair back.  Don’t you hate that?  Too late now!)

Trust me, on my non-profit salary, there is no way I could ever afford all these beautiful clothes new.

As a caveat, the site can be addicting.  Under no circumstances should you subscribe to their daily email – that’s a great way to get sucked into constantly browsing for clothes that you don’t need.

Currently, everything is on sale for 20% off.  Woo-hoo!  I myself snapped up two Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses and a silk wrap top, along with a silk See by Chloe skirt.  Now I’m ready for spring.  :-)

A similar site I’ve been eying – but from which I’ve not yet purchased anything – is Vaunte.  They also sell pre-owned designer stuff, but their prices are a bit higher and they do not accept returns.  Womp-womp.

Do you have a favorite online shop for pre-owned clothes?  Please share!

{If you follow the link to The Real Real or Vaunte and buy something, the site gives me a $10-$20 credit.  Not a rigged blogger thing, just the reward they give anyone who refers another shopper.  And credits are great because I already spent my clothing budget for Spring 2013!}

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15 thoughts on “Fashion Friday: The Best Site for Pre-Owned Fashion

  1. David P. says:

    I wish there was even a tenth as much secondhand gold available in mens’ clothing as there is in womens’! Sigh. If any of you locals can share good Chicago sites for mens’ clothes, please do. I know of one in Andersonville, that’s it. There are at least a few of us interested!

    • Dottie says:

      Greg gets pretty much all of his clothes (he has a very small wardrobe) from Village Discount Outlet thrift store in Roscoe Village. He basically buys up any cashmere and merino wool tops and flat front chinos in his size and calls it a year.

    • AW says:

      David, don’t guys just wear their clothes until they fall apart? That’s my theory for the low supply. Dottie, seems like a lot of your items are silk. Having never worn silk myself, is it pretty breathable? Polyester is nice because it doesn’t wrinkle and black items stay black, but are terrible even in a little bit of sweat.

      • Dottie says:

        Yes, silk is very breathable. Some thick silks, like the Chloe dress above, are more appropriate for cooler weather, but light silks are excellent for warm weather cycling. A bonus is they don’t get all smelly like polyester, which is very important for me, as I sweat a lot.

        A downside of silks is that most are dry-clean only. My husband bought me a steamer for Christmas (t, which works so well with silks – wrinkles fall out easily. This really increases the time I can go without dry-cleaning, thus saving lots of time, money and chemicals.

        • David P. says:

          Wouldn’t a steam iron do the same thing? I’m ignorant about this sort of thing; the only high-maintenance fabrics I have are a few linen shirts.

          • Dottie says:

            I don’t know about steam irons, but I’m always afraid of burning clothes while ironing, especially fabric as delicate as silk. My steamer never even touches the fabric.

          • AW says:

            Thanks for the link, Dottie! Steamers are much quicker for getting wrinkles out if you don’t need an iron a crease. Also the steam function on irons is terrible! At least in my experience they are very drippy. I’ve been kicking around getting a small handheld steamer, but most reviews say how inferior they are to the full-sized ones like Dottie’s.

      • David P. says:

        Ha! Yes, I guess guys do tend to do that. I sort of do that, but not just with clothes. (I’ve had two of my cars and one of my bicycles for 20ish years…) Good point, I hadn’t thought of that as a supply factor :)

  2. Naomi Jackson says:

    I would love to know more about your favorite shops in Chicago. I’ve had good luck with Village Discount Outlet

    • Dottie says:

      Other than Salvation Army and Village Discount for cashmere sweaters, there are really no other shops I visit with any frequency. A couple of years ago, the fab vintage shop where I bought most of my favorite dresses, The Haystack, closed without warning. Since then, I’ve not been able to find a new favorite, but a close one is Shangri-La Vintage in Roscoe Village. The store is very small and the selection can veer toward costume-y, but I can usually find one gem during every visit.

      Of course, there are several thrift stores near each other in Wicker Park along North Avenue, but I’m not crazy about the high volume of H&M, Forever 21, etc.

    • Dottie says:

      P.S. Here is my post the day I found out Haystack closed.

      It was actually 3 years ago! Man, time flies. And apparently I have a hard time letting go and moving on when tragedies such as this occur. :-)

  3. LGRAB says:

    I like the term “pre-owned.” Less stigma than “used”! Or as I jokingly call them to my friends who find secondhand clothes creepy, “ghost clothes.”


  4. Tracy says:

    Have you ever tried Clothes Mentor? I am not sure where in Chicago you are coming from, but there are a couple of Chicago locations (Schaumburg, Harwood Heights…).

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