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Experts weigh in how to navigate your way through the secondhand shopping market

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(NEW YORK) — With inflation and higher prices across industries, many people are closely examining how to save or make their dollars stretch further. Fashion isn’t exempt from the conversation, and part of the reason why there’s been an ongoing uprise within the secondhand shopping market.

From thrift stores to online consignment shops, these accessible destinations are giving shoppers a chance to breathe new life into pre-owned items, save money and attain a more eco-friendly wardrobe.

During a time when there are so many fast fashion retailers mass-producing high volumes of clothing, everyone from influencers to shopping enthusiasts are opening up to the idea of slow fashion through secondhand shopping as well as other methods.

“It helps slow down the carbon footprint in the fashion industry,” fashion content creator and owner of @ThriftNTell Iesha Gilchrist told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “I’m not sure if there is a way to completely stop it, however, if I know that I’m choosing to check the thrift store first over those popular fast fashion websites then I’m one less person adding to crowded landfills.”

Dallas-based fashion and beauty influencer Stephanie Taylor Jackson also explained to GMA that another key benefit is the endless amount of unique vintage pieces you can find while secondhand shopping.

“It’s always so special finding something that no one else has right now,” she said.

She added, “You’re doing your part to help the environment. Rather than something being thrown away, destroyed or even just sitting on a shelf unused, I view secondhand shopping as giving beautiful pieces a new life.”

Toward the end of last year, she was able to snag a pre-loved Chanel purse from online luxury fashion resale website Fashionphile.

Tips for secondhand shopping, according to experts

If you are brand new to the idea of secondhand shopping and not sure where to start, you aren’t alone. If you’re a newbie, Gilchrist recommends not to go in with high expectations and shop around at multiple stores.

“If you find one staple piece in a thrift store then you won,” she said. “Thrifting is all about building a sustainable dream wardrobe while still adding a few trendy pieces here and there.”

Taylor also added that another key factor is to always look for reputable sites and retailers who can guarantee authenticity.

Brand director at major online consignment and thrift store thredUP, Madeline Cronin Aaronson, pointed out to GMA how easy it can be to get swept away by really fun, unique pieces. Her tip for making the best decision: “My rule of thumb is to think of at least three items I have in my closet that will go with the secondhand item. That way I know it’s a worthwhile addition to my wardrobe. Worst case, if you thrift an item that ends up not working, you can always resell it and put it back into the circular economy for someone else to try.”

In addition to the advice mentioned above, CEO and founder of pre-owned luxury consignment shop Dora Maar Lauren T. Wilson told GMA other key factors include knowing your style as well as knowing your measurements.

“Make sure to know your bust, waist and hip size,” she said. “Every designer is different so platforms such as Dora Maar make sure to put the measurements on our clothing descriptions to assist our consumers in knowing if it’s the right size for them.”

What’s real and what’s not?

When it comes to secondhand shopping, specifically for luxury items, it can sometimes be difficult to decipher between what’s authentic and what’s not.

Gilchrist suggests that the best thing to do is to research and do lots of examining of the product.

“Pay very close attention to the stitching and the lining. I personally can tell when something is cheaply made especially if it’s fake leather,” she said. “Most dupes or knock-offs have something off about them whether it be the color of the thread, the zipper, the inside lining or the logo font — don’t get me wrong there are some great knockoffs out there that can fool you but researching your favorite designer brands is always my best advice before purchasing.”

If the platform you are buying from doesn’t have its own authentication process, a few trusted websites that can assist include Authenticate First, Real Authentication and Zekos Authentication.

What are some downsides of shopping from thrift and consignment shops?

Taylor advises shoppers to definitely be very aware of the condition of the item you are purchasing — especially for anything bought online.

“Use the grading scale many sites have and ask for additional photos when possible,” she said.”

On top of thoroughly reviewing the condition, Gilchrist warns to confirm that you aren’t bringing back any “unwanted guests” such as bugs, rodents, germs, etc. with you home from a thrift store.

She added, “Make sure you are thoroughly shaking and checking each garment you pick up and try to stay away from stained clothing especially if you can’t make out where the stain came from.”

The bottom line

“In a world of fast fashion, secondhand shopping presents a rare opportunity to extend the life of a piece, whether it be a Chanel bag or Carolina Herrera dress,” said Wilson. “Those pieces took time and true craftsmanship to create. To be a fashion lover and give that piece a new life is a wonderful thing. I also firmly believe that buying secondhand is more gratifying — you’re searching and scouting, and more times than not you find a piece that speaks to you and has a unique flair to it not found anywhere else.”

Best online shops for pre-loved consignment shopping, according to experts:

  • Dora Maar
  • thredUp
  • Fashionphile
  • The Real Real
  • eBay
  • Julia Rose Boston
  • Etsy
  • Poshmark
  • Depop
  • Mercari
  • Vestiaire Collective

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