How to shop for second-hand clothes

Receive free Shopping and gifts updates

The hottest thing in fashion? Old clothes. There are myriad reasons to shop second-hand: buying what’s already out there is not only better for the planet, but also opens up a world of design choices beyond the current season’s trends. You might also unearth unexpected and better-made pieces, if you know where to look.

But as anyone who’s tried to hunt for the perfect vintage Levi’s 501s or Burberry trench already knows, shopping second-hand can also be frustrating or overwhelming. Here, six vintage enthusiasts share their top hacks and haunts for scoring the best finds.

Alexandra Carl, fashion stylist

A woman in a long, black coat with a handbag
Alexandra Carl has become obsessed with auction app LiveAuctioneers © Sandra Semburg

I love to rummage local thrift and vintage shops when travelling. In Copenhagen, where I’m from, I always go to Time’s Up Vintage and Kirkens Korshaer, which is a local charity shop. In Paris, I like Moji Farhat — he’s the king of anything ’80s, and in New York, I go to Beacon’s Closet and Treasures of NYC — [the latter] is appointment-only but so worth it once you finally get through to them. I also love One Of A Kind Archive in London, which has a unique and sprawling range of designer pieces by brands such as Vivienne Westwood, Alaïa, Prada and Chanel.

If you don’t have time to rummage, check out online platforms such as Tab Vintage, which has a great range of dresses and eveningwear, The RealList, or In Louve, which stocks a lot of late ’90s and early noughties-era brands like Blumarine. I’ve recently become obsessed with the auction app LiveAuctioneers, which shows you designer pieces from auctions around the world. I recently bought a great Balenciaga [Nicolas] Ghesquière-era shearling jacket from there. You do have to trawl through a lot of stuff, but you’ll pay less than on a curated website.

When you find a piece that you like, always do a quick Google search to make sure the price is what you should be paying for it. At the same time, if something seems too cheap, it’s probably too good to be true.

Dino Bonačić, fashion writer

Man in a white shirt and cowboy hat
Dino Bonačić wears a Gianfranco Ferré shirt he bought from a NY vintage shop

Ebay is definitely where I’ve sourced most of my vintage buys. I tend to browse fancy curated vintage shops in person, then look on Ebay for online variations of the pieces. I recently bought a beautiful Salvatore Ferragamo silk bag from the ’90s on Ebay for £19. There are a lot of gems to be found that you would probably be charged much more for in a vintage shop, and I’m personally more attracted by a good deal than pristine condition because I think if you’re going to wear it, you’re probably going to ruin it a bit anyway.

You should use Ebay like a search engine: I’m always in the market for a good cowboy boot so I have a weekly alert set up for “cowboy boots UK 9”, which means I’m the first one to know when a new pair goes up. If you like an item but there’s no option to make an offer, add it to your watchlist — often the seller will send you an offer to buy it at a cheaper price. Also, if you find something cool from a seller, save that seller as they’ll often upload new things. A lot of charity shops have their own Ebay profiles too and will upload stuff that’s on their shop floor.

Retro Man Clothing Exchange in Notting Hill is also a good place to find classic staples by brands such as Margaret Howell and Issey Miyake, which are often cheaper because they’re not as sought after as a specific Prada shirt or pair of Gucci loafers.

Marcus Allen, founder, The Society Archive

A man in a white shirt, tan slacks and a cap sits on a sofa
Marcus Allen, photographed for the FT by Phoenix Johnson, goes to Aspen for chunky handknits

There’s a great place here in New York called Stock Vintage that has a lot of Big Mac flannels and shirts from the ’50s and ’60s. I got a really nice pink Oxford shirt there — it’s like a businessman’s shirt from the ’50s and it’s so basic and washed out, but the shape is great. I’m drawn to storied and utilitarian pieces like that. I’ll also go to What Goes Around Comes Around, or Fine and Dandy [also in New York]: they have Polo Ralph Lauren and band tees. It’s a pretty eclectic mix.

There’s another place that I love called Alderfer’s Antiques in Aspen, Colorado. It’s run by a woman called Johnnie Alderfer and she has a lot of cool Polo country sweaters and chunky Intarsia handknits, great western pieces such as silver and turquoise jewellery and a lot of cowboy boots. I also like to go thrifting in Nashville or Maine. You can find a lot of great pieces such as T-shirts from Gap or tank tops from Abercrombie & Fitch there.

When you find something that you like, buy it. It’s a mistake that I’ve made far too many times and when I’ve gone back to get it, it’s never available.

Lynette Nylander, US editorial director, Dazed

A woman in jeans and a long jacket holds her phone up
Lynette Nylander buys her Levi’s 501s from basic thrift stores

One of my favourite ways to shop second-hand is at closet sales, which is a real phenomenon here in New York — I recently bought a powder pink Junya Watanabe jacket I had been looking for years at one, and I found a really cool denim skirt at Chloë Sevigny’s recent closet sale. There’s also a place on the Lower East Side called Desert Vintage, which opened last year and has really thoughtfully curated, brilliant stuff. I also follow vintage accounts on Instagram such as Gabriel Held Vintage, James Veloria and Either Store — they’ll often tell you who wore that item or the show it comes from, so there’s an element of education and entertainment too.

Whenever I’m back in London, I always go to Found and Vision in Notting Hill and Rellik. One of my favourite vintage finds is a Preen dress from 2003 that I bought there, and it looks like it’s made of deconstructed white vests. For things such as jeans, your run-of-the-mill thrift stores or Oxfams are great. I almost exclusively wear Levi’s 501s and a lot of my favourite pairs were bought in basic thrift stores for about $8 because there’s just so many in the world. I don’t even have to try them on: I just wrap the waistband around my neck, and I know whether they’ll fit.

Johnny Valencia, founder, Pechuga Vintage

Man in black sits on a chair in front of two mannequins
Johnny Valencia has found rare items at Timeless Vixen in Los Angeles © Josef Jasso

I started thrifting in high school as I couldn’t really afford what was on trend at the time, so I’d go to Melrose Avenue and buy T-shirts from the ’70s and ’80s for $10 and everyone at school would ask me where I got them from. That’s kind of where my love for the hunt started. Melrose is still a really good place to go in LA. There’s also a store I love called Recess, and Timeless Vixen by Lauren Lapire has some cool things such as rare Bob Mackie or Givenchy couture.

You never know what that garage sale might hold. I’ve found pieces by Christian Dior from the 1960s or Issey Miyake from the ’80s for like $5. Just look out for quality — the weight of something is usually a good indication. For example, touch the coat buckles and if they’re hollow, chances are the piece isn’t that well-made. Also watch out for colour bleeding as there’s absolutely nothing you can do to reverse it. And if you do find that Dior coat then invest in a good tailor and a good dry cleaner to make it extra special.

Laura Vidrequin, former fashion buyer and founder, Kids O’Clock

A woman in a short skirt, blue jacket and long boots stands in front of a white picket fence
Laura Vidrequin goes to Portobello market early on Fridays to find high-quality vintage clothes

I shop most of my vintage in Portobello — for T-shirts I like Goldsmith, which has a lot of good designs from the ’80s. Pepper Tree London has well-priced denim and army-style trousers, and on Friday mornings I go to Portobello vintage market under the bridge next to Portobello Green. This is where you can find really high-quality vintage, such as ’70s pieces from Mexico and Colombia or Dior slip dresses. I try to go around 9am as there’s a shift in the inventory and by 4pm it becomes totally mainstream.

For vintage T-shirts and antique French gowns, I also love Etsy — Paris Texas and Splendid Vintage World do great antique cotton gowns that are super easy to throw on in summer. I’m obsessed with vintage T-shirts. Grey cotton T-shirts in particular were so much better in the ’70s and ’80s than they are now. I’m also an emotional buyer so I’ll often buy something that looks big and then tailor it to fit me. I think that’s one of the biggest kept secrets of shopping vintage: alteration.

Find out about our latest stories first — follow @financialtimesfashion on Instagram

Check Also

What to learn about Legionnaires’ illness, lung an infection confirmed at Arkansas senior middle

A resident on the Methodist Village Senior Dwelling facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas, has been …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *