Remember how I swore online thrifting was not for me, but in the same post admitted I had just ordered a pair of pants off of Poshmark? Well, they arrived, along with two other online finds – and unlike the first two times I tried online thrifting (here and here), these fit perfectly and I’m happy with my purchases.
I got smarter. Here are my three finds along with some tips for acing online thrifting.
1. Real life references. You’re much closer to guaranteed success if you’re looking for a version of something you’ve already tried on, whether it’s something you spotted at the thrift store or something in your own closet that you’re looking to replace or get in another color.
Last time I went to Sister Thrift, I happened to try on a pair of cream-colored Rock and Republic jeans and fell in love. They were soft like butter on my skin, just the right off-white color for fall and winter, and had enough heft to keep my legs warm in the cold, cold weather. And they were a great skinny fit that would offer another option to my roomier cream corduroys.
The only problem? They were too tight. I could button them just fine, but they squeezed in all the wrong places – I’m not a fan of spray-on legs or pulling in the crotch:
A near miss. (Or a near hit, as Victor Borge would say.)
See that teeny, tiny bit of distressing on the pocket? That was another reason I liked these pants – the distress gave them some textural interest and made me feel like a micro-badass. (“Micro” is how you describe distressing so innocuous that no one at work will notice.)
Since I knew what size was just a smidge too small, and since they fit great length- and waist-wise, I went a-hunting online for the next size up. I figured that the stretch in the fabric would make up for any extra room in the waist. Lo and behold,on my first visit to Poshmark I found a pair in my desired size, and after sitting on it for several days (I was a bit gunshy after my previous failures), I bought ’em:
One thing I like about Poshmark is the option to make an offer. If something has been up for more than a few days, chances are the seller will be open to negotiating on price a bit. In response to your offer, they can either counteroffer or ignore it; if ignored, the offer expires in 24 hours so you’re not on the hook 6 weeks later for something you no longer want. Thanks to my painfully polite Midwestern upbringing, I’m not much of a bargainer, but the face-saving outs built into this system let you avoid all the awkwardness of telling somebody you’ll pay them less than they’re asking. And if they want to be firm on price, they just won’t offer the “make me an offer” option.
Amateur tip: Make an offer that’s the asking price minus shipping. If the seller accepts, you essentially get free shipping while not gouging their profit too much. After all, this person is making available to you something you either haven’t been able to find in your local thrift store or don’t want to take the time to look for. Throw them a bone.
That being said, online prices mean you’re paying 5 times or more what you’d pay in a thrift store, and there are no returns, so…
2. Only buy what you know you’ll wear, both in terms of fit and style. This means I stay away from certain categories of clothing unless I’ve tried on the exact same item IRL but need a different color or better condition. (Blazers, I’m looking at you – I’ve almost pulled the trigger on a couple of beauties but it’s just too hard to know how a new-to-me blazer will fit in the chest, shoulders, etc.) I’d also skip pants unless (like above) it’s a brand and fit I know works for me. Just too much room for error in waist size and rise.
Something more forgiving, though, like an open cardigan, is a far less risky proposition. I learned a season or two ago that I am not a cardigan lightweight; no matter how fetching the pattern, I can’t stand layers getting scrunched up under thin, tight-sleeved cardis, plus I can never find a way to button them (or not?) that doesn’t look twee. So I opted for a giant abominable snowman of an oversized cardigan – the kind that fits well in the shoulders but goes down to the hips and is substantial enough to really keep you toasty – and have never looked back. Happily, their roominess also means you can fudge a little when guesstimating re: the fit of an online find.
I currently have one such cardigan in my closet…
Such great colors.
…but went looking for a second, both for variety and for wash days. Because sometimes it’s so dang cold that you are wearing a ginormous cardigan even while you sleep (hello New Hampshire nights).
I knew I wanted one with some good drapery (ha) to keep the silhouette interesting, and maybe some leather trim detail, for color contrast and, again, visual interest. I spent more time scrolling through Poshmark than I would like to admit, and came up with a lusciously thick, taupey-grey knit with caramel leather trim by Abercrombie & Fitch:
The colors are similar to the ones in my other cardigan, which meant it would go with everything that played well with my existing cardigan; and the waterfall instead of shawl collar plus the solid-color-with-trim instead of a knit pattern would keep it from looking too samey.
And we know how I feel about zipper details:
Who knew you could be so chic, so subtle, so high quality, A&F? You appear to no longer be the debaucherous, obnoxiously overbranded retailer of the malls of my youth.
This cardigan was available in multiple sizes from different sellers, so I got on A&F’s website to check their sizing. I also read every description sellers had posted, and several remarked on how thick and luxurious the knit felt. That’s what I wanted – not some flimsy coverup, but a workhorse that would keep me WARM. My research made me pretty sure I’d love it, and I do.
Amateur tip: for the love of all that is holy, use filters. You get much better results if you use a site’s filters instead of just searching for key words. Not to mention – you know how eBay, ThredUp, and for Pete’s sake even Google’s shopping search results eventually come to an end? Without enough filters, Poshmark’s algorithms will just keep. bringing. you. listings until your eyeballs are ready to pop out of your head. It’s a nefarious plot to fry your brain into spending inordinate amounts of time (and money) on their site, and the only way around it is to tick every box you can find in an attempt to narrow down your search. Sometimes this means doing a search multiple times using different variables, but trust me, your brain will thank you.
3. Shop for specific holes in your closet. The world of online secondhand shopping has exploded in the last few years; there are literally tens of thousands of items for you to peruse on any given site (Poshmark, ThredUp, ReStitch, eBay, Schoola, etc.). It’s also easy to find quality, even designer brands that may be harder to find in a brick-and-mortar thrift store, which means that if you don’t maintain focus, you can end up spending a lot more than you planned on “incredible” deals. (That’s in quotation marks because it’s only incredible if it will really pull its weight in your wardrobe.)
The story of one such wardrobe hole: on the first chilly weekend of fall, I saw a family of three at our holiday fair all sporting plaid flannel shirts. “It’s the uniform here,” they enthused – “a necessity!” I knew plaid flannel would be right at home in my casual work setting and that I would get a lot of use out of a heavier button down, both over and under other layers.
And I knew which brands to shop for quality. This family was, of course, all wearing L.L. Bean, because – New England. But I found a gorgeous colorway by Lands’ End on Poshmark, and figured that as a native Midwesterner I could sport the Wisconsin-based version of L.L. Bean with integrity:
So. Dang. Snuggly.
Look at those COLORS! Delicious. I may have worn it two days in a row:
Duck boots + cable knit sweater + plaid flannel; the New Englander transformation is complete.
Last but not least:
4. Learn to sit with your finds before you buy. It’s easy to feel anxious based on how many people have “liked” or are “watching” a particular posting and then get a bad case of trigger finger. But that’s how you end up with pieces you regret. When you find something you’re tempted to buy right away, use the “like” feature or simply bookmark the page and come back to it after a few days. If it’s still there and you’re still excited about it, you’ll know it’s not just FOMO clouding your judgment. If it’s not there, fear not; most things you’ll find on these sites are mainstream enough that they’ll resurface at some point, maybe even in a better size or a color you like more.
What tips and lessons learned do you have to share about online thrifting? What items would you never buy without first trying on?