One of the most common requests I get from readers is for tips on how to shop for consignment clothing. Y’all know I love shopping consignment! It’s a great way to get the look you want for less, all while being good to the earth!
Consignment is a sustainable way to shop because you are purchasing something that has already been made rather than creating more demand and putting additional strain on the earth’s resources. Shopping consignment also helps keep perfectly good clothing from stacking up in landfills.
Here are my tips for how to find great consignment clothing! Photos are by my amazingly talented friend Mick of Mick Schulte Photography, taken of me shopping at one of my favorite local consignment stores, Fifi’s! Some of the photos, like the one below, show me wearing items I found on the racks in the store!
Choose the right type of store
In Store vs. Online
This post primarily focuses on shopping in a physical consignment store, but I do want to briefly mention the option of online shopping. If you prefer not to leave your house to go shopping, you can shop consignment online through apps/websites like Poshmark, eBay, and ThredUp. You will have access to closets all over the United States, so chances are high that you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for! The only downside is that you can’t try on the item before purchasing, and returns may or may not be an option depending on what site you are using. Check out my full blog post with tips for online consignment shopping HERE.
Consignment shopping in a store comes with the benefit of being able to try on and examine the clothes in person prior to purchasing. This can be especially important for items like jeans that need to fit much more precisely than items like t-shirts. The downside to shopping in a store is that the selection is more limited than online, and you can’t necessarily shop at 2:00 AM when you suddenly realize you could use a new pair of heels.
Types of Consignment Stores
There is no wrong consignment store at which to shop. However, knowing your own personal preferences and style can help you choose where you want to shop.
Upscale consignment boutiques are great places to find designer brands and carefully curated on-trend items. The store displays tend to look similar to any other clothing boutique. Sales associates may offer to help you find what you’re looking for and start a dressing room for you. You will pay considerably less than retail value since the clothes are gently used, but the prices won’t be rock bottom like what you might find at a thrift store.
Vintage stores offer carefully curated selections of unique vintage clothing. The clothing may be decades old and may or may not be currently “on trend.” This is a great place to shop if you like period pieces or if your personal style is unique. Be prepared for prices to be pretty similar to upscale consignment boutiques.
Middle-of-the-road consignment chain stores like Clothes Mentor and Plato’s Closet are a good place for on-trend clothing that isn’t necessarily high-end. Prices will likely be a bit lower than consignment boutiques.
Thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army offer the opportunity for amazing deals, but you may have to sort through a lot of junk in the process. When people clean out their closets and donate clothing to thrift stores, they often give a lot of clothing that is out of style or a bit worn. However, every now and then someone will donate a like-new or trendy piece of clothing that perhaps didn’t fit or that they later decided they didn’t like. You can find some high quality items, but you’ll need to do a little digging. The good news is that when you do find something you like, it will probably be very cheap–much less expensive than what you’ll find at consignment boutiques.
Wear the right clothes
One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that it matters what type of clothes you wear shopping.
Start with the right undergarments. Match your undergarments to the type of clothing for which you’re shopping. For example, if you’re shopping for formalwear or some other item that tends to have thin (or no) straps, it might not be a bad idea to wear a strapless bra. That way you won’t have bra straps in the way that impact how the item looks on you. Conversely, if you’re shopping for long sleeve shirts, wear a normal bra and not a strapless one, since shirts can look really different on you depending on what type of bra you’re wearing.
Be sure the clothes you wear shopping are easy to take on and off. Shopping days are great days for simple t-shirts, not multiple layers of camisoles, blouses, and cardigans. Go for clothing you can take on and off easily, and leave the bulky jewelry behind!
I also prefer to shop in a shirt and pants/shorts rather than a dress. It’s nice sometimes to have pants on so you can see how a shirt looks with your pants (and vice versa – how a pair of pants looks with a shirt on).
Know what you’re shopping for
Unless you’re someone who can literally shop all day without getting mentally or physically fatigued, I highly recommend you go consignment shopping with a mission. Consignment stores are rarely specialized and typically carry a whole lot of everything. It can be exhausting to sort through every rack just browsing for something that catches your eye!
Instead, know what you are searching for so you can narrow down your search and streamline how many racks you are sorting through. For example, maybe you know you want to add white jeans and a pair of wedges to your closet. Browsing the jeans and shoes is much more manageable than looking at everything in the store!
Start by scanning
As you go through a rack of clothing at the store, pull off anything that catches your eye. One of the great things about consignment stores is that they typically contain a lot of different styles and esthetics. Don’t be afraid to try something a little different from your normal style! You can always return it to the rack if you decide after trying it on that it’s not your thing. Or, you may decide you really love it! Some of my favorite clothing items are pieces I was on the fence about trying, but fell in love with once seeing them on.
Scrutinize for quality
Once you’ve pulled several items that have caught your eye, look at them closer with a critical eye. Look for stains, snags, rips, holes, loose stitches, fading, or pilling. Yes, you need to check for these flaws even at the more upscale consignment shops! I always check for stains twice: once in the main part of the store, where there is usually some natural light, and then again in the dressing room when I’m wearing the item. Sometimes different lighting or the way the clothing drapes over your body causes you to notice stains you hadn’t seen previously. When buying consignment clothing that has been worn before, it is important to check for imperfections, especially since most consignment stores do not allow returns.
Don’t be afraid to walk
One of the fun things about consignment shopping is that you never know what you’ll find. Sometimes you score a great deal on an item that is just your style, and sometimes you may not find a single thing you love. It’s okay to walk out empty-handed! It’s far better to keep looking for the perfect piece than to spend money on an item you don’t love and will probably end up not wearing and eventually donating. Rather than getting frustrated when you don’t find what you’re looking for, congratulate yourself on not spending money on things you don’t need, and head for the next consignment store or plan to make another shopping trip in a few weeks once new stock has come in!
If you have other consignment shopping tips, please drop them in the comments below!
And, many thanks again to Mick Schulte Photography for the amazing photos! Be sure to click over to her website if you’re in need of photos of any kind!
P.S. – For more sustainable fashion posts, click here!