Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying Used Clothes

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Photo: Ushabellebongo.wordpress.com

Photo: Ushabellebongo.wordpress.com

Want to have a Free People wardrobe on a Forever 21 budget? Can’t stand the thought of cramming your beleaguered calves into yet another pair of skinny jeans? It might be time to hit the used market. Whether you’re flipping through the racks of a celebrity-owned vintage clothing store or digging through the dollar bin at the back of your local Goodwill, these tips will help you avoid common mistakes.

Remember: just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth it.

Don’t buy it too big or too small.

Photo: Boyerfamilysingersblog.com

Photo: Boyerfamilysingersblog.com

Whether it’s aspirational (“This would look great on me if I lose twenty-five pounds”) or delusional (“I can wear this once that mid-twenties-growth-spurt kicks in”) you have to accept that not every secondhand Anthropologie skirt in mint condition is meant to go home with you. Release it to the universe, and it will come back to you in the form of an incredibly discounted Alexander McQueen skirt that all your friends covet. I promise.

Photo: Fatinthecity.com

Photo: Fatinthecity.com

Okay: If it’s a really special piece, consider tailoring. Hemming a pair of pants will run you around $10, and taking in a skirt or pants at the waist will cost you about $20. If both the waist and length need to be adjusted, it’s a pass. If you’ve got a baggy crotch or camel-toe situation, buying it will only lead to heartbreak and/or some really ill-considered long shirts that fool no one.

If it’s a truly incredible deal, but you can’t personally wear it with panache, consider flipping it on Krrb and using the money to buy a great piece you find down the road.

Don’t buy anything with a stain.

Photo: Thriftanistainthecity.com

Photo: Thriftanistainthecity.com

Sure, “maybe” the stain will come out when you wash it. And “maybe” you’ll never go shopping again and start paying off your student loan debt. Let’s stop kidding ourselves – put it back and move on.

Don’t buy anything damaged.

Photo: Lalafauxbois.com

Photo: Lalafauxbois.com

A tiny hole in a cashmere sweater that no one’s likely to spot is fine. A more significant tear that requires repair is likely not worth it. If the tear is knife-slice even, the fabric isn’t frayed and the color is dark, it might work, as was the case with a pair of Theory pants I owned that wore out at the seat. Is that kind of effort worth it for some no-name sweater, though? I’d say no.

Don’t buy something and have nowhere to wear it.

Photo: Ushabellebongo.wordpress.com

Photo: Ushabellebongo.wordpress.com

One of the advantages of buying used is that it gives you a low-impact way to try out new styles. Do you look better in dresses than you do in pants? Can you pull off orange? Are you a hat person? Give it a whirl, I say, but make sure your bravery extends beyond the dressing room. If you know in your heart you’re not ready to roll into brunch sporting a pair of toreador pants and a motorcycle jacket, wait until you are ready and buy them then.

Don’t buy it if you don’t love it.

Photo: Spadesandsilk.com

Photo: Spadesandsilk.com

If you’re shopping for sweats to throw on while you paint your bathroom, or if you need a passable suit for a job interview, this rule doesn’t apply. When it comes to all other clothing purchases, don’t make the mistake of padding out your wardrobe with crap just because it’s cheap. If I’m on the fence about something, I ask myself, “Will I be sorry later if I pass this up?”

If the answer is no, back to the rack it goes!

 
  • Nancy Matson

    Alex, I just saw this! I avoid buying things that have to be dry cleaned, but if I can get them cheap enough, and they’re not a material like wool, which absolutely has to be dry cleaned, I try hand washing it cold and letting it air dry. A lot of items say dry clean because it’s safer for the manufacturers, but isn’t actually absolutely necessary.

  • Alexandra Riess

    Nancy, how do you feel about buying garments that require dry cleaning? Is the cost of dry cleaning worth the investment in silk, for example?