When I embarked on my mindful living journey, the limited options and the exorbitant prices of ethical clothing frustrated me. Ever since, I’ve been trying to find ways to shop ethically without breaking the bank.
Shopping off the pre-loved market is one of the most sustainable ways to shop. It fosters a recycling community that increases the lifespan of clothes and prevents them from being dumped in landfills. A low demand for new clothing means rapidly depleting natural resources like water can be conserved for better purposes. A lack of industrial manufacturing of textile creates less industrial waste too, which is better for our currently polluted rivers. You get the idea, right?
For this post, I’d like to share the different online sites I’ve used and my experience with and tips for each of them. Before that, keep these general tips in mind when shopping secondhand.
- The return policies aren’t flexible for most online marketplaces, so if you need more clarity, ask as many questions about material and measurements, as well as request more pictures of the item prior to making the purchase.
- If it’s a designer piece that you believe could be fake, consider authenticating the item prior to making the purchase. I’ve used Authenticate4U and have been satisfied with their pre-sale service.
- It’s easier to be swayed by the low prices of secondhand clothing, so try to be mindful and ask the same questions you’d ask yourself when buying new items. I strongly recommend using the wish list feature to save items you like and visit them at a later time to see if you still want them.
- Take time to understand the different costs for each site you use. I found that each online marketplace has a different way of processing payments and charging sales commission or shipping fee.
- Use keywords to enhance your search as most secondhand shopping sites aren’t as organized as big retail sites. To find the best hits, I try names of brands I like, so J Crew or Reiss for instance. Using trends like pussy bow or polka dots is also useful. You could also type business or casual in the search. I also start my search with materials like wool, leather, silk or cashmere to yield the best results.
Okay, now on to the sites!
This is the site I’ve used most. It represents sellers and buyers in the Netherlands, France, Belgium, and Germany. Shipping has to be paid by the buyer, in addition to EUR 1.99 of administration costs. Sellers have to give United Wardrobe a 10 percent commission for each sale. Returns are quite strict. Some sellers activate the bidding options, which I like to use when I see an item has been listed for too long. 99 percent of the times my bids are accepted in such a situation.
I like that the United Wardrobe has all my favorite brands on it. It’s not unusual for me to find beautiful Vanilia, Maje, Reiss, and Ted Baker items with tags for under EUR 50. The site requires sellers to ship orders within five days of receiving them. In my experience, all of them ship at most within two days so I’ve never had to wait too long for my package.
These are just some of the pieces that I’ve purchased from United Wardrobe.
Rebelle has a focus on designer fashion, but you can still find mid-range brands like Coach, Tory Burch, and Kate Spade in its offerings. Sellers as well as their goods are verified by Rebelle for their authenticity.
Shipping costs to Germany are EUR 6.90 and most other european countries are EUR 15.90. Rebelle also delivers outside of Europe but it can be quite costly in terms of shipping for the buyer. Because Rebelle verifies each item for authenticity, it can take a few weeks before you receive your package as the seller first sends it to Rebelle for verification and Rebelle then sends it over to the buyer. The process and costs seemed worth it because the return policy (within 14 days post delivery) is generous for a secondhand marketplace.
I don’t use a wallet and get by my day with a cardholder (yay, minimalism). My current one is several years old and has collected all kinds of stains and germs from being used to death on the public transport in the city. Recently, I replaced it with a Coach cardholder that’s just as petite and perfect for my lifestyle. I found the cardholder with tags on Rebelle for EUR 60. I bid EUR 40 and the seller accepted! After paying shipping, the total cost came at EUR 55, which is great because the original Coach Deco Flat Card Case in Quilted Leather was priced at EUR 75.
Pretty much everyone knows about eBay and, in all honesty, shopping at eBay can be quite overwhelming because of a staggering amount of sellers and products it boasts. I generally don’t browse eBay. Instead, I only check it out when I know exactly what I want.
Last year, I bought a brand new Burberry Kensington Trench on eBay. This jacket had been on my wish list for a long time, but I didn’t want to buy it new because Burberry had been in the news for the wrong reasons. When I’d decided to shop the trench on the pre-loved market, I found listings for it on eBay by sellers with fantastic reviews.
After finding a trench that fit all my size, price and condition requirements, I sought the help of my dear insta friend and sustainable fashion queen, Jessica – also known as Chic Professor – to help me bid. She recommended to wait until the last minute of the auction and then place the highest amount that I was willing to pay. That totally worked as I snapped up the coat in the last 15 seconds of the auction. Apparently, bidding beforehand only alerts other interested buyers and unnecessarily drives the price up.
My tips for navigating eBay would be to go on it with a clear understanding of what you want, read reviews of sellers, if in doubt, get pre-sale authentication from relevant services, take shipping costs and custom duties into account beforehand, and place your highest bid in the last minute of the auction instead of back and forth bidding.
Every country has its own version of a central online marketplace for secondhand everything. When I lived in the US, Craigslist and eBay were those platforms, here in the Netherlands it’s Marktplaats.
You’re able to find everything from plumbing services to furniture to designer clothing for reasonable prices on these sites. I only made my first Marktplaats purchase recently. I was negotiating the price of a bag with a seller on United Wardrobe. She said I could buy the bag from her for the price I wanted on Marktplaats, as that doesn’t charge a high commission from sellers.
So I ended up creating an account on Marktplaats and buying this Coach tote for EUR 137 (around GBP 125). This bag is in Coach’s current collection. In the Netherlands, its original price is EUR 350 and in UK GBP 295. I consider this a good deal for both my pocket and the environment!
This post is mostly Netherlands / Europe focused because that’s where I’m based. But based on recommendations from sustainable fashion bloggers I follow and research for this post, I can recommend the following sites for people elsewhere in the world:
I hope my experience and tips shared in this post encourage you to take the plunge for shopping pre-loved. If you have any questions about shopping secondhand or recommendations / tips then leave them in the comments. Have a fabulous rest of the week and thank you for reading!