Thursday, July 16, 2015

I Believe in Second Chances: The Benefits of Resale

    I love fashion, there's no point in denying it.  What I don't always love is the hefty price tags that come with gorgeous clothes.  I have other people in my life to think about, not to mention trying to plan for the future.  So, how do I balance my love fashion and putting together different outfits to share here on my blog, with keeping a budget and living within my means?  Two words: Resale Shops.  (And another important word duo: self-control.  Sometimes it's just not in my budget and I have to tell myself, "no," and walk away.)  
    There is something therapeutic about thrift store shopping; I usually walk out feeling accomplished over a great find.   There's also a little comfort in the notion that no matter where I've lived I've usually found at least one good resale shop.  

    Of course the internet is loaded with places to buy second-hand or even first-hand items at a deeply discounted price if you're not a fan of the brick and mortar stores.  Everything I own from Anthropologie has come from one of these sites.  I just can't pay $250 per dress.  Even on sale I usually can't afford to purchase directly from the store.  And most of the dresses and tops I've bought are still new, tags on, for a fraction of the retail price.  My two faves from Anthro are these lace dresses.

    They were originally $188.  And although the website says that one of them was on clearance for $9.95, I can guarantee that my size was long gone by that time.  So, I kept an eye on the resale sites and eventually found these at the right price.  They both had the tags still on, no flaws and I saved well over half the price.

    Another Anthro find was this red scallop dress.  It was worn by leading ladies on a couple of television shows and Taylor Swift also wore it, so it took a long time before it finally turned up at a reasonable price.  In store it was $128.00.  I found it in excellent pre-owned shape for a little over half.  (there's always a mark-up when people know someone famous has worn it).  


     And last but not least is this gorgeous plaid Bernie Dexter dress.  It was originally $156, but I found it for $25.  It was missing the belt and had been worn once, but it was in excellent condition, and well worth the price.

So now that you've seen some of my favorite bargain hunting conquests, let's talk about how to do it. 

Location, Location, Location; Choosing Your Hunting Ground:

I grew up in a very small town surrounded in a 40 mile radius by lots of other small towns.  Most of what I found in the thrift shops came from the closets of someone's deceased aged relatives.  It was out of date, out of style and more than a little bit sad.  But I learned some very important things:

1.  Every now and then you'll find a vintage diamond in the rough.  Some gorgeous gown or funky shirt whose value was passed over.  You can be the owner of a unique item for a low price.

2.  Bigger cities tend to have better selection.
This has been my experience and it stands to reason that more people donating equals more variety.

3.  Cities with a booming economy tend to have a higher quality of resale items.
Again this has consistently been my experience in 20 or so years of thrift shopping.  And again, it's pretty common sense that cities where people are making more money have people who are spending more money for clothes and spending it more often to keep up with trends.

4.  Military towns have high turn over and unbeatable bargains.
Cities with high turn-over rates like those with large military bases will also have some great buys as folks in a hurry don't have time for yard sales or waiting for someone to buy it on Ebay.  They just need to unload their extra stuff before the movers come.  Everyone benefits. 

When hitting the resale shops, some things to keep in mind:

1.  Only Shop Your Size
It doesn't matter if there's a gorgeous dress and it's only $10.  If it's not your size (and you're not or do not have an expert seamstress to alter it) it's a waste of money and it will gather dust in your closet instead of being a great bargain for someone who can actually wear it.  Yes, I occasionally break this rule if I'm certain I can tailor it.

2.  Quality Counts
I've done it many times; "yeah, it's not in great shape, but it's so cheap."  Trust me on this, just pass on it and move on down the aisle.  There's a reason people give stuff away and sometimes that reason is that it's junk.  A missing button, a single snag, or a very small spot, aren't deal breakers.  However, if an item has large or multiple rips, stains, snags or if it's anything beyond a little normal wear, it's not worth it.

3.  Even Thrift Stores Charge More For Name Brand
I've been in lots of thrift stores that have a special section for really nice stuff.  All the regular purses were lying in a heap at the back, but the well organized rack near the register was for name-brand bags and they naturally charged more.  Even so, these items are usually way less than you'd find them anywhere else.

    Another option is online marketplaces like Ebay for second hand or Etsy for vintage.  They can be wonderful for the variety they offer.  I love to clean out my own closet, take things that haven't seen much wear and send them out to good homes for a reasonable price.  I usually use whatever I earn toward the purchase of something new I have my eye on.  My closet stays clutter free and my budget stays in balance.  Online sellers are more often open to price negotiation as well.

Tips for Navigating Online ReSale

1.  Do Your Research
Since a lot of online sales at sites like Ebay are non-returnable, do a little research before you buy.  If it's a recognizable brand or from a shop like ModCloth or Anthropologie that has customer reviews, go read what others had to say.  If the market seems to be flooded with a certain dress, it could be because everyone hated it and the company had trouble selling it.  Also use these home sites to see what the original (and clearance) price was to make sure you're not over-paying.

2.  Ask the Right Questions
If it's from an individual seller, then it's probably something they've personally worn.  Ask them how the item fit and request measurements for the item to compare with something you have at home.  Getting this info can be valuable in making your final decision on whether or not to buy.

3.  Be Prepared for Disappointment & Know Your Rights as a Buyer
It's happened to me countless times with online second hand.  An item looks great in the photos and I've read the measurements carefully and compared them to my own, and yet when the item arrives it has some stain or hole, or is totally the wrong fit, and I'm stuck with it.  Another problem I've run into is a seller who never gets around to shipping the item.  Several weeks ago I had to pester a non-responsive seller after a cute little purse hadn't shipped.  The seller instantly responded to every message while we were negotiating the buying price, but as soon as payment cleared, I couldn't get a word out of her.  Fortunately most sites have some sort of customer protection.  For this particular site,  the process was quick and easy, but for sites like Ebay it can take much longer and be more involved, so take some time to read up on it or contact customer service if you're having trouble.

I hope these tips will give you some confidence as you head out there.  Happy thrifting!

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