The lethal combination of being both time-poor and further away from my old East London home has resulted in far fewer opportunities to physically shop in vintage stores every weekend. It's just too much hassle schlepping into town, and when you go thrifting, it's easy to feel pressured to come away with something (or anything). So thank goodness the secondhand clothing market is now growing and booming online, because now I can still indulge my desire for buying preloved and retro goods (in my opinion, it's the way to find something truly unique) whilst contributing to the circular economy—something we should all be attempting to do as often as possible.
Just because I'm not literally rifling through rails doesn't mean all the heavy lifting has been taken out of this process. Visit any one of my favourite secondhand places online and you'll still find an overwhelming amount of product. Even though many items have been photographed badly, it's on these unexpected sites below that you're likely to locate something awesome. Yes, it takes a modicum of patience and dedication to successfully buy these pieces on the internet, but I'm here to help. Keep on scrolling to get the download on my favourite places to shop for secondhand clothes and accessories online, plus a peek into my current wish lists…
Do you know how your phone delivers a report on your screen-time usage each week? If Etsy were to do the same thing for the time I spend scrolling and wish-listing, it'd be astronomically high. I love trawling Etsy. I love falling down the hole of discovering old designers I'd never heard of before, uncovering cute little vintage stores across the globe and finding sellers who are just as enthusiastic about '60s mod style as I am. It's a good idea to favourite not only pieces but also shops that share your aesthetic; that way you can check back time and again with ease. I also create separate wish lists for fashion and homewares.
The best way to use Etsy is to search for specific items that have a vintage influence but are trending in fashion. For example, I used the platform to find a beaded bag because this trend is not new—it's incredibly old! Or how about when everyone's referencing the '80s with strong shoulders or lamé? Etsy is the go-to. Right now, I can feel a resurgence bubbling up for '90s Jean Paul Gaultier, and because Etsy isn't seen as "fashion" as other similar sites, you'll probably find well-curated pieces for a slightly lesser price than you might do elsewhere. Top tip: Remember that if you're importing from the U.S. (and some other countries), you may incur taxes and fees.
From setting up alerts for the (old) Celine boots that I just can't track down anywhere to sifting through some really fantastic designer vintage pieces, Vestiaire Collective not only holds a huge volume of authenticated stock, but it also knows how to make things smoother and faster for a busy girl.
As there are so many pieces online that it's a good idea to have some parameters of what you're looking for. Even if it's that you know you want a coat in a particular colour in a set size, setting filters will help you trawl through the product offering. I use it to pinpoint the items I missed out on the first time around, such as the aforementioned Celine boots. However, the site also has dresses, jewellery and outerwear.
Because items are shot by sellers from their own homes and probably on their own phones, the product imagery can be difficult to decipher or see clearly at times. So, unless you have hours to burn, I'd suggest using VC for when you know exactly what you want to track down, like a Dior monogrammed bag or that specific Rejina Pyo skirt from a particular season.
Many influencers both buy and sell on VC, so it's a good idea to check out its Sellers Series content on-site and also the #bestofvest hashtag on Instagram for inspiration.
I was inspired recently after finding out that Amy Bannerman (fashion director of Cosmopolitan), a fashion friend of mine, re-created the season's catwalk looks using entirely Oxfam-sourced products. The charity's secondhand e-commerce selection is so much meatier than you might imagine, making it a far more successful experience than heading to your local store. There's a "designer labels" section that takes a bit of sifting through, but stick with it and I'm certain you'll uncover some absolute corkers. If you want to look for more affordable options, there's plenty of that too.
I had previously used 1stDibs for researching home trends and buys, but when I interviewed the Rixo girls a few months ago, they told me they use the site for vintage clothes and accessories shopping, and in particular, for sourcing unusual trinkets and bits of jewellery. Their tip? Search by price (low to high, obviously) and track down interesting little nuggets as you would a cool flea market in Paris.
I love the eclectic highbrow mix you can find on 1stdibs, and even though I can't afford something super rare from Chanel, for example, it's fun to see it. Here you'll be able to hunt down a hand-embroidered piece of Ukranian folk clothing as easily as you can a cool Helmut Lang item from the '90s. The e-tailer is particularly well-known for its expensive watches and jewellery, with many rare collectors' items being posted, so if you're in the market for something special (like a Rolex for a milestone birthday), this is a great option.