Vintage shopping, thrifting, buying pre-loved, whichever way you refer to it, there's no denying that shopping second-hand is better for the planet. Not only does it help to keep clothing and accessories in circulation for longer—therefore avoiding landfill—but it also has an impact on an item’s overall environmental footprint.
Case in point: according to Wrap.gov.uk, extending the life cycle of clothing by just nine extra months has the ability to reduce an item’s carbon, water and waste footprints by up to 10%. A recent study by digital marketplace Vinted found similarly impressive results. According to its climate impact report, “shopping for second-hand fashion on Vinted instead of buying new demonstrated an emissions saving of 1.8 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (kg CO₂e).”
While the positive impact of shopping secondhand is clear, the actual practice of finding second-hand items you want to purchase can be a little more difficult. Of course, it can be a fun, weekend expedition to spend a day trawling through vintage stores, though any regular pre-loved shopper will tell you that often finding quality second-hand clothing can feel akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
Why? Sadly, resale stores both online and offline, have become overrun with high-street goods meaning unique pre-loved pieces can feel few and far between. (In fact, one study from last year found that Zara was the most highly listed pre-loved brand, with 439,696 items on Depop alone).
That said, there's still hope. If you’re looking to understand the best ways to shop for quality second-hand items online, and expertly filter through the sea of discarded high-street goods, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve tapped five experts to understand exactly how to narrow your search and find the best pre-loved styles available. From eBay’s Pre-loved Fashion stylist, Amy Bannerman and to expert vintage sellers, Selena Williams, Alice Timperley, Nicole Star and Kate Dooley keep scrolling for top tips on the best way to track down a pre-loved gem.
EXPERT TIPS FOR FINDING UNIQUE PRELOVED ITEMS ONLINE
Keen to explore second-hand shopping but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Keep scrolling for top tips for second-hand shopping from a mix of expert vintage sellers and eBay’s pre-loved stylist.
TIP 1: Make sure you have a plan
The most effective way to nab yourself a vintage gem is to first be clear about what you’re looking for. “Firstly, I’d recommend always going in with a plan,” eBay stylist, Amy Bannerman tells Marie Claire.
“I often browse through for inspiration on social media and check out my favourite influencers and celebrities and then head to eBay to search for similar looks. This makes the browsing process so much easier instead of aimlessly scrolling because there is so much variety.”
TIP 2: Filters are your friend
Several of the vintage experts we spoke to stressed the importance of filters and extremely specific search terms. “With apps like Depop, Vinted and Ebay, there's so much choice, it can be a little overwhelming,” Selena Williams, the vintage expert behind Selena’s Shop told Marie Claire UK. “So I'd recommend making use of the filter search options to really find what you're looking for.” Depop top seller Alice Timperley echoed these sentiments. “Use as many filters as possible on reselling platforms. I also always filter to only show used items to remove any possible drop shipping accounts.”
“Be creative with your search terms,” Bannerman added. “I often tell people to spell things incorrectly because you’ll never know what you’ll find. I’ve found so many bargains just by finding things spelt the wrong way.”
TIP 3: Know your aesthetic
Given there is so much choice on re-sale platforms, it can always be beneficial to pinpoint the exact style you’re after. “I tend to search for specific eras, brand names and styles,” Williams explained. Whether you’re into ‘90s minimalism or ‘60s retro prints, there is power in knowing (and specifically searching for) the trend you want. Nicole Stark, the vintage seller behind Glownic Vintage agrees, “I would suggest trying to find out which 'core' suits what you're looking for the most and you are sure to find results.” Stark is correct, particularly on Depop, searching specific trends like “cottagecore” or “coastal grandmother” is likely to garner equally specific results.
Another option both Williams mentions is to find sellers whose aesthetic you love and follow them. “I personally love following clothing re-sellers on Instagram as you can find sellers who curate a store based on a specific style or era,” Williams explained. “This means you can find sellers who really represent your own personal style, which makes it a lot quicker and easy to find exactly what you're looking for.”
TIP 4: Don’t be afraid to DM
When in doubt, several of our experts recommend getting in touch with the seller directly to ask any specific questions. “If you're unsure of the condition, always ask for extra pics and don't be worried about asking questions before you purchase,” Williams explained.
“If it's not clear in the description try to contact the seller to ask if there are any flaws," petite vintage expert Kate Dooley added. “This avoids any disappointment on both sides.”
Timperley agreed, and advocates for asking, particularly if you’re wondering whether an item is truly vintage. “If using a platform such as Vinted or eBay, I find it easiest to search by brands and ask the seller to send a picture of the label to identify how old the item is,” she explained. Timperley also added that there are other benefits to messaging a seller directly. “It’s great to connect with sellers and ask them if they have anything else similar that they haven’t yet listed (they often do!).”
TIP 5: When on eBay, bid strategically
“Always take part in auctions so you can bag the best bargains,” eBay expert Bannerman explains. “This is actually where I find the best deals.”
She notes that a good tip is to add in a final bid just before the clock is set to time out. “It’s even better to put an unexpected and uneven figure and bid just before the auction ends,” she said. “For example, if you put in £20.86 and someone else has bid £20, you’ll easily win. By doing this, I’ve managed to get my hands on the best designer pieces, including a Jean Paul Gaultier co-ord and Alaia dress that were standouts on Love Island.”
HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT SIZE:
If you're second-hand shopping online, you might be wondering how to find the right size without being able to try the items on. While shopping second-hand for recent products can be easier, shopping for genuine vintage comes with a whole host size-related of ambiguity.
“If the item is true vintage (aka, from another era) the sizing won’t equate to modern sizing," explains Bannerman. "I advise going up two or three sizes - maybe even more - and then getting it tailored if it’s too big."
As a general rule of thumb is: if in doubt, go big. "You can always have something taken in at a local dry cleaner or somewhere like The Seam so that it becomes custom-made for you," she adds.
Bannerman also recommends double-checking the listing images, just to make sure sizes aren’t listed incorrectly. “Also check the photos of an item against what they’re listed as. Often people get this wrong. I just found a skirt listed as an L but the label said an 8, which is obviously not an L!”
Another top tip is to message the seller to ask for measurements. While sizing can differ between brands and eras, asking for an item’s sizing in CMs or inches is a foolproof way to ensure you know whether it will fit.
HOW CAN YOU ENSURE YOU’RE BUYING FROM A REPUTABLE SOURCE:
When it comes to shopping for pre-loved luxury in particular, often it can be difficult to decipher what is and is not genuine. While people online might claim their products are authentic, there are certainly plenty of fakes floating around the interwebs. Thankfully, several second-hand shopping platforms have now introduced processes to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.
“eBay has an amazing service called Authenticity Guaranteed, for higher value items like sneakers, designer bags and jewellery,” Bannerman tells Marie Claire. “After you buy an item, it’ll get sent off to a reliable authenticator who will check it against the listing description and do an inspection to make sure it’s the real deal, and then ship it to you with a unique authentication card or tag.” Bannerman explained that you can also filter online to show only Authenticity Guaranteed items, saving you hours of what otherwise might be wasted scrolling.
“I’d also always check a seller’s feedback and how many things they’ve sold in the past,” Bannerman added as a top tip. “If they are selling a high-value item and have no history, I’d steer well clear!”
Other re-sale sites, like Vestiaire Collective, for example, have a similarly thorough vetting process. Vestiaire Collective checks 100% of its items for authenticity, either physically or digitally, using a mix of human expertise and machine-based algorithms. The brand claims its “counterfeit detection is 99.9% accurate” so you can feel confident that what you’re getting is authentic.
VINTAGE SELLERS TO FOLLOW NOW
Selena Williams @selenasshop__
Selena Williams grew up attending car boot sales with her grandparents and rummaging through charity shops with her mum. This initial exposure subsequently helped her develop a love for all things vintage in her teen years. Now, she has over 40K followers on Depop and a further 11K loyal fans on Instagram.
“My vintage store started very organically, I needed some extra money so I started selling a few of my old clothes on eBay and Depop. Before you know it everything sold and I thought I could do this as a job,” she told Marie Claire on the genesis of her online store. “I absolutely love shopping for preloved and vintage clothing. One of my favourite things to do is to rummage at a car boot sale or flea market. There are only so many clothes I can keep myself, so it's amazing to be able to share my finds with my customers.”
Selena attributes her success in finding great vintage products to patience. “You really do have to dedicate the time,” she explains. “For example, if I go to a car boot sale, I'll make sure I'm there really early and I'll be sure to look at every stall just in case you miss a secret gem. If you're shopping in charity shops, be sure to leave no stone unturned.”
Alice Timperley @a.timps
Alice Timperley has always had a penchant and curiosity for items from previous eras. “I’ve always had a bit of a thing for items from the past, be it an antique broach or my grandma’s old shoes. But I didn’t properly get into vintage shopping until I was at university,” she tells Marie Claire. “I really fell in love with thrifting during my year abroad in Paris and that’s when I realised I could make some money from selling on Depop.”
What started as a passion project, has now grown into a fully-fledged online store. Alice is one of Depop’s top sellers with a following of over 20K. “During Covid, I started to explore the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and realised that buying second-hand was hugely important for our planet. That’s when I really put in the work to grow my shop online.”
So what is Alice’s top tip for unique vintage finds? “Go off the beaten track - my best finds have been in the most random locations. My favourite place to shop vintage is European thrift stores with €1 bins. You have to rummage through a lot of old damaged items but the gems are worth it!”
Nicole Stark @glownicvintage
“My favourite place to find pre-loved clothing is at flea markets abroad. You can never find cuter clothes at a cheaper price,” Nicole tells Marie Claire. The vintage seller has been shopping pre-loved since she was 16, and decided to take her resale store to the next level during lockdown. “I wanted to promote a more sustainable and unique way of building a wardrobe, all the while generating an income while studying,” she explained. Currently, Stark has over 21K followers on Depop and has even hosted a few physical pop-up shops in Edinburgh where she is based.
“Italy has got to have the best markets I've seen so far, but watch this space as I explore,” she adds. If there are no travel plans in your future, Stark recommends attending car boot sales to find the best vintage gems. “If you aren't travelling soon, visit a car boot! A lot of the finds there will be unique and have a personal story to the owner.”
Kate Dooley @offbeatpetite
Petite women, we have good news, pre-loved shopping just got a whole lot easier for you, thanks to Kate Dooley! Yes, the pre-loved expert has created a vintage store which caters specifically to petite women. On the store's origin, Dooley explained: “I downloaded Depop in a bid to sell some old clothes and since the majority of my wardrobe was items from high street petite lines, I found that a lot the people buying from me were fellow short women. As my shop gained popularity I decided to start buying second-hand clothing to sell, specifically for the petite market.” And so, Kate’s store, Off Beat Petite was born.
Today, Kate has sold over 3000 items on Depop and gained a loyal following of sustainably-minded petite women. “Along the way, I learnt about the importance of sustainable fashion in today's world. It's now my mission to provide petite-friendly vintage pieces to as many women as possible.”