Secondhand First

Secondhand First

It’s been three days shy of a year since I walked into our local Goodwill store, having not thrift store shopped in a couple of decades.

I found a $4.00 grey Armani blazer that, in my excitement, I mistakenly believed was in excellent condition.

A cigarette burn I missed and a foul odor I didn’t pick up on right away caused me to send it right back to Goodwill, after I paid $7.00 to have it dry cleaned.

But that didn’t stop me from visiting the thrift shop again, this time with a eye out for blemishes and a nose on alert for bad smells. On my next trip, I had success.

Since last November, I have amassed quite a number of gently used garments. Here are a few of my fall and winter favorites.

Black tuxedo jacket, $10.00

New-with-tags corduroy shirtdress, $15.00

Banana Republic LBD, $8.00

Grey pencil skirt, $4.00

CAbi cardigan sweater, $4.00 

That’s five versatile wardrobe pieces, all in new or like new condition, for $41.00. I don’t know about you, but I can rarely find a quality blouse at the mall for less than $50.00.

Yesterday, Bella of Citizen Rosebud wrote this post. And in it is this:

Shop Secondhand First
I pledge to shop secondhand first. I resolve to buy items that are thrifted, swapped or hand down. My aim is to limit my consumption, and in doing so I make my shopping more sustainable. I pledge to support businesses who commit to sustainable + smart design. My focus is on quality, ethically produced new is my conscious go-to. I will barter and swap when possible, and shop charity, consignment and flea markets when probable. I pledge to shop secondhand and sustainable because I put the planet first.

What Bella wrote spoke to me. Lately, I have been too quick to go online to buy clothes, or pop into Banana Republic or Macys when I want to add something new to my wardrobe.

Although I still thrift shop occasionally, I confess that lately it’s not been my primary way to buy clothes.

Bella has inspired me to re-committ to secondhand shopping. My motivation is not just financial, although saving money thrills me. It’s about feeling good about my purchases.

When I buy clothes from one of the huge, cheaply priced chain stores, I often feel badly about it. It’s a type of buyers remorse but not because I spent too much money, but rather because I spent money on a business that has a gargantuan and ever-changing inventory, pitiful quality, bargain-basement prices, poorly paid salespeople, and garments that are, more likely than not, made in a sweatshop.

When I buy clothes from a thrift shop or consignment shop, I feel great! No remorse. No guilt. No questions about the shop’s business practices. I believe I am giving a garment or piece of jewelry a second chance.

Chunky, gold-toned necklace $6.00

When I want to add something to my closet, I will look at secondhand stores first, with a few exceptions:

~ Under garments and lingerie
~ Swim suits
~ Shoes, unless I come across a pair that I like in great condition in my size of 11
~ Most pants and jeans. My inseam is 36″. Retail is already difficult enough.

And I leave the door open for handcrafted items made by small business owners, high-end pieces on deep-discount made in the US or Europe and things I buy while traveling to distant places.

I don’t expect to be a perfectly loyal secondhand shopper for an entire year. I may buy a dress at a department store for an event should I not have something appropriate to wear in my closet. Or I might purchase a cashmere sweater new because used cashmere is usually not in very good shape. But I don’t want big retail to have the bulk of my shopping wad. My main focus will be on used clothing.

I’d love for you to take Bella’s pledge with me in some form. If you have never thrift shopped before, try it once and see what you find.

If you are a causal thrift shopper, make your local thrift or consignment shop your first stop rather than the mall.

Secondhand shopping not only to saves you money, but it’s a good thing to do for the planet, for your community, and for your soul.




  1. November 7, 2012 / 5:14 am

    This is such a good idea! I’ve shopped at thrift stores a lot in the past, but it’s been a while now – I definitely need to get back to it.

    Whenever I clean out my closet I go to a flea market to sell the clothes or I donate them. Now I just need to stop buying so much new stuff.

    I just found your blog and I love it!

  2. November 7, 2012 / 5:24 am

    Wonderful post, Adrienne. I have taken the Pledge too, but your writing about it really resonates with me. (That, and the five fabulous pieces for $40! : >) Thanks for sharing this.

  3. November 7, 2012 / 5:39 am

    I’m also thinking about taking Bella’s pledge. I rarely buy new things, but I did think about some exceptions to the rule, such as shoes, undergarments, and a few essentials that I can’t find secondhand. I even try eBay first these days.

    You’re right about that guilty feeling from buying retail. With so many beautiful clothes available secondhand, it’s hard to justify paying full price.

  4. November 7, 2012 / 6:18 am

    I’m taking a pledge to shop in my own closet and hopefully not add a thing. I did a cleaning over the weekend, and found a few things I’d forgotten about, never worn, that had their hefty price tags still attached.
    It made me feel like such an irresponsible consumer, I was disgusted.
    You have found amazing things, and look great in all of them.

  5. November 7, 2012 / 6:27 am

    I think it’s really important that we learn to consume in a more sustainable and thoughtful way. Whilst I don’t thrift much anymore, I have always tried to buy less of better quality – I wouldn’t set foot into Primark if I was paid for it!!! Great post, have a lovely day xo

  6. November 7, 2012 / 7:11 am

    You have managed to find some great pieces in thrift stores Adrienne. And I agree with Kathy, you look fab in them. I’m not so lucky with thrifting. Ours just seem to have a load of old junk in them, but I do always manage to find some books there.

  7. November 7, 2012 / 8:55 am

    Fabulous post Adrienne! You highlighted one of the very best things about thrifting- it’s green. Clothes get another chance and we are not such a throw-away society. Also, great points about manufacturing, labor and the pollution they create!

    I love all you’ve got and I’m going to try the pledge too. I am like Sulky though and seem to have better luck with books. You inspire me though, so I’m going to try.


  8. Lynn
    November 7, 2012 / 9:25 am

    I have a consignment store near me, and frequently find great bargains for myself and my husband. Last week’s haul was five items of clothing for $99. it included a Liz Claiborne shirt for him, an Elie Tahari black blazer for me (tag attached told me it cost $348 originally), and Evan Picone LBD ($99 originally) with beading (for holiday parties, a baker boy cap for $6 for my aunt, and a blue V-neck sweater. got to love that deal.

  9. November 7, 2012 / 9:48 am


    I was just thinking about this yesterday…how I need to make time to check out some thrift stores in our area. I haven’t had much luck at the Goodwill but there are two smaller thrift stores that I pass almost every week while running errands and still have not taken the time to stop in. You certainly have done well and scored some great pieces!

    I am not happy with the quality of the clothes these days in the retail stores. For example, I bought two cardigans from Nordstrom on sale in June and because it was summer, have worn them very little. After a washing they definitely don’t look new anymore. I returned another piece to Nordstrom last year because it pilled right away. Everything is made in China now…cheap, cheap, cheap!


  10. November 7, 2012 / 10:04 am

    Because of you I now have two navy blazers – total $10.00 plus about 60.00 in tailoring. So basically blazers that fit me perfectly for 35.00 each. Not toooo shabby!

  11. November 7, 2012 / 10:43 am

    Thank you so much for taking the pledge and for being such a gorgeous poster child of Shopping Secondhand First. Just a little more effort to see if you can get something from a secondhand source can make a big impact and less waste going to the landfills. I also feel it will help the new manufacture’s hear the message that quality and long lasting design will be what consumer’s will buy, as they consciously eschew poor quality, disposable items.

    And a big thank you for sharing the pledge with your readers! -Bella Q

  12. November 7, 2012 / 11:57 am

    Love this! I totally try to roll this way too…buy second-hand first (with similar exceptions). I have a hard time finding tops that are long through the torso…I like tops to hit mid hip or lower…and I need to find some for work. Uugh. Like Kathy above, I want to work harder at shopping my closet too–experimenting more with pairing things together that I haven’t in the past.

    All in all, I think I can live with this “oath”. : ) We shall see.

  13. November 7, 2012 / 12:38 pm

    My shopping resources are always the same; a few retail stores, discount stores and thrift.
    I love the black and white sweater! Total score.
    I have better luck at smaller thrift stores around here–I feel a little guilty at goodwill; those people need the bargains more than I do.

  14. November 7, 2012 / 1:48 pm

    @Mirkka Hi Mirkka! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    I buy too much too. It seems as though I always have a bag of unwanted clothes waiting for me to take to donation.

    So maybe shopping my closet first as other commenters have said, and THEN secondhand shopping should be my plan. That sound smarter to me!

  15. November 7, 2012 / 1:51 pm

    @Lynne DeVenny Hi Lynne!

    I hope you do take the pledge. You don’t have to be strict about it. I think just being more mindful of the way we shop and trying to focus on sustainability will help change our shopping habits for the better.

  16. November 7, 2012 / 1:54 pm

    @Kathy Leeds You brought up such a great point, K! I think shopping my closet should be my first priority, then secondhand. And as a last resort, I will shop retail.

    I hope you find that you love the things you bought and wear them often. If you don’t think you will, is there any chance you can return them?

  17. November 7, 2012 / 1:56 pm

    @Mademoiselle Poirot Yes!! You articulated what I was trying to say in my post about buying high-end discounted garments made in the US or Europe – but you said it better…”less of better quality”.
    I don’t know Primark but I am guessing it’s like Walmart. I, too, rarely if ever step foot in places like that. Unless I have no other alternative…and then, it’s never to buy clothing. I used to buy the kids’ clothes there sometimes when they were little and it was garbage quality. Not worth even the low prices.

  18. November 7, 2012 / 2:04 pm

    @Sulky Kitten I do think I have the benefit of good thrift shops and consignment stores where I live.

    There is always eBay, which I rarely peruse, but I know people who buy lots of used clothes there.

    Books and dishes and such are good things to look for at thrift shops. They are always in abundance.

    Thank you, by the way, for the comment left on my Skimbaco article. It is much appreciated! xo

  19. November 7, 2012 / 2:08 pm

    @kim at northerncalstyle. I wish we lived a bit closer, I could take you around to my favorite thrift shops.
    Check Yelp in your area. I bet there are some great thrift shops that you don’t know about. That is how I came across a couple that I have been to…and some that I have on my list to visit.

  20. November 7, 2012 / 2:16 pm

    @Lynn WOW! What fantastic finds! You must be thrilled with your purchases. Especially that Tahari piece with the tags still on.
    Do you sell you things at that consignment shop, too?
    I have a credit of about $120 waiting for me at my local consignment shop. I am hoping to locate that elusive navy blazer that has been on my list for years.

  21. November 7, 2012 / 2:19 pm

    @LRS4AMANDA I completely agree! I have noticed a decrease in quality from a few shops and brands that I have been loyal to for years. It’s very disheartening to pay high prices for such poorly made clothing. The materials often seem so cheap and artificial, too.

    I do hope you’ll stop by your thrift shops soon. Check out Yelp to see which shops rank highest. That is how I found out about some shops I had never heard of.
    xo, A

  22. November 7, 2012 / 2:21 pm

    @Suburban PrincessTwo? I didn’t know about the second one. Good job! Do you know I STILL don’t have a navy blazer after looking for one all this time? I saw a J Crew one yesterday on eBay – it’s a “tall” and would fit me perfectly. But the seller is asking close to what it would cost brand new. It’s hard to justify that expense. So I will just keep on looking!
    So glad you had success with thrift shopping!

  23. November 7, 2012 / 2:38 pm

    @Bella Q I hope you’re right about clothing manufacturers listening to us…though I do think that so many people are accustomed to shopping at the big chain trendy stores. It’s cheap, easy and convenient and honestly, some of their things are very cute! All we can do is get the word out about it and walk the walk.

    Thank you for your great insight, inspiration, fearlessness and fabulous style, Bella! xo

  24. November 7, 2012 / 2:50 pm

    @vintagefrenchchic Yay! So glad you’re doing it too. I know you’re very good about secondhand shopping – probably because of your love for all things vintage.
    I also have a long waist so I know what you mean. I look for “talls’ which are my preferred choice. Hard to find them in thrift shops.
    This pledge should be much, much easier than my pervious spending freezes. Those were not very much fun.

  25. November 7, 2012 / 3:07 pm

    @fashionoverfifty That sweater was a total score. It was going for close to $60 on eBay at the time.
    It has never occurred to me that I am taking from the less fortunate. I think on one level you are right. I don’t need to shop there and perhaps someone else could better use the clothes I buy But as fas as Goodwill goes, they fund a variety of programs for those with disabilities and special needs such as job training, placement and support with the money they make from their stores. So I feel really good about that.

  26. Chris
    November 7, 2012 / 3:45 pm

    I used to be a clothing snob until personal circumstances forced me to reconsider spending. Though I had less money, I hadn’t lost my desire to be dressed as well as budget would allow. I gave thrift and consignment a chance and was pleasantly surprised. You do have to wade through a lot of duds (oops, no pun intended) to find some jewels, but things I’ve come to enjoy about wading through thrift stores are: running across clothes that are decades old and seeing the Made in USA tag, enjoying the better quality of material and construction in older clothing, noticing how drastically sizing has changed (!), and the nostalgia of recognizing styles from my youth! I’ve come to really enjoy shopping second hand and am continually amazed by the things people give away as well as how long they must’ve also held on to some of the styles!

  27. November 7, 2012 / 5:40 pm

    I totally agree with you. Thrift shopping is not only a matter of saving the money but also saving our planet. The next generation will be thankful for it.
    I love and appreciate women like you and Bella who actually lead a good and ethnical consuming behavior than some celebs that press make a fuss about when they shop something in a charity shop after spending lavishly on luxury goods.
    Thank you for your comment on my blog.

  28. November 7, 2012 / 5:50 pm

    I like to shop at thrift stores too. You never know what you’ll find and that’s exciting.
    Mindful shopping is to be encouraged and applauded.

  29. November 7, 2012 / 6:06 pm

    Hi Adrienne…..

    I went over to Bella’s blog and took the pledge; I’m reaffirming it here.

    I love thrift; I have learned that I can find better things at a thrift than I can buying retail. I’m so thrilled that I found this avenue to build my wardrobe.

    Love your finds; how lucky that you found the CaBI cardigan.

    All of my favorite things are thrifted. I’m with you on the limitations though…no undies, sock or bathing suits. Rarely will I purchase shoes…unless they are pristine. Pants…..I’ve found only one pair that works for me…and they were brand new Rafaella pants…but that’s very rare.

    I’m so proud that I have made the switch to second hand and thrift. Its such a pleasure.

  30. November 7, 2012 / 8:18 pm

    I love thrift stores, for both clothing and home goods. I once found a wood box that I bought to transform into a jewelry chest…only to discover that it was a $400+ humidor. It not gets to hold cigars for the occasional guys night.

    Clothing can be pretty surprising. I do tend to find quite a bit of Ann Taylor and Banana Republic. But I’m hoping to hit up some stores in the nicer parts of D.C. this winter to hunt down some nicer pieces. Second hand is always chic.

  31. Anonymous
    November 7, 2012 / 8:34 pm

    Don’t have any guilt about shopping thrift.

    According the president of our closest thrift store’s charity:

    “Some people shop here because it’s the only place they can afford. Some people shop here so they have more money for exciting vacations. WE DON’T CARE! We get so many clothes that we give away thousands of (large) garbage bags full to other charities each year.”

    Also, many people don’t want to deal with the overhead of high-end fabrics. Wool, silk, and cashmere all benefit from special handling.

    A woman I know handles clothing drives for the homeless, and she specifies that the clothes must be able to be machine-washed.


  32. November 8, 2012 / 1:42 am

    this post generates so many thoughts in me..the clothing industry in Italy (I’m Italian) used to be a pillar of our economy, wonderfully skilled seamstresses produced almost artisanally fabulous clothes, patterns and embroidered fabrics for the fashion industry all over the world, now this is all the gone, the heart of this activity used to be Reggio Emilia and its surroundings, now it is almost a ghost town, the factories are closed, the seamstresses and the workers laid off thanks to the Chinese invasion of tatty rags sold for 70% less of what used to be the price of a garment made in Italy..the last coup de grace was given by the earthquake in June which has pulled down the little that had my buying second hand or clothing that has remained unsold is a way to sustain the little that has remained of this industry because the Italy the manufacturing companies themselves in order to stay alive give away entire stocks of unsold clothing to distributors that sell these stocks to market stalls least I know where the money goes…

  33. November 8, 2012 / 4:08 am

    Great post! You actually just gave a great reason for thrift/second hand shopping that I never thought about it. I consignment shop a lot, but never thought about your sustainable reason. My reason was totally superficial because it’s typically high-end pieces that is not in my budget to buy new. Well done!

  34. November 8, 2012 / 7:25 am

    I have been buying second hand for many years now, and I find it so much fun.
    It does take a while to train your eye to spot a bargain.
    My eyes are now shapr as scissors, lol

  35. November 8, 2012 / 1:01 pm

    I have shopped thrift more now than I ever had. It is harder though when you are a plus size. I do a lot of my shopping at the 1/2 of 1/2 store where a lot of unwanted leftover retail goes. It is kind of like a thrift in that a lot of the mdse is damaged in some way. They have an excellent stock of plus size as well as a huge stock of regular size. I will do my part as much as I can!

  36. November 8, 2012 / 9:21 pm

    I so agree with you on all counts. And one thing I’ve learned is if you find something you really like you better get it then and not wait for your next visit after you’ve mulled it over a while! I’ve experienced non-buyers remorse often. I also enjoy perusing Etsy for many hand-crafted items and support local crafters as much as I can.

  37. November 8, 2012 / 11:02 pm

    You are STUNNING in that Banana Republic dress!

  38. November 9, 2012 / 5:01 pm

    @Chris Chris, You bring up some very positive things about thrifting that I hadn’t thought of. I did a post a while back about 10 great reasons to thrift, or something like that. I want to resurrect that post and add your thoughts to it.
    What you say about quality of older clothes is so true. I bought a blazer in a tall size from J. Crew last week. It arrived today and, although it’s not poorly made or anything, it just doesn’t feel like a quality garment. There is something cheap about it. And at $180 or whatever I paid for it, I expect some quality. It’s going back….for poor quality and poor fit. It’s really too bad that decently made clothing is so hard to find at a reasonable place. At least we have secondhand!

    Thank you for your comment, Chris…I like the points you brought up and will be adding them to my previous post, as I mentioned.

  39. November 9, 2012 / 5:40 pm

    @Hang T. TranHi Hang,

    I do hope a few peoples’ minds can be changed about shopping secondhand through Bella’s pledge. It really is such a waste to buy cheaply made clothes. They only last a short while – either fall apart quickly and/or go out of style.
    Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  40. November 9, 2012 / 6:00 pm

    @Lisa Hurrah for taking Bella’s pledge!!
    I 100% agree with you about your secondhand shopping observations. Everything I bring home with me is better quality that what I would otherwise buy at a Forever 21 or Walmart, for example. I may have to dry clean it, or mend it but it’s almost always worth the effort in the long run.

  41. November 9, 2012 / 6:03 pm

    @Kate Cool find, that humidor! I pretty much stick to clothes. But if I needed something for the house, I would not hesitate look around at a thrift shop.
    I see a lot of Banana too. Not so much Ann Taylor, though. I am still waiting to find an Hermes scarf, a St. John suit and something by Missoni…all in my size, of course 🙂

  42. November 9, 2012 / 6:07 pm

    @Anonymous Thank you for this comment! I started to wonder if maybe it was not a good idea for me to thrift. I would hate to find out that I take from others when I thrift.
    I had a feeling that selling clothes is the main purpose – and that it doesn’t matter who the clothes are sold to, as long as they’re bringing in money.

    Love that quote from the charity’s president. Makes me want to go shopping at my local thrift shop right now!

  43. November 9, 2012 / 6:18 pm

    @lovesjetlag The story you tell is very sad. I hate to see that even in Italy, where fashion and quality reign for centuries, cheap junky clothing manufacturers have taken over.

    I treasure the Max Mara skirt you sent me…I know it will be in my wardrobe for years to come. It’s such good quality, I appreciate you sending it to me very much.

  44. November 9, 2012 / 6:20 pm

    @Leigh Powell Hines I give the sustainable reasoning credit to Bella. I had thought of that before – I wrote about it a few months back – but really, my main goal for thrift shopping and consignment is to save money. The fact that it’s eco-friendly is icing on the cake!

  45. November 9, 2012 / 6:24 pm

    @Sacramento Amate It does take time to get thrifting down. Everyone who does it has their own methods. I try to keep an open mind, but be selective when I shop.
    You are a great example of how to dress fabulously with thifted clothes.

  46. November 9, 2012 / 6:29 pm

    @Debbi@SheAccessorizesWell I’ve never heard of that…the 1/2 and 1/2 store. I wonder if we will get one here one of these days.

    We have a plus size section at our local Goodwill. There’s not much there but it’s nice that they separate sizes. Makes things much easier!

  47. November 9, 2012 / 6:47 pm

    @Thyme2Be NO! Never wait…it will be gone when you return. I still think about a great silk kimono I passed on at Goodwill. I went back to get it and it was gone. Too bad for me! Lesson learned.
    Like you, I also like to buy things from small, independent business owners who make handcrafted things. It’s important to support small businesses any way that we can.

  48. Anonymous
    November 15, 2012 / 7:28 am

    @Adrienne Taylor Shubin

    Glad you weren’t offended by my comments above.

    Our tiny little thrifts are a great place to find clothes. I have found a Burberry trench that fits my youngest and camel-hair coats for both teens. (They won’t wear them now, but I think they’ll be glad to have them in a few years.) I even found a nice winter jacket for my very picky DH.

    Thrifted clothes also give me the freedom to make mistakes: catch-and-release. For example, I thrifted a tencel skirt that I wore a few times, but I think it doesn’t flatter me. So, now it’s in the donate bag.

    Seriously consider that a lot of people who shop thrift out of need don’t want clothes that need special handling. (handwash, dry clean only, etc.) That’s why you might find a nice wool pullover languishing on the thrift store rack, while acrylic flies out the door.

    And, here’s an irony — Our church is having a used coat drive for the homeless. DH and Oldest DD went shopping at the department store and bought new coats to donate. (Sturdy, fashionable, waterproof, insulated). But DH’s winter jacket — thrifted!

    Finally, I want to say that, while it’s easier to find nice items in smaller sizes at the thrift, it’s very possible to find larger sizes too. Sadly, I’m wearing Size 2x. And here are some of the things that I have thrifted: wool skirt; 2 cashmere pullovers; silk scarves; trench coat w/ wool lining; even a Geiger of Austria Boiled Wool Jacket! (BTW, I found all of these in our tiny little town (pop 20,000).)


  49. November 19, 2012 / 2:26 pm

    I call secondhand shopping … Recycling At Its Best!

  50. January 22, 2013 / 4:55 pm

    Living off the fat of the land. I love getting a deal. Ferragamos for $9 at the fancy consignment store. Not too shabby.

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