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This is the easiest and the most convenient way to shop second hand, from everything I tried. The prices are in the Zara/Everlane range. There will be much more expensive goods of course but I don’t have to look at them / buy them. I know how much I am willing to spend and there is plenty to choose from. May I share what works for me ?

Easy Returns. Measurements. Plenty of choice.

Second hand clothes that you can try at home and return ! Perfect for second hand virgins !

If the silk is see through, you can get a sense of it on the mannequin. I wish there were more details in the description but there are enough for me to get started. The vital stats of a garment are listed. The colors are pretty accurate.

There is a huge inventory. I would assume there is enough choice for every kind of style there can be. ( I am not sure if there is enough clothing in plus sizes. )

I knew of its existence for years but wrote it off as ” designer clothing ! I don’t need that ! ” As I turns out, the website is full of plain shirts, black jeans, simple blue dresses and broken in ballet flats. Forget the labels, look at the clothes.

I have never bought luxury bags and other highly covetable items that are replicated by the counterfeit market. I wont be able to answer any questions on this regard. I buy good quality clothes in simplest cuts and clean lines. And that is about it. Designers make clothes. That is what they are trained to do. They sell handbags. That is what the marketing departments are trained to do.

Great Customer service

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I have been trying to convince my husband to shop second hand for years. We got him a pair of shoes two years ago, his first second hand purchase. He wore them to work the next day and the sole came off as he walked to pick up lunch. He pulled a “I told you so”  on me with close up photos to rub it in my face. I called the company and sent them the pictures. They refunded the money right away and credited me 25$ as a sorry for the inconvenience. They didn’t bother me with asking me to send back the shoes. I ordered a dress on which they had listed the wrong dimensions. They sent me a free shipping label for a return. I do my own quality check on the items. I have purchased items labeled excellent which weren’t. They refunded the money and send me a return label.  Yes, I have to go to the post office to drop off a package. I have to call the customer service. But that is a first-world slight inconvenience and not a real problem considering the VALUE of the garments that I do buy. Four years of shopping with them, 50% of my closet bought from them – I have one complaint : the plastic packaging in which my clothes come home.

The learning curve

I have to insist on saying this with respect to second hand shopping.

‘Feels risky’ and ‘risky’ are two very widely placed words on the spectrum of risk taking.

There is no overnight success. One can find that bad experience and let it scar you for life. I could say the same of investing money. First bad real estate/stock loss and you quit for life ? Its like any other learning. There will be mistakes made. But it will get easier with time. Anyone who shops second hand has enough bad stories from their initial attempts. I do too. In the long run, it will even out. In STEM fields, trial and error is a part and parcel of life and not something we run from. In machine learning, there is a training stage and a testing stage. Every event is a data point used for learning. Take a chance.

Navigate the labyrinth

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Going on the website and clicking what they want you to click on their homepage may work for their sales, but not for me. Aimlessly scrolling through and clicking on items is like jumping into a black hole with your wallet open. Dont !

I go in looking for specific things. Black ballet flats in size 8. Blue dress in size S/M. Blue shirt in size S/M. Price < 150$. It filters everything down to a non-overwhelming number of items to scroll through. Otherwise, there is enough in there to scroll for days and learn more about the early collections of most designers. My biggest suggestion : go in there and search for specific garments. “Gray woolen sweater”. “mauve”. “floral print shirt”. “shift dress”. “chambray dress”. “Isabel marant” …. are terms I have searched for. I do online window shop once a month. Since I do this periodically, I only check the “New In” section. I like laying in bed on a Sunday, eat my pastry and looking at clothes. Second hand shopping is a trade off between time and money. The truth of the matter is : more attempts you make, the higher the success rate.

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Measurements, not sizing.

Xs/S/M/L as a standard of measurement don’t mean much. This is especially true if you are used to American vanity sizing. Look for the bust, shoulder, waist, length, … for reference.

And wait.

I have a dark shopping past and it was filled with impulse purchases. I have made it a habit to sleep on it until the time is right. I add the garments to the wish list. And wait. I usually accumulate a few things that I want to try before I make a purchase.

Team up

I have a husband and a bunch of girl friends who shop on the website. We place big orders together which dilutes the shipping costs. We resign to the fact that we are going to send some stuff back. We order all the things on our wish list, try them out and use the return shipping label to send back the rejects. But in all honesty, looking at the prices of exact garments new in store even when they go on sale, an extra 12$ will still contribute to significant saving. If split between 3 parties, its one coffee not had. If I alone bear the cost of return, its one brunch not had. I do this once every 2 months on an average. I can make peace with the overhead. I own pieces from designers whose stores intimidate me to set foot in … let alone being able to afford an item off the hanger new. I believe I am getting good value for the money, at the end of the day.

No FOMO

My biggest lesson learnt is to not buy with the fear of missing out. Given the volume of incoming goods and turn over on that website, something else will eventually tick all the boxes. Even if it sells, it might be back again. Clothes gets returned and re-consigned all the time.  There is so much stuff on there that the next great piece is around the corner.

When is the time right ?

I only buy the clothes on my wishlist when they are marked 30% down in the flash sales or when they have the offer of spend 250$ for 50$ back. I use Shoptagr to track the 30% sale. They send you an email when the price drops.

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Seasons Matter

Looking at the clothes on Realreal, I have to make this assumption. The consigners have a certain temperament which makes them let go of their barely worn clothes. They also seem to not bother with selling these clothes them selves on ebay for better earnings and are taking the easy way out. In line with this behaviour, I see a lot of warm weather clothes getting dumped on there at the end of the summer. Most shoppers may not be looking for sundresses when its chilly outside. These clothes dont sell right away and drop in price with time. ( The clothes dont always have the same listed price. Based on number of page views they get, number of likes, number of time they get pinned, brands reputation, volume of similar looking clothes, … the prices drop.). I have found really good blue cotton dresses for cheap during December. And found nice coats for cheap during peak summer. If we can closet plan a little, I think there is more money to be saved.

On the other hand, sweaters fly off the website during winter. Breezy maxi dresses sell quickly during the summer. But that is to be expected right ?

Dont linger

Obsessively stalking an item is not worth the time. It also re-wires my brain into thinking I ‘need’ something that I dont. Out of sight, out of mind, less shopping. Give it time. Wait for shoptagr to email you. More often than not, given enough time, when I re-visit the page … I would have gotten over most of the things I picked.

Brand Loyalty ?

Lot of the bloggers I read have closets that are predominantly A.P.C & Isabel Marant like the legendary DeadFleurette. Use the mobile interface if you are a brand loyalist.

I no longer have any shopping apps on my phone. When I was actively building a closet, I used to have the app on my phone and wait for Equipment shirts to land on the website. The mobile interface allows you to curate an incoming items feed and saves the settings. You can use filters for size, color and brand. Say : if you want to see only items from the Row , Ralph Lauren and A.P.C, without filtering through piles of stuff – mobile interface is optimum for you.

Never

Never buy things on the BIG sale ( 50% off ) if you have not tried the item before. They don’t accept returns on these items. Buying because its cheap has never given me a high success rate.

If the item doesnt sell during the 50% off, more often than not, the listing price of the item drops after the super-sale period.

Its easy to fall into the trap of ‘I want something from yohji’ and start browsing. I keep checking clothes that are up for sale from The Row and Acne Studios. I don’t think its a good idea but I do check.

Do not sign up for newsletters. Go when you need something or periodically ( once a month ).

No to the luxury trap : bags. I shop second hand to buy quality clothes that I cant seem to find other wise. I don’t want to extend it and go down the hole of bags/accessories. They are luxury and status symbols. I don’t need such things in my closet. Yes to chasing quality, no to chasing luxury.

With the good comes the bad :

The piles of stuff in there sometimes gets to me. And makes me hate shopping. ( This is a good thing in my case.)

I have a tendency to collect backups for my staples. I have a pair of ballet flats ready to take the place of my old ones. I have a blue silk shirt ready to replace my old one. These purchases were made because I think I will save money in the long run. But one can never be sure.


This post was requested. I am not much of a writer and if it came off as prescriptive … that is not my intention. This is no guaranteed way that will work for all. This is what works for me. Before someone can write “there is no ground breaking information in this post” in the comments, let me come out and say : there is no ground breaking information in here. You guys have seen my closet and I usually get accused of owning very nice things from high end stores. I do, because I found them on the second hand market for Zara-ish prices. Go figure !

 

Question :

 

Have you ever shopped on Realreal ? Do you have a tried and tested methodology that is optimized for time and money ? 

Share some bad experiences please ? Its strange that I only have good things to say – which probably means I haven’t tested it adequately. But I do shop there a lot …