As our About Us says, we have been into thrifting since Pretty in Pink came out, oh so many years ago. The first time I remember thrifting was with my mom. I was in third grade and wanted to be a princess for Halloween. My mom took me to a local thrift store on Ventura Boulevard where we bought a dress, a long brocade coat with feather trim and a tiara. Money was tight for my family back then and I could not believe she was purchasing such gorgeous things, that in my eyes, should have been rather expensive. My entire costume came to about $8! Between that and the fact that I won Most Beautiful Costume was enough to plant the second-hand shopping seed, so when Molly Ringwald brought the glory of thrifting to the big screen, I was beyond hooked.

Fast forward to current times and the internet has brought thrifting to a whole other level. You are no longer limited to just shopping at your local thrift stores, you can hunt for one-of-a-kind treasures all over the globe (honestly, one of my fav eBay stores is out of Croatia). And I am pretty sure I do not need to go into how much better buying on the secondary market is for our planet. The fashion industry is one of the most wasteful industries around. Add to that the possibility that the clothes are made with child labor, in sweatshops, in horrible conditions, with no worker’s rights and I will gladly give my dollars to a small business owner (whether that is at a locally owned brick and mortar, or the lone seller listing their wares on Etsy or eBay). Let’s be honest, most of these sellers are women and I am ALWAYS happy to support a woman owned business. #whoruntheworld

We are excited to bring you a new feature to AFL – Thrift Thursday. In it, we will highlight at least one of our favorite secondhand bargains and share our tips for finding the best gems, online or in stores. And don’t let the name fool you. We will include vintage, designer consignment and any other way to fill your closet with special items in a way that is both better for the environment and your wallet.

Here are some of my best eBay tips that helped me score every item you see me wearing in this post. That includes Chanel shoes, Oscar de la Renta pants, a Diane von Furstenberg blouse, the coveted Gucci belt and a Fendi bag. I was able to purchase each piece for around $100, except for the Chanel shoes…. they were a whopping $135…still cheaper than a lot of brand-new shoes from less designer brands.

  1. Know your sizes. Since most eBay sellers do not take returns, you need to know whether the item will fit once it arrives. I went to my favorite tailor and had them take my measurements, so I am not just guessing. If the seller doesn’t list the measurements, send them a message and ask. Most sellers answer back rather quickly as the item isn’t making them any money just sitting in inventory.
  2. Know if a brand works for you and your body type. I have gone to Nordstrom, Neiman’s, etc. and tried on a new-to-me designer brand just to figure out if their sizes work for me. This is especially important if you have a hard-to-fit, in between sizes body like I do. Doing this saved me a decent amount of money on buying Self Portrait and Regina Pryjo dresses. These are just two brands that do not work for my body, no matter the size, with or without major tailoring.
  3. That leads me to tip #3 – get to know a great tailor. For example, the ODR pants I am wearing cost me $39.99 and I purchased them knowing they were going to be too big. A $20 alternation later, and I have a great pair of timeless, designer trousers that still cost less than new even with the tailoring. This tip also applies to a shoe repair/leather expert. Some people don’t want to bother with this step and that is fine. As I said, I have a hard-to-fit body and usually need to take new purchases to a tailor to get the fit right, so tailoring eBay purchases is not a deal breaker for me. If the price of the item+alternation is less than new, I have no problems making the purchase.
  4. Know what the aforementioned experts can do for an item and what they can’t. I will buy a pair of suede shoes with a scuff or two knowing my shoe guy (shout out to Austin Shoe Hospital) can make them good as new. This does not apply to patent leather. Once patent leather is scuffed, it is scuffed, so buyer beware. Other things I have had Austin Shoe Hospital do for me include, completely dying a pair of white Manolos red, re-dying the scuffed white leather parts of a Gucci tote bag white to make it look good as new, added leather pieces to the top of a pair of Ralph Lauren boots that were too small to fit around my calf originally….the list goes on and on (and this in addition to stretching, repairing stitches, cleaning, adding protective soles, putting holes in belts, etc.). I have also gotten a good sense of what a tailor can do and which alternations would be too expensive to undertake (looking at you, Self Portrait and ALL THOSE RUFFLES).
  5. Read EVERYTHING in the eBay listing to avoid problems when the item arrives. I learned this one the hard way, but luckily it has turned out just fine the few times I bid without reading. The Fendi bag in this post is the perfect example. I was blinded by the shiny, pretty pictures and bargain price so I didn’t read that the bag was missing its shoulder strap (probably why it was listed at a bargain price). It ended up being fine though, as I love the bag and do not mind just carrying it by the handle. I have also pulled the trigger on a couple of too-good-to-be-true priced items, only to realize that it was an international seller after I committed and the price of the shipping was more than the item itself. I have no problems purchasing from international sellers and paying for the shipping, depending upon the item, but don’t like being blindsided for a non-designer item that wasn’t worth $30+ in shipping. All eBay sellers list the shipping and their location, so this was all on me. 
  6. Finally, as I touched on above…if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is (cliché but oh, so true). So far, I haven’t purchased anything that I could not get authenticated as designer, but I know that is a fear for so many that prevent them from taking the eBay plunge. Most of the time, when I am thinking of buying something where the price seems too good, it is because the item is defective or needs repair. The sellers do not try to hide this face, but as I mentioned with my Fendi purse, I just didn’t read all the fine print.

These are just a few tips to get you bidding with confidence. Next week, I will give you my search specific tips that help me narrow down the seemingly daunting sea that is eBay to make the most of my searching time as, like all of you, I don’t have the time to lay around all day just browsing the listings eating bon bons and drying my nails. Mama is busy, but mama needs her designer finds!