The best places to buy secondhand clothes online
Secondhand clothing is a big deal right now. In fact, it’s only going to get bigger: US resale platform Thred Up predicts resale will be 1.5 times bigger than fast fashion by 2028.
If 2020 was the year of Depop, then 2021 is the year of exciting new platforms for us to sell, swap, and rent our clothes. I’ve always been envious of US thrift stores, but the UK is proving it has game when it comes to online secondhand clothing stores! It feels like every few weeks I stumble upon a new platform via Instagram. I wanted to share the best (and most stylish!) with you.
I’m a huge advocate of shopping secondhand, as it’s such a simple (and affordable!) way to participate in sustainable fashion. And as the range of places to shop secondhand shopping online continues to grow, it’s more accessible than ever.
Should I buy secondhand, swap, or rent my clothes?
But first, the big question: is it OK to buy secondhand fast fashion? In short, yes! I can understand why you’d want to shake all ties to any High Street names when you start out on your journey to a more conscious wardrobe, but there is reason to purchase secondhand fashion from conventionally ‘unethical’ brands. Ultimately, by purchasing these items you’re prolonging their life cycle, and helping to tackle the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of unwanted clothes we get rid of each year. My only advice would be avoid anything that seems poorly made or in bad condition, and to remember to only buy what you genuinely love and will use, rather than as much as possible just because it’s cheap.
One thing I would say, however, is to avoid buying clothes that are much larger than you need, especially if your intention is to ‘thrift flip’ or alter them. For plus-sized people, participating in ethical fashion is difficult at best, and they deserve to have secondhand shopping options too. Equally, resale sites shouldn’t be seen as a justification for your over-shopping habits (‘Oh it’ll just stick it on Depop if it’s not right’). All clothes should be purchased mindfully, regardless of where they come from, or where they will likely end up.
There are so many options now when it comes to clothes ownership. Merely choosing secondhand is just the start – you might be wondering if it’s best to buy, swap, or rent your wardrobe. There are pros and cons to all options, both from an environmental standpoint, and as a consumer. I tend to purchase my clothes when looking for secondhand options, but I’d recommend swapping sites if you like to update your wardrobe often or you know you have several items that would benefit from a new home right now. Swapping works great for the ‘one in, one out’ rule that can be so useful for avoiding a wardrobe that’s bulging at the seams!
I’m going to cover rental fashion in more depth in another post soon, but this is an option that is hugely on the rise. Personally, I’m yet to be swayed by rental, but I would be keen to use it for a special occasion, like a wedding. Alternatively, rental is great if you’re into those ‘cult’ pieces. You know, Ganni dresses, Shrimps coats, Jacquemus bags. These often expensive pieces can be used for a few days at a much more affordable price.
How to shop secondhand clothing successfully
Often when people first start looking into buying secondhand clothing online, the sheer scale of what’s on offer can be intimidating. However, once you learn the tricks of the trade, then secondhand shopping becomes not only easy but great fun. Who doesn’t love finding the item of their dreams sustainably, and for an affordable price too?
Here’s my tips for shopping places like eBay, Depop, Vinted, and any other online secondhand stores to the best effect:
Be specific – It can feel overwhelming perusing what can sometimes be thousands of search results, so you’ve got to be specific in your wants. Maybe it’s a dress you missed out on from Zara last summer (Zara polkadot midi dress M) or a new blouse for work (burgundy long sleeved blouse size 16). Keep it detailed to refine your search.
Use filters – the more filters you can use, the better! As a bare minimum, filter by size and garment type, although searching by colour and brand can be useful too. For eBay I definitely recommend refining by location and condition (i.e. ‘used’) too. Sites like Depop and Vinted allow you to set default perimeters such as your size to help speed up your shopping experience.
Save and compare – So you’ve found a pair of ‘black block heel ankle boots size 5’? Fab! Now add them to your favourites/ watch list/ saved items and keep searching. First isn’t always best, and like any purchase I recommend sitting on it for at least 24 hours to help make sure you really do want it. Equally, thanks to the mammoth scale of fast fashion, you will likely find multiples of the same item on offer, Wait it out to find the best cost and condition for the secondhand clothes you want.
Look for typos – Spelling mistakes, alternative names for items, and different ways to describe what you’re looking for can be so useful for grabbing a bargain! Equally, if you’re after something specific (‘Black denim flares 10’) and nothing is coming up, try other phrases associated with that item (‘Topshop Joanie flares 28’). You might be surprised what pops up!
It’s a marathon, not a sprint – You might not be able to cross off all your want list in one go. That’s ok; keep searching. Some sites also let you set up alerts for when items matching your specifications are listed, and you will likely have ‘recommended items’ pop up too. Shopping secondhand does take more time than the curated items brands and Google Ads serve to us, but the end result is so much more rewarding.
Don’t forget about vintage too – I’ll cover my vintage favourites in a separate post, but great sites I recommend for a wide selection of affordable vintage include ASOS Marketplace, Rokit, and Beyond Retro.
Where to buy secondhand clothes online in the UK
Remember when secondhand clothes shopping began and ended with eBay and your local charity shop? Things have come a loooong way since then, so I wanted to round up some of the most interesting platforms that have come to my attention as a stylist and thrift shopping aficionado. I’ve decided to leave out the big three (eBay, Depop, and Vinted) because chances are you’ve already heard of them. These are alternative, up-and-coming places to buy secondhand clothing online in the UK. Most follow a hand-curated model so are a little more expensive than general items picked up on eBay etc., but in exchange you have the quality of items assured (and often style tips too).
NOTE: I’ve focused on secondhand clothing sale sites, but I’ll post a round-up of the best rental platforms soon!
Price point: £££
Best for: Curated pieces that guarantee major style points
What started as a peer-to-peer marketplace for secondhand children’s clothing has evolved into Manifesto Woman, an incredibly stylish hub of secondhand clothing for women, men, and children, Founder Sally Emslie describes her own wardrobe was “a mash-up of designer, boutique label, a bit of vintage and high street”, and this is exactly what you can expect to find on the site. While it is a resale platform, the books are currently full to sellers, but you can join the waitlist to sell your own clothes here, as well as browse the site for luxury-looking pieces.
Price point: £
Best for: quickly exchanging your old clothes for new, and gaining styling tips as you do!
Lucy from Swopped is one of my favourite accounts on Instagram, as she both styles up and curates mini collections from pieces traded in by Swoppers. There is a small membership fee to pay (from £6.49), then you can send in your old clothes in exchange for credits to spend in the Swopped Store, There’s an expansive catalogue to explore, and once you’ve worn your new pieces, you can always send them back to Swop again and earn more credits. You can also send in clothes that need recycling in exchange for credit. Swopped is a great option if you can’t be bothered with the faff of selling clothes yourself, and would like a little wardrobe update along the way.
Price point: £
Best for: Keeping fast fashion in circulation
Like Swopped, Swishup is a subscription-based clothes swapping site, that’s a good alternative to Depop. The market is definitely Gen Z, so expect fast fashion and trendy pieces. Instead of each piece being valued by brand etc., there’s a set ‘swishcoin chart’, where clothes are valued at one, two, or three swishcoins depending on garment type. Members upload their own items available to swish, and post them out. Membership is free for three months then from £2.99, and there’s a student discount too.
One Scoop Store
Price point: £
Best for: Handpicked vintage and secondhand pieces that are on-trend
There’s something extra special about hand-curated secondhand offerings. One Scoop is such a store, where each piece fits the delicate and minimal yet on-trend vibes. This isn’t the easiest site to explore (i.e. you can only search by garment type currently), but each collection is relatively small, so not too strenuous to scroll through. I recommend following One Scoop Store in Instagram to see the latest stock drops.
My Circular Wardrobe
Price point: £££
Best for: High-end finds
If you like Vestiaire Collective then you’ll love My Circular Wardrobe. Mother and daughter team Karen and Danielle set up the site as they loved the joy of stumbling upon hidden treasures in charity shops, and they wanted to create a secondhand platform where each piece was a gem. You’ll find names like Phillip Lim, All Saints, Maje, and Missoni on the site, mostly with an elevated-casual feel. You can even search by designer.
The Second Row
Price point: ££ – £££
Best for: Literally shopping influencers’ wardrobes
You know when you see an influencer’s wardrobe and think I want that exact outfit? The Second Row caters exactly to that want, featuring clothes from the wardrobes of Instagrammers, stylists, fashion editors and celebrities. The reality is most people who work in the fashion industry or are in the public eye only wear clothes once or twice, and this resale site helps garments find a forever home. Prices and sizes depend on whose wardrobe is on sale – follow The Second Row on Instagram to keep up-to-date with whose clothes are on offer next.
Price point: £
Best for: A streamlined charity shopping experience
Not many people know that Oxfam has an online store. If you’re craving a charity shop hit then it’s worth checking it out. Granted, the website isn’t the easiest in the world to search beyond product type and size, but if you enjoy the ‘luck of the draw’ vibe from a conventional charity shop then you’ll enjoy exploring this. There’s also a vintage section, too. Other big charity shops have an online presence via Marketplaces like eBay, Depop, and ASOS Marketplace.
Price point: £ – ££
Best for: All sizes and styles
Another online secondhand clothing store that donates to charities in the UK is Re-Fashion. Between 20 – 60% of the sale value of an item is donated to charity (the higher the value, the larger the percentage that’s donated), and you’ll find a mix of High Street and bigger brand names. You can also send in your clothes that are in need for a new home. As well as pre-loved clothes ranging from UK size 6 to 28, there’s a small ‘Remake’ collection, where items have been upcycled by skilled designers.