For the modern-day conscious consumer, buying secondhand is an increasingly attractive prospect. Fashion production takes a heavy toll on our environment, and many people are instead opting to shop vintage rather than contributing to the highly demanding and wasteful cycle of fast fashion. In response, a spate of “re-commerce” platforms have popped up in recent years, each catering to a certain type of shopper with distinct tastes.
If you’re eager to jump into the online thrifting sphere but you’re not quite sure how to start, have no fear! Here’s a handy guide to what you can expect from each site:
If you’ve ever watched a YouTube video from a fashion or lifestyle vlogger, there’s a good chance you’ve seen them plug thredUP, as the company seems to generously allocate its sponsorship funds. However, just because your favorite YouTuber got paid to sing their praises doesn’t mean thredUP is your best bet when it comes to buying secondhand. thredUP bills itself as the “largest online consignment and thrift store” so they’re not discerning and accept whatever gets sent to them. They’re basically a digital Goodwill. You might get lucky and stumble upon a hidden gem, but only after sifting through tons of graphic T-shirts, polyester blouses and wrinkled tank tops. Plus, thredUP has been plagued by a multitude of scamming accusations from both sellers and buyers, so thrift at your own risk!
If thredUP is the equivalent of Goodwill, then Poshmark is the equivalent of Crossroads or Buffalo Exchange — marginally more organized and slightly higher caliber. In 2017, Poshmark claimed that one in 100 fashion items purchased in the U.S. are resold on its site, and you can find some nice items on there, from Levi’s to Lilly Pulitzer. A word to the wise: many sellers on Poshmark cross-pollinate, uploading identical listings on their Etsy or Depop accounts, so make sure the item you’re eyeing is still available before you hit “buy now.”
Etsy holds a special place in my heart because it was the first place I started thrifting. Along with eBay, Etsy is one of the OG resell sites. I think of the myriad vintage stores on Etsy as a parallel to small, independent brick-and-mortar thrift stores. Each seller curates their offerings based on their own sense of style, creating a much more aesthetically cohesive collection. Etsy’s seller demographic skews older than Depop’s, so expect a slightly more sophisticated fare. You won’t find a ton of “edgy” or “trendy” clothes, but you’ll find lots of good, solid, dependable basics: jackets, sweaters, trousers and the like for very reasonable prices.
Depop is the hottest thing in thrifting right now. Maisie Williams, Madison Beer and Megan Thee Stallion are just a few of the celebrities who hopped on the peer-to-peer shopping app. In typical “keeping up with the kids” fashion, The Cut and The Atlantic both ran fawning profiles of Depop, which is simply crawling with Gen-Zers. Indicative of Depop’s younger-skewing demographic, to the app’s top searches are Urban Outfitters, Brandy Melville, Dr. Martens and Air Force 1s. Like Instagram, the app’s layout is optimized for your phone; the desktop interface is clunky and unintuitive. I find myself spending more and more time on Depop these days, just scrolling, scrolling, scrolling past teens in baggy jeans and plaid skirts tagged with #Y2K and #90sstyle.
Grailed is the place for buying secondhand streetwear. If you’re looking for products from Supreme, Palace, Off-White or Raf Simons, you’ve come to the right place. You can also find lots of luxury labels that have cozied up with streetwear, such as Gucci, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton. And for sneakerheads, new listings from Nike, Adidas and Yeezy are added every minute. The Grailed community is, unsurprisingly, composed of mostly men, but in 2017, the company established a sister site, Heroine, for female streetwear enthusiasts. I’m happy to say that my streetwear days are behind me, but I’ll cop to skimming both sites every once in a while if I’m looking for good denim or a high-quality hoodie.
The Real Real
The Real Real is a bougie thredUP. Both are consignment platforms, where the company acts as a middleman between the buyers and sellers, as opposed to the other platforms, which operate on a peer-to -peer system. The Real Real, however, deals in luxury goods, and thus employs authenticators to ensure that no counterfeits are slipping through the cracks — pretty imperative when secondhand Cartier, Chanel and Fendi can still run you four figures. I don’t make a habit of shopping on The Real Real — after all, pre-owned luxury is still luxury — but I’ll poke around when I’m in the market for a really good investment piece.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I can already name a few off the top of my head that I’ve left off. These are just the platforms that I’ve spent some time browsing and have the most experience with. Now, go forth and thrift!
Kitty Guo is a senior writing about fashion. Her column, “Tongue in Chic,” runs every other Monday.
Editor’s note: This article was updated Feb. 24 at 5:15 p.m. to clarify the year Poshmark said one in 100 fashion items purchased in the U.S. are resold on its site.