A Young Person’s Guide to Second-Hand Shopping Online

A Young Person’s Guide to Second-Hand Shopping Online

second-hand shopping online
The author in a designer sweater and sunglasses found on a second-hand shopping site. © Julia Brahy

2023 was a gap year for me for me. After graduating from the university in the UK, I returned to Paris to plan my next steps. While applying to Master’s programs, I got a part-time job at the local fromagerie, making minimum wage and bringing home free cheese to my family. Because I was living at home, I could save my earnings and even have some extra spending money for the first time. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it: shop.

I’ve always been interested in fashion as a means of self-expression, but often the brands I liked best were out of reach of my budget. In addition, I am committed to finding sustainable alternatives to fast fashion outlets whose poor quality means their wares often end up in landfills. That’s why I was thrilled to discover online thrifting.

Classic Paris dépôt-vente © Leticia Gonzales

The emergence of sustainable, eco-friendly shopping practices has made it all the easier to find affordable clothes we love while also giving cast-offs a new life. Indeed, second-hand shopping is a boon to both our wallets and the planet. Local thrift shops are a good place to start.

For more tips on luxury vintage shopping, check out Leticia Gonzales’ Secrets to Creating French Luxury Style with Second-hand Clothing

Shopping online offers even more opportunities. For newbies, however, this can be a daunting task. The internet is a vast space of endless opportunities; anyone could quickly lose themselves among the countless choices. So here are my tips for hunting down the best high-quality finds.


Sure, you could randomly type in what you’re looking for on Google and hope for the best. However, you’ll save a lot of time by focusing on applications and websites specialising in repurposing pre-owned clothing. Platforms such as Vinted, Depop, or Vestiaire Collective allow you to personalize your search depending on what you’re looking for. You can filter for anything from your size to your preferred brands to your desired price range.

These sites are not independent companies selling their own range of clothing but rather communities of thousands of vendors from around the world that trade, sell, and upcycle their wardrobes. The shopping experience is made more personal this way, as you’re interacting with individual resellers online.

Be aware each of these platforms incorporates an additional fee for “buyer’s protection.” Yes, it adds a small cost (usually between 10% and 30%), but it also means you’re covered in case there’s an issue. For example, a reseller could delay sending your package (deadlines are usually seven to fourteen days), the article in question could be damaged in some way or sized incorrectly, or even look nothing like the picture. Buyer’s protection ensures you’ll be reimbursed fully if anything goes wrong.

There are hundreds of platforms to choose from, but the following are the most popular and user-friendly. Here are pros and cons for each:

Photo: Vinted.com


Pros: The most affordable of the bunch – low cost for shipping fees, low buyer’s protection fee, popular among young people and students for the generally low prices. The app uses paid ads, which keeps the general cost of purchasing and reselling quite low.

Cons: The platform’s low cost has its downsides, mainly in the standards concerning the condition of the clothes. Resellers on Vinted tend to be more informal, as well, and blurry pictures and sparse descriptions are unfortunately common.


Photo: Depop.com

Pros: Ideal for finding original statement pieces. Depop offers top brands, but the site is unique in that you can find clothing based on search words related to aesthetics. Typing in “subversive”, “business-chic”, “coquette”, or “clean girl” will generate results that reflect your personal style.

Cons: Depop resellers are notorious for overvaluing their products, charging more for items you could find at lower costs on other platforms. While Depop does charge vendors a 10% fee which they must factor into their costs, this does not justify the 50€ price tag for a t-shirt worth 10€. So beware of scammers!

Vestiaire Collective

One of the author’s favorite purchases, a vintage Vivienne Westwood necklace

Pros: Interested in second-hand luxury fashion? Then Vestiaire Collective is for you! This platform specializes in reselling luxury fashion items and prioritizes quality customer service with each purchase. VC is renowned for having the best buyer’s protection and a truly astounding selection of high fashion designer pieces to choose from.

Cons: The most expensive app, given that it will often charge you an automatic 15€ verification fee which goes towards authenticating the piece. International shipping can be costly, and the buyer’s protection fee may be more than 20% the price of your purchase. Resellers will also be reluctant to lower their prices and accept alternative offers because VC takes 20% of whatever they make from a sale.

Photo: John Schnobrich/Unsplash


Each platform works more or less the same way, so here is a general guide on how to get started and make the most of what they offer.

  • Instead of going on the platforms’ websites, download their applications and register. Not only will you be able to snag some great deals on your first purchase, but your preferences will be saved, making future shopping much easier.
  • Filter your preferences. Each of these platforms has a search customization filter, which allows you to narrow down results by size, price range, the condition of the clothes, color, branding, fabric, etc. You can also customize your results by specifying the least expensive to most (which means the best deals will show up first) and setting searches based on relevancy and recency.
  • Worried about your carbon footprint? You can narrow your search to within your geographical region, meaning less fuel will be spent on transport. As an added bonus, your shipping costs will be significantly lower.
  • Don’t forget you can negotiate the price point of anything! Each app has a “make an offer” tab that allows you to contact the seller. Some platforms only allow you to make a few offers a day (such as Vinted), while others give you unlimited opportunities. Remember to always be respectful to resellers but don’t be afraid to ask them any questions if you ever have doubts regarding an article’s quality or origins.
The author in Paris with her latest find: a mint-condition Maison Margiela bag


Okay, it might be a little early to call myself an expert, but I have learned a few things from trial and error I want to pass on to you.

  • In order to receive clothes in mint condition, set your “condition” filter to “brand new with tag”, “brand new without tag”, or “very good condition”. Otherwise, you might end up with clothes you’d never want to wear.
  • If you’re looking for a specific brand, a quick search often won’t do the trick. Some platforms offer “dupes”, similar items that are lower in cost. To avoid this, set your “brand” filter to the one you’re after.
  • Check reviews! Anywhere between four and five stars indicate that the reseller is reliable. If you’ve had a positive experience, remember to leave a positive review for the reseller to maintain a good relationship. And don’t be afraid to leave a negative review if the opposite occurs, especially if you’ve been scammed – this will help other buyers.
  • If you see something you like, add it to your favorites! Not only is this an easy way to keep track of potential purchases, but you’ll be automatically notified if the price drops or if the item has been sold.

And there you have it – a personalized guide to online thrifting, tailored by moi, your friendly residential shopping addict who should definitely be saving up for her Master’s degree. Now get out there and find that hidden treasure you’ve always wanted!



4 × 1 =

All comments are moderated. If you don't see your comment right away, please be patient. It may be posted soon. There's no need to post your comment a second time. Thank you!