Like most women, I’ve accumulated a lot of clothing over the years. My closet told my story – from budding professional in my twenties to my single-in-the-city thirties to my soccer mom forties and beyond. Staring at the racks and shelves everyday, I often felt overwhelmed by the choices and guilty about the money I’d wasted on clothes I rarely wore. So when I decided to come to Paris on a whim, it was time for a fresh start.
I sold off most of my wardrobe to an online resale platform and funded my way to a new beginning. Once settled, I had high-fashion expectations about the French women marketed as très chic by movies and magazines. Naively, I envisioned the streets and cafés full of stylish women sporting the latest collections from the designers I drooled over. Little did I expect sneaker-wearing, monochromatic uniforms preferred by most Parisiennes.
Evaluate and elevate
But I was determined to create my own look à la française. I started with a trip to the iconic Le Bon Marché. I stood in the aisles, discouraged and deflated because what I truly desired was not in my price range. But neither did I want to put my money into cheap and poorly-made trends that would end up in a landfill somewhere. I wanted to respect, celebrate and honor French fashion while holding on to my values.
So I decided to go another way. First, I evaluated what I already owned and created a foundation with the very best basics. Then I learned to elevate them with pre-loved fashions from dépôt-vente boutiques in Paris. Through buying second-hand, re-selling – and making some mistakes along the way – I acquired luxury labels without the hefty price tags. There’s nothing like the feeling of finding something you desire at a great price. It’s like winning the fashion lottery.
Out with old, in with the (like) new
Now I’d like to pass what I’ve learned on to you. Let’s audit your closet and learn how to transform your shopping habits from buying new off-the-rack clothes to procuring luxury pre-owned designer labels – at the same price. When starting on this new journey, make a list of what you need to complete a look, replace it, or update it.
I’m a big advocate of carefully curating what I put in my closet, so I’m brutal about what needs to go, too. And don’t forget that your wardrobe can be a financial resource.
If you have pieces you’ve hardly worn by popular brands, then ladies, there’s money in your closets!
With over 100 dépôt-ventes in Paris, there are many options, from the thrift-stores popular with university students to the über-luxury vintage boutiques catering to foreign tourists willing to lay down big bucks for a rare Birkin bag. The stores I tend to frequent are where Parisian women sell off last year’s purchases to make room for the season ahead.
Change your habits not just your clothes
The real test begins when you enter a dépôt-vente. Brands like Ba&SH, IKKS, Sandro, and COS hang on the racks, ready to be sold at 60-80% less than retail. But my darlings, we are not here simply for a bargain. We want to build a luxury designer wardrobe at a great price. Gone are the days of buying four cheaply-made tops that will fall apart after the first wash when you can have one beautifully-designed blouse that will last forever.
We are here to create value in your closet, so when your life, style, size, or mind changes, you can recirculate those no-longer-wanted clothes and release them into the universe for another woman to enjoy. Luxury clothes are not meant to be thrown away and by being more conscious of the brands you buy, you can contribute to this cycle of re-use and re-wear.
So, how do you know you’re getting good quality at the right price? When buying pre-loved luxury, get to know the brands you covet. Visit the fanciest boutiques where you dream of buying clothes someday. This practice alone will teach you how quality fabrics should feel and what good design means. This is the fun part but can sometimes be intimidating, so take a friend and make a day of it. Once you decide the brands you like and the quality you seek, look for those pieces in a dépôt-vente.
Inspect and re-inspect
Before making a purchase, inspect the garment like your life depends on it. In the excitement of a great “deal,” you may overlook a flaw that can’t be repaired. Before I purchase, I look closely at seams, crotches, and underarms. I know it kills the mood but trust me, you’ll want to make this a habit. For natural silks and lightweight fabrics, I hold the garment up to natural light checking for snags and holes. Next, I look at the fabric content and where the garment was made.
I gravitate towards natural fibers now, unless it’s a signature fabric from a particular designer. I rarely buy anything made in China these days. Finally, when you’re in the fitting room, whip out your phone and do a quick Google search for the brand. You’ll know from the results if the price being offered is fair. 8 times out of 10, I am more than pleased with my find.
My Favorite Luxury Second-Hand Shops in Paris
To set you on your way, here are my favorite places to shop in Paris for luxury second-hand items that offer a good assortment of styles and sizes:
114 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006
I love the merchandising mix. If you want color in your wardrobe, this is the place.
1 Rue Theodore de Banville, 75017
Luxury pieces on the second floor.
25 galerie Vivienne, 75002
There’s a huge selection of French brands. Focus on Chloe, Lavin, and Stella McCartney.
10 rue de Lancry, 75010
It’s all good here. Expand into new European and Italian brands you haven’t heard of before.
7 Rue Villedo, 75001
All photos by Marjorie Preval