Whether you opt for retro chic or contemporary castoffs, secondhand clothes will add to your wardrobe without subtracting too much from your pocketbook. Adopt a modified set of smart shopper guidelines to guarantee quality.
1. Shop at consignment, vintage and thrift stores that you know stock well-cared-for pieces that are in good condition. This will save you the hassle of sorting through mounds of items that don't meet your standards due to damage, poor construction or cheap material.
2. Look for labels that you know and trust. The prices may be a little higher, especially if the style is in and the garment was well-cared-for, but the quality and reputation of the manufacturer guarantee a longer wearing.
3. Ensure that all seams are tight and secure, especially around the collar, armpits, buttons and zippers. Check sweaters for moth holes, loose stitches and stretched-out necks, armholes and waistbands.
4. Opt for fibers such as wool, silk, cotton, rayon, linen, ramie, angora, cashmere, viscose and blends thereof. Acrylics can pill excessively, while polyester wears out faster than its natural-fiber counterparts.
5. Examine every garment for stains, worn spots, iron burns, fading, small tears, broken zippers and inconsistent buttons. Run a clean, slightly damp, white cloth over dyed garments to check for color rub-off.
Many vintage items have labels and manufacturers that are before our time. Evaluate these pieces based on construction, fiber content, fit and perceived durability.
A size 10 from the '50s may be cut differently than today's size 10. Also, original owners may have had the garment altered. Look outside of your size range and try on everything; with secondhand things you never know what may fit.
Confirm return and exchange policies before you make any purchases, or you may end up with something you don't want to keep.
Tips from eHow Users:
If you usually have difficulty getting a particular item to fit correctly, don't buy it from a place where you can't try it on! For example, I always have difficulty finding a well-fitting pair of jeans, so I try to avoid buying it at these stores. Be familiar with the sizes you wear from certain brands, and how those brands usually fit you. This will get rid of some of the surprises. Wear a tank top or thin T-shirt under your clothes when you go shopping. That way, you can try on a shirt or dress in the store (they usually have mirrors set up for that purpose).