How To Decide What to Buy Retail vs. Secondhand

I recently popped into Nordstrom Rack, mostly to check out their extra 50% of clearance shoe sale (their shoe department is my weakness!) After coming out empty handed I browsed around the rest of the store and threw a few items in my cart for consideration.

As fitting rooms are currently closed, deciding what to purchase is even more complicated. A bad call will result in a return trip to the store which many of us are trying to avoid. Without even thinking I launched into the steps I usually take when I'm shopping retail, and landed on purchasing the 3 items pictured above.

  1. BlankNYC Denim Jacket: $37.48

  2. Madewell Sweater: $25.98

  3. Leith Black Pants: $12.97

Here are the things I ask myself and you should too:

Can I buy this secondhand for less?

Yep, price usually is my first priority. Clothes are like cars, the minute you drive it off the lot the value drops. But in some cases it doesn't actually drop more than you can find it new, if you're lucky and a good bargain hunter! Things like the denim jacket still go for around $50+ especially in my size, Large. I found the same Madewell sweater selling for more on eBay. Occasionally when I check online I will find the same item for less and then I'll purchase secondhand!

Will I get a lot of wear out of this piece or do I have something similar?

Unless I know I have a lot of ways to style a piece, I will typically pass on purchasing. Here a denim jacket & black pants will absolutely be worn, likely on a weekly basis. As my style has evolved over the last year I've been adding more jackets as well as comfortable yet not athleisure bottoms (these pants have an elastic waist!) Also keep in mind pieces you have at home. The most sustainable clothing is what you already have in your closet!

Is this unique and something I wouldn't be able to find while thrifting?

I can't tell you how many times I've almost bought a new plaid flannel shirt. But guess what, the thrift stores are FULL of them! Pay attention to the details on the pieces you are considering. This jean jacket is actually a little longer in the front and comes up in the back, something I hadn't seen before and I loved the fit. As for the sweater, it's hard to find light colored sweaters that aren't stained or pilled. I feel good about investing in this knowing that I will launder it gently so it will be worn for years to come.

Is the quality worth not buying secondhand?

When I shop retail I try to stick to brands that I know are well made. Of course I have the occasionally trip through Target, Old Navy or the H&M website and in that case I look for natural fibers as well as at the seams, buttons and zippers. Often I'll move on from a piece based on feel alone, but will note what I liked about the item- silhouette, print or texture and make a note to be on the look out while thrifting!

Are there different factors you consider when shopping? I'd love you to drop them in the comments!

Want to learn more about secondhand and getting to know your style? Join the Evolving Style Patreon or follow me on Instagram @AmyEvolving

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