Online thrift shopping seems to have suddenly exploded and honestly I could not be happier about it.
I’ve personally always loved thrifting and have been doing it since I was a kid. Back then it was motivated by family financial troubles, and nowadays it’s motivated by environmental reasons.
However, my love affair with thrifting has been on break since I came to college. My hometown is suburban, wealthy, and has a population of about 25,000 while also being surrounded by many other wealthy, suburban towns.
Then I came to my college town, small, rural, and in the poorest region of the state. Two thirds of the population is comprised of college students and the next biggest city is over an hour away. Suddenly, it became very difficult for me to thrift in town.
The stores have less variety, clothing is lower quality, and there is less size availability.
Frustrated by all this I’ve been thrifting a lot less since starting school. However, in order to follow through on the sustainable commitment I made a year ago, thrifting and I will need to get back together. But the thrifting issues in my area still persist.
Luckily, online thrift stores have come to save me.
Over the past few months I’ve worn through a ton of items in my closet and therefore need a bit of a refresh. I was able to find plenty of cute tops in my local thrift shops but ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD PANTS.
So, to cover my butt, I decided to try ThredUp, an online second hand fashion retailer that sources clothing directly from consumers. Unlike some other second hand apps such as Let Go or Depop, ThredUp collects and preps all the clothing for sale in their own central facilities. Consumers send the clothing in to ThredUp’s resale centers and are compensated for their clothing via cash, store credit, or charitable donations.
I chose ThredUp largely because I’d already seen it promoted by sustainable influencers I trust and the ThredUp Choose Used campaign convinced me that the company wasn’t only greenwashing.
I spent an hour shopping and was able to find 4 items I was interested in.
The total price after promotional discounts, tax, and shipping was $58.17.
About a week later, everything arrived on schedule in some very adorable, and recyclable blue polka dot packaging.
Unfortunately all the pants I purchased are too large and unflattering as a result. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by this, I have the same issue on every online retailer. Whenever I follow the size guidelines based on my measurements everything ends up being too big. Not sure if this is me measuring wrong or just some quirk of my anatomy, but I will be returning my pants for store credit.
The purse was really cute and practically brand new, just as the description promised. But I actually want a purse that’s larger so that I can more easily carry zero waste essentials like a coffee mug and empty Tupperware. Additionally, the straps of the purse are also the drawstring closure, which I found pretty annoying the one day I took the purse for a test drive so I will also be returning the purse.
Now let’s do pros and cons.
The variety on ThredUp is generally amazing. Tons of styles, good size availability for me (14-16 pants, L/XL tops), and a range of products from low end to luxury brands. ThredUp also curates their collection and only accepts clothing on trend and in good condition so you don’t have to spend time sorting like at a regular thrift store. Because the clothing is centrally managed all the photography is uniform, browsing is easier than on a site like Depop, this is a small detail but I appreciated it and it could be important for folks who are easily overwhelmed by busy websites.
ThredUp is definitely more expensive than traditional thrift shopping (thought still less than new). The major con for me is the return policy, which isn’t particularly generous. All returns have a $2 restocking fee per item and if you don’t want to pay the return shipping at $9 a box you’ll have to accept store credit instead of cash.
Would I recommend online thrifting or ThredUp? Yeah, BUT I would still preference brick-and-mortar thrift stores, they are cheaper and sizing clothing in person is much easier. However, I think sites like ThredUp are a great resource if you lack access to thrift stores and/or prefer the curate shopping experience. I will likely buy from ThredUp again, even if only because I now have store credit.
What are your experiences with online thrifting? Any advice for why everything I buy online is too big? Let me know in the comments below.