The millennial’s guide to pre-loved fashion

By: Chi Ngo
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“Pre-loved fashion” is millennials’ countermove in response to fast fashion. It refers to buying used, quality clothing, and reselling them when you need to declutter. 

The fashion industry is one of the main culprits of pollution and carbon emissions. It produces 20% of global wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions, according to the UN Environment. The numbers are stark: it takes 2 700 liters of water to produce a single cotton T-shirt and around 7 500 liters of water to create a typical pair of jeans. 

In the United States, the fashion industry produces 15 million tons of used textile waste annually, and this amount has doubled over the past 20 years. The average American throws away 80 pounds (approximately 36 kilograms) of used clothing per person per year, the majority of which are sent to landfills. 

If you’re concerned about the sustainability of fast fashion, buying and selling pre-loved fashion is a great way to still look chic without further damaging the planet. Pre-loved clothes are usually cheaper than brand new items, which is a great way to save money as well.


Where to find quality pre-loved fashion 

Thrift stores 

After Marie Kondo, a decluttering expert, launched her reality show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix in 2018, Goodwill stores in the United States saw a spike in clothing donations. An additional 5 million pounds of clothes, furniture, and household items were deposited to Goodwill locations nationwide in January alone. 

This is why thrift stores can be an incredible treasure chest when you shop for pre-loved items. However, because thrift stores are usually not as selective with their stock and quality items often run out fast, below are a few tips to help you find high-quality gems.  

  • Go to off-brand thrift stores

Everybody looks for high-quality items that are on-trend when they go thrifting, that’s why it’s best to avoid popular thrift shops that everyone else visits. Instead, visit a local, off-brand thrift store in your area. You’ll have less “competition” and a better chance of finding quality items. 

  • Thrift in a high-income area in your town 

When looking for higher-end items, Fashion YouTuber bestdressed advises you to search for thrift stores in a high-income area. A simple trick, she says, is to visit Zillow.com and find areas where real estate prices are high, then find consignment or thrift stores in these areas. You’ll have a better chance of finding clothes from high-end fashion brands that are still in good condition. 

  • Visit after your favorite thrift stores restock  

If you have a favorite thrift store, ask them when they do their weekly restock. Every store has one (or two) days of the week where they put out new items, so this is a great chance for you to get to quality pieces before they’re sold out. 

Online marketplaces 

As the pre-loved fashion movement gains its momentum, many online marketplaces can accommodate these needs. The following online marketplaces let you buy, sell, and swap pre-loved clothes.

This social shopping app has the aesthetic and social aspects of Instagram, but it allows users to buy and sell pre-loved clothes as well. Established in 2011, it now has over 15 million users in 147 countries. Depop is a favorite among fashion bloggers and emerging e-shop owners because it’s a treasure trove of vintage and high-quality items.

Poshmark claims that it is the largest social e-commerce platform for pre-loved fashion items. Currently, it has over 25 million items from over 5 000 brands in its online inventory, which means you have a great selection of quality items from which to choose.  

Vinted currently has 22 million members selling a range of products from name brands – which means that you get quality products for less. Vinted also has an option to swap clothes, which means that you can get the item you want and declutter while saving money at the same time. 


How to find quality items 

Wherever you shop, the reality of pre-loved fashion is that you need to sift through a lot of items to find those that truly fit your body and style. Here are some tips to help you find items you won’t regret buying: 

  1. Brand

This is the first thing that you can check to see if the item is worth buying. You can find a lot of vintage items that are from name brands like Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger at thrift stores. These items are generally well-made and will last longer than cheaper brands. 

2. Material

The second thing you should check is the tag specifying the piece’s material. Items that are 100% cotton, 100% silk, or if you’re lucky, 100% cashmere, usually look and feel better on your body and will be more durable. 

Bestdressed suggests that if you want to find high-quality jeans, always look for ones that are 100% cotton, or 95% cotton and 5% spandex if you want a bit of a stretch. These jeans are usually more durable, comfortable, and will hug your body better than other materials. 

3. Fit

When shopping, don’t compromise on fit, because clothes that fit well on your body will instantly look chic, no matter what style. Thrifted clothing is especially tricky because each style is only available in one size. Sometimes you’ll have to choose between style and fit because it’s hard to find both. 

When you shop for thrifted items, there are some closet staples that you should never compromise on: jeans, shoes, and undergarments. Always choose jeans, shoes, and underwear that fits well. Other items, such as tops or jackets, can be worn as an oversized piece or tailored to suit you better, letting you choose style over fit. 

Pre-loved fashion isn’t limited to only buying. If you have quality pieces in your closet that no longer add value to your life, you can sell or swap them online, or donate them to your local thrift store so they can be loved by someone else.