Guide to Buying Used and Trendy Clothes in NYC

What would you think of me if I told you that at least 80% of my current wardrobe consists of previously owned items? That includes coats, jackets, jeans, tops, most of my dresses and sweaters. Would you think that I am thrifty and smart or poor and unfashionable? Well, do you know that an average American household spends $1,700 on clothing a year, while owing an average of $6,000 in credit card debt? An average person in NYC eats out 3 times a week, ‘grabs a drink’ at least once a week and buys 4 out of 5 lunches a week.

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I don’t like spending money. It literally physically hurts me if I need to spend more than $20 on something that is not ‘a need’. At the same time, that $20 can’t even buy anything when it comes to brand new clothing that would be of quality or any sort of style. Now, what would you say if you could take that $20 and buy yourself an almost brand new Donna Karan coat at a second hand clothes store? How about Chloe bag for $25 or Broadway&Broome silk dress for $13? How about if I told you that all of that 80% that I mentioned above are high quality designer clothes worn at most a few times (or sometimes brand new with a tag) before I snatched them for anywhere between $9 – $25 a piece? Yeah, who is laughing now!?

I have been buying clothes at second hand stores for at least 5-6 years now. While I am not an expert, I am happy to share with you what I have learnt so far. Read on for a simple guide to NYC used and trendy clothes shopping (in a thrift store).

Tips & Tricks:

  • Stop by often to maximize the chances you will find something great
  • Buy things only if you absolutely love them. Every day there are new things put on the racks so if you don’t find something you love today – tomorrow you will
  • Review clothing carefully for tears (especially lining, missing buttons, or torn zippers)
  • Ask for discount if faulty (and if you really want it anyway). I usually would ask for a discount and never heard a ‘no’ so far!
  • If you find a brand new item with a tag (I am known to find black label Ralph Lauren cashmere treats with tags of $325 at Crossroads), and it happens not to be your style or size, snatch it to resell on e-bay to make a nice profit
  • Just like with other things, set up a budget and don’t go over it (just because the items are much cheaper). When literally everything is 75-90%% cheaper than at a regular store, it is just too easy to go overboard

My most favorite second hand clothes stores in the NYC area are:

Crossroads Trading

At one point, when I was trying to build my wardrobe, I would stop by at Crossroads almost every day after work. It is literally my most favorite store and it is very rare that I am not able to find something that I want to buy. Since Crossroads buys in / consigns new clothes and shoes every day, no matter how ofter you shop there, you will always see new items and new styles. Of course most of the items are ‘one and only’ so if you absolutely love something, you shall grab it when you can as most likely it will not be there tomorrow!

Crossroads has currently 32 locations so check it out if you are lucky to have one close to you.

Buffalo Exchange

Buffalo was the first second hand store in Willy that I discovered (thanks to the PG Girl) and this is where I got ‘hooked’. I like the vibe of the store, and the attitude (and looks!) of the sales attendants. They are very Williamsburg-ish (for those who are not sure what I mean, I mean “hipster-ish” looking with some awesome tattoos).

Buffalo currently has 31 locations  within the US.

Crossroads & Buffalo Exchange:
  • At both you will find clothing sizes 00 – 10 (have not seen bigger sizes)
  • At both you will find well known and ‘timeless’ designers’ clothing as well as new and aspiring local designers’
  • At both you can sell and buy. Sell for 50% store credit or 30% cash
  • At both you will also find jewelry, belts, hats and scarves
  • While Buffalo organizes their stuff by sizes, Crossroads organizes theirs by colors

Other second hand clothing stores

Housing Works Thrift Store

I literally have this one right downstairs in the building where I work in SoHo, Manhattan. While I do occasionally stop by, I probably purchased 2 items there within the last 3 years or so. I just never happen to see anything interesting although my friend L. happened to get a few nice deals. The prices also seem much higher than I am willing to pay. Oh well, it is in Manhattan after all.

Beacon’s Closet

Do you watch ‘Broad City’? Fist of all, if you don’t, then get trial Hulu for a week and start watching now. Nothing or noone really describes New York quite as much as Abby and Alana. Warning: you will be shocked at some scenes, but let me tell you they are as real reflection of New York as they show it.

Anyway, one of the episodes has a few scenes taking place at Beacon’s in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Holly Molly, was it hilarious and described Beacon’s for what it really is. Unpleasant sales attendants who, when you sell clothing, will go piece after piece for 20 minutes each, asking you to literally step back and not look at them. If you sell, especially really expensive pieces, be prepared to be offered only 10-5% value. If you start making comments (asking to be paid more) your clothing may end up on a floor. Selling aside, when buying, you can get some great deals.

Do YOU shop at second hand stores for clothing and shoes? What are your favorite ones? What is an average price of the clothing that they sell?

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