Our How-To for Being Second Hand Chic

Second hand shopping for some people, is in the blood. For others it’s due to economic necessity – buying or selling, environmental considerations and/or just wanting to clear out or update a wardrobe for the coming season. Whatever your reasons are, we’ve compiled a mini list on the how-to of being second hand chic, because designer labels don’t necessarily mean quality, but workmanship and construction details do


Ask yourself, what’s it made out of? Will it breath, keep me warm or is their pilling?

A friend recently picked up a silk top by Target in an op shop. Normally she wouldn’t step into target, preferring to make her own clothes but for silk, she’ll ignore the label inside.

I once found a designer label wool jumpsuit but compared to a wool dress from a lesser label, I could see the dress had no pilling in areas subject to abrasion, whereas the jumpsuit was pilling under the arms and between the thighs. Having only enough money to buy one item, I chose the dress. Less pilling is a reflection of the quality of the fibre content. To cut costs a label may use cheaper blends and fibres so they able add significant mark-ups on the price tag taking advantage of the consumers brand familiarity.


Has the pattern been matched? At a recent wedding the mother of the groom wore a beautiful black lace dress with a tan slip underneath. The only issue was that the scalloped lace was placed just over the breast, replicating droopy breasts with large nipples. I also once saw some tight black and white striped pants that could have been joined better right in the crotch…. the point being, is that well-designed clothing would consider pattern placement and matching before the garments go into production.

Buttons and Trims:

Self-covered buttons, shell, brass, pearl, horn, house/branded button or snap, an interesting clasp or a handmade finish are only as good as the button hole they’re looped through! Be aware of imitations; scratches, plastic replicas can trick the buyer into thinking they’ve found a unique piece rather than a mass-produced nightmare. You may also like the buttons but not the garment, buy it anyway you might just find the right piece to sew your new-found gems to.

Linings and workman ship

I recommend looking inside your garment. How are the seams finished, is there a spare button sewn to the label, is it lined, what is it lined with (I love a good quality contrast lining for an extra special surprise), how is the hem finished? Is the hem stiff? It may have a horse hair finish, a high-quality hemming technique especially for circle skirts in formal wear.

We could go on and on about how to buy quality second hand garments or at least how to spot a bargain and some readers may already be looking for all the tips we highlighted above. However, there is one thing we can’t prepare you for and that is how much you love the item! If you’re like me you already have wardrobe full of second hand purchases, so at the very least you can now appreciate your eye for detail with greater clarity.