Can I just say that I love ThredUp? Because I do! It’s an online thrift store for women and kids that makes thrifting so much fun. When I decided that I wanted to focus on buying second hand and sustainable clothing, I am glad I found this site! I wanted to expand more on what I had written in my previous post because there’s so much trial and error that has gone into my shopping experience. It fulfills my desire to buy cheap clothing but also not contribute to the fast fashion ecosystem directly.
Here are my tips for buying clothes on ThredUp! I’m providing real examples from my own experience.
1. Measure yourself
My number one tip is to know yourself! Take some quick measurements at your chest, waist, and hips. When you’re reading the clothing measurements of the items, it will be easy to figure out if the item is going to fit you and avoid returns. When I placed my first few orders, I didn’t measure myself, but I had gained weight so I was returning nearly everything I bought. If you think you know your numbers already and want to trust the size label, I would ask that you reconsider this thinking! The sizing label is not consistent within brands or sizes.
2. Check the measurements of the garments (don’t trust the size label)
To my point above, look at the measurements provided on the website. I’ve ordered items based on the size label only and I received an item that looked like it would better fit a child! Women know that brands are never consistent between sizes, so this is just one other check you should make to make sure you’re getting an item that will actually fit you.
3. Look outside your sizes if you find something you really want
For this real life example, I was looking for a coat. My sizes were already entered into the search, but I wasn’t confident that I would be able to fit comfortably into this coat within this size range since this was in European sizing, so I searched for the coat by looking at the brand listings without the size limits and it turns out there was a larger size available. It was lucky, but definitely made me more comfortable to actually buy it instead of going through the process of buy and return. It fit!
4. Filter by quality of the garments, but be okay with minor repairs
I usually filter all my searches by quality of the garment, “like new” or “new with tags” because I’m fairly new to thrifting and I’d rather get clothes that feel nearly new. The coat I ended up buying was marked as “minor wear” but it turns out that there was a hole(!) on the back. I was able to sew it up myself with a ladder stitch. It was a “Revive by Rent the Runway” coat and was a designer item. I feel proud that I could make this repair and keep the coat that I had found! For other purchases, I bought a fabric shaver since I’ve bought a couple sweaters with pilling.
5. Know what you’re looking for, but it’s also fun to browse
I think the best use of the website is when you’re looking for something specific. Or if you have a general category that you can focus your search with. I’m currently on the search for black skinny jeans, black or white band tees, jumpsuits, and some activewear pieces. So I usually browse within those search parameters and it makes it easier to add items to my wish list.
6. Save items to your wish list
The wish list (in my opinion) acts as your cart. Your actual cart will expire after a few hours (8 hours or as short as 1 hour during sales), but if you add something to the wish list it will be kept for you in one convenient place (after all your browsing, this will be a lifesaver!). You will see items removed from the wish list as people buy things, but I’ve kept items in there for months. And when you’re ready to buy you can click “add to cart” and decide to buy everything without your cart expiring. Plus, you’ll receive email notifications when items in the wish list drop in price. Another way to take advantage of the wish list is to do “saved searches” which will send you an email or push notification when items are added under your search term. I have a few set up for specific brands like ModCloth, or specific items I’m looking for like Doc Martens shoes or Madewell jumpsuits.
7. Wait for sales
Another benefit of keeping items in your wish list is when a sale comes around you can easily pick items to buy. The sales are pretty great. Items already are pretty decently priced, but when there’s a sale it is worth the purchase. The aforementioned coat was originally $560 estimated retail price, it was listed as $149, and with the sale started, I got it for $117! What a deal!
8. Take advantage of the points system
The more you buy the more points you get! Which is great because you can use the points for $10 off your next order, or free shipping, or to take off the fees from returns! I highly recommend using the points to waive the fees for the return.
9. Know the return policy (and which items are final sale)
The return policy at face value is pretty awful compared to most other online retailers, which is why all of my tips are trying to get you to buy things that you won’t have to return. There’s a $1.99 restocking fee for all items. Plus, you can either pay to print a return label for $8.99 or pay to ship things back yourself. So half of your return is going to fees/shipping. And, to be fair, like most retail stores, you can’t return final sale items (like handbags). I usually choose the mail it yourself option and mailed some clothes back through USPS and it was processed pretty fast, which I’m happy about. The $8.99 label is great if you buy a bunch of things, like dresses for a wedding, to try on, but only end up keeping one, and in your area you know the cost to return will be more.
I did try to return something through the third option, where they provide the shipping label for free and I get a store credit (because there’s always something to buy!), but it took over a month to receive the credit, so I don’t find this to be the fastest method for returns. I could have used the credit on so many items in my wish list by now!
10. Buy & Bundle
This is a new-to-me service. Basically, if you place an order and select “Buy and Bundle” at checkout they will hold your order for processing incase you make a purchase within a week. This way they save on shipping costs and packaging. I think it’s great if you don’t mind waiting for your items. And it’s convenient if you place one order, but then an item on your wish list drops in price or something is added to your “saved search” that is a must have.
Bonus Tip: Buy seasonal clothes year round
One of my favorite things about this site is that if you just browse around you will certainly find some gems. I’m particularly interested in ugly Christmas sweaters or specific holiday clothes (like Halloween), and have found a few buy limiting searches to “sweatshirts” and “graphic.” But I would also encourage you to buy off season items anyway because the price drops when it’s not in season.
UPDATE JANUARY 2022: ThredUP changed their points system recently to a tiered system based on how much you buy annually (adjusted and rolled over the points you had accumulated from the previous year). The pros to this are the more you spend the more perks you get, but the cons (for me) is that you have to have 200 points to waive the re-stocking fee. So just be extra mindful when ordering or returning that the fee will eat into the return if you don’t have enough points. I also noticed they got rid of the 15% off hand bags coupon from points so I’m pretty bummed I didn’t get a chance to use it before the switch over!