A guide to shopping secondhand is a really a jumble of contradictory advice, which apply depending on what you’re looking for and where. When I was just starting out in my secondhand shopping adventures, I’d Google ‘secondhand stores in Singapore’ or secondhand stores in cities I would be travelling to, only to get really confused. Weren’t secondhand items supposed to be cheap?? Why was I stumbling into stores where everything was way out of my budget?


That’s when I realized not all secondhand stores are equal. Thrift stores are dirt cheap, but require digging and work. You have to take hours off to peruse stores, imagining what items could be turned into with a little cleaning, repair and reinvention. Vintage stores are cool as hell, but cost a bomb – everything has typically been curated, cleaned and restored before hitting the shelves, which saves you the work but not the money. There’s a certain thrill to finding an amazing item in thrift stores, or repurposing or putting items together to create something completely unique. But it takes a lot of work and time. 


What if you’re not out to get a one-of-a-kind piece that you can only find from thrift stores? You simply want inexpensive clothing and don’t mind that it’s secondhand. That’s when shops like Refash and consignment platforms are your best bet. Clothes are pre-checked for flaws so you can be sure that anything you set your eyes on is clean, and almost appear like they haven’t been worn.


Of course, being secondhand, such stores won’t carry items in multiple sizes, nor will everything necessarily be in the same style. With that in mind, here are some tips and tricks to shopping secondhand at places like Refash.


Know your size

You might not be able to try on clothes when shopping secondhand. While sizing generally varies from brand to brand, it’s handy knowing your size so you can gauge how a garment might fit at a glance. You could even take it up a notch and be familiar with your size in your favourite fast fashion brands.


Know your size to quickly gauge if an item will fit. 


Be thorough 

There’s rarely a method to the madness in how secondhand stores are organised, especially since most of the items are unique and the only one available in store. Even if the staff arrange items by size, brand, or even colour, at the beginning of the day, the arrangement is likely to be undone throughout the day as customers browse and randomly return items.


As a result, it might take a bit of perusing before you strike upon a piece that’s just what you’re looking for. Take your time to browse the racks and don’t give up.



Be creative

Part of the fun of shopping secondhand is that there are no two same pieces in the store, and most of the items are no longer in production. Think of interesting ways to wear what you find with clothes that you already have, or others that you find in store.


Take time to browse thoroughly to find gems hidden amongst the racks and racks of unique clothing items, and be creative with what you find!


Be certain 

If you’re shopping with the intention of getting something specific, then it helps to know what you want. I’m talking about the details – maybe you need a new shirt, but what colour? material? fit? There are plenty of factors to consider. While you should be open to alternatives, knowing the details of what you’re looking for makes it easier to spot amongst all the other clothes.


It’s easy to get caught up by lower prices when you’re shopping secondhand. Sure, you’ve found a shirt that seems okay, and it’s going for good price. But will you wear it often? Can you pair it with anything else in your closet? Don’t get carried away and purchase items that you never end up wearing.



Dress right

If you want to level up your secondhand shopping game, come dressed for it. As mentioned earlier, many secondhand shops don’t come with fitting rooms, but do come with large mirrors around the store. Wear comfortable clothing that fits well, and you might be able to slip on sweaters, button-ups, skirts or loose trousers over what you’re wearing. You might even be able to see how a shirt looks on you if you’re looking for something loose or oversized, for a baggy fit.