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This post discusses designer brands to look for at thrift stores. Download the list or bookmark the post on your phone. Read how to know a piece is right for you and worth buying, and see examples of my thrift finds.



Updated: 12/2/2022
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.
Note: This post was featured in Links à la Mode: Fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.


Both Expensive and Cheap Clothes Help Someone Making a Living

Unless you are a heiress, married Rich, won the lottery or became a billionaire due your own hard work, you don’t buy a $4000 designer bag, a pair of $2000 shoes, and a $5000 coat on a Saturday shopping trip on 5th Avenue or Avenue des Champs Elysées. Most likely, just one of those purchases would automatically block your credit card.

No, I don’t envy them, and you shouldn’t either. When someone pays 100 times the taxes you pay, a $1000 item is like a $10 item for you.

If you like it, you buy it.

That’s what the Rich do too. And, it’s good that they buy these products. They keep well skilled craft(wo)men at work. In addition, they help preserving the art of high-end fashion and Haute Couture. Or high-end fashion as an art? Anyhow.

When you buy your $10 item, you also help someone somewhere making a living. And always remember that style is not defined by money, but how you edit and wear you clothes.  And yes, some of the expensive designer brands make their way to a thrift-store for a second time around. Therefore, you can recycle the Riches’ clothes, while being resourceful. When the fit, and style is right for you, you can look like 1000 bucks for just a couple of bucks.



How to Get Designer Clothes on a Budget

Which fashionista doesn’t adore a Hermes scarf, Kelly bag, Gucci boots, …. you name it. While most of us can’t afford these luxury items, the good news are buying exclusively designer clothing doesn’t make you look effortlessly stylish. Despite being on a budget fashion-wise, you can get high fashion item on a budget via


  • Saving for the lust piece by putting a fraction of the monthly fashion budget aside,
  • Or buying them second hand in consignment or thrift store or on eBay and alike.


Actually, I do both.

Unlike in a regular store, you cannot go in to buy a particular item. It’s no secret to score high on eBay requires patience to find what you are looking for. The same is true for thrift and consignment stores.  Scoring high in a consignment store or thrift-store requires regular browsing.



Only Buy when the Designer Clothes Fit and Are Your Personal Style

It’s important to know when to splurge or bargain when thrifting. Like avoiding mistakes when shopping the sales, you need to know which designer brands to look for at thrift stores, and what to buy.  Only buy items that fit you size-wise, and that are your personal style. Otherwise you end up with a stuffed closet, and you are not wearing the clothes you have. Recall:


Closet space is real estate. Don’t waste it.


In other words: You don’t need that $200 Chanel skirt suit when you are a California Casual style fashionista or Bohemian Style gal. That Chanel skirt also fails to do you any good, when it is too tight or two sizes too large.


In both these cases, alterations are impossible.


Recall size doesn’t matter, but fit does. Therefore,


Only buy pieces that fit, and you can’t wait to wear.


Use this free online style finder to determine your primary style.



details of statement belt and pearl necklace
Zoom on thrifted belt


style blogger Nicole in designer brands booties and belt foud in a thrift shop
Designer booties found second hand


Nicole in business casual with mix of designer brands thrift shop finds
Anne Klein blazer, statement belt and Escada denim boots (all thrift finds), Oliveo chambray shirt, pearl necklace, and Ethyl Clothing bootcut jeans



Stylist tip: Inspect the items you intend to buy. When they need alterations (e.g., shortening of the hem, new buttons as one is missing), take the cost for this alteration in mind when deciding whether the item is a good deal.



Designers Worth Buying

Here is analphabetic list of designers worth buying when the garments, bags, accessories, shoes are still in very good condition. Be aware that they still have comparatively higher price tags attached than cheap brands. It’s the same like they did when they were new.

  • Anne Klein
  • Ann Taylor
  • Balenciaga
  • Banana Republic
  • Bottega Veneta
  • Burberry
  • Calvin Klein
  • Diane von Fürstenberg
  • DKNY
  • Eli Tahari
  • Ellen Tracy
  • Escada
  • Fendi
  • GAP
  • Hermès
  • J. Crew
  • Jones New York
  • Lauren Ralph Lauren
  • Liz Claiborne
  • Michael Kors
  • Michael Michael Kors
  • Missoni
  • Oscar de la Renta
  • Prada
  • Talbots
  • Tracy Reese
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Stella McCartney
  • Tory Burch
  • Valentino Red
  • Vera Wang
  • Victoria Victoria Beckham
  • Vince
  • 3.1 Philip Lim


Download the list as a cheat sheet to put into your purse or bookmark this post in your browser on your phone to have it handy next time you are thrifting.


Pro tip: Always clean the garments before putting them in your closet and/or wearing them. Save with at home dry cleaning.



Tips How You Can Save Time When Thrifting

  1. Befriend a sales person. Tell her what brands you like/look for including your style and color preferences, and give them your contact information. S/he will notify you when something comes in that may be of interest for you.
  2. Call the store whether they got new items in your size prior to going there.
  3. Just search in the section with your colors. You will not/should not buy an orange trench coat, for instance, when you look awesome in cool colors and/or have nothing that would go with that color.
  4. Browse only thru items that are your style.
  5. Restrict your browsing to your size plus a size up and down. Many items end up in a thrift store because they were bought outside the country and are cut larger or smaller than the US size or were the wrong size because of wrong sizing. A US 10, for instance, is a UK 12, Japanese 13, and Australia 14. Some items may be smaller than the size tag due to having been washed too hot (e.g., jeans, sweaters).
  6. Measure with a measurement tape whether an item might fit to discard items that have no chance to fit even though the size tag suggests the contrary. Sizing has changed over time.
  7. Know which brands usually fit well, and look for them. This method is particularly time saving with shirts, shoes, pants and jeans.
  8. Browse on Tuesdays or Wednesdays when typically the choices are the largest. People tend to de-cluster their closets over the weekend and bring the items into the store on Mondays. Cataloging and placing the merchandise on racks takes up to a day or so depending on how much was brought in.



Example: Classic with a Twist Designer LBD with the Right Fit

This little black dress is an $18 thrift store find. It was brand new with even the tags still attached. Probably, it was a gift from a mom, grandma, aunt or friend in the wrong style or size. Anyhow, in thrifting, it’s like one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.

Why is it a great find for me? As you know, black is my favorite color, and I love edgy details like this zipper trim along the seams. Moreover, the LBD fits perfectly. Another awesome ageless classic with a twist dress that I found in a thrift store is my black and white sheath dress.


style blogger showing a LBD as example what designer brands to look for in thrift stores
Second hand designer brand dress


fashion blogger in Ellen Tracy LBD bought in a thrift store styled with quilted leather jacket
Hinge quilted cropped leather jacket, Madonna True or Dare floral pumps, Hermes enamel bangles, gold bangle (gift from my Mom), Hermes collier de chien bangle, Dolce and Gabbana Madonna sunglasses, thrifted Jaeger tote, and Ellen Tracy LBD


Check this post for more examples how to look modern with second hand finds.


Conclusions on Designer Brands to Look for at Thrift Stores

  • Don’t fall for a name, but look for brands that match your primary personal style and are timeless.
  • Know the prices of the originals. Use that knowledge to assess whether the price for the used item is realistic. If it is too cheap, it’s most likely a knock-off. Therefore, learn how to make that assessment, and how to score high when buying second hand.
  • Don’t rely on size, but measures. The former owner might had it altered!


Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2022 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jess

    I do both of wha tyou mentioned Nicole.I save up for an item and also look for it on consignment or Ebay.. found lots of deals that way. I love your blazer, chambray and denim look here!
    thanks for linking!
    jess xx

  2. the frugal fashion shopper

    Hello Nicole and two things. Thank you for the award last week – so very pleased and honoured. Also I do agree that you can get some fab outfits in thrift stores (charity shops in the UK). Here in the UK I’ve managed to find several Karen Millen outfits (nearly a designer) and I have bought a Michael Kors coat in TKMaxx – that was one great bargain.

    Loving the eye makeup btw. Also sorry I haven’t ‘liked’ recently. WordPress is playing up a bit and not letting me like some blogs, even when I sign in – so annoying. Because I do really like your posts x

  3. Nicole Mölders

    I can’t wait to find out and see it!

  4. mireilleftm

    I usually do not even look at the tag to see who made it if I like the item and it fits. Actually going thrifting tomorrow for the first time in a while, I wonder what I may find..