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Anne Klein glencheck blazer, belt and Escada denim booties (all eBay finds), Oliveo chambray button-down shirt, lapis and malachit beads necklace (all own) and bootcut jeans c/o Ethyl Clothing

Which fashion lover 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, and we can search for them and buy them second hand at affordable prices. This post discusses what to look for, how to know a piece is right for you and worth buying, which designers to look for at thrift shops and provides examples of styling ideas for second hand scores.

  1. How Women Shop
  2. How to Get Designer Clothes on a Budget
    • Before You Buy, Know Your Personal Style
  3. List of Designers Worth Buying
  4. 9 Tips How You Can Save Time When Thrifting
  5. Example: Classic with a Twist Designer LBD with the Right Fit
  6. Conclusions: Major Points to Consider When Buying Designer Brands Second Hand

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own.

How Women Shop

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 doing 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 help someone somewhere making a living. And always remember

Style is not defined by money, but how you edit and wear you clothes. #personalstyle Click To Tweet

… and yes, some of the expensive designer brands make their way to a thrift-store for a second time around. Who of us doesn’t love recycling and being resourceful.  And yes, you can look like 1000 bucks for just a couple of bucks.


post logo for designer brands to look for at a thrift shop showing a clothing rack with pre-owed designer attire in a store


How to Get Designer Clothes on a Budget

Most of us are on a budget fashion-wise. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t get the one other high fashion item on a budget. There are two legal ways to adding designer pieces to your wardrobe.

  • Saving for the lust piece by putting a fraction of the monthly fashion budget aside,
  • Or buying them second hand in a consignment or thrift store or online 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. You may have to search a long time until someone sells what you are looking for.  Scoring high in a consignment store or thrift-store requires regular browsing. It can be time-consuming unless you apply some of the time-saving strategies discussed later in this post.


Before You Buy, Know Your Personal Style

Like it’s important to know when to splurge or bargain, when you try to avoid mistakes when shopping the sales, it’s important to know which designer brands to look for at thrift shops and when to buy them.  Only buy items that fit you and 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. #styletip Click To Tweet

It doesn’t matter that that Chanel skirt suit is $200 when you are a California Casual 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 these cases, alterations are impossible.

It is important  to

Only buy pieces that you can't wait to wear. #shoppingtip #HighLatitudeStyle Click To Tweet

and only buy when the garment fits. Recall size doesn’t matter, but fit does.



details of statement belt and pearl necklace
Zoom on Kieselstein Cord belt (thrifted)


style blogger Nicole posing for the LOTD in blue and gray pieces
Designer booties found second hand


Nicole of High Latitude Style in business casual with mix of conseigned and first hand clothes
Details: Anne Klein blazer, statement belt and Escada denim boots (all thrift finds), Oliveo chambray shirt, pearl beaded necklace, and Ethyl Clothing bootcut jeans



Designers Worth Buying

… when the piece works with your personal style. Use this free online style finder when you don’t know your primary style. Here is a list of my favorite designers I look for when shopping second hand. They are listed in no particular order, but alphabetic so you can easily check them when browsing. Note that when they are second hand, 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
  • Vince
  • 3.1 Philip Lim


Get the list as a cheat sheet to put into your purse or bookmark this post in your browser to have it handy next time you are looking for second-hand clothing.


Pro tip: Always clean the items before you put them in your closet and/or wear them. You may save with at home dry cleaning.


9 Tips How You Can Save Time When Thrifting

  1. Befriend a sales person and tell her about what items you like/look for, what you style preferences are, brands and colors you love, 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. Don’t spend time on browsing thru items that are not your style, e.g. in my case, ruffles, pleasant skirts, ballerinas.
  5. Restrict your browsing to your size plus a size up and down. Recall size is just a number. 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. Know your measurements and have a measurement tape in your purse. Check whether an item may fit before you try it on. This way you can sort out items that have no chance to fit even though the size tag suggests the contrary. Sizing has changed over time. Thus, sizes of vintage pieces differ from today’s sizes. Recall that sizes are just numbers, shrinking or being bought abroad may be in the game too.
  7. Know which brands usually fit well and look for them. This method is particularly time saving with shirts, shoes, pants and jeans. It is also great when you shop sales.
  8. Try to browse on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. 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. Thus, there is more choice early than later in the week, especially for work related clothes.
  9. 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. Not to mention that these additional steps cost time too.


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

This little black dress is a 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. This zipper detail dress called my name. Moreover, the LBD fits perfectly and was just $18. Another awesome ageless classic with a twist dress that I found in a thrift store is my black and white sheath dress.

#fashionover50 styler blogger in LBD with zipper details, sunglasses and pumps
Second hand designer brand dress

#fashionover40 Nicole of High Latitude Style in a thrifted LBD with floral patent leather pumps and sunnies

fashion blogger in Ellen Tracy LBD bought in a thrift store styled with quilted leather jacket
Outfit details: 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: Major Points to Consider When Buying Designer Clothes Second Hand

  • 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. Thus, learn how to make that assessment. See the post at the link for how to score high when buying second hand.
  • Don’t rely on size, but measures. The former owner might had it altered.


I just found awesome tips what to look for in thrift stores. #slowfashion #sustainablestyle Click To Tweet


This post was featured in Links à la Mode: Fashion roundup by Independent Fashion Bloggers.

Photos of me: G. Kramm

© 2013-2021 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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..

Comments are closed.