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How to Shop for Pre-Owned Luxury Garments: The Save Money, Waste Less Win-Win Exchange

How to Shop for Pre-Owned Luxury Garments: The Save Money, Waste Less Win-Win Exchange

Pre-owned luxury retail is a win-win exchange for both buyer and seller and is here to stay. If you haven’t bought a consigned luxury garment before, it’s time to check it out. You can own and wear a $6,000 Chanel jacket that’s made to last a lifetime after it’s been worn for the first several years by someone else at a fraction of the price. I have two Chanel jackets I purchased for just over $300! With exceptional online consignment retail sites like, you don’t have to sweat or worry about quality or authenticity of a pre-owned garment.

Buying pre-owned luxury garments is trickier than purchasing new ones. There is much more to be aware of and the devil is in the details. But once you know what to look for, the rewards are worth it! Here are the five most important things to know for successfully shopping online for pre-owned luxury wear:


1. Know Your Most Important Measurements

The best online fashion retailers, whether full price or consignment, give you ALL the details you need to make an informed purchase. In addition to size, which is the most general categorization, they list the garment’s measurements, the model’s height and the size she is wearing. This gives you a better idea of how something will look on your body and is especially important if you don’t fit in clothes right off the rack (most women don’t!) or have the same body as the model. Garments shown on a mannequin or by themselves are less helpful, and if measurements aren’t listed, you have little way of knowing how they will fit on your body.

Do you know what styles look best on you? The more you know, the easier it will be to find your happy clothes. How do you fit into normal sizes on the top and the bottom? Are regular pants and sleeves normally too long or too short on you? Where does your waistline measure up on regular sizes?

As a petite, I often buy “cropped” pants to avoid alteration expenses, but, in all honesty, I only fit into petite pants. Consignment retailers carry very few petite sizes, so I don’t use these sites to shop for pants. Another disadvantage of consignment sites is there are very few plus sizes available.

But, all this good info won’t help you if you don’t know your own measurements.

The most important measurement to know for jackets and tops is your shoulder width as well as your bust and waist measurements. Measured from behind the neck, shoulder width is the distance between the top of both shoulders. To get this measurement right, put on a top or jacket with inset sleeves that line up perfectly with your shoulders and measure from shoulder seam to shoulder seam.  Shoulder seams in or up require a sleeve adjustment and are the most expensive alterations to do.

If shoulder seams and sleeves are too wide, the bodice won’t fit. When you lift your arms, the whole jacket will go up too. If they are too narrow, the armhole and upper sleeve will be too tight. When you measure your bust and waist, make sure the tape is horizontally parallel to the floor. Get someone to help you to ensure correct measurements. Allow a thumb width space to insure comfort and ease, especially in third layer garments like sweaters, jackets and coats.

For pants and skirts, the widest part of your lower torso needs the most consideration. If you have full, round hips, often the waist will need to be taken in.

Length measurements are just as important as width measurements. Do you look better in jackets that stop at your high hip or mid-thigh? These are things you need to know to find the right garments. For tops (if you don’t tuck them in) and jackets, measure from the side of your neck down your back to the length that works best for you. As a petite, my best jacket length is around 20 inches. Regular sizes are often too long for me from the top of the shoulder to my armpit and my tailor has to take up the shoulders.

2. Employ a Tailor

Misfits ruin what would normally be a perfect look, and this goes for any garment you buy – new or consigned. Rolling up sleeves or rolling down waistbands because they are far too long or big makes you look like you are a kid in your grandmother’s clothes and certainly adds bulk.  Pull lines across the back or bust are just as bad and turn a cute garment into an uncomfortable one and who wants that!

Simple alterations like hemlines or darting are easily done at your local dry cleaner. Hire a reputable tailor to do more complicated reshaping like moving shoulder seams or tapering pants. When a garment fits perfectly it belongs on your body and shifts the focus to you.

3. The “Go Up” Principle

Think of consignment retail not as a way to buy the cheapest stuff – you can do that at Target or Dress Barn – but as an opportunity to own a beautiful garment or handbag you would or could not buy at full price. The more expensive a garment is at full retail, the more exquisite and long-lasting the quality.

Top-level designers, gorgeous fabrics and quality workmanship all go in to a luxury garment. Compared to throw-away clothes that fall out of shape the second you wash them or pill into fuzzy duds, a better-quality garment is a better investment. I don’t know about you, but the idea of throw-away garments makes me feel nauseous for the waste they incur and landfill garbage they fill.

4. Know the Fabric Type and Age of Consignment Garments

Pictures tell you a lot, but you also need to know what fabrics work best for you. I live in California and rarely need heavy wools. I’m also extremely sensitive to wool (even cashmere), so most sweaters are out for me.

Consignment items can be tricky if the age of the garment isn’t listed. You don’t know when it was purchased, who wore it and how much it was worn. It may look good, but if it’s been worn a ton, there comes a point where fabrics just don’t perform anymore. They lose their hand and drapability. I bought a Jill Sander flared skirt in a nylon blend and instead of the flares standing out, they flopped over. It could be that the skirt suffered from too much dry cleaning.

Then there is the smell factor. Did the previous wearer love perfume? Was she around smokers?  All this to say that you can return consigned items unless they are on final sale. Make sure the consignment site lists the condition of the garment. has a scale that goes from pristine, excellent, very good to good. It also tells you if there is any staining, snags or worn areas.

The better the garment, the older it can be. One of my Chanel jackets is from the 2000 Cruise collection. It is a cotton weave with a beautiful silk lining and probably wasn’t worn over and over. Consignment sites are also terrific for ball gowns and evening wear that may have been worn just a few times.

5. Use the Phone Apps and Check the Editor’s Picks to Track Your Favorites and be Alerted to New Items

You probably have figured out that is my favorite online store. The daily 7:00 am and 4:00 pm new listings come in a huge volume with everything from baby clothes to Rolex watches. TheRealReal is the mother of all luxury resale sites with over 600 employees in multiple locations across the United States that receive and ship products worldwide and today is valued at about 300 million.

Here are some of the benefits:

1. FEEDS: Once you become a member (it’s free) you can create your own feed with TheRealReal phone app that specifies your sizes, preferred colors, designers and styles. You can also have as many feeds as you want.

2. OBSESSIONS: If you aren’t ready to buy, you can “heart” the items you love and watch them for extra discounts. Things move quickly on TheRealReal, but don’t let that rush you if you aren’t sure. I always save items I like on my obsessions page and leave them there after I purchase them.

3. EDITOR’S PICKS: Hand-picked every day by members of TheRealReal team, it is essentially a curation of what is new and relevant in fashion as well as items that have unique details to them. Think the latest, most coveted styles from top designers at every price point.

4. FIRST LOOK: If you want to grab up the best of the best, you can pay an extra $10 a month to preview new items a day before they are available to everyone else.

There is another reason I support TheRealReal and it has to do with founder Julie Wainwright. She built TheRealReal out of her own garage in 2011 (just like Steve Jobs). In the eyes of many, including me, Julie is an e-commerce rock star who experienced both success and colossal failure during the Silicon Valley dotcom boom and downturn and learned from her mistakes to make TheRealReal the incredible success it is today.

When she took over, partnering with Amazon, it gained amazing exposure in 2000 garnering the best Superbowl commercial with the famous dog sock puppet. But it’s weak foundation and lack of independent market research resulted in the failure of with a loss of 300 million in investment capital and it was labelled as one of the greatest dot-com disasters in history.

I tell this story because Julie is an inspiration to all women. The same day she closed down and let go of several hundred employees, her husband also filed for divorce.  After being labeled a pariah in Silicon Valley and a few excruciatingly painful years, Julie bounced back with the belief her dream job wasn’t going to happen unless she created it herself, and after many attempts to secure funding, she eventually found it with a woman. Julie is a living example of how belief in oneself can push through any failure!

Listed here are other online consignment sites:

Vestiaire Collective
Material Wrld

Have questions? E-mail me at I’d love to hear from you!

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