How To Pick The Best Second-Hand Clothes

checking second-hand clothes

You’re shopping for second-hand clothes and score the perfect jacket.  It’s the right, size, price and it’s in perfect condition…until you get it home.  You discover that perfect jacket is two sizes too small, the zipper is broken, and you wasted your money because you can’t even return it.

What a mood killer!  Follow these simple tips, and you’ll never have a repeat performance.

What’s The Number 1 Biggest Mistake resale shoppers make?


  • Checking clothes in poor light. Anyone who has ever worked in a thrift store will tell you grease stains on second-hand clothes can magically disappear in dim light. Take the piece of clothing to a natural light source, and look at it from different angles.
  • Don’t assume the size marked is the actual size because garments can shrink, get stretched, or come from the factory mismarked.
  • Never assume the size you’re looking for is only where it belongs.  Sometimes the size markers serve no purpose at all.
  • Trying something on, or measuring it, is the only way to make sure of a fit if the size isn’t It’s a good idea to carry sizes with you if you shop for other people.
  • Watch out for pilling, because this indicates the fibers are breaking down. Have you ever tried to shave a sweater?
  • Don’t stop your inspection on the outside of a garment, because there could be pilling, tears, ripped lining, and stains lurking on the inside. Have you ever tried putting your arm in a sleeve with torn lining? It’s an exercise in frustration.
  • Always give zippers a test drive. You might not think it’s a big deal if your skill set includes zipper replacement.  It can be a big deal if you don’t know what you’re doing.



Every buttonhole needs a button  Buttons on second hand clothes


  • The only way to check a shirt collar thoroughly is by opening the outside fold at the top of the collar.  Men’s shirts are especially notorious for ‘ring around the collar’.
  • Manufacturer’s tags and store tags suggest an item is new and in new condition, but don’t count on it.
  • Check inside pockets. You don’t want surprises like old gum and used tissues going through your washing machine.
  • Don’t pass something up because of wrinkles. Do consider whether wrinkles indicate it needs ironing after every washing.
  • Don’t go pulling that hanging thread or piece of yarn!
  • You never know what you’ll be unraveling. Find the origin of a hanging string before cutting it, especially long strings.
    Some knitted fabrics have yarn that can be easily knitted back in place, even by hand. Try gently pulling the yarn back from the inside. Take a pass if it doesn’t look natural.
  • Don’t automatically reject a woven coat or suit, especially a man’s suit, because of a small hole. Having the hole professionally re-woven may well be worth it considering the price of the suit.
  • Check hems carefully.  Even if it looks okay at first, stitching can be loose.
  • Pants and shorts wear out the most at the crotch. Open the legs all the way to check.
  • Tops wear out the most under the arms. Don’t miss the side seams, either.



Most resale venues, whether rummage sales, yard sales, or thrift stores, have a no-return policy regarding second-hand clothes. The most amazing bargains are worth the time and effort to carefully check them out.

Read more tips under Insider Info.
Happy Hunting!