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How To Shop Secondhand Style for Back-To-School Outfits

Save money shopping secondhand for back-to-school outfits! Secondhand shopping is better for the environment and a boon to our bank accounts. Check out these great tips for shopping secondhand to find high-quality and on-trend back-to-school outfits.

I remember as a kid going back-to-school shopping with my mom. Each of my sisters and I got a pair of pants, maybe a couple of shirts, and a pair of shoes, if needed. Maybe my mom splurged for something more than that, on occasion, but it wouldn’t have been the norm. 

And because I was super stylish (or not..), near the end of elementary school and into early middle school, I bought colored jeans with a matching shirt. Maybe I was ahead of the monochromatic trend, but more likely I was just out of the fashion loop. 

Style maven or not, I loved getting a fresh back-to-school outfit. I didn’t care that wearing my new jeans and long sleeve shirt on the first day of school with temperatures hovering in the seventies and eighties didn’t make sense. I was twelve!

Simplify the Back-To-School Outfit Haul

These days, fast fashion is out of control. People buy clothes like they are going out of style because they literally do go “out of style” in just a few weeks when the “new” trends show up on fast fashion shelves.

A single pair of jeans and a shirt from most stores that target teenagers won’t hold up for a dozen washes, let alone an entire school year. Yet many kids come home with loads of back-to-school outfits, not simple back-to-school wardrobe updates. 

This year, however, times might be changing. With many students starting school at home, fewer families are investing in new clothes for kids to simply wear at home. Further, 2019 was the year of the young climate activist. Many of our kids know full well that landfills are overflowing and oceans are drowning in microplastics, a large portion of both of these problems stemming from fast fashion. As you think about buying new back-to-school outfits this year, consider something a little different. 

Shop Secondhand For Back-to-School Outfits

First, consider shopping secondhand for back-to-school outfits this fall. There are tons of great quality clothes at secondhand stores that have more than enough life left in them. And prices are lower on secondhand styles for kids so your budget will go further. I’m pretty sure most kids would love an extra piece or two for their closets without parents spending any extra money. 

If you prefer, test out online secondhand stores for kids. There are many great reasons to shop online resale for kids, and I’ve shared several ideas to encourage kids to shop online resale for back-to-school outfits themselves. There are several online resale options including thredUP, Swap, eBay, Poshmark, and even Facebook Marketplace. 

If your kids have clothes that no longer fit them, secondhand shopping could be a great opportunity to trade in their old gear and earn credit for something new for the school year this fall. There are lots of tips for selling on Facebook Marketplace that apply to selling clothes for kids and teens. thredUP makes the process really easy; just order a Clean Out bag and send it back (free shipping is included). Here are some of my favorite tips for finding great deals on thredUP.

Tips To Shop Secondhand For Back-To-School Outfits

Whether it be in brick and mortar stores or online, back-to-school shopping can still be a special activity even if you’re shopping secondhand for back-to-school clothes. Here are a few ideas to have fun shopping secondhand with your kids this back-to-school season. 

Set Aside A Special Day Or Outing For Back To School Shopping

I remember the big trip to the mall for back-to-school shopping with my mom and sisters. I looked forward to it each year. Secondhand shopping doesn’t have to be any different, you’re just heading to different stores. 

Set aside a time for shopping together. Maybe grab lunch or ice cream before or after shopping. Eating at some fast food outlet in the mall was almost always part of our shopping day. Maybe you pair up secondhand back-to-school shopping with another favorite activity for the kids and make a whole day of it. 

And put away the darn smart phones. Just about everything on the phone can wait if you’re spending a couple of quality hours with your kids. 

Find Local Resale and Consignment Stores In Your Area

There are lot of secondhand shops that have clothes for kids and teens. A Google search for “consignment stores near me” or “clothing resale shops near me” should turn up some good results. 

If you’re a member of a local Buy Nothing group or Facebook Marketplace Buy/Sell group, you might be able to inquire in those groups about secondhand clothing shops for kids in your local area. Be sure to check the rules of the group to see if that type of post is permissible. But the people in that community are often experts and veterans in the secondhand market, so they might have some good ideas. 

You can also look for popular resale chains like Plato’s Closet (for teenagers), Style Encore, Clothes Mentor, and Once Upon a Child (for younger kids). These are national chains that have franchise locations around the country. 

Related Reading: What’s The Difference Between Resale and Consignment Shops? 

I’m also a big fan of a slow and steady search through the racks at thrift shops. You’ll need a little more patience for this. Thrift shops like Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Savers spend less time curating their collections so there is a wider variety of styles and quality on their racks. Prices are a bit lower than the resale shops I mentioned before, so you may find a better value. But these stores require a bit more time to navigate.

No matter which stores you’re planning to visit, be sure to set aside at least an hour for each store. It’s helpful to try everything on because sizes can sometimes be misleading. It also takes longer to review racks of clothing when each piece is unique, as opposed to several of the same shirt hung on each rack in a traditional retail store. 

Check Out Secondhand Collections In Traditional Retail Stores

Some stores have started selling secondhand or remade collections in their stores. JC Penney, Nordstrom, Madewell, and Macy’s have all had secondhand collections in their stores for certain brands over the last year or two. I’m not sure if they currently have secondhand collections to review (and maybe the rest of the store would be too distracting, so avoid it all together). But if you’re up for it and have the willpower to avoid the brand new fast fashion, these options could be worth investigating. 

Shop Online Together

There are lots of online resale stores for kids and teens that have huge collections of items that are of great quality. thredUP, for example, is really easy to navigate with all of their filters for size, color, style, brand, price range, and more. Swap and Kid to Kid are other good online resale brands. 

Turn on some music, grab a snack, and sit together at the computer to scroll through the vast collection of secondhand style for back-to-school outfits. These sites typically only take on-trend pieces so they should have plenty of options that will feel new to your kids on the first day of school. 

Giving up fast fashion doesn’t have to mean giving up the social experiences tied to shopping. Growing up, I really enjoyed going to the mall with friends. Had I known better, I would have stretched my meager high school earnings and shopped at the local secondhand stores with my friends. Live and learn, I guess. 🙂 

I’d love to know if you have tried secondhand back-to-school shopping with your kids. How did it go? Did you find any amazing back-to-school outfits? Were you able to make the experience feel special? Share all your tips and tricks in the comments below!

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