A 12 Piece Secondhand Summer Capsule Wardrobe with Thrift Shopping Tips

A white background with 12 clothing items plus shoes and accessories for A 12 Piece Secondhand Summer capsule wardrobe. In the middle is a black box with white text that reads, "A 12 Piece Secondhand Summer Capsule Wardrobe."

I have been looking forward to this post since I made a goal this summer to have my summer capsule wardrobe be comprised of predominantly secondhand. The idea behind this was to slowly shift the secondhand/vintage part of my wardrobe to being the dominant part, while reducing my new consumption.

When I made this goal I promised myself that if there was something that I was looking for that had the potential of being found in the secondhand market then that was where I was going to look first.

So far it has been working well.

I am also going to share some of my thrifting and secondhand shopping tips with you further down the post.

Before I get into that I want to talk about why we should consider focusing and integrating secondhand items into our wardrobes.

Building a secondhand wardrobe is not only an environmentally conscious choice but also a way to curate a unique and personalized style without breaking the bank.

Can it be pricey? Yes it can, especially in this economy when things are just getting more expensive. It also depends on what you are thrifting. Vintage items will always be more expensive.

But aside from the price ranges, thrift shopping, vintage finds, and preloved treasures can transform your closet into a collection of timeless pieces that tell a story.

I want to give you tips on effectively building a secondhand wardrobe. Everything from planning and sourcing to styling and maintaining your finds.

A 12 Piece Secondhand Summer Capsule Wardrobe

A white background with 12 outfits for A 12 Piece Secondhand Summer Capsule Wardrobe.

Yellow Bed Jacket | Jeans | Blue Flats | Fringe Bag | Slip Dress | Nike Dunks | Blazer | Necklace | Black Sandals | Bronze Handbag | Skirt | Shorts | Earrings | Cardigan | Sweatshirt | Motley Crue T-shirt | Button Up | Silk Tank | Mules | Sunglasses | Black & Gold Sandals | Snake Print Bag | Brown Culottes

Why Choose a Secondhand Wardrobe?

Before getting into the practical steps, it’s essential to understand the benefits of secondhand shopping.

Everyone has their own reasons but in general terms, this is why people choose to shop secondhand:

Sustainability: Fast fashion contributes significantly to environmental degradation. By choosing secondhand, you’re reducing waste and lessening the demand for new production.

Cost-Effective: Secondhand clothes are generally more affordable than new ones, allowing you to save money or invest in higher-quality items. But as I mentioned above, it really depends.

Many sellers price accordingly depending on the age of the item, the condition, and if this is a sought-after or hard-to-find item. It is all based on what you are looking for.

I have paid $1.25 for a button-up, but also $350 for a faux fur coat from the 1950s.

Unique Finds: Thrift stores, vintage shops, and online marketplaces are treasure troves of unique pieces that you won’t find in mainstream stores. These items showcase your personal style way better than fast fashion trends.

Quality: Older clothes were often made with higher-quality materials and craftsmanship, meaning they can last longer than many modern fast fashion items.

No joke. I have three vintage cashmere sweaters and not only are they in like-new incredible condition, they are way better quality than the cashmere sweaters I have bought new over the last handful of years.

How to Build a Secondhand Capsule Wardrobe

Step 1: Assess Your Current Wardrobe

Start by evaluating what you already own. This helps you identify gaps in your wardrobe and avoid unnecessary purchases. Sort your clothes into categories:

Keep: Items you love and wear regularly.
Donate/Sell: Pieces that no longer fit, suit your style, or bring you joy.
Repair/Alter: Clothes that need minor fixes or adjustments to be wearable.

Step 2: Define Your Style

Knowing your style makes shopping more focused and enjoyable. Create a mood board or Pinterest board with styles, colours, and outfits that inspire you. This post I wrote gives an in-depth explanation to finding your personal style.

I had an epiphany today that the trend of a vest/waistcoat is not for me.

After two years of trying on every single style available and never loving any of them, I decided to stop looking.

With summer almost here, I thought they would be a great hot weather top. I have now reevaluated and decided that I like vintage bed jackets instead.

I am wearing one today that you can see here, and it is very much in the same style and colour as the one I included in this summer capsule wardrobe.

The juxtaposition of the feminine paired with some beat-up jeans is in tune with my personal style.

These make more sense to me, plus they are not trendy so I don’t have to worry about them going out of style.

And now I own three. One from the 20s, 40s, and 50s/60s.

Back to determining your style, pay attention to:

Colours and Patterns: Identify the hues and prints that you gravitate towards.
Silhouettes: Note the shapes and cuts that you feel most confident in.
Influences: Draw inspiration from fashion icons, decades, or specific aesthetics you admire.

Step 3: Make a List

Based on your wardrobe assessment and style definition, make a list of items you need.

I like to keep both a pen and paper version, as well as a note on my phone. Having access to the note allows me to have it for reference when I am thrift shopping.

Break it into categories to make it easier when you are shopping. That way you can move around from section to section and know what you are looking for.

Step 4: Research and Plan

Identify the best places to find secondhand clothing in your area and online. Make a list, bookmark your favourites, keep tabs open, and utilize saved searches so you will get updated when items you are looking for get listed.

I’ll get into buying them a little down further because it is pretty detailed, so right now we will skip that and jump to once you have your pieces.

Step 5: Mix and Match

Once you’ve built a collection of secondhand pieces, the fun part begins—creating outfits.

Utilize Layering: Combine different textures and layers to add depth to your outfits.
Accessorize: Use belts, scarves, hats, and jewellery to elevate simple pieces.
Mix Eras: Don’t be afraid to mix vintage items with modern pieces for a unique look.
Experiment: Play around with combinations until you find what works best for you.

Step 6: Maintain Your Wardrobe

Proper care ensures your clothes last longer:

Washing: Follow care labels and wash items gently. Hand wash delicate fabrics.
Storage: Store clothes in a cool, dry place. Use garment bags for delicate items.
Repairs: Mend small issues promptly. Learn basic sewing skills or take items to a tailor for professional repairs.

Taking care of your wardrobe shows pride and respect for your clothes, so don’t slack in this area.

Secondhand, Vintage, and Thrift Shopping tips:

Now we get into my favourite part. But first I want to give you the breakdown of different secondhand markets for buying your wardrobe pieces.

1. Thrift Stores: Thrift stores are charitable or non-profit organizations that sell donated goods, including clothing, to raise funds for various causes.

Popular Chains:

Goodwill
Salvation Army
Savers/Value Village

Advantages:

Affordability: Thrift stores often have the lowest prices.
Variety: Wide range of items, from casual wear to formal attire.
Support for Charities: Proceeds often go to charitable causes.

Considerations:

Condition: Items can be hit-or-miss in terms of quality.
Organization: Stores can be overwhelming and disorganized.

2. Vintage Stores: Vintage stores specialize in clothing and accessories from previous decades, typically focusing on items that are at least 20 years old.

These types will vary city by city so you may need to go in and check them out in person to get a feel. Etsy is my go-to online website that I visit for a large variety of vintage items from around the world.

Advantages:

Curated Selection: Higher quality and more unique pieces.
Trend Inspiration: Great for finding timeless fashion pieces and retro styles.

Considerations:

Price: Often more expensive than thrift stores due to the curated nature.
Availability: Limited stock of specific sizes or styles.

3. Consignment Shops: Consignment shops sell gently used, high-quality clothing on behalf of the original owners, splitting the profit from each sale.

Again, there will be a large variety of these independently owned shops. I have a handful of favourites that are local to me that I look through several times a week online.

Popular Chains:

Plato’s Closet
Crossroads Trading

Advantages:

Brand Names: Often feature designer and high-end brands.
Quality Control: Items are usually in excellent condition.

Considerations:

Higher Prices: Prices can be higher than other secondhand options.
Commission: Consignment shops take a percentage of the sale price.

4. Online Marketplaces: Digital platforms that facilitate the buying and selling of secondhand clothing, offering a wide variety of items from individual sellers.

Popular Platforms:

Poshmark
Depop
eBay
ThredUp

Advantages:

Convenience: Shop from the comfort of your home.
Wide Selection: Access to a global marketplace with a vast array of items.
Filters and Search: Easy to find specific items, brands, or sizes.

Considerations:

Shipping Costs: Can add up, especially for international purchases.
Condition Uncertainty: Relying on photos and descriptions without seeing the item in person.
Return Policies: Vary by platform and seller, so check before purchasing.

5. Flea Markets and Swap Meets: Outdoor or indoor markets where vendors sell a variety of secondhand goods, including clothing.

Advantages:

Unique Finds: Potential for discovering rare and one-of-a-kind items.
Bargaining: Opportunity to negotiate prices with sellers.
Considerations:

Weather Dependent: Outdoor markets may be affected by weather conditions.
Cash-Based: Some vendors may only accept cash payments.

Each secondhand market offers its own unique benefits and shopping experiences. Whether you’re hunting for budget-friendly finds, vintage treasures, or high-end designer pieces, there’s a secondhand market that can cater to your needs.

My General Tips for All Types of Secondhand Shopping

When it comes to secondhand shopping success I firmly belive that it is about skill, location, and luck. In that order.

You need to go where people donate what you want, so for me that means we travel to thrift stores that are in wealthier neighbourhoods. You need to map out your game plan.

Be Patient and Persistent:

Frequency: Visit stores regularly as inventory changes frequently.
Time: Give yourself plenty of time to browse thoroughly.

Condition: Check for stains, tears, missing buttons, and functional zippers.
Quality: Look at the fabric quality and construction to ensure the item is durable.

Fit: Sizes can vary widely, especially with vintage items. Always try clothes on if possible.
Comfort: Ensure the item is comfortable and wearable.

Plan: Have an idea of what you’re looking for to stay focused and avoid impulse buys.
Versatility: Choose items that can be mixed and matched with your existing wardrobe.

Check Return Policies: Be aware of the store’s return or exchange policy, especially for secondhand items.

Tips for Thrift Store Shopping

Go Early and Often: Get the first pick of new items by visiting early in the day or on restocking days.
Sales: Keep an eye out for sales and discount days.

Be Open-Minded: Explore all sections, including men’s, kids’, and accessories. You might find unexpected treasures.

Repurpose: Think creatively about how you can repurpose or alter items to fit your style.

Inspect the Entire Store: Look for hidden gems. Don’t just stick to the main clothing racks. Check out bins, shelves, and even the dressing room return racks.

Tips for Vintage Store Shopping

Research and Plan Locations: Research vintage stores in your area and plan a route to visit multiple stores in one trip.

Specialities: Know what each store specializes in, whether it’s specific decades, styles, or types of clothing.

Know Your Measurements: I repeat, KNOW YOUR MEASUREMENTS.

Vintage sizing can be very different from modern sizing. Bring a measuring tape to check item measurements against your own.

Wear and Tear: Vintage items might show signs of wear. Make sure you’re comfortable with any imperfections.

Care Instructions: Learn how to properly care for delicate vintage fabrics to ensure they last. Many of these pieces should not be machine-washed, so you need to be willing to put in the time to care for them.

Tips for Online Secondhand Shopping

Read Descriptions Thoroughly: Don’t be the person who doesn’t read them, and then is shocked when it arrives with imperfections.

Pay attention to item descriptions for information on size, condition, and any flaws.

Measurements: Compare provided measurements with your own to ensure a good fit.

Check Seller Ratings and Reviews: Buy from sellers with positive reviews to increase the chances of a good transaction.

Feedback: Read reviews for insights into the seller’s reliability and the quality of their items.

Look for Clear Photos: Ensure the listing has multiple clear photos from different angles to accurately depict the item. Use zoom features to inspect the fabric and details closely.

Be Aware of Shipping Costs: No one likes surprises, so make sure to factor in shipping costs or even duties and taxes if it is coming internationally when determining if the item is a good deal.

Use Combined Shipping: If buying multiple items, ask if the seller offers combined shipping to save money.

Make an Offer: Some platforms allow you to make offers or negotiate prices.

Okay, I think that’s it from the top of my head, I may edit to add more later or do another post.

This was a long one, so thank you for sticking with me to the end. Secondhand, vintage, and thrift shopping are one of my favourite things to do.

The treasures I have found have far outnumbered my favourite items from new retailers.

I hope that these tips can help you navigate these secondhand markets more effectively, and to find joy in the process of discovering hidden gems. Happy secondhand shopping!

Secondhand Summer Outfit Ideas for Women

A white background with 12 outfits for A 12 Piece Secondhand Summer Capsule Wardrobe.

A white background with 12 outfits for A 12 Piece Secondhand Summer Capsule Wardrobe.

Yellow Bed Jacket | Jeans | Blue Flats | Fringe Bag | Slip Dress | Nike Dunks | Blazer | Necklace | Black Sandals | Bronze Handbag | Skirt | Shorts | Earrings | Cardigan | Sweatshirt | Motley Crue T-shirt | Button Up | Silk Tank | Mules | Sunglasses | Black & Gold Sandals | Snake Print Bag | Brown Culottes

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Sara

Sara is the founder and creative behind livelovesara. A George Brown College Fashion Styling Graduate, she provides advice on finding your personal style regardless of age and budget. She is always on the hunt for the perfect wardrobe piece and is a vintage and thrifting enthusiast who can't wait to share her newest finds. She is also trying to learn French.

5 Comments

  1. Love this post! I love thrifting and seeing your second hand outfit ideas! Thanks for putting this together, great inspiration!

    • Thanks Julie! It’s my favourite thing to do. I love seeing the potential of secondhand items.

  2. Thank you for another wonderful, thoughtful, detailed post! Thrift shopping is my best and you are always such an inspiration. I love seeing how you put things together.

  3. Your comment on accepting a style doesn’t work was so liberating to me! High waisted styles just don’t work for me and that is OKAY! ❤️ thank you for this.

    • Thanks Erin! I didn’t want to waste anymore of my time trying to find one. The market is now saturated with vests of every style, shape, and colour so if I haven’t found one yet then I’m not going to do it’s time to accept and move on. It’s better to focus on things that I love than something that feels mediocre. Move on from your high waist and find a mid to low that feels more like you that you will actually wear. Not everything works for everyone, but there is something for everyone. – Sara

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