NYC Guide to Secondhand Shopping

By Jewelle Trotman

Now that spring is here, you may start to sift through your closet. Hanger after hanger holds things that you’ve worn time and time again. Maybe your wardrobe needs something “new.” Why not give secondhand shopping a try?

Thrift shopping is a budget-friendly way to spruce up your closet — you get a lot for less. Bigger spenders in search of something unique may enjoy vintage boutiques as well as consignment shops. Regardless of choice, shoppers can feel good knowing that they’re being sustainable while finding something one-of-a-kind.

As you embark on your adventure, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Be patient. This is crucial when it comes to thrift shopping. Many stores have wide selections, and it takes time to go through everything — or, at least, most of it. To find good stuff, you may have to go through lots of racks, but it’s worth it. A lot of the time, you will run into disappointment — like finding great jeans, but they aren’t in your size. Secondhand shopping is hit or miss because most things are unique. Take your time, and you’ll find something great.
  2. Wear tight clothes/lose the layers. Some places don’t have dressing rooms, so to get a feel for how things fit, you may have to put them over whatever you’re wearing when you go shopping. This is difficult when wearing bulky clothes or many layers because you probably won’t want to strip down in the middle of the store.
  3. Have things you want to get in mind. Planning out what you want to get before your trip can save you a lot of time. Stores with wide selections can get overwhelming when you don’t know what you’re looking for, which is part of the adventure, but knowing what you want helps. Also, if you stick to your plan, you’ll probably end up spending less because picking up random items here and there adds up quickly.
  4. Take a friend. Going shopping with someone else can add to the experience. Also, it may be good to have someone there with you in person for a second opinion. That 1920s hat may not be for you, and it’s helpful for a friend to be there to let you know.
  5. Ask for a student discount. A lot of places have student discounts but don’t advertise them. Find out the policy — some stores have special days for students, while others give discounts all the time.

Now that you have all the knowledge needed to succeed in the world of secondhand shopping, check out these stores, and experience all that is wonderful about discovering “pre-loved” fashions.

  • Goodwill. This thrift store has various locations all over the city, including one on 103 W. 25th St., right by FIT. By shopping at Goodwill, you’ll be supporting a good cause because they help those with disabilities to get employment. The store offers student discounts, too. It’s well organized, down to the color. There are sections for different types of clothes and even space for home goods. The aisles are spacious, so there’s enough room for you and other savvy shoppers to find things. Goodwill also has frequent sales, so you can start saving today.

  • Buffalo Exchange. Right on 114 W. 26th St., Buffalo Exchange brings lots of trendy clothes to customers and has great proximity to FIT. There are also many other locations around the city. In the window, there are always well-dressed mannequins that give style inspiration. The store has a large selection, so it wouldn’t be too hard to find something cool. The different types of clothes are organized into separate sections, which is helpful when searching.
  • AuH2O. The East Village is a great area, and AuH2O can be found right on 84 E. Seventh St. The store is nice and small, beautifully decorated and really has character. It’s great that there are $5 and $10 racks filled with cute clothes. The staff is also friendly. Since it is a small store, it’s easy to get through everything.
  • Housing Works. This nonprofit store aims to fight both AIDS and homelessness. Your patronage would go a long way to support those causes. Housing Works can be found all over the city. The store is well known for its quality furniture but has great clothes, too. Most locations have large, well-organized sections. Plan a trip, and shop at a place that provides great services.
  • Salvation Army. The Salvation Army aims to help with many things, from hunger relief to combatting human trafficking. Stores can be found in many places across the U.S. The prices tend to be relatively inexpensive. Most locations are also well organized by types of clothes, with wide aisles, making shopping simpler.
  • L Train Vintage/No Relation Vintage. There are many locations of this network of vintage stores throughout the city. One is on 204 First Avenue, where a lot of great stuff is packed into one store. It has everything from hats to shoes to jackets to dresses. The store itself stays true to the name and gives off a “vintage” vibe.
  • Hamlet’s Vintage. For true vintage fashions, stop by 146 W. Fourth St. The cost is usually more than a thrift store, but you may want to splurge once you step inside. The store is a nice size and has a great layout. The real vintage stuff is usually on its own rack, while the rest is in clear sections, such as for jeans and shirts. Plus, there tends to be a dog in the store, which is great if you love cute pups.

  • 2nd Time Around. This chain has various locations, ranging from the Upper East Side to the Lower West Side and all around the country. The upscale consignment shop is home to many designer names. Service and selection depends on each store. Most people tend to be pleased with their purchases, so it’s worth a look.
  • New York Vintage Inc. Want high-end vintage? Go to New York Vintage Inc on 117 W. 25th St. With a wide selection and attentive staff, what more could you want on the quest to find quality old clothes? Be prepared to spend a lot because the stuff isn’t cheap. Regardless, it’s still worth it to visit and see what’s in the store.

Secondhand shopping is something that everyone should try at least once. Happy hunting!