Factory-Made Alternative #1: eBay

by Alison Gerber


I bought this dress! It was originally from Modcloth, but I found it gently used on eBay for $15! It came in the mail last week and is fantastic. It fits well, its condition is pristine. I can’t wait to wear it out. Date night, perhaps?

For those who want to buy secondhand, but their local thrift stores leave a little to be desired, eBay is an excellent alternative. But there are no returns and few guarantees. How does one buy well on eBay? Here’s what I’ve learnt over the years.

1. Buy clothes from brands you’ve bought before. You know what size fits you. You have a good idea of the quality of their clothing. It just makes sense.

2. Look for colors and styles you know will suit you. For me? Blue is a tick. Lemon yellow, I’m dreaming. Elbow-length sleeves? Yes, please! Ruffles on the bust? Uh-oh. If you’re not sure what suits, think about the color/style of that item of clothing, that whenever you wear it, you are complimented. Bid on something that shares similarities with that.

3. Look for clothes that are elasticized, or loose and flowing, in areas that are typically tight on you. For me, it’s the waist. Waists in cute 1950’s-style dresses don’t fit an “apple” (read: need to lose some pounds) shape like me. So I look for waists that are free flowing or elasticized – like the dress above. That way, when it arrives on my doorstep, I’m not disappointed I can’t get it on.

4. Carefully take your measurements. If there’s something fitted that you really love, this is what you’ll need to do: have a friend take your measurements – there’s a how-to guide for that here. Then, take an item of clothing that fits you really well, that is fitted at the bust and waist (not something too big/stretchy and not something that squishes your bust). And lay it flat on a hard surface and measure it under the arms, and also at its waist. Having these numbers on hand will also give you a good idea as to what will and won’t fit.

5. Investigate each item thoroughly. Look at each photograph of the item of clothing carefully and read the description carefully. What are the measurements of this item? Is this item from a non-smoking home? What is it made from? How worn is it? Is it faded in any place? Does it have holes or tears? Or stains? Carefully check for all of these in the item’s description. And don’t be shy about asking questions. If any of the above are not answered well on a listing, message the seller and ask. If they won’t answer, walk away. It’s hard sometimes to do this, but it’s better than losing $30 on a garment that didn’t live up to what you’d hoped it would be.