Image Map

My Guide to Buying Clothes and Accessories on Ebay

31 January 2013

I'm a frugal gal. There is no other way to put it. I always have been since I started working for my second cousin at the age of 13. I don't place myself in the "cheap" category but I am very cautious to pay full price for just about anything. I live to coupon and relish a good deal especially when it comes to things for myself.

I purchased these gorgeous shoes on Ebay in the fall for $30!

Did you know that the average person spends around 3% of their income annually on clothes? That is a lot of sandwiches. Sometimes, to truly comprehend the cost of something I compare it to how many sandwiches I could buy at Subway. In case you are wondering, that's about 400 footlongs before tax. For some reason there is this stigma out there about buying clothing that is secondhand. Like it is only reserved for punk rock supporters and only useful for costume parties. For example, I know my mother would NEVER wear secondhand clothing especially if she didn't know who she was buying from. How does one get over that? 

I realize there are just some items out there that need to purchased as new. But I've found that for about $50, a solid set of staple pieces of clothing can be found at any Goodwill or Salvation Army as well as online at auction sites like Ebay. I think about it is as the ultimate upcycling. It sickens me to think that people have more than one full closet jammed packed of clothes that they never wear. I'm guilty of it too. 

Ebay. The best online action site on the web. You can start bidding on items starting at $0.99 traditionally and score brand name items in nearly new condition. Here, I've put together a few tips and tricks that I've developed for purchasing clothing and accessories online.

1. Generally know what you are looking for ahead of time.

Sometimes when you shop you aren't exactly looking for something specific. Rather, you need some fresh looks in your stagnant wardrobe. My strategy is to scour the women's fashion section of Pinterest and see what types of "looks" my eye is drawn to. It can be anything from skirts, shirts, shoes to jewelry. If I see an emerald blazer like the one above, I'll search for it on Ebay. Sure, you won't find what you are looking for every time but through using the search tools you can most accurately find what you are looking for. And new items are posted each day so check back frequently!

2. Search for name brands and check size charts.

Think about the stores you frequent and the brands in which you feel the most comfortable. Are you an Ann Taylor or American Eagle shopper? Ralph Lauren or Guess? Recognize the brands you normally buy and think about your size. If purchasing normally depends on how you feel in the outfit, this process might prove to be a little bit of trial and error. Get a sewing tape measure and take your measurements for your bust, natural waist, hip and leg length. Many items are described with the length from the shoulder to the wrist or the hip to the ankle. Won't help you if you don't know your measurements. You wouldn't want to bid on a dress thinking it would come to your knee then it arrives and it is up to your high-thigh!  

3. Take risks on the first bid but be aware of the cost of shipping.
If you are searching through clothing and accessories and see something cute, my policy is bid on it! Especially if it is only $0.99 and shipping is less than $3.00. I bid on a variety of items, roughly 8-9 at a time. But really the ability to "win" those items in an action leaves me with maybe 4-5 items total. I'll scroll along and bid on a bunch of stuff that looks like it will fit and then as the bidding ensues and I get emails that I've been outbid, then I'll make the judgement call of whether I'm still in the game. If it is a unique or high end piece, I'm typically still in and make, a least, a $1 increase in the bid just to indicate to my fellow bidders that I'm serious. Download the Ebay app for your smartphone. It allows you to bid on the go and I'd highly recommend it. 

4. Check for imperfections and read the return policy of the seller.
Armpits, buttons and sweater pill balls! Many pictures allow the opportunity for one to zoom in on areas to assess the damage. If the seller lists no damage, ask again before you bid even that first $0.99. It is the responsibility of the owner to accurately declare imperfections in the item especially if they do not have a return policy. Most sellers will have a 2 week return policy with the shipping paid by the buyer but many sellers list then wash their hands of the item. Message sellers about stains or tears in the clothing. Ask about if there are additional buttons still attached to the item. Channel your inner investigator.   

5. Be sure to find out whether the clothing item is from a smoke-free home. 
Purchasing something secondhand online is always a risk because it could be falsely represented. But buying from a smoke-free home is critical if you are allergic to smoke, or have children and are a nonsmoker. You have been in that situation where you end up at a smokey bar for a night out and have been stuck with leaving your clothes at the door and heading straight for the shower  when you get home because of the smell. Well, smoke is challenging to get out of clothing but this tutorial on may help. Again, ask before you bid. And it may be the make or break moment for you. 


  1. That's a lot of sandwiches! I've thought about this but have such a hard time finding clothes that fit right.

    1. It can be troubling. I've been super lucky in my Ebay purchases. Have you ever shopped at Goodwill for clothes?