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Here’s something you might not have gathered from my blog to date: I LOVE secondhand shopping.
I grew up working for an amazing, woman-run consignment boutique that I still do a little freelance work for today. That store and the women I worked with and served played a large role in my personal and professional interests, and the person I’ve grown up to be.
From that boutique, I learned a lot about the quality of various brands, the crazy markup on new clothing, and that “new to me” is just as good as “new” (and better on my bank account).
But shopping and consigning maternity and nursing-wear can be tricky. Use these tips when buying and selling clothing for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and baby.
- Hit your local consignment shop before going online. Not only is it great to support small local businesses, but trying things on is especially helpful with maternity fashions. It’s no surprise that we just keep growing when we’re pregnant… so some secondhand items might be a little stretched out/not true to size. Check out items a size smaller than you think you need just in case! And if you’re too busy/not feeling up to it (because pregnancy can be hard), make sure the online shop has a fair return policy.
- Look for items that are functional for pre- and post-pregnancy. Some maternity styles also have breastfeeding access. While you don’t need it immediately, it extends the shelf life of that item and will likely be flattering on a newly postpartum body.
- Don’t prioritize a “nursing” style over a “nursing-friendly” one. In an ideal world, there would be a nursing section at online and brick-and-mortar stores. But I’ve never seen one. This doesn’t mean you can’t find something functional and beautiful. Button down shirts, elastic necklines and zippers all make for great breastfeeding tops.
- Get familiar with brands of breastfeeding clothing (here’s a list of some I’m familiar with) so you can scan labels while you’re shopping. A really well designed top won’t be readily apparent as a “nursing shirt” so you could miss it on the racks! You can also try asking a sales associate to check their database for your preferred brands. When shopping online, it will be simple to search brands.
- Look for clothing brands (like Mia Tango) that have their own secondhand shop. Stores like this probably realized some of the challenges of traditional selling/buying secondhand maternity and nursing styles. These stores often guarantee a buy-back price, which is another huge benefit!
A final word on shopping… while I’m supportive of reducing fashion waste and buying secondhand, it’s not always cheaper or feasible. I’ve learned that Zulilly and other discount stores can also be great sources for these styles.
- Know upfront that you’re not going to get everything that you invested in your wardrobe back. If you purchased things full price, you can expect to get around 10% back from brick-and-motor businesses and maybe 5% online. That may sound disappointing, but keep in mind that the consignment business can’t charge what you originally paid, and they need to earn a profit to pay their employees, the utilities, and the advertising so someone buys your stuff in the first place! Yes, you could try selling it yourself on eBay or Poshmark, but that takes time and patience. Kudos to you if you have the time, energy and enthusiasm! But candidly… I don’t. I love dropping things off and getting money back passively. Some shops will pay you outright (usually less per item because they’re gambling it will sell), others will pay you when the item is purchased (and you may or may not have the option to reclaim unsold items), and some offer a combination of approaches.
- Check your items for wear and minor spots/stains before consigning them. These items will be declined for resale. Depending on the policy, a store may automatically donate these items rather than giving you an opportunity to pick them back up. For me personally, if it has a minor flaw I might want to hold onto it in case of a future pregnancy or share with a friend who doesn’t mind the defect.
- Know that maternity stuff sells well, but… I’ve found that with ThredUP in particular, they totally overlook some items as “maternity.” Everything I sent them in my last batch was maternity and they labeled 75% of it as ladies… including hard-to-find items like swimsuits. And guess what? The maternity stuff sold in a week and the rest is mostly still available. If I send them things again, I plan to include a sheet of paper in the bag that helps clarify (and I’ll cross my fingers that it will help). If you take things into a local shop, you can easily communicate these details to the associate.
- Don’t sell everything the minute you come home from the hospital. First off, enjoy snuggling up with that love bug rather than doing chores. Secondly, you may want to spend some time in that clothing postpartum while your body recovers.
- And don’t sell all of your shoes!!! I went up a full shoe size for a few months postpartum. But now, at eight months, I’m back to my original size. Some women WILL change shoe sizes forever but it’s hard to say whether or not you’ll be one of them. So don’t part with your favorite heels until you’re certain your feet won’t return to their original size. (And on that same note, don’t invest too much in bigger shoes, as you don’t know how long you’ll wear them!)
When dealing with baby’s clothes:
- Please don’t waste your time buying or selling to thredUP. As a shopper, their baby stuff is too expensive. They’ve listed some of my items at higher prices than I originally paid. And as a seller, things are generally on consignment so you don’t get cash unless your item sells (and at their prices you’ll be lucky if it does sell). I also think they lack familiarity with children’s brands. I sent them a LuLu and Roo pajama set that I spent $66 on. (I know, that’s ridiculous… it was for Christmas and I was being dumb.) My son wore it once, no spit up, no blow outs. And ThredUP rejected it and donated it. I’m hoping it gets used wherever they donated it, but there’s a possibility it will be recycled as scraps.
- Check out local resources for consignment events. In Indy, we have “Whale of a Sale” — I haven’t participated personally but I’ve heard the return is much higher than chains like Once Upon a Child.
- Consider regifting new, unused items. Some of you may balk at this, but I can’t tell you how many beautiful outfits I received in sizes that just didn’t make sense. A summer newborn outfit for my son born in November. A 9-month old winter coat when he’d be 9 months in August. Cute, nice outfits that I simply can’t use. But perhaps my friends will have babies in different seasons (and this gives me the opportunity to share more with them than I could otherwise).
- Shop Zulilly and Amazon for cost effective staples. Again, I’d love to shop secondhand, but sometimes it’s not easier on the pocketbook. I love the value packs of shirts and pants that I can get online.
- See if you might have a friend or family member who can loan out hand-me-downs. My amazing sister-in-law gave me free reign of her baby clothing stash, which was such a blessing (she has the kindest, most generous heart I know). Babies grow out of things so quickly, it’s nice to borrow some basics. Just make sure you don’t borrow something with a strong emotional tie (because messes and stains will happen and clothing isn’t always salvageable!). I didn’t run into this issue, but after having Ilyas I realized I should have asked if there was anything she’d be heartbroken about if it were ruined.
Being eight months into motherhood, I expect I’ll learn more along the way! What other tips do you have for mamas?