Friday, 24 June 2011

How much is second hand worth?

Out of all the things I thrifted in Finland, this skirt was by far the most expensive. It cost 18 euros in UFF, a chain of second hand stores linked to helping developing countries. UFF's prices have been going up steadily within the past couple of years, but 18 euros (even on their scale) was a little crazy. The reason for the high price: a tag on the skirt that says Lanvin. I thought about the price and how much I liked the skirt, and found myself annoyed at the fact that I had to pay for vintage Lanvin even though all I wanted was the skirt. I grudgingly paid the 18 euros. I figured that I couldn't get a skirt I like as much at the high street for that price.

I have no idea what the prices of second hand clothes are based on. A lot of times people assume that clothes with a nice label should automatically be more expensive. At flea markets in Finland it is common for sellers to hike up their prices if they have brand clothes, no matter how old, ugly or in poor condition they might be. Is anyone going to pay 15 euros for a moth eaten, stained Diesel cardigan? I sure hope not. I do think it is okay to pay more for timeless quality pieces, or ones made with excellent materials, but a brand label is not a guarantee of that.

While thrifting, I often try to put myself in my old shoes - I'll think back at the time when I bought most of my clothes new. It has slowly started to occur to me that I have spent a whole lot of money on clothes in my lifetime, and putting my second hand purchases in that perspective helps me get my head around what my clothes are, or should be worth. I think of the times when 50 euros was an acceptable price to pay for a new dress, 100 for a pair of jeans, or 150 for a new coat. I try to remember the actual clothes I have in my closet, how much I paid for them, and if they've ended up being worth the money. Very few newly-bought clothes in my closet pass that test. Some of my second hand clothes don't fare well either, often because I've bought them because they were so affordable I didn't think twice about whether I was making a good purchase. Now that I feel I know more about what types of clothes I actually end up wearing, I can more comfortably focus on the price factor.

I think the most I've ever paid for a new t-shirt is 20 euros (now in hindsight 20 sounds awfully high), but considering what every time I've worn those t-shirts is worth to me now, I'm more comfortable putting my t-shirt limit at 1 euro at flea markets, and $2.99 at Salvation Army. (I accept the fact that thrift- and second hand stores sport higher prices than flea markets.) I've paid around 20 euros for many of my vintage dresses, but to be honest, I am more comfortable with the range of less than 10 to 15, if the dress in question is something spectacular. If it's any more, my thoughts on worthiness start to make me feel that I am paying for something I don't really need. Usually I refuse to pay more than 10 euros for a coat or jacket, or 5 euros for a skirt. But there are exceptions. And funnily enough, many of my second hand purchases have been exceptions. They will always end up being worn.

I am wearing a thrifted silk top and skirt, a second hand pendant and shoes from Asos.


Eyeliah said...

It's a pretty skirt, gets my 'shopping senses' tingling. Would you believe I've barely shopped this year still! Luckily I still have tons of useless clothes and need to cut down again. I can't justify spending $ on anything right since I am pursuing a new career (except one, more purple for my hair).

Teeny said...

I'm sure I've seen this skirt somewhere? the pattern looks really familiar anyway. I bought a vintage dress the other day, and spent WAY more than I normally would. I think it was about $20NZ, normally I might pay $5. if you really want something, then you'll pay for it i suppose.

Anonymous said...

It's a beautiful skirt. I know exactly what you mean about the price being jacked up because of a brand name. I come across such items all the time in the thrifts...and I find if I wait that sometimes the price will come down. Whoever priced it in the back room needs to be schooled, but I suppose you can't blame them for trying to charge that much for an item.

metscan said...

Thrift shopping, flea market shopping. It must be a hobby. Has anyone ever thought: Do I really, really need this? Or is it just a way to spend your free time, spend a harmless few cents ( which will add up to a quite a large sum, in the end of the year )?
I hope I won´t be attacked by my curiosity, but I belong to the less is more side of thinkers.

Shey said...

What a beautiful skirt Waves!
I must admit I get excited when I get something that has a high brand label because it's something I could not afford if it wasn't secondhand. The most I like to pay for shirts are $5 bucks, for dresses up to $9 and for coats I can pay up to $30 although I have one vintage coat that was $40. With shoes I usually pay between $3 to $15, anything beyond that is too much, if I really love it I buy it, if not I pass it up. It's funny because I've been wanting some ferragamo pumps and I've had no luck, I saw them on ebay but they are $54 bucks, I haven't made up my mind whether to buy them or not but I really like them... I don't know what to do but tomorrow is the last day to make a bid. =P It's too much money for used shoes and I know I'm paying for the brand more than the shoe but I really like them...

Anonymous said...

Dear Metscan!, your comment made me smile... (Yes, it really can be a hobby!).
People are different. I hope you know that very very often people who thrift think just like you, "less is more." They love beautiful, well-made clothes, good materials and timeless pieces. And they go treasure hunting to find those clothes. It's fun. (I personally also try to find good fabrics, I like to design and make things. It's creative and also a hobby).
And also, some of us have chosen a life...hmm, with less income. There's no way I ever could (or even wanted to)pay 500-1000€ for a cashmere/wool wintercoat from a more high end store. When I can find the same coat from a second hand store. I can give the rest of my money to charity. We thrifters don't buy every cheap thing we see! We can be really picky. And I have to tell you, I heve plenty of experience working in retail. I mean in a high end retail, where a simple t-shirt costs 100€. I don't say there are no shops existing, where you can find good quality stuff...but in my experience, in many many cases,they are "made in Bangladesh", in same factories as for example H&M. And the materials are the same. I simply can not pay 200€ for a polyester dress in a high end store, and I won't buy it from a fleamarket for 2€ either. "Less is more"- thinking can exist anywhere. It really is okey for you to invest in high quality clothes and buy them new if that feels good for you. I tend to find better treasures in good second hand shops myself. And the clothes are already made... It can be an ethical choise also.
I hope this didn't sound judgemental, at least I didn't mean it that way! I still wonder...maybe you would get more out of blogs that focus less on thrifting old stuff..

Anonymous said...

It works the same way with costume jewelry. Signed pieces are much more expensive, for the most part. My most beautiful, massive pair of clip earrings does not have a signature. It is the most gorgeous pair of earrings I have. If I were to sell it in my etsy shop, I probably would be able to put a price tag of 20 dollars on it. If the same piece had a rarer famous designer name from the fifties, like Schreiner or Hobe, I could easily see it selling for 200 dollars. So, if you develop an eye when shopping for vintage jewelry, there are many bargains to be had that are unsigned. Still, everyone will be in awe over the wonderful creation when you wear it.

Katarzyna said...

The skirt is spectacular, it was definitely worth the money. :)))
But the question of how second hand items are priced has always seemed curious to me too. There are three thrift shops which I visit regularly and all of them have different price policy. Take scarves as an example. In one of them they are weighed and the price is calculated on the basis of their weight; sometimes you can get up to ten scarves for as little as 1 euro. In the second shop, the price of a scarf is firm, it is always 2.5 euros. In the third, each scarf has got an individual price tag and the prices vary from 0.5 to 4 euros. I have spent a considerable amount of time, trying to figure out the Ultimate Value of a Scarf, but I haven't come to any conclusions. The price is in our heads, I guess. If you're willing to pay a fortune for an original Hermes scarf because you think it's worth it, you will pay this fortune. If you're not into big brands, however, you'll grab a scarf at a thrift store, pay .20 euros and be as happy. I've got a friend who buys all her things new and only big brands; Zara is considered by her a disgrace and 200 euros for a coat is simply unthinkable- too cheap.
I guess it doesn't really matter how much a piece of clothing costs. As long as it makes us happy (and doesn't bring us to the edge of bankrupcy).

poet said...

I know exactly how you feel. I've spent a year not buying anything but necessities and really discounted things, and before that I was living in the US where thrift store prices are lower than in Germany, so now even second-hand-store prices seem too high to me!

Jane W. said...

Great post--I've been thinking a lot lately about the subjective nature of "worth," and clothing as an "investment."

When considering purchases I try to think of how long it will last, how often I will wear it, and how it fits into my budget overall. Lately I've been spending more $$ on high-quality garment fabric than on RTW with the belief that clothing represents a parochial investment at best.

I saw evidence of this when I overheard a woman trying to consign a leather Kate Spade purse and the shop owner told her that she could expect to receive $50 at most, and $150 on eBay. The bag was pristine, and the woman was flabbergasted.

jesse.anne.o said...

It's a really beautiful skirt. I agree with your sentiments about pricing for brands (vs. per item) and also relative worth.

When I start comparing clothing prices to other things - like food - is where my mind really gets blown.

Franca said...

pricing in charity shops is something that i think about often. prices have gone up so much recently, it used to really bother me, but I'm starting to bbe more ok with it, because all the complaining was bad for my heart and also I like to think of it as money raised for charity. So my maximum prices are a little higher than yours. I'd probably say £8 for a skirt, £6 for a top, £12 for a dress, £20 for a vintage dress is the most I would pay.

I will also pay up to £70 for a new dress if I really love it, especially if it's handmade. I've sort of become more accepting of the fact that I will sometimes spend frivolously. Frivolously by may standards or course.

Quinn said...

It's a beautiful skirt. I think it would stand out in a rack of nondescript items. That to me says the brand name is worth something, because there is something in the cut or fabric that elevates it.

When I thrift, I shop with my hands and my eyes to try to discern something exceptional. Only then do I check out the brand. In that way, I've discovered TSE cashmere, Burberry sweaters, Dries van Noten button downs, etc. You get the idea. The brand name itself isn't a guarantee of quality, but if something calls to you before you know the brand, I think that says something.

With a vintage designer piece, too, there is a bit of history.