How to Build a Designer Wardrobe on a Budget… With eBay

As an actress in Los Angeles, I’m on what seems like a never-ending side quest: how to build a designer wardrobe on a budget. Talking to my friends back east, it seems like they’re in a similar boat. How do we put together our first professional wardrobes, exactly? What are the pieces to invest in? What should we buy… and where should we be buying it?

THREADDETECTIVES - Style - 2016 July - How to Build a Designer Wardrobe on a Budget with ebay

I’ve shared my three favorite thrift shops in Los Angeles. I’m also a huge fan of lady swaps. What else have I got in my wardrobe-building bag of tricks?


“eBay…” you might be wondering. “I think my grandparents sold some stamps on that. Wasn’t that some tech company from the 2000s?” Probably, and you are correct. Yet eBay still exists.

With 162 million active users, eBay is a thriving marketplace for many things… fashion being one of them. Browse people’s pre-loved pieces — while a lot of it is trash, beneath the surface, treasure lurks. You just have to know what you are looking for. To help you navigate, I’ve put together…

ThreadDetectives’ Guide to Buying Well-Made, Expensive Clothing for a Cheap Price (on eBay)

  1. Know the brand – I have the best luck on eBay with the brands I’m familiar with. American Apparel, Village Tannery, and the occasional piece from LL Bean… yes, yes, and yes. When scoping out brands you’re not familiar with, seek out “the Nordstrom brands.” I’m making this up as we speak, but think lines by smaller, less well-known designers, and brands you might find at Nordstrom, Bergdorf’s, or a high-end mall. I tend to end up with pieces that originally retail in the $100-$500 range (but aren’t such marquee names–Chanel, Louis Vuitton, etc.–that they’ll be commonly copied), And I get them for between $5 and $40 each. If I don’t know the brand, but it’s affordable, looks good in the pictures, and is sold by a reputable seller, I might take a chance on it.
  2. Know the item some types of clothing are easier to buy on eBay than others. When buying a brand I’m not familiar with, I stick to things that, if they’re not perfectly sized, they’ll still look great. Jeans, no (unless you seriously know what you’re doing). Men’s button-down shirts and chiffon skirts? You should be okay.
  3. Know your sizes – there’s little rhyme or reason when it comes to female fashion sizing. If it’s a brand you’ve bought before, know how it fits you. When in doubt, go to the brand’s website and check out their size chart. THREAD DETECTIVES - American Apparel Womens Size Chart 
  4. Buy from a reputable seller – buy from people who have at least a few positive ratings. Read the description of the item, and look into people’s past ratings. If there are any red flags (with the item, or the seller), walk away.
  5. Steer clear of online-only, direct-from-Asia dealers yes, they’re on-trend, stylish, and affordable. And their sizing is way, way off. Unless you’re a small child, really, really petite, adventurous, have a bit of money to (potentially) waste, or really know what you’re doing, steer clear.

My Favorite Things I’ve Found on eBay

To date, eBay is responsible for…

  • my American Apparel chiffon skirts – I am obsessed
  • my Graham and Spencer sleeveless black dress THREAD DETECTIVES - Graham and Spencer - sleeveless black dress - How to Find Designer Clothes on Ebay
  • my Aldo nude peep toes – I had a certain pair in black. I wanted the exact same pair in tan, but they were discontinued. Hence, eBay
  • nearly every purse I own

Side note: if you’re looking to clean out your wardrobe and make a few extra dollars, eBay is a great way to do that. I’ll auction a few pieces, host a lady swap with the rest, and donate the in-good-condition leftovers to Goodwill, or to a local women’s shelter.

How about you, Thread Detectives? Does your eBay game put ours to shame? Tell us about it in the comments section below.



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