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My Kids Wear Used Clothes -- So What?

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Don't judge me -- you can get some really good finds!

woman in thrift store

Guest blogger Sarah: Our eyes met over a rack of size 7 jeans. "Oh!" the other mom whispered, looking around. "I think we're in the same boat. I do NOT want to buy my daughter another new pair of jeans this winter." 

I smiled, shrugged, and kept shopping. Twenty minutes later, I met her at the checkout. My hands were full of brightly colored summer dresses, shorts and capris for the warmer weather; she was discreetly paying for her daughter's jeans.

"I see that you, uh, found some stuff!" she said brightly, now clearly looking my children up and down. I'd been pegged as the Mom Who Buys Her Kids Used Clothing. I knew exactly what was coming next.

"What size is your daughter?" she asked, obviously wondering if her daughter's hand-me-downs would fit my kids. It was a kind gesture, but I don't need a handout (though I would have gladly taken one). My kids are well-clothed; their outfits just happen to be pre-worn.

My kids go to school wearing mostly name-brand clothes -- from Gap, Gymboree, Osh Kosh, Carter's and The Children's Place -- but I never actually visit those stores. Instead, I've found a consignment shop in town that sells good-quality, clean, name-brand kids' clothing for a fraction of the original price.

I can't figure out why people look down on resale shopping. Both of my daughters have six or seven beautiful new outfits for summer, and thanks to a frequent shopper's card, I didn't even flinch when the shopkeeper gave me the total. I saw one of my daughter's Easter dresses in a catalog for $55. I paid $8. I draw the line at socks and undies, but I'm happy to buy pajamas there, too, as long as they're in like-new condition.

Buying on consignment helps out other moms: They get 40 percent of my sale. It keeps more money in our household budget, and reusing someone else's clothing is better for the environment.

Here are some tips for getting the most for your money at a resale or consignment shop:

• Scout out a store that suits your style. I don't like to hunt for treasures, so I prefer consignment shops (where they're more likely to take only good-quality items) over thrift stores. If you like to shop, however, there are a lot of hidden gems to be found. Try out a few stores and figure out what works for you.
• Try things on. Most stores have a no-returns policy.
• Take a closer look before you buy. Check for stains, wear or holes before committing to buy.
• Watch for sales. Just like retail stores, resale shops have to clear their inventories out at the end of every season. When my daughter's winter coat finally bit the dust, I bought a replacement for just $4.
• Ask a lot of questions. I learned that my consignment shop takes in most of its new product on Saturdays, so we always shop on Mondays. A few months ago, I scored a big pile of Justice shirts for my older daughter that way.
• Get credit. When your kids outgrow their clothes, take them to your favorite consignment shop. Our store credit (from clothing and toys) will make our fall school-shopping much easier.
• Use resale to supplement your child's wardrobe. My kids are still little. I know that once trends become important, we'll start buying more of our clothing at the mall. But a signature piece from a favorite store can easily be paired with a pair of jeans or a skirt from a resale shop.
• When buying used toys and baby gear, be sure to check the manufacturer's website for safety and recall information.

What about you? Do you think buying used clothing is socially acceptable?

next: Casey Anthony's Letters: 'I Was a Great Mom!'
26 comments so far | Post a comment now
Melissa April 6, 2010, 3:11 AM

I do buy at a 2nd hand baby/children’s store, because things are in good condition and cheap enough… but I’ll also buy at old navy/children’s place because the difference in cost is not that much when you buy on sale.

Anonymous April 6, 2010, 6:03 AM

I have a 3 year old and a baby. Neither of them care where their clothes come from, and for those ages, you can sometimes even find clothes with the orginal tags still on. For my 12 year old daughter, jeans never go out of style. The only problem with her is finding the right size since she hit her growth spurt.

SW April 6, 2010, 6:21 AM

I’ve gone to Goodwill to find clothes for my 3 year old son. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it at all!
You never know what you might find!

Cory April 6, 2010, 8:12 AM

My wife an I opened a new consignment shop in our area for these very reasons. In a touch expensive market consignment allows you to ge tthe good stuff at a fraction of the price. It also yields a way better return than a garage sale. Not to mention the time and effort you put into it. check us out in Minnesota just norht of the twin cities off of 94w in Rogers.

Gennyfer April 6, 2010, 9:09 AM

It takes 1800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a pair of jeans. Buying used clothing is one of the best ways an individual can help the environment.

Jaime April 6, 2010, 9:12 AM

I love hand-me downs and 2nd hand clothes! I’ve even rec’d some really nice name brand clothes as hand-me downs and they were only worn prob once but things like polo, baby phat, gymboree, nevada just to name a few! Would rather spend or save my money for my daughter if i can! great article!!

Anonymous April 6, 2010, 10:25 AM

love shopping on ebay for my kids clothes.i can get new stuff from baby gap for half the price and excellent condition used stuff for way cheaper.

Darrin April 6, 2010, 10:46 AM

I buy used clothes too. Why pay $25 for each t-shirt when you can pay $2.00. My friend does it too…even gets compliments on how well dressed he is :)

Carolyn April 6, 2010, 12:13 PM

The way kids outgrow clothes it just doesn’t make any sense to spend a lot of money on new things. I would much rather spend my money on our home or on a family trip.

Rita April 6, 2010, 1:47 PM

Maybe I’m a clothes snob, but I really don’t like buying used clothes for my kids. You can get the same bargains at Wal-Mart and Target and they’re new clothes. Both WM and Target have tables you can find cute shirts and shorts for $3-7. WM’s Garanimals collection is sooo cute and the clothes always seem to last for a really long time. Also, JC Penney always has really great sales all the time, the kids clothes may start at a high price BUT with the sales Penney’s always has, you can get their seasonal clothes for 15-75% off, plus whatever they take off at the register. Heck, I just bought my Easter dress there and it was more then 1/2 off, it was almost free! And if you register your debit/credit card with them at their website, you are enrolled in the JCP Rewards program and everytime you use your card there, even if its the tiniest amount, you get awesome rewards. Last year right after prom season, they still had $100-200 prom dresses for $6.00. Yes. 6 dollars. I almost bought the whole lot (wasn’t that many lol) to sell on eBay but thought better of it!

You can still find new, inexpensive clothes if you look around!

Fweetieb April 6, 2010, 2:08 PM

I loved this article. I’m a proud resale shopper. For me, its not realistic to spend full price at BabyGap/Gymboree when you can get something beautiful, worn for a month or two, for 80% of the Gap price. (Especially for very young children.) However, I thank those parents and grandparents who spend full price, because my family benefits from it!
And it’s a perk that resale helps the environment - Like Jack Johnson says…the Three “Rs” - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. My kids love that song and we try to live it, too.

Christina April 6, 2010, 8:50 PM

I do not understand “clothes snobs”. Once your kid has worn something, technically, it’s “used”. Soap and water. If it’s good enough to clean your kid’s “new” and “unused” clothes, it’s good enough for resale items. There is a fabulous thrift store near us, and this winter I bought a hefty bag full of Hannah Andersen and other high end name brand items that may or may not have ever been worn on a 1/2 price tag sale day for $20. As a mother of twin boys, I was feeling quite smug as I washed my acquisitions.

tehkoneps April 6, 2010, 9:28 PM

I’m a single mother of a 3 yr. old boy and he grows out of clothes so fast.I’m very thankful of consignment/thirft stores.

PlumbLucky April 7, 2010, 6:06 AM

Around here, there is a consignment store called Plato’s Closet that might work (if you can find something similar where you are) for teens. They sell some pretty trendy, name brand clothing.

Nothing wrong with second-hand.

Sonia April 7, 2010, 10:19 AM

I buy second hand for my kids as well. i see no shame in it and i get praised on how cute the 1yr old is dressed. He’s at daycare all day.. getting dirty, why spend $$ on new and expensive clothing. And when i buy new clothes for them or myself it’s usually at TJmaxx, another inexpensive way to buy namebrands

Consignment Sale Queen April 7, 2010, 12:10 PM

I LOVE second hand shopping!! We don’t spend ANY money on my kid’s clothes. I use consignment sales to sell last year’s clothes and buy this year’s clothes (A Lot like you use store credits). Most years I end up with a whole new wardrobe for my kids (Since they are still growing) AND an extra $200+ to put in my pocket!! I’ve started sharing my 16+ years of experience at

Kris April 7, 2010, 12:37 PM

I haven’t been to a consignment store but I have three boys 6, 3, and 7 months and they get the older brother hand me downs and my sister’s older boys hand me downs and so fourth if it fits and I don’t have to pay an arm and a leg I love it.With the economy like it is I can’t afford to be picky.

Hannah April 7, 2010, 1:33 PM

The way i look at it if im not to good for second hand clothes neither are the kids. Most of the clothes i own i bought from a second hand store. Second hand stores have really great clothes it’s not like their all hideous and stained. Whatever i buy i look through before hand for stains holes or fades. I’ve had numerous positive comments on my clothes and been asked where i buy them. It’s not as if me paying $1 for a shirt is saying “i don’t love you” in fact i can get them more than double the amount of clothes than i would in a regular store. I think second hand is awesome and other than underpants bras socks and shoes i buy all apparel from there. No one ive ever given the clothes to has even been able to tell that its second hand. They assume its new and i tell them (because i dont want to be sneaky) where i got it from. I’m happy with my clothes and the money i save. Second hand is the way to go.

James April 8, 2010, 7:52 AM

I think used kids clothing is such a responsible way to manage the fact that kids grow so darn fast - and they’re expensive. You all might be interested in what we’re doing over at thredUP - “where America’s busiest families exchange kids clothing online”. Launching soon.

Karen April 9, 2010, 11:29 AM

You might be interested in thredUP - a new place to swap kids clothing online! Exchange clothes that your kids have outgrown for great items that fit - all online, from the comfort of home. We’re launching invite-only next week ;-) if you’d like to share en exclusive invite code w/ your readers…

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