I conquered any hesitancy about wearing pre-owned clothing years ago Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

My fondness for pre-owned fashion goes back decades. Apparently, in picking through musty piles in search of dresses spun from angel wings, I’ve been doing my part to save the planet.

America’s second-hand apparel market is expected to grow.

Last Christmas season, I got to thinking. Could I actually do some of my Christmas shopping on a resale site, like I might cruise the Mall at Short Hills? And if I were to buy for other people, would it matter to them that the clothing had been worn by others?

It’s not a huge, huge concern. But it’s not anything either. Where do these clothes come from? It’s not like that’s on the label. Is it as simple as “in with the new and out with the old?” Perhaps weight gain or loss? Migrating fashion tastes? Did the former owners move on to the great consignment shop in the sky?

I needed a test subject to shop for. Someone who appreciated well-made clothes. Someone who might or might not feel squeamish about donning a shirt someone else had sweated into. Or worse.

More in Off the Cuff

That would be my unwitting husband.

Clothing is somehow different from purses and jewellery. It’s more intimate and grows older less gracefully. Unless they’re deeply soiled or badly damaged, well-made leather and precious metal goods can actually improve over time. Try to think about “aged leather” or “burnished gold” without smiling.

I conquered any hesitancy about wearing pre-owned clothing years ago. My most memorable purchase was a tan suede frock coat with decorative embroidery, trimmed with long Mongolian lamb fur along the cuffs, front opening and bottom hem. I found it somewhere in France while on a Dartmouth semester abroad. I remember having to part the fur in my palm whenever I put out my hand to accept change. I never ran into anyone dressed remotely like me.

Rummaging through racks

So when I first heard of online consignment stores in early 2015, I was ready. While shopping online lacked the charm of rummaging through racks in overseas villages, it was much more efficient. I found the vintage black lambskin Chanel evening purse of my dreams in 2015, and its mate in white with a swinging gold chain a few months later. With some patience, I secured a black lambskin Chanel for the day, with gently twinkling rhodium-coloured chains and then a patent leather Chanel with mixed metal hardware. The latter two are just large enough to hold a pair of heels in a pinch.

I’ve gifted my daughters resale-site vintage purses and skinny gold necklaces with teeny gemstones that were pretty and unique. But I’d never gotten anything second-hand for my husband.

I decided on a suit. I know my husband’s measurements. I searched by those specifics, by price — under $400 — and landed on some Paul Smith options. With an offer for 20% off, I selected a blue wool-and-mohair suit for $225, or $180 after the discount. Condition: Very Good. I checked the Paul Smith site. New Paul Smith suits clocked in at $1,560 for starters. So far, so good.

No carbon foot-print

RealReal, online marketplace for authenticated luxury consignments, tells me that the suit saved 241 litres of water and 43.49 driving miles.

I added a Hermes Silk Abstract print tie with an estimated retail value of $195. It was listed at $75 but cost $60 after the 20% off. Its condition was described as pristine, with no obvious signs of wear.

Within a week, my packages arrived.

Both items were as advertised, in look and feel. The suit was handsome. The jacket could be worn right out of the box; the trousers needed a pressing. The tie was flawless.

The trousers are a bit snug. Luckily we have an excellent tailor one town over. He’ll work his magic.

Sadly I am on my own when it comes to the forward lunge

Karen Toulon is a columnist

Washington Post