Thrifting for Designers

As far back as I can remember I have been in love with fashion.  It seemed second nature to follow the latest designers, the hottest styles and seasonal trends but following and owning are two different things.  On a shoe-string budget how do you put Designers in your closet?  The thrifty way.

You've probably seen my personal blog posts about thrifting and the deals that I have brought home but thrifting for Designers and Premier Designers can become a costly adventure if you're not sure what to look for.  Since you're buying pre-owned, keep in mind the pieces you come across are probably not going to have a smoking gun of authenticity, arm yourself with these tips.

First, Some Rules: 
#1 - Ask questions before you buy.
Can you return it, if it's a fake?

"Protect yourself before you purchase someone else."
#2 - How are you going to Authenticate the item?
Do you have a Louis Vuitton or Gucci boutique near buy?
#3 - Go with your gut.  
If your gut says fake, it's probably a fake.
#4 - Which designers are you interested in?  
Educate yourself on how they distinguish their authenticity from the Black Market.
#5 - Don't buy it just because it has an expensive Designer label.
It must fit or realistically be able to be altered, to fit properly.
If you do not have experience with clothing being altered, 
consult an alteration shop and inquire about fees prior to thrifting.  
These are additional costs you will need to factor into the overall ownership of the item.
#6 - It must be within your budget.  
You're butt isn't a billboard.  
You're not being paid to wear a Designer's item so don't break to bank to call it your own.  
Be patient and other items from that Designer will come around.
#7 - Are you protected for that online purchase?
Purchasing on eBay? Make sure you pay with PayPal.
It is against eBay's selling policies to list counterfeit merchandise, so if you make a purchase and it turns out to be a fake, PayPal will reimburse you.
Purchasing on Craigslist? It's buyer beware. 
#8 - Have fun!  
You're not going to hit pay-dirt every time but when you do - 
it's like hitting the Designer lottery!

Accessories have a higher rate of resale, meaning people are more accepting of purchasing a pre-owned handbag.  Here are some tips that I use when second-hand shopping for Designer and Premier Designer goods: 

Accessories: Handbags.
Louis and leather:  The fastest way to tell if a Louis Vuitton is fake is to look at the handles.  Are they plastic and perfectly new or deep brown with a rich patina?  Louis Vuitton trims their bags in vachetta leather.  Untreated, this leather will start to darken quickly, especially at the handles due to the oils on your skin.  Vachetta leather is also soft, so handles and shoulder straps will lay flat and not curl up and twist like plastic or vinyl.

The zipper pulls should be marked LV. The linings have changed over time and with different collections but you should be more concerned with the serial number. It should be embossed on a tab of leather sewn into the bag.  Bonus if the dust bag is included.

Look for a similar tab in your Burberry, it should be embossed with 'Made in Italy' on one side an the serial number of your bag on the other. Make sure the Equestrian Knight Logo features a "B" on the shield and "Prorsum" on the banner the knights carries.

Burberry Nova Check (the correct term for the 'plaid') is always symmetrical, this means that the pattern will always line up. The check has ONLY three thick faint navy stripes crosshatching each other. In between the stripes, there is a white filling that is also faint. Also, the red thinner stripes cross exactly in the middle of the blue check.

The whole handbag is symmetrical.  If you hold a piece straight up and down and the plaid is vertical, it is a fake.  The best way to point out a Burberry Font is the rat-tails on the R's. The font will look like this always, even on the buttons of a Burberry shirt, or pant.

Prada comes with a plastic credit card sized authenticity card.  If that's missing, look for the Prada plaque to be attached with rivets not glued in to place.  And really look at the Prada name on the emblem; If the right leg on the "R" in Prada is straight its fake, if it curves in, its real. All hardware should also feature Prada engraved into the metal.

Your Gucci bags will have the same characteristics as your Louis bags - Look for the engraved hardware and real leather trim.  The serial number is generally sewn in under the pocket.  The dust bag will most likely be either dark brown and very soft or with a satin/silk feel and say 'Gucci' in gold, directly in the middle of the bag.  When originally purchased, Gucci bags come with authenticity or 'Controllato' cards as well as  'La Storia';  A booklet telling the story of Gucci. 

Fendi bags fall in line with the above Designers.  High quality bags are made with high quality materials and should look expensive.  No loose threads, all seams are straight , leather trimmings not vinyl, dust bags for protection, centered logos and engraved hardware not stamped metal.

Owning a coveted Chanel bag is every fashionCHICsta's dream!  Prior to the late 1990s, the serial number was printed on a white sticker with the Chanel logo printed in gold across the background. From the late 1990s to the present, the serial number has been printed on a white sticker beneath 2 gold Chanel logos. The serial number is most often located inside the bag at the lower left corner or on the zipper pocket. The sticker should be covered with a rectangle of clear tape large enough to cover then entire sticker.

Examine both the serial number on the authenticity card and the serial number on the bag. They must match. Track any repeating pattern on the bag. The logos and quilting must line up. If there is a pocket sewn to the front of a quilted bag, the quilted pattern does not break or deviate on the bag. The pattern aligns from the top to the bottom of the bag as if there was no pocket at all. 

A great portion of my total wardrobe is from thrifting.  I for one, have no issue buying pre-owned clothing.  I usually choose high quality pieces and take them straight to the dry cleaner or launder at home.  Handbags usually come with something else to prove their authenticity, such as a dust bag or ID card but clothing is a whole different thirifting beast.

Trust your gut when buying designer clothing pieces.  Unlike a purse, when you find something special, it might not be your size.  Before you get overwhelmed with the deal of the century, take a deep breath and ask yourself some questions: Can it be altered? See #5 in The Rules above.  Will you really wear it? Really? Is it your style? Is it seasonally appropriate?  And above all, ask: "Nobody sees the label and realizes this is made by (insert Designer).  Do I still want it?"  That should help you decide if you want that piece because it works, or any piece because it's 'Designer'.  

When I made the purchase of the YSL skirt I wasn't taking a huge financial gamble, the skirt was only $18.00, but I still did my due diligence in inspecting the garment for clues to it's authenticity. 

The label is sewn, not glued, onto the garment.  It is also in the exact center of the skirt, from left to right, top to bottom.

I looked closely at all of the seams inside this skirt by turning it inside out once I was in the fitting room.  All the threads were tight and straight. The hanger loops were sewn in tight underneath the high-waist seam, not stitched in on top.

The side zipper was cleanly and completely sewn into the skirt and all edges were concealed. Also, the zipper itself glides smoothly without hangups.

The button hole is cut clean and uniformly stitched open.  The rectangle hook and eye closure is engraved with YSL and is perfectly centered to the button hole and is also uniformly stitched into place.

The rear seam, perfectly centered is still stitched shut, leading me to believe that this skirt has never actually been worn. And you can see in the lower left, the tight clean edge between the lining and the floral exterior material. If this $18 pencil skirt is the real deal, it would retail for $600.00 - $800.00.

Any tips that you would like to add or questions that I can answer?

source / images: studio_shoes,, denimblog.


  1. Girl this is amazing information! Budget fashionistas rule, wooohooo!


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