Secondhand Clothes from a Personal Stylist: I Tried ThredUP’s ‘Goody Box’ Service

Whether or not you enjoy shopping for clothes, sometimes a little assistance for time-saving or style-shifting purposes can be helpful. Until recently, companies that specialize in new apparel such as Stitch Fix and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club have cornered the online personal shopper market. The basic process works like this: You create a profile detailing your budget, style, and fit needs, and a stylist sends you a box full of clothing, accessories, and shoes for a fee. You choose the items you want to keep and send everything else back within a designated timeframe.

I’ve been intrigued by the concept, but as someone who keeps her wardrobe to a minimum, likes to host clothing swaps, and generally shops resale stores wherever possible to cut back on supporting the throw-away, fast-fashion industry, I’ve been hesitant to try such subscription crate services.

Enter ThredUP’s new customized “Goody Boxes,” and an excited me.

ThredUP’s Goody Box: New-to-me, just-for-me

ThredUP, the largest online thrift store, has been in the secondhand business for almost a decade. The company used to deal only in one-to-one buying and selling, but recently debuted its online customized curation program: the Goody Box. Instead of a getting a crate full of new clothes chosen by a personal stylist, you receive an array of custom-picked secondhand fashions.

The process will sound familiar. After setting up a profile, you have the opportunity to include additional notes to your stylist; I asked for no leather or fur, and wrote that I tend to wear a lot of black and would appreciate some bright color options. You can also share more details about your style by favoriting items currently available on the site, or by linking to a personal Pinterest board.

Right now, the fee for the service is $10, but it’s technically a non-refundable deposit: You receive $10 in credit toward whatever items you decide to keep. Once a box arrives at your doorstep, you have seven days to try everything on and return what you don’t want. ThredUP includes an itemized sheet that lists each piece and its price, along with a free USPS return label. They’ll also send you multiple reminder emails about the return deadline, so you don’t accidentally get stuck with everything if you don’t want to add all of it to your wardrobe.

I ordered my first box last month, and a second box immediately after receiving my first, and here’s what I found.

You can get high-quality secondhand goods online.

My biggest worry about buying secondhand items online concerns quality. As a resale shopper, I’m used to rigorously checking every inch of each item I want to buy, and I still sometimes bring home pieces that are more used than I first expected.

And if I’m honest, while the ThredUP site is clean and user-friendly when it comes to filtering for sizes, colors, price, and the like, the photos of the clothing aren’t the most appealing. The clothing is secondhand… and it shows. It’s often floppy, wrinkled, and doesn’t quite fit the display mannequins. You only get two photos of each item, typically front and back, and the descriptions are fairly minimal.

However, all the clothing I received in my two Goody Boxes was in good shape — no tears, holes, stains, weird markings, or otherwise heavy use. A few items I received were brand new with the original tags still in place. I’ve also watched a handful of Goody Box unboxings online, and while some people had concerns with sizing and style, only one person complained about a quality issue. It’s given me more confidence in purchasing one-off resale items, at least from ThredUP.

I loved the element of surprise.

I don’t typically like a lot of surprises, but the possibility of finding something completely unexpected and perfect for me is one of the reasons I love resale shopping. Others may find digging through disorganized racks at their local Goodwill, Arc, or consignment shop tedious (like my husband), but the hunt has always been part of the appeal for me.

I was giddy when my Goody Box arrived, and I dove in with a treasure-hunting attitude. You can choose a theme for your box, such as “9 to 5 Styles,” “Take Me Out Outfits,” or “Tropical Getaway,” if you’d like a little more control, but you can also pick the “Just for You” custom mix and let your stylist go wild (or classic, or boho, or whatever you ask of them). As thredUP co-founder and CEO James Reinhart admits in a letter sent with my first box, “We know we won’t get it all right all the time,” but their mission is to “inspire a new generation of consumers to think secondhand first.”

When it came to my boxes, Reinhart’s quote hit it on the button. I did receive some of the brightly colored items I requested, but I also received two leather purses, a leather skirt, and a petite-size dress for my 5-foot 7-inch body. They went straight back into the box, and when they asked why I was returning these items, I made sure to let them know. (It is worth noting that a few weeks after giving this feedback to thredUP, the company sent me a “Second Chance” email. It explained that they had noticed I didn’t love many items in my box, and if I was willing, wanted to give me a deposit-free opportunity to try another. I get that they want to sell more product, but I did appreciate that someone noticed — and, of course, I said yes.)

The cost is low.

While ThredUP does charge that non-refundable, $10 upfront fee for its Goody Box service, you do get the 10 bucks back as a discount if you keep and spend at least that much on an item.

In the box, you get about 15 items in minimal packaging — each priced to fit the “ budget per item” cost you choose when you sign up. I selected the lowest possible, $20-$40, which seemed high to me, until I realized it’s really just a guide. About half of the designer label clothing and accessories I received came in around $12 an item. I felt like most of the prices were comparable to those I typically find at a locally owned boutique consignment shop I frequent.

A big cardboard box, cheery polka dot tissue paper, and some bubble wrap is the extent of what you’ll find around your nicely folded items — all of which you can reuse when packing up for returns. Shipping is free, as are returns, which are processed through the U.S. Postal Service. You’re not required to commit to a subscription plan, so you can order as many or as few times as you like, on your timeline.

Compared to Stitch Fix, which charges a creditable $20 stylist fee for items that average $55 apiece, or Trunk Club, which sends items in the $100-to-$300 range and charges a $25 creditable stylist fee, ThredUP’s Goody Boxes are a consignment-shop caliber bargain.

The impact is potentially high.

No, I don’t anticipate that a Goody Box will change your life. The impact I’m referring to here is the environmental one — which, of course, you can contribute to simply by buying secondhand locally or online. The Goody Boxes just offer another way to access the resale market and make an impact on the world around you.

“Fashion is the second-most polluting industry in the world surpassed only by petroleum,” wrote Emily Farra in Vogue last fall. “Basically, when you buy something old and previously-loved, you’re extending its lifespan and reducing its carbon footprint. Picking up brand-new clothes all the time (and disposing of them just as quickly) drives demand for nonstop manufacturing, which contributes to the fashion industry’s incredible waste.”

Cheers for more options.

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Kirsten Akens

Contributor for The Simple Dollar

Kirsten Akens is an award-winning journalist and editor based in Colorado Springs, Colo. In addition to her work for the The Simple Dollar, her bylines can be found in a variety of online and print publications, including O – the Oprah Magazine, People, and Lifehacker.