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Published August 15, 2023
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5 Back-to-School Clothing Items You Should Never Buy New

There are more ways than ever to build your child's wardrobe affordably and sustainably.

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The expectation that children should get new clothing each fall isn’t reasonable for a lot of parents. Between stagnant wages and high costs — not to mention young children outgrowing clothing in a matter of months — buying new just doesn’t make a lot of financial sense. But second-hand shopping, which can yield clothing that’s as good as new, can be a great solution to the problem.

Fortunately, thrifting may not be the hard sell it was for budget-minded parents of the past. Young people have become increasingly conscious of the fashion industry’s massive carbon footprint. There’s been a noticeable shift in focus from fast fashion and buying new to sustainable, slow fashion. By 2027, “the global secondhand apparel market is expected to grow 3x faster on average than the global apparel market overall,” according to a 2023 report from fashion resale site thredUP[1].

Whether you’re shopping second-hand to save money or the environment (or both), here’s what you should be looking for and where to find it:

The best items to buy second-hand

1. Denim

Denim is one of the most popular items to buy second-hand because it’s a wardrobe staple that can be dressed up or down. Pre-worn denim, in particular, is desirable because it’s often softer and more flexible than brand new. Plus, if it was going to shrink in the wash, it would’ve done so already, so if it fits perfectly in the store, you’re likely good to go. 

2. Jackets and outerwear

Another great item to purchase second-hand is outwear. A lot of outerwear products, such as wool coats or leather jackets, are made to last, so they’ll likely have a long life ahead of them, even if pre-worn. Don’t be afraid to stock up on multiple pieces, either, if you find prices within your budget. Since Canada experiences so many temperature changes, it’s common to need different types of coats or jackets throughout the school year.

3. Sports equipment

Sports gear is pricey, especially if your child plays multiple sports or you have multiple athletes in the family. So it makes sense to look at getting some items used. By going to a used sports gear store like Play it Again Sports, you’re likely to get a good selection, and you can trust that each item has been inspected and is in good condition. That being said, experts do advise you to avoid thrifting some sports gear. A used mouthguard, for instance, could contain harmful pathogens. A used helmet may have had a hard impact already and therefore, won’t be as protective when it comes time for your child to use it.

4. Bags and accessories

An easy way to upgrade an outfit is by using accessories. Purses, backpacks, belts, sunglasses, hats and jewelry can all be found second-hand. Sometimes you can even find designer names for a fraction of the cost.

5. Formal wear

Finally, consider shopping second-hand for formal wear. Suits and gowns can get expensive, and kids rarely wear them more than once. Just think of prom; how many people actually get more than one wear from their prom dress? That’s why you can often find gently used formal wear at an amazing price.

Where to buy second-hand items

When it comes to second-hand shopping, most people immediately think of thrift shops. While some individuals love going from store to store and scanning through the racks to see what they can find, not everyone has that same level of patience — especially if they have young kids in tow. 

If you don’t want to treasure hunt in different thrift stores, try these options instead:

Facebook Marketplace

Facebook Marketplace is the e-commerce arm of Facebook. While it does require users to have a Facebook account, it’s free to use, and you’re able to shop both locally and country-wide. People sell pretty much everything on the platform, from used clothing to household items and electronics, making it a great place to look for deals.


The website eBay has been around since the 90s and is consequently one of the most recognized platforms for buying and selling items. It can be a great place to find designer or vintage items, like accessories. And while purchasing second-hand items online is not always 100% safe, eBay prides itself on security, even offering money-back guarantees to buyers.


One of the most popular second-hand online shops in Canada is Poshmark. The platform is home to a variety of items; however, it’s best known for clothes. It’s a great place to find name-brand items for a fraction of the price. You can even find a lot of clothing that has never been worn, which are labelled as NWT or “new with tags.” 


The resale site thredUP is another great place to find deals on clothing and accessories. There are separate departments on the platform for kids and juniors, so you can shop based on the age of your children. You can also shop by popular brands like Carter’s, Zara, Nike, Faded Glory and The North Face.

Buy Nothing and swap groups

Lastly, consider swap groups. You may be able to find some in your local area (try for starters) or you can even create your own. Get together with a group of friends and trade clothing and accessories. If you have some items you are looking to get rid of, offer them first to friends and ask that they do the same for you.

Article Sources

Works Cited
  1. thredUP, “thredUP Resale Report 2023,” accessed August 14, 2023.


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