Buying children’s clothes is a lesson of living in the moment. Today these brand-new $50 Egg pants fit my son, and tomorrow they won’t. Last year my son received a hand-knit Aztec sweater vest that he was only able to squeeze into once before it needed to be retired. I’ve stopped buying Stella McCartney Kids and learned to be okay with Gap. I stock up on larger sizes and just roll the cuffs or tuck in the tails.
One man was not as satisfied with the buy and purge cycle of the children’s clothing industry. After the birth of his first child, James Reinhart had the brilliant idea to start ThredUP, an online consignment store based in San Francisco. According to the website, “By age 17 a child has outgrown over 1,300 articles of clothing and their parents have spent upwards of $14,000 replacing clothes.” ThredUP makes it easy to re-sell your old clothes for profit, and buy like-new secondhand duds for a fraction of the retail price.
Brooklyn is no stranger to kid’s consignment stores. I’m already a fan of Lulu’s Then & Now (75A 5th Avenue, Park Slope). Last year I bought my son a black H & M puffer coat there for around $20. But I’ve found that the selection skews young, with tons of newborn and infant onesies, and less stock for older kids. So, I was open to trying out ThredUP, especially now that my son has successfully grown out of most of his pants.
The customer’s experience starts when ThredUP sends a “Clean Out Bag” for your closet. You fill it up and send it in and they will pay 80% of the selling price of anything they take and then donate or send back (for a fee) the rest. Since I already recycle our old clothes to a family friend, I omitted this step and went directly to shopping.
ThredUP claims to be the largest online consignment store with a quarter-million items up on the website each day, ranging across girls, boys, juniors, women’s, plus-size and maternity. Although that may be true, it took me quite a few days to find any size 5 boys trousers that I liked. There were tons of Gymboree chinos, and Gap wide-legged denim, and much less modern styles. Additionally, although I could sort by size, I was unable to see which (if any) had adjustable waistbands. After about a week of browsing, I located two pairs of Crewcut pants: one corduroy with horse embroidery ($15.99), and one skinny sweats ($16.99) with a tiny flaw. Feeling good about the prices, I hit the Checkout button. Although there is always free shipping at ThredUP, a confusing pop-up box offered me expedited shipping or membership fees. I swiftly navigated past the screen, but I can see how that has the potential to add hidden costs to the order.
A week later, my polka-dotted box arrived. The sweatpants were missing the back button, but this was hardly noticeable. But the corduroys were extremely blousy and looked straight out of the 80s, making my husband joke that I should not be allowed to buy kids’ clothing anymore without consulting him. It seems like it would be easy to do an exchange, but I will probably end up keeping them–in another few months my son will grow out of them anyways. In the meantime, he’ll be conjuring The Preppy Handbook with his vintage treasure. I don’t think I’ll become a regular on the site, but it’s worth browsing–your child’s size could yield a lot more options.