how to put together an affordable professional wardrobe

And now a break to talk about a sponsor…

We talk a lot here about assembling a professional wardrobe, and how to do it in an affordable way … so you really, really need to know about thredUP.

ThredUP boxthredUP is a huge online store that buys and sells high-quality secondhand fashion for women and kids. You can shop on-trend, like-new fashion from top name brands and designers for up to 90% off.

That’s not a typo; it’s seriously 90% off, which is a massive savings.

You can search by your favorite brands (like Anthropologie, Ann Taylor, J.Crew, Gap, Banana Republic, DKNY, Cole Haan, Theory, Eileen Fisher, and more) and filter by size, color, price, and style to easily find what you’re looking for, all from the comfort of your couch. And they add thousands of items every day.

If you’re a little hesitant about consignment shopping, know that thredUP triple-inspects each item by hand to ensure all clothes are like new. Many are even brand new with the tags still on.

In my most recent order, I spent $154 and got an Armani Exchange dress, an Ann Taylor cardigan, three tops (including a Joie blouse), and a pair of Cole Haan shoes – and saved $464.06 off regular prices. That is ridiculous.

They also have a feature that I adore that helps you clean out your closet: They’ll send you a free Clean Out Kit (basically an enormous bag with return shipping postage) that you can fill with clothes, shoes, and handbags that you no longer want. You put it at your front door for pick-up, and then they pay you for your clothes. You can check their website beforehand to see what they do/don’t take and what your pay-out will be (or you can ask them to donate anything they don’t want to buy from you). I have cleaned out my closet this way several times and I highly recommend it.

thredUP is an amazing resource for assembling an affordable work wardrobe. And they’re offering Ask a Manager readers a special discount: The first 100 people to use the code MANAGER40 will get an extra 40% off your first order! (This applies to new customers only, and will give you a discount up to $50.) Go here to shop now!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by thredUP. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. AshK434

    Thank you for bringing this site to my attention. I can refresh my wardrobe now without breaking the bank!

  2. TotesMaGoats

    I saw this on FB and started looking at it. It seems pretty awesome. I haven’t shopped it yet but since they carry my favorite brands and petite, it’s added to my list.

  3. Manic Pixie HR Girl

    I love the idea of the clean out bag. I do a clean out at least once a year and the bags often sit in my living room for a month, and then in my trunk for another two.

    Can’t wait to check this site out!

  4. Bekx

    I love love loveeeee ThredUp. I’ve gotten some really great things. I like to filter by brands that I know my size in and then sort by lowest price. Some of the sweaters and dresses I’ve been wearing lately I only paid like $1.99 – 10.99 for.

    You do want to inspect their photos of the clothing. A few times I bought something that had a pattern on it that I didn’t realize, but usually zooming in on the photo will reveal it (i.e., gray lines on a black dress). Some items are final sale and cannot be returned, but most items can be returned.

    I’d definitely recommend getting the app. A lot of the coupons are sent via push notifications and not by email. You also only have 24 hours to keep the items you like in your cart, but if you remove them and then readd them using the “recently removed” function, you should be okay.

    It’s also great for more obscure things. Like, for a costume I needed leather shorts and couldn’t find anything good on Amazon that was less than 40 bucks. I looked it up in ThredUp and they had the perfect pair for $10.

    Everything I have gotten has been washed and very good quality. Make sure you read the description to see if there is a stain or pilling or what have you. I’ve really enjoyed my experience with them.

    1. Marisol

      That pattern problem shows up for me in all my online shopping. It can distort the color of a garment in a small pic–for example a red-and-white stripe dress looks pink in a thumbnail. Ya gotta zoom in.

  5. AMPG

    I haven’t used the site, myself (but will probably check it out, especially for shoes), but I’ve heard from others who’ve used it to sell that the payouts are really not worthwhile. If you want to make money off consigning your clothes, you’re better off using a local shop. If you don’t care about getting money and just want to get rid of clothes that are still in great condition, consider donating to Dress for Success.

    1. Tax Accountant

      +1 on the payouts. They are a tiny, tiny fraction of what you paid. Like $4 for those Cole Haan shoes. Or $1 for a Talbots shirt. If you just want to get rid of a ton of stuff and were going to take it to Goodwill and get $0, then sure, send it to ThredUp, but do not expect much of anything. That is how all this stuff is so cheap. It’s because they pay basically nothing for it.

      That said, I’ve bought a bunch of stuff from them and have been pleased with that experience. It’s best if you’re a consistent size in a particular brand. I’ve gotten a lot of really expensive workout clothes for a fraction of the original price. I’ve also gotten some fun trendy stuff that I would not want to pay full price for, but don’t want to buy at a place like forever 21. I like that you can return stuff for free for a store credit, but if you don’t buy enough for free shipping to you, I find their shipping charges can add up. I also love being able to sort by color. If I’m looking for a navy cardigan, for instance, I can easily find one. The discounts on their “designer” clothes are unreal.

      1. mskyle

        Yeah, I’ve only used the clean-out bag once but it was pretty terrible in terms of payout. Never worn Ugg boots didn’t get accepted, which surprised me! And then, weirdly, the few things they did accept from my bag ended up listed for more than I paid for the (at Marshalls/TJMaxx and/or on sale, but still weird). I’ll go local consignment or Goodwill in the future.

        I don’t really buy office clothes any more but I always used to have a couple of styles of Express and Banana Republic trousers that were reliable for me – that’s a good kind of thing to shop ThredUp for. I’ll have to check out the workout clothes situation!

      2. AnotherAlison

        But, Tax Accountant, wouldn’t the Goodwill deduction be worth more than what you would get from selling the clothes (if you itemize)? I don’t have designer clothes, and I keep them for 5+ years anyway, so it’s always Goodwill for me.

        On the buy side, I bought a purse there a few months ago. It wasn’t in as good of shape as I had expected. The handles and trim were cracked a little, which I don’t consider “like new” but it wasn’t enough for me to return it or complain.

    2. Sas

      This might be true. I haven’t done this with thred up. But, at many local consignment shops, it’s not much better. A fraction of what they’ll consider the item is worth is what you’ll get, no matter the style or quality. You’d get like 50 cents for a good shirt.

      1. AnotherAlison

        I had the same experience locally. I took some “like new” kids clothes in once. They ended up taking a handful of the items from a laundry basket of stuff, and I got like $3 total. Not really worth it. I had a lot better luck just doing garage sales, but I don’t live in a suburban development anymore.

      2. Rusty Shackelford

        Agreed – I’ve never had good luck with consignments. And for good reason – no one can sell my old clothes for a reasonable price if they’re also paying me a reasonable price for them.

    3. Leigh

      Check out Style Encore (women’s/includes plus and size 11+ shoes) and even Plato’s Closet (men’s clothes and women’s; sizing up to XL/shoes up to women’s 10) if you’re looking to sell locally, too. They’ve served me reasonably well on payouts, with the caveat that I never pay full retail to begin with.

      1. Paige Turner

        True. The last time that I went to Buffalo Exchange, I got a good price for an unworn pair of sandals, but I seriously also waited in line for over half an hour. Trade-offs…

    4. Kittymommy

      I think it’s good if you live in an area where there’s not a lot off good consignment shops or are particular. The ones on my town either skew way older or more teen market (American eagle, hollister, etc) so I’m not getting anything for my stuff anyway. It would be a little small if you have better resell on your town though.

    1. cookie monster

      Honestly, I’ve always had good luck with Ebay (I am a woman-but assume the same could be said for men’s clothes)

    2. Vin Packer

      Poshmark is a similar deal, and they recently included a men’s exchange.

      Poshmark works a little differently–more like half.com or eBay, with individual sellers that give details about the condition of items–but if you’re discerning about who you buy from it’s fabulous. (And Poshmark has a pretty great customer support system, unlike eBay.)

      1. Stylish Entrepreneur

        Agreed. I sell on Poshmark, and my biggest advice for buying is probably to pay a little more, and look for clear photos. The cheap items that were photographed poorly are the ones you’ll end up unhappy with.

      2. MillersSpring

        I’ve been using Poshmark successfully to sell my clothes for well over a year. It takes more work–photographing items, writing descriptions, packaging them to ship–but I have more control over the items I’m selling and the price.

        Lots of buyers try to haggle, so you can get some great deals. When one of my items sells, Poshmark emails me a PDF of the shipping label, which is USPS Priority Mail 2-day service. I have seven days to mail it, and the boxes are free from the post office.

        Every day Poshmark highlights several different brands and categories, during which you can promote your applicable items.

        Highly recommend Poshmark as an alternative.

      3. MillersSpring

        Agree about Poshmark. You get more control over what you can sell and the pricing, but it takes more time to photograph your items, describe them, and package up and ship the ones that sell. I’ve been using it successfully for over a year. Poshmark uses USPS Priority Mail, so you can use free boxes from the post office. They email you a PDF of the mailing label. Poshmark has categories for Men, Plus, Kids, and Make-Up.

        Thredup does sound easier!

  6. Arjay

    Alison, it speaks to the power of branding that I only ever picture you wearing black pants, a blazer, and a scarf in the winter. I’m a redhead too and I love those items you got! :)

  7. rawr

    I love the idea, but sizing is such a guessing game these days that I hesitate to buy anything from ThredUp that isn’t a duplicate of something I own already.

    1. Jesmlet

      That’s why I usually only go to brands I’m familiar with to be safe. I’ve bought from them a couple of times and have never had an issue. They also include some measurements you can use as a frame of reference.

      1. Paige Turner

        I’ve done well with brands where I already know the sizing really well, or items where exact sizing isn’t as important. So jeans can be tricky, but open cardigans, items with an elastic waist, etc. are safer bets.

    2. mskyle

      They have free returns, though – I generally buy a bunch of stuff, try it on, and return what doesn’t work.

      1. NotAnotherManager!

        My experience is that if you use a coupon code, you lose your returns and also that the returns are processed as store credit rather than refund-refund.

        That said, I’ve had good luck with a number of things for myself in brands that have known sizing. I’ve also been able to find replacements for a few pieces I had that got to worn to continue to participate in my work wardrobe. I generally like it.

    1. HR Specialist

      They definitely have some plus size – the selection is not as big, but there are still some good finds. I’m right in between size categories and have found it to be good to look through. Also, the regular size collection extends to XXL as well (in shirts and pants).

    2. Venus Supreme

      Plus-size lady here. They have a section for us! Hooray! I usually get some cute dresses and tops from ASOS Curve or Lane Bryant. If you know a brand that fits you really well, you can definitely search for it! What I also do is find a top that I like and know fits me, then see what that clothes-donor has also put on ThredUP (since there’s a good chance we both wear the same size!)

      1. JB

        Lane Bryant has some amazing clearance in store if you are willing to dig and visit often. A lot of my work wear is clearance finds from LB. I also look on ebay if I find something that works for me. I’m shaped in such a way that I have issues with things fitting in some place but not others, so if I find something that works, I to try and find it in multiple colors. I recently found a brand of jeans that fits really well and now I’m on the hunt for more pairs.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      They get a ton of stuff that’s retired from Gwynnie Bee, so there can be some good pieces there. But in general, it’s a bit depressing to see the awesome stuff that straight sizes have… and the much-less-inspiring plus size selection.

    4. Kaybee

      They have a plus size collection, but as others have said, it’s not as awesome as their straight size collection. Also, be super careful when it comes to real designer clothes – you might want to cross reference with the designer’s site. I’ve seen some designer size 10’s categorized as XXL, for example (I assume this comes from my checking the “include equivalents” box?), and an Armani 10 is going to be someone else’s size 8 – hardly a “real” XXL.

    5. periwinkle

      As noted, the plus-size collection is decidedly less plentiful, but there’s enough to make it worth checking out. I’ve picked up work-suitable clothes from ThredUp and in fact just received my latest order yesterday! For me, the drawback is that you only get two photos, front & back, and sometimes it’s difficult to figure out the pocket situation. I don’t do faux pockets.

      Most of what I’ve bought through the site are brands I buy normally anyway – notably Talbots because I love me some Talbots.

      My cats approve of the polka-dot shipping boxes.

  8. Spreadsheets and Books

    I love ThredUp. Cannot say enough good things. I moved to NYC a few months ago from Florida (so massive climate shift) and pretty much bought myself a new wardrobe from there. So cheap!

  9. Fawn Lebowitz

    The Clean Out Kit bag with the shipping already paid for is not quite accurate. You will pay for the shipping once ThredUp determines your bag payout. It used to be free and has steadily gone up, now it’s up to $9.99.

    1. D

      Glad you pointed this out. Didn’t see it until after I posted the same thing below. Alison should update her line in the post to be more transparent. Bag is sent free but if you want your payout, you’re charged $9.99

      1. BabyShark

        I was coming here to say that. I’ve used ThreadUp twice before when they weren’t paying for bags and while the payout wasn’t great, it was more than I would have gotten if I had just donated (I don’t itemize). Now with the $9.99 charge to get your money back, it’s likely going to eat most of my payout but some is better than nothing.

  10. NPO Queen

    But do they do plus sizes? I find the selection out there for plus size clothing delivery services leaves a lot to be desired.

  11. JB

    Really annoying that you have to join the site to view what they’ve got. I just wanted to browse and see what the selection/interface looks like, but it wouldn’t let me unless I made an account.

    1. DaniCalifornia

      Ok I just tried the same thing. I would definitely join if I felt like I would use it. But joining just to browse it seems unreasonable. What happens when they don’t have my size or I don’t like anything? I’m not on their email list forever…

      1. Working Mom

        I just tried to check it out as I’ve heard of this company but didn’t realize it was essentially a high-end consignment shop online. I’m totally interested… but don’t love having to enter an email and subscribe to their emails just to even find out anything about them. Super annoying. I will do it though because I want to check it out – but then I’ll immediately unsubscribe to the emails! Geez.

    2. JMegan

      Use a burner email address. It sucks that you should have to – I don’t do business with organizations that need my personal information to browse their site, just on principle. But if you think the product/service is worth playing the game, you can always create a fake email address for browsing purposes, and use your real one when it comes time to order.

    3. baseballfan

      Agreed. I saw a FB ad for this a while back and thought hey, that looks interesting – but not interesting enough to give them my email before I can even look at the site. I don’t play that game.

      And as other comments have been said, what I would get for sending them clothes would be pennies. I get more financial benefit from donating and taking the tax deduction. C

    4. Sunflower

      Every online consignment store I’ve used (Tradesy, Poshmark) require you to join to browse so it seems it’s the norm

        1. dragonzflame

          Can you not just use a forwarding service address? I’ve bought tons of stuff online that I shouldn’t have been able to using our NZ one ;-)

    1. KarenT

      I got a pop up saying I could subscribe to their email list to be notified when the service is available in Canada. So perhaps it will come–I love the idea!

  12. Businesslady

    I love ThredUp! It’s true that you don’t get a huge payout from the clothes they accept, but I enjoy using their clean-out bags anyway–I don’t have the patience to do the traditional resale route, and any money I get back is better than the $0 I was earning by letting stuff languish in my closet. Plus everything you send in gets reused/recycled even if ThredUp doesn’t sell it.

    I’ve gotten some great clothes from them too: a few pairs of jeans, a Gap cardigan I’m always getting complimented on, and an Anna Sui/Anthropologie sundress I absolutely adore.

  13. NeedANap

    Is it necessary to make an account just to browse, or is there a way to get around that I’m not seeing? I hate getting junk e-mails from places that I haven’t actually even bought anything yet, so I’m a little resistant to having to join the site just to look around.

    1. zora

      When I first joined, I just made the account, but then once I got the first email, I unsubscribed, and I don’t get emails from them anymore. Unless they are for an actual order I made.

  14. Me2

    Their reviews are pretty negative overall, of course most people are more likely to write a negative review than a positive one. I would definitely rather donate to Dress for Success than get pennies for an item that a for-profit company is reselling.

    1. Former Retail Manager

      +1….I looked into Thred Up a while back at the recommendation of a friend….wasn’t impressed. It seems to be preferred by those that are big on brand names. For the prices they charge, I’d rather just spend that amount or a few dollars more and buy something from JC Penney, Kohl’s, or NY & Company that is brand new and can be returned for a refund, not this store credit business. There were deals to be had, but I could never find enough stuff to qualify for free shipping so the deals were negated by the shipping charges. And as so many others have said, the prices they pay for your clothes are laughable. I’d rather donate to Dress for Success or a similar cause.

    2. Ellie

      This is a brand that is supporting AAM and they probably read the comments here and use that to decide whether to sponsor AAM again in the future.. I’m sure Alison would prefer that people not post if they don’t have something supportive to say.

      1. Me2

        I respectfully disagree. This site and it’s facilitator, of those that I regularly read, is the most open to thoughtful dialogue and dissenting opinion.

      2. (Another) B

        As long as people are respectful they should be able to say what their opinion is of any sponsor. Alison followed through on her part of the sponsorship agreement – what random commenters say should have no impact. Further, this is one negative thing amid tons of positive agreements; I don’t see this being any kind of issue here.

      3. mskyle

        To me, this seems like a risk of doing sponsored posts (for the poster and the advertiser). If you’re going to invite discussion of a product/service, you’re not always going to like what you hear. Apologies to Alison if this cuts into ad revenue, but if something is presented positively by someone in a position of authority and trust, if anything I feel *more* motivated to present my negative experiences than I would if it were a regular ad.

        The flip side is that when you read a sponsored post on a site with open and engaged commenters like AAM, where you know negative comments are not blocked or removed, the positive comments carry a lot of weight.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep, very true. And I hope that me saying I’m not thrilled by it doesn’t sound like I’m trying to shut anyone down. It’s not my favorite thing and I do hope people appreciate that sponsors help make the site possible, but I’m all for free conversation. (Plus, I stand by the quality of my sponsors, about whom I’m quite picky! I really do adore ThredUp and the others.)

      4. Oryx

        Continuing a sponsorship relationship with a blog is going to be based on how many new clients the sponsor receives — no product is perfect and there are always going to be people who complain but as long as they gain new clients, they are going to want to continue to sponsor on the blog.

        That said, as a long time reader (and blogger myself) I always appreciate hearing from both sides of the experience.

    3. Temperance

      I know a few women who shop through Thred Up and really enjoy the service. It’s slightly more expensive than the average thrift store, but the items are much better.

      I’ve tried to sell items consignment before, and frankly, you won’t get much money for them. It’s the same everywhere, though. I don’t think it’s unique to this service or a fair criticism.

  15. Purest Green

    Can anyone with an account tell me if they have tall sizes? I can’t browse myself without an account.

  16. Kittymommy

    I actually shop from and sell/donate to Thredup alot!! I like then, never had a problem with all the categories I’ve purchased from. In fact I think I have something I’m eating on now.

  17. Sunflower

    This post comes at a great time. Almost all of my work clothes come from the Limited and they filed for bankruptcy today! I knew the stores were closing but associates had told me they were moving everything online and they would stay open. So I’m rather eager to snatch up what I can find.

    Also- for whatever reason, it seems its the norm for online consignment stores to require registration just to browse. I use both Tradesy and Poshmark and both of them require you to sign up to browse.

  18. Jessica B

    I can’t speak to using the Clean Out Bag, but I do love shopping on Thred Up. There’s a lot on the site, but their filter is A++. Great for getting both pricier brands (i.e. Madewell) and some good standbys (like my favorite, Ann Taylor and LOFT) for reasonable prices. But I haven’t used them in awhile – thanks for the reminder, Alison!

  19. The Other Dawn

    This is timely. I lost a lot of weight over the last three years and basically had to start my wardrobe from scratch. I’m now having the tummy tuck to get rid of all the excess skin and I’m going to have to buy yet again. Luckily my office has recently switched over to business casual, so I won’t need to be dresses and suits again, but it will still be expensive.

    Anyone know how they are for tall pants? I’m 5’10”-ish and borderline misses/women’s (depends on brand and style). I don’t know what my size will be yet; however, I’m 14/16 now and I’m thinking I’ll be at least 10/12 (I hope!).

  20. LawBee

    00000000000h, I am intrigued. I loathe clothes shopping, and have such a casual office that I wear jeans 7 days a week. I desperately need to upgrade, but hate spending the money.

  21. Kristine

    I’ve shopped on ThredUp before and had a great experience. I got a like-new pair of Lululemon pants for $60 (about half their retail price). Which I know I could buy a pair of workout pants cheaper at Target or whatever, but sustainability is important to me and I’d rather buy secondhand and not increase the huge amount of clothing waste in this world.

  22. motherofdragons

    I’ve loved my buying experiences with ThredUp so far. The free return shipping is really nice. I’ve scored some amazing, like-new coats and dresses for a fraction of the original cost.

  23. NotAnotherManager!

    I’ve purchased a number of things from ThredUp and generally been happy. I liked LikeTwice.com a lot more, but they got sold to eBay. Twice had more information about measurements, product categories, and more pictures, so it was easier to see if something was going to fit you. As long as I stick with brand sizing I know that fits me on ThredUp, I’ve been successful at finding some great pieces to add to my wardrobe at reasonable prices.

  24. nep

    Thanks for putting this out there. I’ve been ordering from ThredUp for several months now. (Learned about it in an AAM thread.) Most things I’ve gotten were new with tags, at amazing prices. Even things that were not new with tags look brand new. I’ve also gotten great clothes for a toddler — fantastic quality and prices. The people running that business are VERY smart and know what they’re doing. Everything about my experience with them has been positive from A to Z. They respond to inquiries promptly. Returns could not be simpler and it’s always great seeing that credit on my account to order more things. ThredUp rocks.

  25. Double Shelix

    I think it’s great you recommended them! I’m a huge fan of recycling, and i get many of my clothes at Goodwill anyway. Any service which promotes recycling and offers the high quality that they do is one i want to support.

    My first order from them i ended up returning half of what i bought – 1 thing was way too big, and 2 things just weren’t right. But it was a super painless process, and for $5-20 per garment i’m willing to take a few chances :)

  26. ilikeaskamanager

    I love the idea of ‘recycling’ clothes in general adn just about everything I own comes from consignment or thrift shops. . I haven’t used ThredUP but I have seen their ads. I’m going to give them a try.

  27. JuneBug

    The cleanout bags are not free; they are $10. So, the first $10 of payout you get goes right back to ThredUp. I’ve also heard that their payouts are very low and that they reject even some new-with-tags brand name clothing. They keep the rejects (unless you want to pay more) and are likely selling a lot of them on the secondary market.

    You are the second blogger I follow to promote them recently. In both cases, a lot of the comments from readers with experience with the company were negative. It’s something to consider.

    1. shorty

      Where did you get the info that cleanout bags cost $10? I have done it before and don’t recall being charged for it. I made $30 by sending in stuff that I otherwise would have taken to Goodwill. I’m really happy with the experience. I don’t care that they “kept the rejects” because I only sent in clothes I was finished with… my main objective was to clean out my closet, not to get rich.

      I’ve ordered clothes from ThredUp probably 10-15 times now. I LOVE THEM. It’s the only place I can find jeans that I like and that fit. It’s so much easier to find the types of clothes I like, and the prices are way better than what I’d get in stores.

      I’m not trying to knock your opinion, but I wanted to voice my own opinion as a happy customer. I wouldn’t want someone to not give ThredUp a shot because of hearsay.

      1. shorty

        I stand corrected about the $10 fee! I found it on their site now. That’s definitely new since the time I sent my stuff in. I’m still a fan though. I mainly use ThredUp for buying rather than selling, and whatever I do sell is stuff I’m eager to get rid of. It doesn’t make a difference to me if my clothes go to Goodwill for free or to ThredUp for whatever cost I earn minus $10.

  28. Sparky

    I’m a bit late, but right now, they have an extra 40% off with the code NEWYR40.

    I just placed my first order, 6 pairs of mostly dress pants for $67.75, including shipping. Both thredup and I consider Dockers to be dress pants, so there are one or two pairs in there. They told me in the confirmation e-mail the I “saved $268”, but since I almost always shop thrift stores I am actually paying a bit more than usual, but saving a lot of time, and targeting brands/sizes that should work.

    I’d love it if all 6 pairs work, realistically they probably won’t, but I’ll send what doesn’t work back; really hoping I won’t be returning all of them.

    1. shorty

      After several orders that didn’t fit right, I’ve refined my ThredUp approach over time. I keep a spreadsheet that shows all of the items measurements, the brand, and notes on how they fit. The measurements on the website seem to be a bit inconsistent, but they’re at least a good ballpark and this approach has helped me to pick out items that will fit properly.

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