Are you someone who loves the thrill of finding treasure in second hand shops? Or maybe you've never tried it before? Perhaps you're wondering if it's something worth the effort involved?
There are lots of advantages to shopping second hand, many of which I share in my book ‘In the Jumble’. Not only does buying pre-loved clothes fill me with the kind of ecstatic bliss normally reserved for Ferrero Roche, but I happen to be particularly addicted to all the great other benefits that come from shopping in this way.
If you’ve never considered shopping second hand before (whether that's in person or online), here’s my top five reasons that might just convince you to give it a try;
1. LESS FASHION DICTATION
One of the main reasons I give for shopping second hand is that you’ll find less of a fashion season influence. This might seem strange, but if for example red is this season’s must have colour, you tend to find it featured by every main brand, to the exclusion of the other colours of the rainbow. By shopping second hand you'll often find you have more choice available to suit your own colours, preferences and body shape.
Because you're buying things across brands, seasons and even decades, your style evolves naturally to become more individual and I think this can really boost your confidence. By not following the latest fashion, celebrity must-haves, and influencer picks, you have the time and space to play and find a style that you love and really enjoy wearing. Plus, you're far less likely to bump in to someone in exactly the same outfit.
You might think that by shopping second hand, you won’t have as much choice as when you buy new clothes, but think about how many pre-loved clothes are donated and/ or sold annually - according to Clothes Aid, we as a nation recycle and donate enough clothing every year to fill 459 Olympic sized swimming pools. Wow.
With many preloved retailers now available online, you're also not restricted to what's only available in your area. Type your favourite brands into the search box on eBay and see what comes up, or have a look at the huge array of preloved clothing available on the Oxfam website just to get an idea of the range and choice. If you're new to preloved shopping, having a search online can be a great way to get started as you can be specific in the search box about size, brand and colour, so it's a great way to quickly see what's available for you and to narrow down your search.
3. YOU LOVE IT MORE
I started my sustainable style journey by hearing about someone who had throw a jacket in the bin because a button had fallen off. Not only that, but this person had returned to the store and replaced it with an identical £4 jacket. I sometimes worry that she's still going back all these years later, regularly replacing her jackets when something goes wrong with them.
If you buy a new jacket for £4, how do you feel about that jacket? Do you expect it to last? Do you cherish it and mend it when it breaks? This lady didn't.
When new clothes are relatively inexpensive (and some don't cost more than a coffee), our perception is often that these items are not built to last, that they are expendable. I heard of someone last year who filled her suitcase with 'fast fashion' type clothing for her holiday, and then dumped the whole lot abroad to make space in her suitcase for the return journey. This type of clothing is the worst value purchase - it doesn't last, it doesn't recycle well (in that it has little or no resale value) and ends up sold abroad or in landfill. And we won't even start on the question of labour, conditions and materials used to make it so cheaply in the first place.
When you buy a £4 jacket from a preloved site or charity shop, the feeling is totally different. Same price, but that jacket is a one-off, it's a piece of treasure you found, it's something you've saved. When we buy in this way, there's much more of a commitment to care for and eek out the love for this particular jacket. And when you don't want to wear it anymore, you're more likely to pass it on and extend the life of it by finding someone else to wear it. As an added bonus, walking around in something you feel good about wearing helps you to feel good too - and we could all do with some feel good outfits, right?
4. COST SAVINGS AND AMAZING QUALITY
Buying second-hand means the cost of dressing comes right down. If you start buying clothes second hand rather than new you can save a small fortune in the course of a year - I estimated a saving of well over £1,000 in my first year of shopping in this way and I regularly pick up clothes now for anything between 50p and £20 per item – those same items would cost ten, twenty, even thirty times that new. To give you an example, the last wedding I went to I wore shoes and a coat from my wardrobe, and a lace dress I bought for £4. The only other thing I bought was a new pair of tights, which were more than the dress! I spent a total of £8.99 on that outfit, and I felt marvellous in it. How much would a new outfit have cost?
When you start exploring preloved clothes, you'll also find that the quality is excellent – many items still have the labels on! In my dress agency, I am frequently given clothes to sell on that still have the (not insubstantial) price tags still attached. One day a lady gave me a bin bag that had been in her garage for 2 years – the bag contained 3 pairs of immaculate Jimmy Choo shoes, a pair of Prada’s and a gorgeous Louis Vuitton handbag! These items were all in fantastic condition, and by buying secondhand, you can enjoy amazingly good brands for a fraction of the original price. It’s the ultimate in guilt free shopping!
I can walk into a charity shop and find a dress I love and then get an added thrill from knowing I’m helping reduce the number of clothes that end up in landfill, reducing the environmental burden of new clothes production, and therefore am literally saving the planet (heroic theme tune here). Well, maybe not quite saving the planet, but if lots of us changed our shopping habits, and bought less new clothes (especially those low value expendable types of clothes), it will have a positive impact on recycling. It’s a good feeling knowing that shopping in this way is so environmentally friendly.
“In the Jumble – the joys of finding, buying and wearing second hand clothes” is available now on Amazon.