The Secondhand Shopping Survival Guide.
Updated: Sep 4
Slow fashion is the way to go. Instead of buying new, why not give used clothing from charity shops a go? Trust me, it's far more exciting.
Photo by Prudence Earl on Unsplash
Slow Fashion for 2020 and beyond.
Keeping Your Eyes Peeled.
Since we’re in a new year, a few of you might have made the resolution to stop buying new clothes or, at least, buy secondhand. Purchasing clothes secondhand from charity shops is a great way to make a positive impact. Not only are you saving money, but you’re preventing perfectly fine pieces of clothing from going to landfill.
Surprises linger in the dusty corners of humble charity shops.
Behind their creaking front doors or unassuming window displays sit items of clothing desperate to be found. None of these items are what you’d expect. You might stumble inside one day and find nothing that appeals to your tastes. Yet on another visit, you could pull out a dress or a bag or a bracelet that you never knew you needed in your life until that very moment.
So, the next time you pass by your local shop, go inside. Who knows what you’ll find.
Secondhand Shopping Tips.
If you’re new to the world of charity shops, or still feel intimidated by the rails upon rails of clothing, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Be prepared to repair clothing or have it tailored.
I get it. You’ve found the most wonderful vintage dress and it’s everything you could ever wish for. The print is on-trend and the silhouette is the perfect fit. Only thing is, there’s a hole in the lining.
Small flaws like these are easy to fix when you know how. It only requires a basic bit of sewing knowledge. If the idea of such a fiddly task makes you tremble, look to a relative, friend, or acquaintance who is nifty with a needle and thread. If that fails, calm yourself down with the expertise of a Youtuber. The platform is filled with relaxed and easy-to-follow clips.
In other cases, you might find an amazing pair of acid-wash jeans or a black blazer perfect for work. However, the fit might be a tad bit off. If you truly love a piece that is just a little bit too big or too small, don't put it back immediately. Work out if it's worth taking to the tailor.
2. Search in the places you wouldn’t usually look.
In charity shops it's easy to stick to what you're familiar with. After all, it's a gamble enough spending a few minutes inside, just to see if you'll find anything worthwhile. If you're a woman and in search for a new jumper, it's likely that you'll be looking through the womenswear section at the hangers with your designated size. But don't limit yourself. Check out every section.
Whilst looking through the menswear isle I've found some great pieces. Huge chunky knits that'll keep you cozy on colder days - I mean face it, the materials in the men's section are much warmer for some reason - large fleeces to layer with, and oversized shirts you could easily transform into a t-shirt dress. It's a great way to experiment with your style by playing around with masculine pieces.
Even skimming through the tags that aren't your own size is a sound way to find gems. Someone might have put back a dress in the wrong place. You could even stumble upon a garment that does fit you but is just labelled incorrectly. Essentially, keep your mind open.
3. Learn a little bit about vintage fashion.
If, like me, you have a fascination with vintage clothing, it always helps to have some knowledge on the subject. Every silhouette or pattern is a clue. A colour-blocked mini dress could indicate a mod dress from the mid 60s, whilst a floral maxi in a psychedelic print could come from the end of that same decade.
You don't have to be a fashion historian to find and identify vintage pieces. There are a ton of resources out there that'll help you in your search. Looking at scans of vintage fashion magazines is one way to begin recognising key shapes and popular prints from history. Pinterest has a huge selection of photographs from vintage magazines. I've found that making mood-boards organised by era on the app is a great way to get a feel for the styles of each decade.
Labels also give away a lot of valuable information. If you see a vintage label that interests you, be sure to visit the Vintage Fashion Guild website and look through their label resource. After cross referencing, you might realise that you've found something incredible. In fact, check out the whole website while you're at it. They have fabric guides and forums.
4. Get your timing right.
It's a good thing that charity shops are constantly getting new stock. Only thing is... you have to be quick! When that shining, brown satchel has just hit the top shelf, it's likely it'll be snatched up in the next few minutes. You see, charity shopping is a long game. To find something great you have to be either lucky or consistent. We always hope for the former, yet the latter is usually the case.
Your best bet is to browse on a quiet weekday. All the better if you can go a few times a week. You don't have to stay in there forever. Most times you'll probably see that one George's nautical t-shirt sitting in the same place it was the week before, and the week before that...
If you're in there a lot, it's also a good idea to try and befriend the people who work there. I don't mean become best friends, but be friendly at least. If you're good, they might lead you into the right direction when you need something specific, or let you know when they're replenishing the stock. It never hurts to ask.
Behind Every Garment is a Piece of History.
After many happy years spent searching for treasures in charity shops, there's one sentiment that's always stuck with me. Every piece you look at, whether you think it's ugly or strange or not, has something to say; a story to tell. And even if you have no idea about the history behind a piece, you could always imagine one for yourself. An amusing anecdote could be behind the tiniest flaw. Be it a tear in the fabric or an unravelling seam, you know that it's been well-loved.
Charity shopping is a privilege. It hands you the ability to resuscitate old pieces of clothing. By wearing used items again you're preventing them from wasting away in a rubbish heap. Instead, you've brought them back to life. Used does not mean damaged.