In 2018, I set myself the challenge of doing all my clothes shopping secondhand, with the exception of things like underwear* and gym clothes*, which I try to buy from ethical and sustainable brands. Three years on, I’m happy to say that this ‘challenge’ has become a firm habit. I no longer buy new clothes, unless it’s an item I really love or one I really need, and I can’t find a reasonable secondhand alternative. Through this process, I’ve found a new love for fashion, and have been able to intuitively find pieces that fit my personal style – something I really struggled with in the past.
Since shopping secondhand is becoming more popular (I’ve seen LOADS of posts about it recently, and that makes me so happy), I thought I’d share the main lessons I’ve learnt from this practice! So if you’d like to embark on a similar challenge, but don’t really know where to start, then read on.
Shopping secondhand isn’t limiting
I was kind of surprised by this, but choosing to purchase only pre-owned garments hasn’t felt like limiting my choices at all. Thinking about it, this makes total sense – most people have a rough idea of what they’re looking for (new jeans, a chunky-knit jumper, a warm coat), and then choose the one they like best from the selection available to them at major retailers. Buying secondhand is exactly the same concept, except that you might have to go to a few more shops/search a little longer on eBay to find something you really like. The right garment always seems to appear, though – I’ve not struggled to find what I needed so far!
Know what you’re looking for
Linking in with the previous point, the one thing that does make shopping secondhand a whole lot easier is when you have an idea of what you’re looking for. That way, you won’t have to comb through rail after rail in a charity shop, looking for something you like. Instead, you can focus on the relevant selection (jumpers, for instance), and if there’s nothing that you like, chances are you’ll find better options a few days later when stock has been refreshed. The same goes for buying secondhand online – it is SO much easier to search for relevant items when you know roughly what you’re looking for! The more specific, the better. ‘Black skinny jeans women W29L30’ will give you much more useful results than ‘black jeans’. Plus, a targeted approach to clothes shopping helps to avoid unnecessary impulse purchases.
Make mixing & matching easy
I admit I’m not one for a capsule wardrobe. I like pop culture tops and slogan tees too much. But curating a colour palette for your wardrobe is worthwhile – when you’re shopping secondhand, finding a whole outfit in one go isn’t that likely. Instead, your focus should be on pieces that are easy to pair with what you already have, both in colour and style. That way, you’ll be able to combine items easily and build way more outfits with a smaller number of garments. My personal colour palette is monochromes and blush, with a few brighter colours added in when I’ve really liked an item, such as my much-loved mustard sweatshirt.
Be patient, start early, and don’t give up
If you’re looking for something specific, it pays to be patient. Keep searching both online and through your favourite charity shops, and whatever you’re looking for will turn up… or at least a very close alternative. If you have a special occasion coming up, it’s worth starting your search early and giving yourself plenty of time. After all, what’s the point in going to all the effort of buying secondhand if you end up having to buy something that you don’t love and won’t wear again!
Some things are worth buying new
While I try to shop secondhand wherever possible, I’m not completely opposed to buying things new. I just try to limit this. For instance, I have a dress that I bought brand-new almost ten years ago. I consider that a pretty good purchase! Other examples would include things like activewear and swimwear, which I just wouldn’t want to wear secondhand (although some people do – this is totally down to the individual), and socks. When buying a brand-new item, I try to ask myself whether the item was made in an ethical and eco-friendly manner. If I think this is probably not the case, I’ll look into better alternatives. It’s important to note that sometimes, the ‘perfect’ new garment just doesn’t exist, or is wildly out of our price range. In those cases, my opinion is that we should just do the best we can within our circumstances.
Buying secondhand might take slightly more effort than ordering everything from an online retail giant, but it’s absolutely worth it. You’ll end up with a unique wardrobe full of pieces you love, rather that something that looked good in a picture online. You’ll also save money, (often) benefit charity, and make a positive choice for the planet! Do you have any advice or experiences with shopping secondhand? If so, please share them in the comments!