How to Shop For Second-Hand Clothes

Since I have become a more ethical fashion consumer I have begun to realise that, the second-hand, pre-loved or vintage market has so much to offer. Not only are you saving clothes from landfill, you are more likely to get something original that no one else is wearing and if it’s from a charity shop you are helping the needy too – triple win! However, charity shops and the like can be quite overwhelming, so here is some handy advice and tips for how to get the best out of your experience.


There are many places to purchase second-hand fashion, but be aware that vintage and retro sites and stores will be pricier than auction, online sites or charity shops. Many of these have online shops too now like Oxfam, so check them out first to see what to expect. Local charity shops will have lower prices than larger national charities and look out for their sales too. You could get friendly with the staff and they may let you know when the next sale will start.  Locations for charity shops can be an important factor too as a more affluent area will mean better quality and more expensive pieces.


Often people get rid of excess wardrobe pieces when the seasons change, so this can be a good time to shop, especially spring. However, try out charity shops regularly as you never know when good stock is going to be donated. You will soon be able to spot something you like the look of quickly. 


Start with knowing your preferred decade, or if you follow trends what decade or pieces that are trending right now. (Vintage is classed as 1970s and earlier and retro is 80s & 90s). Most clothing pre-1960 will be tailored and made to a much higher standard than post 1960s. Lots of synthetics also came in in the 1960s & 1970s, which are not great against the skin, so always feel the texture. Good quality will show in the feel of the fabric too, so will often come from higher end pieces and bear in mind that natural materials tend to last longer.


·   Take a list to find what you need rather than browsing.
·   Take your own bags, hand sanitizer or wipes.
·   Always try it on, as sizing has changed a lot over the years and will often be much smaller than you think or may even have shrunk. Or take a tape measure and know your measurements or hold it up to your hips or shoulders. Most charity shops will accept returns but check first.
·   Have a budget and ask for a discount if buying more than one item.
·  Wear something that’s easy to change in and out of or wear something that you want to find a matching item for.
·  Check for; bobbles, cracking, pulling, fading or stains that can’t be covered, dyed or washed out easily. If you find such faults that can’t easily be fixed you should leave it.
·   Check for missing buttons and that zips work, these can be replaced if necessary but may get you a discount if spotted.
·   Check for moth, beetle and other insect damage. You don’t want to infect your own wardrobe.
·  Check the labels: I have spotted a Dolce & Gabanna jacket for sale on my local high street which disappeared from the window display very quickly! Vintage stores will know what they are doing much more so you are less likely to spot a designer piece for next to nothing but they will still cost you much less than new.
·  Look out for timeless classics that are versatile and durable and keep your eyes peeled for that amazing buy.
·   Feel the quality, as they are older pieces you need to make sure they still have plenty of wear in them and aren’t going to fall apart as soon as you get them.
·   Get good quality as there is no point in buying something that wouldn’t have been much less new.
·    Be patient, it can take time to find something you like.
·   Keep an open mind, as it may be a lovely item that just needs a hem taking up and shoulder pads can be removed.
·  Use your imagination! It won’t look as good as it would styled on a trendy model with the latest accessories.
·   Embrace smelly, it can be washed!
·   Don’t buy things that are too small and hope to lose weight to get into them, be realistic that they probably won’t get worn.
·  Remember to look at other sections. There are often some great belts or oversized knitwear in the men’s section, vintage jewellery and also coats.
·  Give them a good wash when you get home or spray dry clean items with vodka to get rid of any nasties before wearing.

Other places to look at are; Ebay, Vinted, Depop, ThredUp and Clothes ShackFacebook selling groups, Instagram influencers pre-loved pages, dress agencies, vintage markets like Camden and car boot sales for kids clothes. There is a list of links below to get you started and my Pinterest board might help too.

If you liked this post you might also like to read How to Do Sustainable Fashion On A Budget or What Is A Clothes Swap.

Good luck!



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