There’s no better time to discover your love for second hand clothing than in, the aptly named, Second Hand September. But hey, second-hand/vintage/pre-loved – whatever you want to call it, there are so many benefits to buying clothes that have already been worn by someone else.
For starters, it’s kinder for the environment, buying one-of-a-kind pieces will also give your wardrobe a unique style (no awkward ‘she’s wearing the same thing as me, where can I hide?’ moments). On top of that, you can get luxury fabrics like mohair, silk and leather at a fraction of the cost. Plus, you can invest in super high end labels for nowhere near their original price, which means you can dress incredibly and still have enough money to get your nails done.
The thing is, shopping for second hand gems requires dedication and patience. So how do the pros do it? Here to guide you on your pre-loved style journey is Cosmopolitan’s Fashion Director and second hand shopping expert, Amy Bannerman.
1. Know where to shop
Shop for specific pieces online and look for random pot luck buys in second-hand shops. Of course, you can’t expect to pay one visit to shop and find a vintage Chanel jacket. This way of shopping, like all good things, takes takes time and luck. But it does happen. Enlist the company of a great friend and spend a Saturday or Sunday to scour vintage markets or an area known for vintage shopping, like Covent Garden or Brick Lane in London.
Check out our guide to the best vintage shops and online stores in the UK here.
2. Give items the once over
If something smells questionable when it’s hanging in the shop then, chances are, it always will always have a funky scent to it. And smelling like the bottom of a charity bin isn’t synonymous with feeling super sexy. Check the care label and fabric content, synthetic materials are harder to remove odours from, but something like a cotton dress can be washed on a hot machine wash and a wool jumper can be revitalised with a good airing outside.
3. Look for things you can dye
Cotton linen or viscose will dye to full shade. Nighties can make amazing dresses when dyed a darker hue (hello, cute new bar outfit!), also making them less sheer. Just be aware of the stitching material – if the thread is made from nylon or acrylic it won’t dye and you’ll be left with a contrast stitch.
4. Filter for your favourite designers
Do you love high end fashion but don’t have a bank account to match? Look for your favourite runway brands in online second-hand stores (my go-to searches are Isabel Marant, Prada, Miu Miu, Marni Vivienne Westwood, Ann Demeulemeester and Proenza Schouler). Once you know the brand’s you’re looking for, things become a lot quicker as you can add as many filters as you want. Plus, if you already own something by a specific designer and love the fit then you’ll have a less risky purchase arriving on your doorstep (an especially useful trick for buying shoes, as sizes can vary significantly between brands).
5. Resist defaulting to fast-fashion
If you are looking for a specific thing like a pink sweater, try scouring second hand stores first. You’re likely to get a better quality material, such as mohair or wool, for less than the cost of a new synthetic piece. And, there will be no one on the bus throwing shade at you for stealing their look.
6. Be patient
Second-hand shopping isn’t the easiest route but, when you find ‘the One’, you’ll experience a thrill like no other.
7. Have a list of ‘the ones that got away’
I have a list as long as my arm that I regularly search for on eBay, Depop and Vestiaire. If you already know what you’re after, you can swoop in quickly when you find it – time is often key in the vintage clothing world. As an aside, I’m currently hunting down Prada combat boots, a Chanel denim Boy bag and anything from the Kurt Cobain-inspired Dries Van Noten collection.
8. Hunt for denim bargains
Denim has a low resale value, for whatever reason, so if you’ve always had your eye on some eye-wateringly expensive jeans then hunt them down second-hand. I am looking for the MiH Phoebe jeans which are timeless and go with everything. And, I have them in two washes already so know which size works for me. I also love hunting for proper vintage Levi’s, and 90s Calvin Klein jeans.