Oxfam are again running their Second Hand September Campaign. Asking people to pledge to shop only second-hand for the whole of September. To encourage more people to make the switch they have joined forces with Selfridges, with a pop up shop in their London store with a carefully created collection from fashion stylist Bay Garnett. In this article I’ll share ten expert tips to shop sustainably this second-hand September. Oxfam hope to show people that second-hand and vintage has a place in mainstream fashion shops and has a touch of luxury
“It’s about shifting the perception of second-hand clothes by putting them in a luxury space and using all those bells and whistles — the marble, the velvet, the limited items on the rails — to make it a premium experience”– Fashion Stylist Bay Garnet on Second-Hand September
Stocking 1,500 finds that she hand-picked from Oxfam’s cavernous warehouse in Batley, West Yorkshire, the pop-up forms part of Oxfam’s month-long #SecondHandSeptember campaign, which launched last year and encourages consumers to not buy any new clothes for 30 days.
The Second-Hand September pop-up demonstrates a commitment from Selfridges to encourage more mindful shopping. Fee Gilfeather, Oxfam’s sustainability expert, says: “Selfridges has taken a pioneering approach. We hope the pop-up will shift perceptions around second-hand clothes, showing that you needn’t always buy new to refresh your wardrobe.
“13 million items of clothing end up in landfill every day in the UK.”– Oxfam
Why Shop Second-Hand?
Buying vintage means that your are buying a piece of history. You will find the quality of fabric much better than now – clothes were not mass produced back then. To find the comparable quality in cloth and finish would be the equivalent of high end high street or designer brands.
A beautifully cut wool suit from the 40’s or 50’s would cost around £175-200 from a vintage seller where as designer brands would be at least 3 times that.
Imagine wearing a fitted 50’s suit with a pussy bow blouse or sharp 60’s shift to the office, a bias cut 30’s dress to the Christmas ball, 70’s sun dresses are very trendy but why buy one from the high street when you can have one off original. When everyone is lusting after the new “it bag” how cool would it be to own a totally one off vintage one that no one has? There are so many ways that you can add vintage to your wardrobe.
We’re Talking Quality Over Quantity
Vintage shopping means you get more for your money – it doesn’t necessarily mean cheap but with regards to fabric – vintage fabric offers many wonderful options that in today’s age of mass manufacture would cost vast amounts of money to produce – you can chose from opulent silks, satins, lace, and brocades or feel the quality of fine wools and tweed, the softness of cashmere and cotton.
Defining Your Personal Style
If there is one thing that separates those with genuinely cool personal style from those who just have big bank accounts is the ability to “thrift”. To go into a department store and come out with a stunning ensemble is one thing but its the next level to pull it off in your local vintage store, it takes a strong sense of self and a great eye to do vintage well and it is no surprise that some of the most stylish women we know count vintage items among their wardrobes most precious items. Just like any current season fashion item vintage can be a cheap thrill or a big ticket designer item. Best of all it is about making it your own. You have got to hunt for it, fall in love with it and then style it up but making the extra effort will make all the difference to your how you look.
Shopping Second-Hand 101
So, you’re willing to try the Second-Hand September challenge? Here are a few tips to help you along the way. Shopping for vintage and second-hand takes more time and it not as easy as popping into the high-street and picking up whatever you want in your size, you have to make a decision there and then as it is a one off piece and if you hesitate too long it will be gone – there are still pieces that I didn’t buy that haunt me!! So here are my top tips for shopping second-hand.
Consider The Trying On Process
Arm yourself with garments that are easy to get out of; something you can slip on and off without fuss – my favourite uniform for vintage shopping is a button-down dress. Wear minimal make-up. Many vintage garments do up at the side and have to go over your head, rather than over your hips, so whilst it’s tempting to don a red lippy to get into the spirit of things, it’s best not to smear it all over the neck of a yellow 50s frock. You won’t be judged in a shop for not looking the part. Take a belt so you can cinch in the waist of items that are a bit big.
Keep An Open Mind
Keep an open mind this Second-Hand September, try to remain open to new things when you are shopping – that is the joy of vintage shops you never know what you will find!! Don’t go with set pieces but with an inspiration in your head and then see what you can find. I tell my clients to put together a mood board on Pinterest or saved to their Instagram so they can keep track of what they are looking for.
Think About Fastenings
Look at the fastenings. Double-check that none of the buttons are missing and the zips are working properly. This may seem like a no-brainer, but all too often I’ve gotten home only to discover that a crucial covered button has fallen off or a zip is faulty. Key areas to check fastenings are around the neck line where small buttons may be hidden under a collar, and also around the cuffs. Whilst you are there, make sure the belt is still attached. If there are belt loops and no belt, it’s OK to ask for a small discount because the garment is no longer complete.
Always check the armpits. Before the days of deodorant, sweat had a habit of damaging fabric due to the acidic qualities of perspiration. Always hold garments up to the light!
Have you noticed how dark vintage shops can be? Well, it’s not always intentional (they can just be cluttered places), but it sure does make it harder to spot flaws. By holding it up to the light you can instantly see any holes or repairs. The light will also shine through any patches where the fabric has become too thin and delicate. With woollen garments, check the elbows to make sure there is not excessive wear
Ignore The Size Tag
Ignore the sizes – vintage isn’t the same sizing as modern day items so take a tape measure and know your measurements and use that as your guide.
Talk To The Sales Assistants
Don’t be too proud to ask for advice in a shop, especially if you are looking for era-specific garments. This will speed up the learning process and before long you will be having a friendly debate on the age of a frock. Good shopkeepers should know their stock inside out and quite often they will keep special pieces behind for the right customer. It’s also good to develop a relationship with the vendor, as they will start to look out for garments in your size and style.
Be Nice About The Price
Most vintage sellers are passionate about what they do and are happy to talk to customers about stock, sizes and fair pricing. Don’t automatically ask for the “best price” most sellers know what pieces are worth and they have spent time sourcing, cleaning stock so it is just plain rude – once you get to know them and become a valued customer they will probably offer it anyway!! Just because something is second-hand it doesn’t mean it will be cheap – the quality of the fabric alone is worth money and very often to get the a similar piece new you would be so much more expensive and you would be looking at designer prices.
Always Check The Bottom Of Shoes
More often than not, a heel tip will be missing. Check the leather around the buckle and strap for signs of wear and tear. If a leather strap looks cracked, it may break off easily. Make sure the shoe is not too bendy and will hold your weight – this can be achieved only by trying it on. In some cases the shoe’s sole can be reinforced, but this can be costly. Avoid shoes where the leather has stiffened, as they will be uncomfortable to wear.
Avoid Endless Alterations
Don’t be tempted by garments that need altering above and beyond a simple strap shortening or a dropped hem. Scant few alteration shops will do it justice and if the fabric is raw, frayed or thin, it may not last even one cold wash! But do get to know an amazing dressmaker as they can work miracles!!
Try Everything On
If you like it on the hanger, then chances are you will like it on you, but you also shouldn’t shy away from the bizarre; sometimes a hanger can’t convey an item’s true potential, so get it on your body – what’s the worst that could happen? As a vintage personal shopper, this has been the most rewarding element of what I do. If I got a pound every time a customer reluctantly tried on a garment which turned out to be amazing, then I could probably retire! Second-Hand September is all about trying new things.
“Have fun, expect the unexpected and shop with an open mind, as you never know what may turn up.”– Sustainable Fashion Stylist, Fabulous Miss K
Set Up Ebay Alerts
If you are looking for specific items set up an alert on Ebay so you will be notified every time something comes up – for example I have a thing for Chanel inspired bouclé jackets so I have set an alert so I know when anything is listed so I don’t miss out.
Fabulous Miss K. x