Two years ago, I started buying secondhand clothes for my son. Buying ‘preloved’ clothes for myself proved trickier, until recently.
The first time I bought a second hand garment for myself was last January at the age of 37. I purchased two items on Depop — an app favoured by teenagers and people in their 20s- in a quick succession. The sports bra was a present the seller had received for Christmas. It didn’t quite fit her and still has a tag on. The leggings didn’t have any tag but they had not been worn either.
Worn or unworn, that didn’t matter very much to me, if at all. I was more interested in the brand — Sweaty Betty- than anything else. I already had a couple of trousers from them and thought that, as I decided to embark on a fitness journey, it would be convenient and nice to have an extra Sweaty Betty kit in my wardrobe — without breaking the bank nor prompting any restock of synthetic trousers and bra in a London shop.
I was very happy with my preloved gym kit but I didn’t convert all together to buying only or mainly second hand clothes from then on. I did take a few steps back — or, at least, sideways- before delving deeper into secondhand clothes territory.
A Depop and a restock
Right after my happy Depop experience, I bought some brand new clothes. I took advantage of the sales to revamp my winter wardrobe. I ordered a couple of cardigans, a jumper, a pair of trousers and a shirt from one my favourite French brands, Bensimon.
To be frank, I have no idea what Bensimon sustainable credentials are. There is zero information on their website on this topic and I didn’t bother to raise the question by email or on social media. I had this urge to boost my self-confidence and, although I knew clothes were not enough to do the trick, it felt like that good quality, elegant clothes would definitely help me start the year with more gusto.
Ten months later, I don’t regret my brand new purchases. I have worn my cardigans, jumpers etc. a lot already and I am very confident that I will wear them dozens, if not hundreds, of times in the coming years. They fit my style and they won’t go out of fashion anytime soon because they are not fashionable.
I still want to buy more preloved clothes as part of my commitment to reduce my carbon footprint and I am proud to announce that I have bought second hand clothes from a charity shop.
The shirt in the window
Last month, as I was cycling past a charity shop in Queen’s park, I spotted a a shirt in the window. I quickly parked my bike, entered the shop and enquired about the “Liberty shirt” on the mannequin.
Although it was a Liberty print, it wasn’t a Liberty shirt (how naive was I?!). I didn’t recognise the brand and the colours were slightly too flashy for me. Who cares? It was my style, the right size and it only costs £8. So I did come home with the shirt and I’ve worn it multiple times since then.
Shortly after, I bought a puffer jacket from another charity shop in my local area. Interestingly enough, it’s not something that I would have bought brand new but it was in good nick and was only £14. What not to like?
It’s not all or nothing
Ten months after dipping a toe into the rapidly expanding second hand clothes market, I came to realise a few things about this new way of shopping :
- it takes time to establish a new habit, especially if it’s something I don’t do very often such as buying clothes; also, progress is not linear;
- my wardrobe doesn’t have to be exclusively made of secondhand clothes ;
- trying to source preloved item of my favourite brand on Vestiaire Collective, Vinted or Depop is possible but is probably a waste of time ; I have to be open minded and look out for more generic things : the brand doesn’t matter if the item is my size and suits my style ;
- sacrificing my sense of comfort or style to sustainability is not a good idea ; I don’t need to love every single piece of clothe I own but I feel much better wearing clothes that are not worn out, fit me and are my style;
- I don’t need to buy a lot of new clothes — whether they are preloved or not ; I am planning to have a couple of pairs of trousers tailored and I am also gonna try to mend a pair of jeans ;
- there is a possibility to rent clothes for special and not so special occasions.
In summary, I think the old tradition of a bride wearing “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” on her wedding day can also serve as a good rule for everyday sustainable clothing.
Wear something old, something new (to you, maybe) and don’t forget to wear something “You” — whether old, new or mended.
The climate change fight needs an army of very determined people but wearing secondhand clothes from head to toe is not a requirement.