Shopping secondhand, be that in a charity shop, online, or through an app, there is definitely some ways of making it a lot easier, helping you find just what you’re looking for. I haven’t bought anything from the high street, or from online fast fashion brands in over two years, but that doesn’t mean it has been easy getting here. Disclaimer – I have never been into fashion or clothes. A weekend shopping was my worst nightmare. But I appreciate clothes, what they do for us, how they keep us warm, let us express ourselves, and bring joy when we find something that is just so ‘us’! So here are some of my top tips for beginning your journey to #BreakUpWithFastFashion and master the secondhand world!
1. Take your time. We are so used to being able to ‘nip into’ the shops, strutting into our nearest high street fast fashion brand and grab exactly what we want in exactly our size, but with secondhand shopping, that isn’t the case. There is only one of each thing, and it might not be your size. Some shops might be filled with your size, colour, shape, and style. Others might have nothing. When I am on the lookout for something ‘new’ I just plan to take a couple of hours to wander around a variety of shops, taking my time to search through the rails. Some shops are organised by size, others by colour; make sure to get the lay of the land before diving in!
2. Shop around. If you’re finding that your nearest town, village, or shopping centre charity shops don’t have a lot of choice, make sure to take a trip to somewhere with more shops, and more people! I have found that city centres have hot spots of charity shops, with streets full of them. This is perfect because you can visit a whole bunch in one go, and the bigger the city, the bigger the stores, and the bigger the range of clothes they will have!
3. Shop where people have your style ! I have found that living on the outskirts of a city means that a lot of my local charity shops are full of granny clothes. Don’t get me wrong that’s perfect for the grannies, but what about people my age? Well, taking a trip to the trendy west end of Glasgow, or into the centre of Edinburgh has proved much more appealing. Here there is more young people, and therefore more young people clothes. I have also found that when looking for occasion wear, visiting the ‘posher’ parts of a city tend to have more designer gear and fancy items. Yes, they are a little more expensive, but it will all still be highly discounted from the high street price!
4. Don’t get stuck in store! There are many other places to buy secondhand other than in physical charity shops. A lot of the time, charity shops have a small variety of clothes, particularly lacking mens, and plus size wear. Do not let this stop you from finding your perfect item! There are amazing online spots like Depop, Oxfam online, Ebay, Facebook marketplace, and so much more! I have also learned that you can make ‘Ebay alerts’ for certain words, and this has particularly helped some of my plus size followers find secondhand clothes in their sizes.
5. Go in with an open mind. Remember, these clothes (for the most part) have been worn, and loved by someone else, and you could be next. These aren’t discarded, or less than because they are in a charity shop. People donate clothes for all sorts of reasons, changing size, changing style, a wardrobe refresh, or simply because they had a declutter. These clothes are still great quality (for the most part) and will do well in your wardrobe! Just imagine it’s like shopping through your friend’s house, rather than a strange charity shop.
6. We all have a part to play in making charity shopping better. If you feel like your local charity shops don’t have the right selection for you, why not encourage a whole load of your friends to all donate en masse to give them some new items. Or have a ‘swap shop’ clothes event yourself! The more people donating to charity shops the better! The more clothes being shared, and the better selection there will be!
7. Top tips purely for secondhand shopping online! Know your size, really helpful to avoid buying stuff that’s not going to fit. Know what you are looking for, and make sure to use key words when searching. Online platforms can have a lot of variety, but that also means it can be overwhelming with choice. Be specific, and have a targeted approach to searching. Know that online there is more opportunity to negotiate a price, meaning that you are more likely to find a bargain online than in store! (but be respectful with your pricing). And finally, make sure you don’t get sucked into buying lots that you don’t need, which often happens when buying online!
FAQs about shopping secondhand!
After I showed my latest charity shop haul on my stories, I got a lot of questions about buying secondhand! I don’t often shop, and only tend to do it when I need to, but here are some common questions I get about shopping second hand, and hopefully these answers will help a lot of you out!
Are the clothes washed by the shops? – No. Charity shops do not wash the clothes which have been donated. They occasionally steam/press clothes which need some TLC before going on sale, however they do not launder them. We should always wash clothes before we donate them, and when you buy clothes, make sure to wash them when you get home if you’re ever in doubt.
What happens to clothes which are donated, but not sold? – After speaking to many charity shop workers, it is clear that many use ‘rag bag’ style schemes, or ‘pay by weight’ clothes donation services for items which are not sold, or cannot be sold.
What do you do with clothes which are broken beyond repair? – I always donate to a scheme similar to above. The ‘rag bag’ appeal is just one example, but also ‘pay per weight’ schemes too.
Do you try on clothes in a charity shop? – Yes. I always try on charity shop clothes in store, unless I am 100% sure it will fit/look good. This is to avoid buying stuff that I won’t wear, and potentially an item which will sit in my drawer for months unworn.
Where are the best charity shops? – I find city centres, busy areas, and ‘trendy’ regions are the best options. I would always suggest, if you are looking for lots of items (maybe you’ve started a new job, or have a holiday coming up) to always go where there are more than just a few shops to try. In Edinburgh Nicolson Street has a whole load within a 400m stretch, and in Glasgow the west end near Hillhead and Kelvinbridge has about 10 in one area! Local charity shops will almost always have a smaller selection, and if you live somewhere where you are in the minority in terms of demographic (thinking if you live in a place with lots of old people and young families) the clothing selection will be more tailored to them. Some charity shops are bringing out boutiques and more tailored shops which are a bonus!
Where can I find more plus size options? A lot of the time, charity shops have a small variety of clothes, particularly lacking mens, and plus size wear. Do not let this stop you from finding your perfect item! There are amazing online spots like Depop, Oxfam online, Ebay, Facebook marketplace, and so much more! I have also learned that you can make ‘Ebay alerts’ for certain words, and this has particularly helped some of my plus size followers find secondhand clothes in their sizes!
Is there anything you don’t buy secondhand? Yes – I buy all of my underware and socks new. However, I buy them from sustainable brands, ones with high quality to last, and using organic or recycled materials where possible.
Do you not get overwhelmed? No – I tend to try and stay calm, take my time, and have an open mind. I feel that ‘normal’ high street shops are more overwhelming, with their overcrowding, loud music, long queues, and bright lights. I find charity shops are much more relaxing, with fewer people, and a slower pace! The last time I was in a high street shop I felt under so much pressure from the atmosphere and staff to make a purchase, and it made me feel really uncomfortable!