Shopping Second-Hand: The Ultimate Guide

White chair with folded clothes on it

This week, we’re delighted to unveil our biggest contributor post yet – all about second-hand shopping!

On the final day of September, we’re looking back over all your brilliant stories from #SecondHandSeptember, and how you’re going to continue to shop second-hand in the months and years to come.

Shopping for second-hand fashion (and any other items, come to think of it!) is a great way to reduce your impact while still enjoying shopping and style. By purchasing pieces that already exist, you can avoid creating new demand for raw materials and, in most cases, unethical labour practices.

If you’re thinking about getting into shopping second-hand, or simply want to brush up on your thrift shopping skills, the below recommendations are for you!


See Second-Hand as a Way to be Creative

BY KRISTINA OF EARTHY GIRL

“I’ve come across second-hand fashion a few years ago on my trip to Berlin. I didn’t know much about the consequences of fast fashion yet, but I got more attracted to the style of it. In Berlin, they had the whole vintage stores culture and amazing second-hand shops. I loved having a totally unique piece of clothing and discovering crazy outfits all the time. 

If such a unique and stylish second-hand shops were everywhere, I would never miss shopping for new clothes. However, that’s not the case, so now I rely on online thrift stores, buying pieces from Etsy sellers, or swap parties with friends. Clothes swaps are great even if you’re traveling. 

There’s nothing better than saying: ”Oh, I got these shorts in Cambodia from a girl from Aruba.” The key in buying second-hand is to not see it as limitation. See it as a new way of fun and being creative.”


Do A Quick Style Audit

BY ALENA OF SOUL MAMMA

“Being Sydney-based these days it’s been tricky to get involved with the events going on in London for #SecondHandSeptember, but I’ve done my own version nonetheless. In fact, I’ve been honing my spidey senses and am now reliant on a special kind of intuition that informs me when I should stop and take a look in second-hand clothing stores. Around these parts they are called “Op Shops” – Op being short for “Opportunity”. Most often my Op-Shop intuition has led me to some amazing pieces. Leather boots, in my size, or more recently a Ralph Lauren blazer. And all at amazing prices. 

I’ve also found it really important to refine how I choose which pieces to buy. I do a quick internal style audit when I pick up a piece of clothing and ask myself if it is absolutely perfect – right colour, right style, and right fit. If it isn’t something I really love and know I will get a lot of wear out of, I place it back on the rack and move on. That way I check I’m not exercising the “buy-it-for-the-sake-of-buying” muscle, as this is a muscle I’m very much working on retiring. “


Tech Makes Second-Hand Shopping Easier

BY BECKY OF PINKS CHARMING

“I think shopping second hand is a great idea, for our planet, and for our style. Some of my favourite clothes are second hand, and the same goes for furniture and books too. I love finding something unique, and saving it from landfill. 

Digital technology has made it so much easier to shop second hand, opening up new ways to buy online, through Facebook, Gumtree and, of course, eBay. I also recommend swapping clothes with friends, to get a new wardrobe for free. My absolute favourite second hand dress came from my mum’s wardrobe and is over 30 years old. She also saved some of our old baby clothes, which my girls have also worn. Second hand doesn’t have to mean second best and I love the challenge of finding treasure amongst someone else’s trash.”

Read more in Becky’s post exploring whether second-hand fashion is best.


Shop Your Friends’ and Family’s Closets

BY ANTJE OF ON LIFE AND LEMONS

“I’m notorious for shopping in my sister and mom’s closet. As the youngest child, I always resented getting hand-me-downs up until high school. When my sister went to college, I suddenly realized that all the clothes she’d left in her closet were now at my disposable (sorry, Courtney). Hearing that they’re cleaning out their closets of things that no longer fit or are no longer their stytle is to 25-year-old me what f what getting $20 from my mom to spend along Michigan Avenue was when I was 14. I get new pieces that aren’t actually new, and that have these interesting histories. I like the idea of sending stories through different branches of family and friends. 

Sometimes this way of secondhand shopping feels like cheating. It requires barely any effort on my part and is accessible to me purely because we happen to be similar sizes and like similar styles. I was never the cool person who was able to effortlessly cobble together a vintage outfit after picking out the exact right pieces from a kilo vintage fair. However, in my view there is no one ‘right’ way to do secondhand or to work to be conscious in our consumption.”

See more from Antje in her IG post showcasing her beautiful hand-me-down earrings.


#SecondHandSeptember Kept Me Strong

BY CAMILLA OF HOLISTIC FISH

“I loved this challenge! I am ( and have been for a long time ) a second hand fashion lover. I love the experience of charity shopping, finding that bargain or that unique piece with its own history. I rarely shop in normal shops anyway, but this challenge couldn’t come at a better time: season changes, and new windows displaying cozy warm jumpers while it’s starting to get chilly outside are my downfall! But I kept strong, and only rummaged through markets, and in the end really questioned whether I needed something. I applied the same concepts to books and other items, and i found some great new markets and little fairs! I loved this initiative I will keep strong through to the next months.”

Read more from Camilla in her post explaining why we should all do #SecondHandSeptember.


Come Along to a Clothes Swap!

BY BESMA OF CURIOUSLY CONSCIOUS

“Despite it being London Fashion Week this month, I stuck to buying only second-hand items as part of my pledge to #SecondHandSeptember!

In fact, my love of shopping second-hand has grown immensely over the last year or so – it’s a guilt-free way of trying new styles and having fun with fashion without creating excess demand.

It’s why my friends and I have created a new clothes swap event, called Haulternative Closet! We’re hosting this very soon and hope to inspire other like-minded people to see how a sharing economy around clothes is both better for the planet, and keeps up the enjoyment of fashion and creativity in the face of the climate crisis.”

Read more from Besma in her post all about the Haulternative Closet clothes swap.

Sneakers up in the air

Aim For Second-Hand, But Go Easy On Yourself

BY IZZY OF MUCCYCLOUD

“I’ve been a long time lover of second hand fashion and have barely shopped new for the last few years. I’m lucky in Nottingham that charity shopping is so easy but it takes a bit of adapting to! It’s harder to buy stuff if you’re specifically looking for one item, but it does get you seeing fashion differently.

I didn’t manage to do 100% second hand this month as I planned, because I needed trainers for my new job and though I looked in charity shops there weren’t any I could use! But I’m not beating myself up about it because I tried to find second hand ones. I did manage to get all of my new jeans for work from charity shops though! So that’s wonderful.

My advice if you’ve been inspired to give up fast/new fashion is to just go for it! But go easy on yourself, it takes a bit of getting used to.”


Embrace A Different Style of Shopping

BY EMMA SLADE EDMONSON

“For me, every month is second hand month, but I realise that some people can find it hard to find the pieces of their dreams in the charity shop. To find out why, I’ve been speaking to lots of different people about how they find their charity shop treasures and what their reservations about shopping this way might be.

I’ve come to the conclusion that smashing down these barriers will be part myth busting, part pointers on how this is a totally different way of shopping and why it should be embraced, and in part (of course) about retailers making it easier and more accessible.

My tips for shopping second-hand right now are:

1. Understand that shopping second hand is a different kind of shopping experience and go prepared for this. It may require a little more effort but the return will be far higher.

2. Be sure to give yourself a little time because you’ll need it to browse effectively. I like to either pop in to charity shops on my way home frequently or allow an afternoon to do my favourite route and really take my time.

3. Follow charity shop fans on Instagram whose style inspires you and take a note of where they found things. Make a plan to visit one or two of these places just like you would if you were planning on heading to your favourite high street spots.

4. Always go prepared to try things on. Charity shops will contain lots of different brands and styles from high street to luxe to vintage maybe without labels so sizing will vary. Half the fun is often trying something you’re not sure about and finding it’s an absolute winner!”

Get more tips from Emma in her IG post introducing Second-Hand September.


Switch Up How You Shop Second-Hand

BY LOZ OF POSITIVELY LOZ

“I’ve always loved shopping second hand even before I realised how beneficial it was to the environment; my Mum, Nan and I would regularly take day trips to nearby towns to browse the charity shops, so most of my wardrobe has always been full of second-hand steals. What I love most about the Oxfam campaign #SecondHandSeptember is that it’s given me the opportunity to really think mindfully about the reasons behind why second hand shopping is so important!

I’ve also been introduced to other ways to shop second hand via the campaign – I’m now an avid Depop user and have been joining my mum on the search for some autumn bargains on Ebay! It has even given me a reason to re-evaluate what I already own, and I now have a much bigger appreciation of my current wardrobe – I’m even looking into upcycling some old clothes too!”

Read more in Loz’s post about how second-hand shopping can help you and the planet.


Don’t Forget to Donate Clothes Too!

BY KAT OF LIVE 2 THRIVE

“This #SecondHandSeptember I did not buy second-hand, instead I donated more the 75% of my never worn & un-loved clothes to my local thrift store. I chose to do so because I am building a capsule closet of ethical clothing that I LOVE! No fast-fashion🙅🏼‍♀️.

I think that to promote second-hand shopping, we must promote conscious living. Less is truly more. I love my smaller closet because for one, less laundry🌎! Also, the clothes that I do have are so versatile, that it makes it so easy for me put on an outfit that truly represents me, quickly!

Second-hand September has encouraged me to transform my closet for the better! I love to live simply & sustainably, and who knew that my closet used to be the most cluttered & polluting places! I am so happy I joined the movement, that I proudly wear second-hand, & I donate my clothes so they can get some more loving!😁”

See more in Kat’s IG post about how she donated 40 pieces of clothing this month.


Second-Hand is Not Just For September!

BY JULIA OF WHAT A WASTE COLLECTIVE

“Secondhand is not just for September – It’s for life! Whether it’s for me, my son, my husband or for gifts I always go to used first. When I lived in Manchester I would trawl the charity shops, and my fave shop THRIFT in Picadilly Gardens for a pre-loved bargain. I even did a whole range of ‘ways to upcycle your t-shirt’ using a bunch of cool tops I got in there. If you have an idea of what you are looking for you can always find it if you search hard enough! Don’t be afraid to go to the back of the shop, or even ask the staff. That dusty Laura Ashley-esque Curtain in the back – imagine what you could do with it. Circle skirt anyone?”

Read more of Julia’s tips in her post, 10 ways to upcycle a t-shirt.


Second-Hand Doesn’t Stop with Clothes

BY DORA OF MAMORADIARY

“After [getting] back from our holiday with family in August I decided to start building up our house plants collection solely from the second hand market. I was surprised to see so many were available on the market from homes where plants are taking over and the owner is happy to pass them on to others with more space.

Since the 1st of September we went from having 5-6 plants to now have around 15. Second hand market doesn’t stop with clothes, it has everything we possibly ever need. “

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