How to shop second hand fashion like a pro

Words by Jasmine Hemsley

Second-hand shopping has always been one of my all-time favourite ways to refresh and renew my wardrobe, and I’m happy to see that it’s finally gaining traction in the mainstream — not just in an ‘oh it’s vintage, darling’ way but actually in a ‘this is someone else’s discarded item and it’s found a new home with me’ kind of vibe.

Vintage shopping is also one of the most effective ways to fight fast fashion and privilege more sustainable consumption. It can feel daunting to rummage through racks on racks of clothes that other people don’t want anymore for sure — and what catches your eye might not be in your size — but in an age where we have so much choice, and wardrobes are so full, it’s definitely a way of getting a fix without spending a fortune or taxing the planet! If you stick with it, and make it a ‘maybe I’ll find something fun’ vibe rather than a ‘I’m not coming home empty-handed’ mission, then there are many treasures to be found charity shops, carboot sales, clothing swaps, etc. Here are a few ways to make it easier.

1. Keep your eyes peeled at all times! With so many people shopping, things can often get hidden under one another or even fall off tables and racks. Make sure you give everywhere a good look around, as you don’t know what you might uncover that somebody else has missed.

2. Don’t be put off if something is creased or is missing a button, etc. Items will always look better at home in your own wardrobe than in the sea of chaos that is a second-hand shop or sale. Small aesthetic things like missing buttons are really easy to fix and will make the piece more unique to you when you replace it.

3. Try items on and don’t go by the size on the label. Sizing notoriously varies across brands and eras, so it’s imperative to try things on to check that they fit the way you want them to. That said, if a piece is just a bit loose for example, you can certainly remedy that with some strategic sewing or a belt. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

4. Enjoy perusing. I make it a little meditative experience because often you need to conjure up some imagination when you’re not in a curated space where everything is presented in the latest style. Sometimes I spot something straight away, sometimes it’s only on my second or third scan that I notice something subtle. And quite often (this happens at carboots to me all the time) I’ve disregarded something until someone picks it up and suddenly I see it in a whole new light!

5. If you’re at a carboot, don’t be afraid to haggle. People often want to get rid of everything right there and then. If you like something, also make sure you check that there isn’t anything else you like from the same place, as often you can get a better rate for 2 or 3 more items.

6. If you love fashion and experimenting with your look and are prone to jam-packing your wardrobe, go by a ‘one in, one out’ rule. So if you’ve found a new pair of old jeans, select a pair to go back to a charity shop — remember the sustainable factor comes from keeping the items moving in a cycle, bringing fresh energy to exchanges and either making some money from selling it or benefiting a charity. Hoarding might seem unwasteful but it’s taking up physical space, mental space and energetic space for you so if you purchase regularly then be sure to donate or sell regularly. It’s all part of the cycle of fashion — what worked once for you will work again for someone else. Enjoy!

Jasmine Hemsley supports eco fashion campaign #LoveNotLandfill, encouraging fashion lovers to recycle their old clothes; if it’s not good enough for a charity shop and you don’t want to upcycle it/cant repair it put it in a clothes bank. Look out for Love Not Landfill’s ltd edition clothes banks specially designed by street artist Bambi going into Westfield this week. 

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