the joys of the second hand...
those of you who know me, or have followed me on this blog or Twitter will know that I have long been an advocate of the second hand. the charity shop. eBay. I know second hand items, for the home or for yourself are not for everyone. and the mere thought of stepping inside a charity shop with its funny smells and seemingly lack or order can make some toes curl, but I love second hand. and I have been able to sway some pretty hard to please customers with vintage and designer pieces both for myself and for my home. one of these being my Mum. granted, she still wont go into Oxfam but she will put her requests in for me when im out on a reckie.
i wanted to write a piece about why I love second hand so much and why I feel it can really influence and make your wardrobe and the space that you live in. I've split this post into three parts, the first discussing why I love second hand, the second ill share some of my favourite finds and the third ill look into vintage and second hand decor for the home.
i was very fortunate growing up that there was always some pennies left in the pot to keep my brother and I well dressed in Marks and Spencers and BHS when we were young. there was absolutely no need for my Mum to trawl through the rails in our local charity shops to grab a bargain for us or herself. so I discovered charity shops in the way that teenage girls with a spark of creativity and curiosity do. my best friends at secondary school were from pretty bohemian parents and they thought nothing of turning up on non- uniform day sporting a scarf as a top or a pair of old lady shoes with their bootleg jeans. at first it wasn’t for me. I was happy in my high street gear and I thought charity shops were for the poor kids at school that got picked on. but come college I succumbed, lured in by the promise of a quirky and fashionable wardrobe at a fraction of the price.
around this time the celebrity culture was breaking out.mHeat magazine had just been released, the gossip pages wernt just for the hair dressers and doctors surgeries and more and more images of music and film stars and the fashion set were emerging in the daily press, and not just genre magazines. I imagine those in the fashion know have been rooting around markets and charity shops long before middle class British girls started doing it in the late 90s, but it suddenly became acceptable, and even cool. the British have always been eclectic and our High Street is world renowned, but by exploring vintage items as well it gave us an edge and mixed up our wardrobes even more.
and what is great is that as Charity Shops became more acceptable amongst those who would normally only by brand new, so it became more acceptable to buy other items from there, not just fashion and vintage. so buying a great winter coat, not because it’s a higher end label, or on trend, but purley because its £7 as appose to £70 was ok. maybe this is only the case amongst adults, maybe children at schools still get teased if their parents cant afford the generic Superdry waterproof, but I guess those things will never change. the bottom line is you don't have to hinde your head in shame when you pop into your local store. with the recession and job worries, many of us have had to tighten our belts and really stick to budget and that often means forgoing a new pair of jeans or a new dress for Saturday night. but at least if you are open to shopping second hand, then those wants aren’t always out of reach.
but aside from the fact it’s damn cheap, and that, in the case of Charity Shops, the money goes towards helping something, buying second hand can really transform your wardrobe. whether it’s a vintage item which can jazz up an otherwise ‘off the peg’ High Street ensemble or an affordable way to try out a trend that you’ve quite fancied but not dare take the plunge on. Oxfam is a fantastic example of a charity with stores all across the country that has really jumped on the band wagon and embraced the popularity of second hand and vintage.
their windows and websites feature posters of well dressed, yet eclectically attired models and slogans urging you to pop inside or explore their online store and see what you might find. they have really grabbed this trend by the horns and run with it and I hope that it does encourage more young men and women to think outside the box and widen their wardrobe horizons. Oxfam have also united with the High street giant Marks and Spencer and the fabulous Joanna Lumley and promote their ‘Swopping’, exchanging your unwanted M&S items for a voucher to re spend in- store. this has also opened up the stores to people who might not buy second hand, but will now consider donating, which is always a good thing.
there are also so many local Oxfam shops that are really upping their game to bring in the fashionable and perhaps more affluent customer through their doors. My local store is run by a fantastic woman called Mel and between her and the other lovely ladies that work behind the scenes there they have created a real second hand boutique. For the 'sorters' behind the scenes there is information on current trends that Mel has taken out of fashion magazines and price guides to help them strike the right note with their customers. They only put out good quality items and try and keep the mid to high end high street on the racks, along with designer and vintage of course. They keep an eye on what's popular within the year's calender, the media and culture and theme their windows accordingly. so in january you'll find tartan galore with Burn's night, July it will be tennis and sports wear and December, Strictly inspired evening wear.
alongside my local market street charity shops I also love browsing on eBay on an evening. whether its to find a specific item (my husband loves it for Golf related stuff) or just to get inspiration and see what everyone else is chucking out that might be of interest to me. what eBay also offers is bargain hunting and vintage finding for those that aren’t keen on stepping inside the shops. It’s also perfect for those on a mission or just don’t have the time or inclination to rummage. with just a few clicks you can search for anything your fashionable heart desires. Only last night did I decide to browse trainers, with a want for a pair of something colourful and slim line but no budget to buy anything from Topshop or River Island and I happened across a pair of silver Nike Air Max’s (ok they aren’t slim line or colourful) and low and behold, something new and exciting is entering my wardrobe (hopefully, I still have to win the auction…) eBay is also a great way of making a few quid off your unwanted items, with many people actually buying low cost and selling them on. I too have sold a lot of vintage and second hand items that I have bought over the years, maybe customized, and then decided after a few wears that they weren’t for me.
another thing I wanted to touch on was volunteering. this is a fantastic way, as a fashion addict, to really get involved in this part of the industry. not only are you helping out a charity, gaining valuable experience and maybe making new friends you are also on the front line of the rummage. I used to help in my local store on Saturday mornings and at the end of my first shift I walked out with a vintage, liberty print scarf. Enough said.
so the next time you pop out to your local high street or the next time you're browsing the high street online, spend five minutes in a charity shop or check out eBay, you might be surprised by what you come away with.