Our Emilie gives us the lowdown on second hand style.
I love fashion. I love looking out for the latest catwalk trends, I can spend hours browsing shopping sites, fashion blogs and Insta feeds, and pinning ideas, I’m interested in fashion history and fashion illustration, and I love spotting people on the street, in films, on TV or wherever whose style inspires me…


But, like many of us, I’ve been questioning my fashion habits of late. At least twice a year I get told by the fashion industry that what I’ve been wearing is now totally out of date and I need to be wearing top to toe purple / corduroy / florals, which leads to a mad rush to bring my look bang up to date again with a load of new purchases. Then six months later it all starts again – buy, wear, repeat. Yes, I get a huge buzz from new clothes, but not only is this never ending cycle bad for my bank balance, it’s also really bad for the environment as we’re increasingly aware.


I’m not going to use this post to talk about why fast fashion is a bad thing. There’s enough information out there already about the hugely negative impact of the fashion industry, including this Guardian article.


Instead I want to talk about Oxfam’s Second Hand September, and how you can take yourself out of the fast fashion cycle and start to look at other ways of getting your hands on some really great clothes that just happen to be recycled. Whether it’s for one month, a whole year (which is what I’m trying) or even forever, why not give up buying new clothes, help break the cycle and make a difference. I’m just a month into my year and still finding my way but here are some of the things I’ve learned so far:



1. Get to know your local charity shops
Charity shops have become a UK high street fixture and don’t underestimate what you can find there. One fellow Wonderlander recently snapped up a Celine clutch in one on Bristol’s Gloucester Road for just six quid. YES, ACTUAL CELINE. OK, so you’ll probably have to spend time rifling through a lot of stuff before you find something right for you, but there are true gems to be had and it really is worth your time.


2. Be patient and flexible
Unlike ‘fast fashion’ sites which instantly present you with hundreds of possible options based on your specific search criteria, secondhand shopping is best approached with patience and an open mind. Have a browse and see what comes up. If you’re in the market for black trousers but a beautiful jumper comes up in your size, snap it up. And don’t immediately discount an item if it isn’t the exact right size or length, just find yourself a good local tailor who can alter items to make them work for you (within reason of course).


3. Make chic and mend
What about all the stuff you already have? Once or twice a year I go through all my clothes and do a bit of clear-up. Seasonal stuff gets packed away for next season, stuff I don’t wear anymore goes on eBay or to local charity shops and the other seasonal stuff gets unpacked. That’s when I fall back in love with old favourites all over again, and many of them get a bit of a refurb or update. I’m a big fan of shortening trousers and jeans (DIY for a scuffed hem) and I’m planning to shorten an old A-line denim skirt to knee-length to give it a 1970s vibe for this winter.


4. Find your online treasure troves
There is so much amazing secondhand / vintage stuff to be found online if you know where to look. My favourites are eBay, Oxfam, Vestiaire Collective, Beyond Retro and ASOS Marketplace – and that’s just scratching the surface, there are tons of smaller independents selling great things too. Do your research and find out which site and shops work best for you; they can become your go-tos. And don’t be afraid to negotiate with private sellers directly for even better deals.


One of Emilie's vintage finds
One of Emilie’s vintage finds

5. Raid your family’s wardrobes (just get their permission first)
You wouldn’t believe the stuff I’ve found in my mum’s and my gran’s wardrobes. I have a beautifully cut black 1990s sun dress of my mum’s that gets me compliments every time I wear it, ditto an emerald green 1980s pencil skirt of my gran’s that I wear with a t-shirt and trainers. And there’s something very beautiful about keeping an item of clothing in the family. My awesome gran passed away a few years ago and wearing her skirt feels special in a way a new Zara skirt never will.


I really hope this inspires you to give Second Hand September a try! All this week the Wonderfam will be posting and sharing their favourite second hand finds and the story behind them for some inspiration, so stay tuned…