Image for The secrets of secondhand clothes shopping – according to you

The secrets of secondhand clothes shopping – according to you

We asked readers where you shop for preloved garments – and what you love about secondhand fashion. Here’s what you said

We asked readers where you shop for preloved garments – and what you love about secondhand fashion. Here’s what you said

Secondhand fashion is booming, as we report in the new issue of Positive News magazine. But what persuades people to plump for preloved clothes? Where do you shop for your secondhand bargains? And does it make you more creative?

We asked readers those very questions, and as ever were overwhelmed with responses. Here are your secondhand sartorial secrets.

The secrets of secondhand clothes shopping – according to you

“I discovered secondhand clothing in the early 1980s, when I was 16, buying fabulous 1930s-1960s clothes for literally pennies in what was then called ‘junk shops’. Chanel-look ‘60s suits and New Look dresses, genuine WW2 silk stockings with seams, stunning winklepicker shoes – it kicked off a lifetime’s love of secondhand clothing and I very rarely buy new to this day. I’m 61 now and still buy almost all my clothes in charity shops and vintage outlets. It has been a lifetime’s obsession, and it means I don’t have to spend a fortune to look different from everyone else.” – Kate, Devon, UK

“I spent my 20s buying cheap fast fashion in malls. Then, when I was about 30, I had the ‘ah-ha’ moment. A friend, a cool West Village artist in her 70s, was cleaning out her closet, and giving me and another friend well-preserved unique pieces, and I was excited to wear this stuff. I thought: ‘If I will accept clothes worn by someone I know, does it really matter if I also have clothes from someone I don’t know?’ I discovered ThredUp and it’s amazing. They have tried to make the online shopping experience [for preloved items] close to how one would shop for traditional clothes. I have found some amazing dresses. In traditional shopping, I would not have found them, and if I did, they would have been expensive.” – Tracey, New York, US

“I mainly use the website Vinted. I love that you can filter sizes, price (low-high), and colours. I’ve stopped shopping from usual high street retailers as you tend to be able to find what you want secondhand that is more original and often a lot cheaper. Although this wasn’t a decision that I made on purpose I naturally have stopped shopping at usual retailers. I recently brought a coverup for £1 that I’m absolutely obsessed with from Vinted.” – Taya, Nottingham, UK

“As a very shy high schooler in France, wearing my mum’s vintage was my favourite way to express myself, way before it was actually cool. As a costume design student, I made most of my clothes or bought from charity shops, mostly because of budget, but also to hunt for unique finds. After working as a tailor in Selfridges [a department store], I became obsessed with altering and mending clothes. I still love hunting through bricks and mortar charity and vintage shops, but in recent years I have also started using apps like By Rotation, Vestiaire Collective and Vinted. I only rarely buy from the high street and if I do, I try to research the brand first – Good on You has lots of helpful info. During a recent clear-out of my grandpa’s workshop, I picked up one of his workwear jackets. I discovered that he had mended it himself. This prompted me to start adding my own visible mends, using old family photographs printed on to fabric. I hope to wear it soon!” – Johanne, London, UK

Wearing my mum’s vintage was my favourite way to express myself, way before it was actually cool

“I used to be a clothing designer and even then, I made and modified my own clothes. Then I moved to England where the charity shops are amazing. I’ve been shopping at them for 27 years. I’ve seldom had much money, but this allowed me to experiment and find my own style (and help charities and the environment.) I enjoy altering clothes to fit, or embellishing them, so after all these years I have a wardrobe full of individualistic clothes that fit me perfectly.” – Jill, London, UK

“I start at the ‘shop of me’ because I sometimes have items tucked away in a drawer or wardrobe I’ve entirely forgotten about! Vinted is a favourite, and I recently gave an on-stage talk wearing a £4 dress I picked up there. My sons buy most of their ‘designer’ clothes on Vinted too. We occasionally do a treasure trawl in charity shops, and opt for an upmarket area like Chiswick, Richmond or Chelsea [in London] where higher quality brands are abundant.” – Mandy, London, UK

Environmental impact, affordability and standing out from the crowd are all reasons to embrace preloved, according to you. Image: Megan Lee

“I’m in my mid-20s and have been buying a large portion of my clothes secondhand for over a decade. Throughout my childhood, my dad would bring me to thrift stores in the rural region of the US where I’m from. At some point a switch flipped in my mind and I started to appreciate the amazing deals we could find there (e.g. $1 for a leather jacket I proudly wore to high school). This took getting over the associated stigma, which has certainly lessened greatly in the intervening years but unfortunately exists among certain socioeconomic and cultural groups. I’ve always been very price conscious, so that aspect naturally appealed to me, but I’ve also long had a ‘waste not, want not’ ethos, which has crystallised into a broader desire for sustainability as I’ve grown and learned more about global waste streams. I now shop exclusively secondhand, with some very rare exceptions for pieces that are difficult to find in charity shops and vintage stores.” – Lark, US

“I used to work for a fast fashion brand, and I always felt like it was going against my core values by supporting them. Since I left, I buy my clothes secondhand and anything that I do buy new, I make sure to wear it as often as possible to give it more of a life.” – Sam, Devon, England

“For over 45 years I have been a very enthusiastic charity shop shopper – and donator of anything that might be of use to someone else. What’s hilarious is that I’ll turn up to a wedding, or meet some friends, and I’ll have on a £500 down coat that I got for £12, or a branded item for a fraction of the price, and people always comment on how well dressed I look! I only buy what I need and my policy is ‘one thing in means one thing out’.” – Libby, Dumfries, UK

Libby from Dumfries reports success with her 'one in one out' wardrobe policy. Image: girl with red hat

“I make dresses from loud printed aprons, and long A-line dresses from doona [duvet] covers and other large bits of furnishing fabric. The doona covers are usually kids’ ones, with great graphics which I then applique on to create a different look (e.g. Batman’s lips were plumped out with Bratz dolls lips). I always get compliments when I wear them!” – Iris, Perth, Australia

“My mum took me to my first jumble sale in 1972 as a baby and I never looked back. At 16 I was making our Prince concert outfits from vintage clothing and now at 52, I run my own small business transforming old jackets into wearable art, and sea glass into art and new jewellery.” – Tuladhana, Wales, UK

“As a plus-sized woman, I find it difficult to find clothes I like from mainstream retailers that fit me, let alone at an affordable price. Vinted has allowed me to discover some great finds while giving other people’s clothes a second life. I’ve cut my online shopping and returns by around 80%.” – Fran, Norwich, UK

Main image: SolStock

Support solutions in 2024

Positive News is helping more people than ever to get a balanced and uplifting view of the world. While doom and gloom dominates other news outlets, our solutions journalism exists to support your wellbeing and empower you to make a difference towards a better future.

But our reporting has a cost and, as an independent, not-for-profit media organisation, we rely on the financial backing of our readers. If you value what we do and can afford to, please get behind our team with a regular or one-off contribution.

Give once from just £1, or join 1,400+ others who contribute an average of £3 or more per month. You’ll be directly funding the production and sharing of our stories – helping our solutions journalism to benefit many more people.

Join our community today, and together, we’ll change the news for good.

Support Positive News

Related articles