Second-Hand Shopping: The Guide


What’s the best way to shop to protect your pocket and the environment? Why, second-hand of course! Or, pre-loved as it’s been stylishly re-branded for the 21st century. Gone are the days of trawling through bargain bins of stained jumpers and torn t-shirts, pre-loved shopping has never been easier. By Ciara Loane

It’s something we should all do; it helps to combat the throwaway clothing cycle of wear once, chuck out. It means you can save money too, as clothing and homewares are almost always cheaper second-hand. And, by this logic too, it means you can afford more aspirational brands with your original budget. Furthermore, according to the old internet meme, ‘I don’t wear my style, I wear the style I can afford’ it means that by buying cheaper second-hand you can achieve a more ‘you’ style and brands that you usually might not have been able to afford. For me, that means spending £100 on a special occasion dress from an aspirational brand instead of the £300 retail value, then selling it on to the next loving home, completing the positive cycle.

According to the ‘Fixing Fashion’ parliament report, more than $500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilisation and lack of recycling. By doing your bit and buying something second-hand, it benefits not only you but the environment too; It reduces the amount of clothing not being recycled and going to landfill. It also reduces the demand on fast fashion brands which cause damage to the environment too, as well as sweatshops and cheap labour.

Second-hand shopping for me has always been a hobby, and it can be yours too. I’ve been on the hunt in charity shops since I was a pre-teen and active on Ebay from shortly after. I’m known in my friendship group and amongst my work colleagues to always get the best second-hand bargains and it isn’t luck; it’s all about hard work. Don’t treat the hours spent

browsing, searching and bartering as a chore, see it as a personal curation of your own style and wardrobe.

But, how? I hear you ask. Yes, it’s great for me to preach the many benefits, but staring at the billions of items online for sale can seem a bit daunting at first.

At the moment with the shops shut, it can also seem potentially like a barrier but don’t worry; the world wide web is here to rescue you.

The top websites to use are Ebay, Depop and Etsy without a doubt. Ebay, for just about anything you could imagine. Depop is more for branded and vintage clothing whilst Etsy is best for homewares, vintage finds and handmade/altered unique items.

IRL shopping has never been easier too; markets like Portobello Road if you’re in London or Brighton Flea Market make it easy to search for bargains and you could make a day of it. The market stalls usually have specialities i.e. shirts, jacket or shoes so it makes hunting for a particular item a bit easier. Furthermore, you could set yourself challenges with friends and family- set a budget for the day and see who finds the best curation of clothes.

Organising clothing swaps with friends will also be an excellent way to wear pre-loved clothing; especially if you’re envious of your friends’ style.

There are plenty of small businesses to support too who specialise in hand-picking their pre-loved goods. Simply search online for them or walk down your local high street for a gander.  Car boot sales are no longer a place your nan drags you on dreary, drizzly Sundays; they are a great way to find bargains and one-off, unique goods.

And, finally, my favourite places in the world. Charity shops. A veritable treasure trove of pre-loved, completely quirky and eccentric items. The smell alone of a charity shop is enough to make me nostalgic for all the times I have spent hours making whoever was with me wait whilst I made sure to examine each and every item to see if it was a potential match.

Look at the area the charity shop is in to see what items you would be potentially looking at. If you’re looking for branded items, head to those areas where the brands would be worn. If you’re looking for children’s clothing, look towards the ‘yummy mummy’ areas. Get friendly with the staff, as they’re always more than happy to help you out.

Top Tips

When using Ebay, you can set up mobile or email alerts for particular searches to avoid hours of trawling through the listings. This can come in handy if you’re looking for a particular item in your size i.e. ‘brand dress, size 12’and will let you know if anyone posts a listing in that specification.

Don’t be afraid to make do and mend to save a pretty penny. Many times there have been listings much, much cheaper than others because they’re missing a button, need a small stitch to repair or some darning. If you get hands-on and fix them yourself, you’ll be saving even more money.

You can re-purpose items too! If you see a beautiful print you couldn’t bear to live without but it’s in an unusable form, consider sewing it into a new format. A sheet could become a dress or cushions all for an afternoon of work.

Do your research into the market and the prices to know what you’re looking at and what

the price range should be. The old saying ‘if it’s too good to be true, it probably is’ applies here, especially with high-end brands. If a brand supplies authenticity certificates with a luxury item, don’t be afraid to ask to see it before you part with your hard-earned cash. Furthermore, it could go the other way and someone could be over-charging.

Know your measurements. This applies to all genders- when you know your measurements when shopping online, it makes the process a lot easier and means you’ll know for sure whether it’ll fit. This also applies to pre-loved furniture and homewares. If you’re out at an antiques market and spot the sofa of your dreams, knowing what size your living room is will come in handy when you get back home.

Barter, if you can. The best bargains I’ve had have been by sending the off-chance message of ‘could you do x?’. Knowing I was in love and was going to buy the item anyway, there was no harm in doing that. Sometimes people won’t, and that’s okay. But, considering my savings from bartering and sending offers are most likely in three figures now, I always think about it.

Pre-loved shopping is not only incredibly satisfying (there is nothing like the dopamine boost from winning a high stakes bidding war or snatching that amazing bargain) but also great for your budget and purse strings. In an unreliable world, where awful things are hurled at us every day, it is smart to consider saving your pennies where you can and pre-loved clothing is the perfect chance to do this.

You can turn it into a hobby too; a passion for shopping second-hand will mean your clothes are always the topic of conversation with your friends or colleagues, wondering how you got those beautiful kicks so cheap.

The environment is a hot topic for this decade. People want to live knowing they are doing their bit to protect it and save the world for future generations and often the best conscious choices we can make are small, but consistent. By shopping pre-loved when you can instead of from fast fashion brands, you’re saving the world, one dress at a time.


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