Whilst I am sure most people are aware of the environmental impacts of flying, driving a car and eating meat, something that can be overlooked is the fashion industry for its wide-reaching environmental costs. According to the UN, “the fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 2-8 percent of global carbon emissions” (article linked below).
In 2018, I watched the documentary ‘The True Cost’ (2015), which opened my eyes to the devastating impacts of fast fashion – on communities in developing countries, on the environment across the world and the exploitation of garment workers, to name a few. I vowed to myself that I would no longer buy or support fast fashion brands. I am proud to say that I have kept my promise to myself and taken a completely different approach to fashion and clothing.
I try to buy fewer clothes generally, but when I do I will buy second-hand. There are loads of great ways of second-hand clothes shopping and my personal favourites are: charity shops, Depop and hand-me-downs!
Today I wanted to focus on the items I have bought over the years from charity shops across the UK (the equivalent of Thrift Stores in the US) with the hopes of showing my readers that it is possible to buy items that you love second hand whilst supporting a good cause.
The item of clothing that I am most proud of buying from a charity shop is a Levi’s denim miniskirt. I was incredibly lucky that it was in Oxfam for only £5 and I have had so much use out of it over the past few years.
This skirt is so versatile. Above is a photo of me wearing it on a recent holiday to Budapest but I also regularly wear it with a dressier top on nights out.
Another favourite is a bright red denim jacket that equally gets a lot of wear. I already owned the matching skirt from the fast fashion brand, which I had bought before I vowed to stop supporting such companies. I couldn’t believe my luck when I realised I could complete the set whilst not supporting this brand!
Above is a photo of me wearing the jacket on a sunny day in a pub garden.
Next up are two lovely summer dress that I found last year and both quickly became favourites of mine. I don’t always suit longer dresses due to not being blessed in the height department but I feel that these fit really well and make me feel summery and dressed up!
I love both of these dresses for different reasons. To the left, the leopard print is made of a lovely sheer material and the slit up the side gives it an added detail. On the right, I love the ditsy floral pattern and the ruched side. I find them both very flattering and make a nice addition to my wardrobe as I tend to gravitate for shorter dresses and skirts.
For tops, I have a few favourites. One is an older purchase and one much newer.
This yellow top is a bright summer favourite but I also wear it a lot during the spring and autumn months. I tend to wear it with jeans and a denim jacket. Here I am wearing it on a city break in York whilst enjoying a pink gin and lemonade!
I guess I am a fan of sheer leopard print clothing as the top pictured above is one that has become my go-to for nights out! This top was actually far too big for me so I adjusted the sleeves with an amateur stitch. The eagle eyed of you may spot another pink gin and lemonade in this photo!
And finally, although it may be a bit too early to mention the ‘C word’, I know we all love a Christmas jumper! I hadn’t had one in a few years after growing out of my previous one. In the months leading up to Christmas, my local Oxfam have a huge rail of lots of second hand Christmas jumpers and I fell in love with this one.
This photo was from a couple of Christmases ago but I can assure you that it will be making a comeback for Christmas 2022!
To finish this post, here a few thoughts of mine about shopping for clothes from charity shops.
Firstly, I have learnt that patience is key. 9 times out of 10 you will leave the charity shop empty handed, not having seen anything that you liked enough to take home. But if you are persistent with looking when you get the chance, I can guarantee that you will find something that you love eventually!
Secondly, none of the items shown in this blog post were items I ‘needed’. The most sustainable thing of course is wearing what you already own. However, those in my life will see me wearing and treasuring the same clothes for many years and this is something that should be embraced more. It is not sustainable, financially or environmentally, to constantly update your wardrobe with new items, getting rid of the old ones, even if these are donated.
This brings me on to my next point about donating to charity shops. This may sound conflicting to this post, but I actually try to avoid donating to them where possible. As much as I love charity shops and believe that overall they are a great resource for donating and supporting, I know that many charity shops have a surplus of items and some inevitably end up in landfill or being shipped off to other countries. Personally, I avoid this by only buying clothes that I know I will love and get a lot of use out of, and try my best to fix clothing when I get holes or broken straps. If I am getting rid of an item, it will be because it doesn’t fit or I no longer like it. In this case, I try to sell or donate directly to another person, either on Depop, Vinted or Trash Nothing (Freecycle). This is because I then know that someone will directly be receiving the item, rather than wondering whether it made it to the charity shop floor and then into someone’s home.
There are a lot of nuances in this conversation and many issues and complexities I have not covered. These are also just my own personal views and I welcome any comments or different opinions. I would encourage you to read further into this topic as I am by no means an expert. I have linked below some sources for further reading/watching:
- The True Cost (2015)
I would love to hear from you if you have found any clothes you love from charity shops or thift shops, or your opinions on the same!
That is an interesting article with some ideas I hadn’t considered before. For a long time I have been aware and appalled by the exploitation of workers in third world countries. I knew that many tons of the clothes they laboured over went straight to landfill if they didn’t sell in one particular fashion season. However, I hadn’t fully realised the impact to the environment of the manufacture of so many garments. Whereas the availability of cheap clothing means everyone can take pleasure in dressing up it has got to the point when many people don’t want to be seen out in the same clothes twice. I hope more young people like you will take heed and that the fashion industry will evolve to making fewer clothes but items which will last and made by well paid workers and in ways which have less impact on the environment.
By the way, you look extremely attractive in all your second hand treasures.
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Yes it’s awful! I would really recommend the documentary I mentioned if you are interested. I think a lot of people are but I think with social media and incredibly cheap fast fashion brands, people feel pressured to always be wearing the latest trends.
Thank you ❤️❤️