Updated: Jun 9, 2018
Over the next few months I will be posting a series of blog posts on the different ways of shopping that support sustainable consumerism – with a focus on pre-loved items. I’ve long been a fan of buying pre-loved clothes – not just for the thrill of the hunt, but because it’s sustainable. There is increasing research to suggest that shopping pre-loved and vintage clothes leads to a 5-10% reduction in each of the carbon, water and waste footprints (WRAP) of that garment. It’s not something that we all think about before spending, but the impact a garment has on the environment continues throughout its life cycle. For example, the water used to grow the cotton; waste during dying and manufacturing; transportation and eventually how it is discarded.
Years of scouring flea markets and second hand stores has armed me with quite a good eye for finding that must-have item and so I thought we’d kick things off with one of my favourites – vintage shopping. What I love most about vintage items is that I tend to covet them so much more. The sense of history – wondering who wore it before you and how she looked and felt – and the extra care I take with these items, means that I’ll have the pieces I buy for years. This is how we were always supposed to shop – it was never meant to be such a fast-paced industry and I hope that one day we’ll all get back to shopping in this way.
I have found a number of really fantastic spots for buying pre-loved goodies and one of my favourites is a local vintage boutique called Susan French, based in Llandudno. The owner, Susan, has a really amazing eye for original pieces and has an eclectic mix of items ranging anywhere from Victorian dinner jackets, original Biba bags and Christian Dior knitwear to original Liberty print dresses from the 70s. She also really knows her stuff and it’s really refreshing finding out the history of each piece as you shop. Walking into this store is like walking into a treasure trove of sequins, beads, feathers and jewels and it’s hard not to feel like a child in a candy shop every time. I recently worked with Susan on a project for new industry talent and we carefully curated a beautiful wardrobe of Bianca Jagger inspired outfits. (I will share these shots with you soon)! If you’re based in the North Wales area – make sure you pop in and check it out.
130 Mostyn Street, Llandudno / 07469 701155
Location is everything
I like to shop consignment and charity shops in posher suburbs and vintage stores in smaller towns where items will always be less picked over.
Vintage shopping can’t be rushed, so make sure you have time to try items on and chat to sales assistants or owners about the history of the garments.
I always wear something fairly easy to pull on and off and don minimal make-up. This is because vintage stores often have very small (sometimes non-existent!) fitting rooms – and there would be nothing worse than getting make-up on an original. I’d recommend saving the red lippy for when you get your gorgeous new items home.
Forget what you know
Just like we should take size labels on the high street with a pinch of salt – pre-loved clothes are no exception. Sizing is completely different now to sizing back in the 20’s or 70’s for example and so my advice is to completely forget your size. Use your eye and the mirror to really look at what the garment is doing to your figure. If the garment is oversized a good dressmaker could always take it in; or could a belt be used to cinch in your waist? If the garment looks and feels too small, leave it behind and move on to the next. Never buy anything in the hope of ‘fitting in to it’ – this just has the tendency to make us all feel bad.
Start with accessories
If you’re new to vintage, starting with accessories is a fantastic way to begin. Wearing your usual outfit with a vintage bag; shoes or pair of sunglasses will add a touch of glamour and will push you out of confirming and looking like everyone else.
Quality is paramount
Try not to get carried away and buy items just because they’re discounted or on sale – only shop for items that will really compliment your existing wardrobe.
Many vintage boutiques have a strict no-return policy, so make sure you carefully examine garments before buying. You’ll need to check items inside and out, including, linings, buttons and seams. Holding the garment up to natural light could also reveal moth damage (which is a no-no). A loose hem is an easy fix – just make sure you’re prepared to spend money on the item if it’s anything more than this.
The ultimate investment
Always keep in mind that if you shop the right pieces, you can sometimes re-sell them in the future for a profit. I don’t personally like to shop like this, but I know that it does help to justify the slightly more expensive purchases when justification is required.
Also be mindful of anything neo-vintage – Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton or Phoebe Philo for Chloe are collectable and will be worth something in the future.