We wanted to share the secondhandfirst stories behind our pre-loved clothes. Why? Because there are numerous reasons why we choose second-hand and more often than not, you’d really have no idea if someone was wearing something sourced from a charity or vintage shop, borrowed or scavenged from a friend or family members wardrobe, or repaired to within an inch of its life unless they told you. Second-hand clothes are rich with an imagined history as well as being a way of freeing us from the clutches of the mass-marketed image of an impossible perfection and have the ability to liberate our own personal style to create an identity that is unique and individual.
These stories behind our second-hand clothes need to be told, not just because they provide a fascinating insight into the human psyche, but because we need to change the way we talk about clothes if we’re to challenge the stigma of second-hand and promote an alternative consumption to preserve future precious resources from being extracted and exhausted. Storytelling connects us and inspires us, showcasing the wide variety of language that can be employed to express messages of sustainability that we can relate to and associate with. There are no big complex dry words, there are no patronising phrases to induce guilt or remorse, just stories from people like you and I that celebrate second-hand.
So, for TRAID’s fourth annual Secondhandfirst Week we asked those that have taken our pledge to challenge themselves to source a percentage of what they need second-hand, but to also share their stories. The stories are varied – some are short and sweet, others share personal experiences or provide an insight into a relationship, a handful cite environmental reasons as their motivation, some are detailed and some read like the footnotes of a fashion magazine’s photo shoot. Regardless, the common thread (sic) that ties these stories together is their sense of pride and ownership.
Over on our Instagram page we shared some of the #secondhandfirst stories and you can read a selection of our favourite ones here.
‘Well, I am a fashion design graduate, and throughout my time at university, I couldn’t really afford new clothes, but there was not really much of a selection of high street shops but a large selection of charity shops (being in Rochester and Chatham that is). The high street is and was a bit generic and boring, not like going into a charity shop or second-hand shop and not knowing what you were going to find and end up with? That is the fun of it for me, searching for hidden treasure, what can you wear it with? What can you cut up and re-use or wear differently? Is it vintage? Look hard enough you will find hidden GEMS!!! Like my Valentino Shirt!!!! Or my beautiful tailored Froc coat made in the Savoy tailors, they are so beautiful and both found in a second-hand shop! WHAT IS ONE PERSON’S DISREGARD IS ANOTHER TREASURE!!! LOVE IT!!!’
‘I’m an actress, I need to be able to create unique interesting looks for auditions and shoots. I buy my clothes exclusively from charity shops.’
‘I’ve always loved second hand clothing, and cherished each individual piece more than any other buy. I would say about 80% of my wardrobe is second hand! This example was a bargain which I wear for fancy dress parties and to festivals when you can really go crazy with the sequins!’
‘I am one out of 3 girls in my family, so I have always enjoyed the benefits of an open closet policy. I started a start-up called Style Lottery to spread the secondhand fashion love with my community. The outfit I’m wearing features a second-hand leather jacket that I found in the kids’ section, paired with a thrifted mustard mini skirt, along with a pair of black oxfords given to me by my sister because they didn’t fit her. That’s how most of my outfits are: a mixture of something new, something borrowed, something thrifted, and always something that shows off my personal style. So many great pieces already exist out there, so shopping second-hand has never stifled my style. I can focus on curating my wardrobe with clothes that have a story behind them.’
‘I am an Instagrammer from Bristol and decided to go fully second-hand two years ago. I started avoiding the high-street to help recover from an eating disorder. The more I shopped second-hand the more I learned about sweatshops and environmental damage via the fashion industry. I also realised how fulfilling charity shopping can be. I’ve never been happier in myself or more interested in fashion. I loved TRAID when I visited for the first time last month. I’m going to come back to London especially!’
‘This is an entirely second-hand Lumpy Space Princess cosplay, which I wore to the Thought Bubble comic convention in Leeds. The dress, cardigan and belt all came from Leeds Community Clothes Exchange, of which I’m a volunteer and member of the Management Team. Since January 2016, all of my clothes have come from LCCE, charity or vintage shops, and I’m proud to say that since this date 100% of my wardrobe (excluding items I already owned) have been second-hand.’
‘To say my friend and I love charity shops [especially TRAID] + vintage shops, would be an understatement. We are obsessed – and were ecstatic when we found a pair of authentic 50’s dresses in Beyond Retro (Soho) for our Year 11 prom. I still remember the excitement I felt when I saw the enticing glimpse of ruby red tulle amongst the thick wall of taffeta and lace. It was the first and last dress I tried on for prom!’
‘I have made quite a number of my own clothes but I also buy second hand / vintage clothes and repair or re-style them. The dress in the photo is a 1960’s dress from a stall in Camden Passage in Islington. It needed a little bit of repair and I also altered the darts to fit me.’
‘I committed to No New Clothes in 2016 and completed the challenge in my holey tights! Now I’m continuing but allowing myself to buy essentials such as underwear and specialist items like running shoes.’
‘I’ve always loved the amazing treasures to be found in charity shops for as long as I can remember and have shopped at charity shops for over 23 years since I entered my teen’s. In more recent years my love has increased as I’m growing ever more concerned about both the environmental and ethical implications of the mainstream fashion industry. Secondhand clothing (and fabric which I customise and make my own new designs from) is the answer to both my concerns, while being cheaper, more diverse, unique, and also an excellent way to raise funds for amazing causes! Win win all round!’
‘I love to imagine the story behind a second-hand garment, vintage clothes specially which I upcycle with litter found in the water, plastics mainly. It is my way to raise awareness about climate change. Best Slow Fashion is reusing what is already produced. Water is life.’
‘I’ve started to rethink my fashion consumption in 2015 and started my blog. So far, I’ve managed to buy most of my clothes second-hand and will continue to do so.’
‘These are pieces bought in charity shops in London which include a beautiful pair of Artigato pumps for £12.99, a See by Chloe waistcoat for £4.99 and an embroidered yellow dress for £8.99.’
‘I love second hand and vintage clothing because there’s a story in every piece you pick in a thrift store. 2 hours before taking the flight back to Hamburg I saw this coat in a tiny vintage store in New York – and fell in love. Pullover and jeans are from a small vintage store in Berlin.’
‘Over a year ago I decided to not buy anything new, nothing! I was able to upkeep it 100% for a year. After that year I made the change that if I was going to buy something new it must be sustainable. I wrote about it here. In this photo my outfit is 95% #secondhandfirst. The only item that isn’t are my sneakers which are sustainably made.’
‘Hello, my name is Roanna, I used to be a fashion model (part of the fast fashion industry). I had an endless wardrobe, but even then I always purchased from charity shops. I left my career and I started travelling, where I gained an insight into the lives of people working in sweatshops in places like Cambodia and India. I travelled as a minimalist with a backpack for three years. I have now returned to the UK where I intend to only work/model for eco fashion brands and aiming to only purchase second hand clothing, or not at all! Plus now I have returned as a minimalist, I shall be donating and selling my second hand clothing to keep the cycle churning! I have now started my own blog/website and social media platforms called @Roeco_Fashion which I am using to educate people about how the fashion industry is affecting our planet and what conscious decisions we can make to help our current situation. This coat I am wearing in the photo attached is from a little second-hand coat/jacket cart, that was being rolled around an incredible market in Yangon, Burma/Myanmar. I was heading North and the weather was getting colder so I needed something to keep me warm. The experience was unforgettable; everyone around me looked for one they thought I would like and I tried it on until I found this one in the photo, which certainly did a good job at keeping me warm!’
‘I got the dress in the photo in Scad charity shop in Skipton for £6 – it is 1995 Laura Ashley and was £49 when new. I love it and the jumper is also second-hand from Oxfam. I wear this with second-hand boots, a second-hand watch, second-hand bracelet, and the pendant I have on is a stone with a natural hole that my partner found on Morecambe beach in 2000 with a piece of cord threaded through it. It’s also freeing from fast fashion to make your own and I have just made my first hand sewn pinafore dress.’
‘On a visit to TRAID Dalston to gather information for my university project I stumbled across this little number. It is now at the top of my go-to pile of knitwear.’
‘It’s a long story!’
Inspired to tell your secondhandfirst story? Take the pledge and tell us your story here.