I've written quite a bit on preloved shopping since I've started this blog, but just to make it clear: I am no purist. I'm in awe of people who go years without buying new: I however still have last minute nothing to wear panics and the lure of a high street purchase while shopping with my tween is at times been too much to resist. And while going totally cold turkey from buying new is of course excellent and admirable, it doesnt have to be all or nothing: introducing preloved/vintage/secondhand* to our wardrobes and gradually shifting our attititudes to shopping is also not to be sniffed at. And when shopping preloved means extra special pieces are available to everyone at every budget ( which lets face it is a HUGE bonus in buying preloved) - there seems to be no reason not to dive in.
*call it what you will
My Vintage Ceil Chapman Wedding dress: best ever extra special secondhand purchase from the Earls Court Vintage Fair
But you need to know how to look for it. Which leads me to my point: buying secondhand can be daunting, especially if your fall back mode of shopping has previously been the lucky dip approach of sweeping the rails of *insert fast fashion brand here* and grabbing whatever catches your eye. I've often been asked the question of HOW rather than WHERE to shop preloved, so here's what I do. ( Disclaimer: this is mainly how to online search, with a touch of the IRL thrown in)
1. Don't Browse. Online preloved sites rarely reward the aimless browser (unless you have serious time on your hands). Know what designers you like and what specific pieces. Fill in as many of the key terms as possible from size to colour to fabric (essential). Yes this involves knowing what you need to complete your wardrobe. That is the WHOLE beauty of buying preloved. My Vinted search engine automatically now binge serves me leopard print everything as soon as I log on.
2. Be Specific: Missed out on a purchase last season that feels like the one that got away? Or seen something current that's out of your price range? It's never too late and there's always the chance of bagging it with tags still on. I scored a Mango gingham summer dress recently I thought I'd missed out on last Summer. Maybe not an 'investment piece' per se but it will live in my summer wardrobe for years to come.
Mango Sundress spotted in Ibiza 2022, spotted on Vinted 2023
3. Think Niche. The joys of online preloved means that you can find vintage and unusual designers that are right up your street. I generally love anything vintage Betty Barclay, and recently rediscovered Beverley Feldman shoes from the 80's. The less mainstream, the more likely you are to stumble on a gem. ( PS remember to check measurements, vintage sizing is often smaller)
4. Go down the preloved rabbit hole. Once you start searching you will immediately be offered up similar alternatives. Follow those threads, they may lead you to previously undiscovered brands and/or sellers that are right up your street.
Two pieces under £20 found on Vinted by going down a denim skirt rabbit hole.
5. Look out of season: People won't all be searching for trench coats ( for example) in June so there will be less competition. Another excellent reason for a more considered approach to your wardrobe, rather than a spur of the moment grab and go. (PS Speaking of trenches there are a wealth of quality ones that will last forever to be found preloved.)
6. Aim as high as you can afford. I generally try to uplevel when I search brands preloved. Yes it's worth aiming for better quality and longevity, plus there's the bonus of knowing I wouldn't be able to buy new even if I wanted to. This is particularly good with like bags, shoes and belts- I look to Ganni, and Scandi designers for dresses, and spend an indecent amount of time browsing Gucci belts and loafers, and Hermes head scarves. NB make sure a luxury purchase comes with a certificate of authenticity.
Stick to luxury purchases that come with a guarantee of authenticity from established sites like Vestiare. I made a stumble with a 'Hermes' scarf from a big secondhand site.
7. Know your budget. Spending a fortune on a designer piece you wouldn't have even been looking for defeats the object. Setting budget limits on search engines helps here as it's easy to creep higher than you intend.
8. Don't forget IRL. Charity and vintage shops need a different, more flexible magpie approach, and allow more spontenaity. The key is to look for quality fabrics (check the labels) that jump out at you, and don't be afraid to have things altered. When you travel always check the charity shops for something a little different, and dont forget preloved events.
Kaftan of dreams from a stumbled upon charity shop on holiday in Australia. Lifelong nostalgia purchase ticked.
9. Be Brave: Developing a more cyclical approach to clothes means that is you don't have to feel like you cant make adventurous choices: if you make a mistake you can either resell or donate back to charity with none of the guilt. I have bought several pieces that haven't worked that I just roll on out. Self loathing begone.
10. Go boutique: I did a whole blog on smaller boutique preloved sites that curate around an aesthetic and are easier to browse as you would a normal online store. The easiest way in if you're a preloved newbie, these sites do the hard work for you.
Boutique preloved at Manifesto Woman to make second hand shopping just that little bit less headache inducing
So a few extra directions if secondhand still feels a bit of a minefield. But throw yourself in and it becomes a whole new approach to clothes buying, plus with online it starts to feel like you are being delivered a curated shopping list each time you log on. Who doesn't prefer that to a high street dash and grab at 5.30pm on a Saturday afternoon? (Plus if you're interested see here for more info on Second Hand September.)
Thanks for reading! I'll be back in two weeks with a launch into sensible new season purchasing (new AND secondhand) Please do subscribe for a totally free two weekly delivery to your inbox on a Sunday morning.