By Alexandra Fullerton


Want to shop second-hand? These are the best tips and tricks to find a bargain

You could make incredible savings and help the planet too!

If the cost of living crisis has you in a panic, switching to shopping second-hand is a brilliant way to save money. As one of the most sustainable ways to shop, any pre-loved purchase is far more planet-friendly than a brand-new buy so you’re winning both ways. They also give you a greater chance of avoiding those awkward 'they're wearing the same thing as me' moments.

The past year has seen a 50 per cent increase in online searches for ‘second-hand clothing’, according to analysis of Google search trends. With Love Islanders wearing pre-loved fashion this year and popular influencers like Besma championing sustainable style, perceptions of the second-hand market are starting to shift, but there is still a way to go before it becomes completely commonplace. With finances being squeezed, it’s the perfect time to explore the second-hand options which can give your wardrobe a refresh on the cheap.

Nervous about making the change? Read on for the best ways to shop second-hand.

charity shop clothes rail

Embrace your local charity shops

Buying fashion that is lighter on your wallet and better for the planet makes sound sense, and charity shops are probably the most accessible place to look for pre-loved fashion. Most towns have several branches to browse, and you’ll find each store has a distinct personality. If there’s a certain charity you love to support, visit them first and don’t forget that most charities have online stores, like Oxfam.

Give yourself enough time to browse if you’re planning on hitting the charity shops. As the antithesis of fast fashion, the individual nature of the merchandising means you will have to check out each piece on the rails individually, instead of skimming over a section. We’ve found that, as a general rule, shops in more affluent areas tend to have more high end pieces. If you’re searching for something designer, it makes sense to target specific shops.

Charity shops can be reactive to the weather and changing attitudes of their shoppers. At this time of year you’re likely to find winter coats and boots replacing summer dresses and sandals, so you get the opportunity to shop with the seasons. You should also be on the lookout for cut off labels because some charity shops partner with top high street brands who donate unworn stock that doesn’t get sold.

The best styles will not stay on the rails for long, so it’s a good idea not to hang about when something catches your eye. You can use the Charity Retail Association directory to find charity shops in your area.

Go vintage and pick up a bargain

While the current economic climate has contributed to the trend of acquiring and reusing vintage clothing and accessories, the popularity of classic styles can also be seen as a movement against mass-produced fast fashion. The current crop of more conscious designers are spearheading the movement with vintage finds and deadstock fabrics being used to great effect on the catwalk. As people strive for more individuality in their styling and garments, it's no wonder that vintage clothing is enjoying a renaissance.

Here are some useful things to remember when buying vintage:

  • Vintage clothes vary enormously in size. Ignore the number written on the label and if you like it, try it on (or carefully check the measurements).
  • While bigger clothes can always be tailored to fit, smaller pieces can be more tricky to alter unless you’re a talented sewist.
  • Get busy with a needle and thread, because you can turn a second-hand find into a forever piece through personalisation like adding a patch, taking up hems or removing sleeves.
  • Accessories are a good way to dip your toe into the world of vintage. From retro jewellery pieces to statement bags, you can easily add a distinctive touch to many different outfits.
  • When you shop could impact what you find. Get to know the staff in your local store and ask what day they put out new stock to get first dibs.

If you’re looking for more of a curated shopping experience, try a dedicated vintage shop or thrift store. London’s traditional garment district in the streets around Brick Lane are brimming with pre-loved stores while Manchester’s Northern Quarter is also a hub for discerning second-hand shoppers.

Be savvy when buying pre-loved styles online

Online resale marketplaces like eBay, Depop and Vestiaire Collective are a convenient way to access a wider source of second-hand fashion.

Firstly, you should choose a respected seller, so that you can be confident that the clothing is genuine and as described in the listing. It’s always a good idea to ensure your seller offers returns in case the item doesn’t fit you. Next, check who is responsible if something goes wrong. Does the site offer any kind of buyer protection or dispute resolution, or are you going to be on your own? While it may be tempting to jump in and buy something before anyone else does, putting in some groundwork could save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

With so much online competition, you will need to invest a decent amount of time into your pre-loved searches. Remember to narrow down your search criteria using website filters to save time scrolling through things you’re not interested in. Having a specific look that you want to create is often advantageous, so make sure you are clear in what is inspiring your search, whether that’s the latest style trends or something more unusual. Some sites will also allow you to set up alerts.

Start communicating with the seller to get more details about sizing, condition and even colour. As highlighted by the infamous ‘what colour is the dress’ meme of 2015, colour in photos can be really deceiving. If you’re in any doubt you should ask the seller to confirm which photo is the most colour accurate.

Assortment of clothes on a rail in front of white background

We are all guilty of having clothing tucked away at the back of the wardrobe which haven't seen the light of day for years, so it’s worth getting to know your wardrobe a little better to avoid buying garments that you don’t need. Wherever you get your shopping fix this season, choosing second-hand will be an affordable, planet-friendly and stylish way to get dressed. Even if you do need to make a new purchase, if you shop online using a deal or discount code from Savoo, they’ll donate up to half the commission to your charity of choice.