I must admit, the immaculately styled, well-lit mannequins of high street stores can entice far more than a mismatched display in a darkened second-hand store. But if you subscribe to the idiom ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, you will find that within a labyrinth of dusty chequered shirts, hopeless skirts and the occasional rogue shoe quietly lies a trove of second-hand treasures. A musty scent of possibility lingers in the air as you rifle through the racks, stroking the velvet, the silk, the cotton and the inevitable 70s corduroy. There is something uniquely joyous in finding that sandwiched between a pair of old slacks and a crumpled mustard-coloured shirt is something you simply love and didn’t expect to find. It wasn’t hanging from a minimalist rack with its dozen other clones, but by itself, as though waiting for you to seek it out. Nor does it break the bank: gone is the sacrifice of owning that dress that you must have for a week of canned soups for dinner (I perhaps have been guilty of such ridiculousness). Gone is walking into a bar just to be greeted by someone who also seemed to think that the dress that you thought was just perfect for you was perfect for them too.


My friends squealed when they saw me in a Prada cardigan I had managed to find at a local Cambridge charity shop.

“Only a fiver?” they exclaimed. But I couldn’t believe it either.

It felt good. Having only absent-mindedly ducked into Save the Children for some retail therapy after a particularly dry lecture on a particularly wet day, my hand landed upon a beautifully soft cardigan. Though definitely worn, it was delicate and reminiscent of something a ballerina would wear, with it being distinctively backless with a loose tie at the waist. Delightful in itself, the deal was clinched when I saw the classic designer name. It was a triumphant moment, as it always is when you find something you love in a sea of things that could easily have drowned it. But it didn’t just feel good for it being a designer label, nor for the admittedly smug blush to my cheeks from my friends’ reactions. It felt good knowing that my money was going to a charity. It also felt good that I was buying something that had been given another life and not ended up in landfill, as is the environmental cost of excessive consumer culture. That day, I didn’t contribute money towards unsustainable fashion. All of this made my opportunistic retail therapy feel a lot less guilty.



Mountain View

Second-Hand Clothing, First-Hand Fashion?

Though this may seem practical only to those with the luxury of spare time and the virtue of patience, I recently discovered that I can satisfy my 21-year-old desire for instant gratification and maintain my preference for second hand. Oxfam online has thousands and thousands of clothes, shoes and accessories where you can use filters to find exactly what you want: I have found this to be a great alternative to sourcing specific items quickly and efficiently when I don’t have the time to shop in store. The British Heart Foundation has its own eBay shop where sometimes there’s the additional fun of bidding, with eBay already being a fantastic way to second hand shop: some garments are even new with tags, where you can directly revel in the discount you’re getting. Online vintage shops such as Rokit and Beyond Retro offer a more curated selection of second hand gems.

The unique combination of a guilt-free retail thrill and the chance to enhance my personal style liberated from the perils of fast fashion has converted me to a second-hand way of life. Now, the pull of new season high street has diminished against my new favourite sport: hunting for a stylish needle in a rather musty haystack.