I have always been an avid jumble sale and charity shop enthusiast. There’s a thrill in the hunt for quality pieces and best-loved brands. With spring in the air (despite the unseasonal below-freezing temperatures as I write) I have been checking out the new collections, and subsequently scouring some favourite places for inspired pre-loved items to work into my wardrobe for fresh looks. I’ve been mooching around around Hampshire and Sussex and have so far found some lovely items to make a start to my spring/summer wardrobe.
While sustainable fashion is seeing a big following on Instagram and other platforms, it certainly isn’t new. Previous generations have always shared clothing items, passed them on, remodelled and generally made the best use of both the materials and the skills inherent in the rag trade. That was all pre fast-fashion when clothes were literally made to last, created from natural linen, cotton, wool and silk.
Top quality pre-loved finds are becoming harder to source with much of the clothing industry churning out mass produced, fast-fashion items, and these are turning up in the charity shops. It is still possible though to track down really nice pieces if you’re prepared to hunt around and have a good eye. It also helps not to differentiate between men’s and women’s clothes, and even child’s sizes which fit well.
Hankering after a Fedora, I found one in a beautiful Italian wool, in a dark chestnut colour, in a dress agency @houseofgallet in the tiny town of Alresford. These little independent shops are also good hunting grounds especially for luxury brands if you have a little more cash to splash. Most cities and smaller towns have at least one.
Is that a thing? Anyway, the odd thing I’ve noticed when I’m shopping for pre-loved fashion, is that I sometimes buy brands I would normally never consider. Go into any of the big high street stores and all you can see is a sea (ahem) of similar items that barely change regardless of the seasons. There’s something about rows and rows of similar clothing and colours that simply seem to merge visually and turns off the creative ‘switch’. Does that sound familiar? Yet, in a charity shops amongst the diverse often chaotic offering I hone in on an item that catches my eye, only to be surprised by the label. And when someone pays me a lovely compliment on an outfit I’m wearing and I tell them the label, they are slightly shocked too.
There’s something very satisfying, not to mention fun, putting together an individual outfit from diverse pieces collected from here and there. It might be a well-cut pair of tailored trousers or slacks, a classic wool skirt, an elegant linen dress, a cashmere sweater or a fine silk head scarf. Designer leather bags are becoming rarer but I found a pretty pearly buttercup leather Jane Shilton bag this week which will remain in my collection for years to come. I didn’t realise until I got it home that it has both short handles and a long strap to wear the bag cross-body, which is a bonus. When I’m travelling or at events and taking photos it’s good to be hands-free.
It’s uncanny but often I fall in love with an item from a brand’s new collection online, occasionally in a magazine and sometimes in-store, and within a couple of trips I find a similar item pre-loved. This week the new Chanel FW22_23 collection popped up in my Instagram feed featuring the iconic tweedy, wool coats and suits, and interestingly a little Chanel heart worn on a long across-body chain. Within a couple of days I found a sweet miniature purse that pays homage to Chanel, once I added a heavy gold-tone chain.
It’s a given that choosing quality over quantity for new clothes and accessories means they will last for years, going in and out of fashion (although dressing well is more about style). But the same applies to pre-loved buys too. Many items have been in my closet for years and I forget where and when I bought them. A cotton striped blazer-style jacket from Top Shop, for instance. Every year I think maybe it’s past it’s best and ready for recycling. However, I can’t bear to part with it and still enjoy wearing it. An embroidered peacock patch added to the back has added new life and it remains a spring/summer favourite.
Top Shop cotton striped blazer. L to R: embroidered peacock motif hand sewn on the back: a faux membership badge (part of the original design). Raffia earrings as previusly picked up on sale at Marks and Spencer years ago.
Coming up daisies
Recently, I visited around 10 charity shops in different locations in a week and for the first time ever I didn’t have any lucky finds. When I popped into a big Next store I bought just one new item, a white cotton Tee with tiny fabric daisies all over the front in a child’s size 8 years. The new Chanel collection features a gorgeous top with similar flowers, although in this instance set against a background of coloured check.
Of course, sometimes I get it totally wrong and buy something pre-loved on impulse, or in desperation for an event. A Moschino white denim jacket with brightly coloured foliage was an impulse buy but, again, I can’t bear to part with it even though I wear it only occasionally, and all the while feeling a little self conscious.
Spotted on @sita_lombera this gorgeous ensemble which has a hint of the 18th century dandy about it. I’m on the hunt now for a pre-loved velvet blazer. If I find one in pink I’ll be over the moon, but burgundy or an olive green might work. Watch this space.
Other buys recently include a Ralph Lauren navy and white striped top and a dark blue denim trench by Gap. I have some styling ideas in mind but need one or two items to complete. Pre-loved dressing requires patience and dedication. I’ll pop something on Instagram @hashtagtravelin when the look is completed so check back there over in the next week or so.
There is no affiliation with any of these brands. I’m simply sharing ideas and pieces that I like. Hope you do too! Do you like to shop pre-loved, and what has been your ‘best’ buy to date? Tell us in the comments, or on Instagram to connect.