I was recently extolling the virtues of shopping for preloved clothes to some friends. (I need to watch this. I do go on about it a lot – it must get boring!)
Much of the environmental impact of clothing comes from its manufacture: “Environmental impacts include energy use and generation of greenhouse gas emissions in production and use, water use, toxicity, hazardous waste and effluent associated with production stage pre-treatment chemicals, dyes, and finishes” (Pedersen and Andersen, 2015, p. 315).
Shopping secondhand is an ingenious solution to this problem. You can still get your fix of new things to wear, with far less environmental damage to weigh on your conscience. Thrifting is often cheaper than buying brand new, and can result in a more original look than high street shopping. Ever turned up at a party in the same Zara dress as someone else? That won’t happen when you’re working your preloved threads.
However, my conversation with my friends was a reminder that there are still real barriers for many people to embracing secondhand.
What if it turns out to have stains or holes in it?
That’s super unlikely on peer-to-peer sites such as the app Depop. Every sale is rated by the buyer, and sellers who’ve palmed off clothes in bad condition will immediately see their star rating plummet, which will make it very hard to land more sales. I’ve bought 20 or so items now via Depop and they’ve all been impeccable. In my experience, sellers are very transparent about any imperfections. Similarly, Re-Fashion is a preloved site which guarantees excellent quality. You can read my interview with its founder here.
I need a specific item
Not long ago, secondhand shopping meant rifling through charity shops and finding something you didn’t even know you wanted. The serendipity of uncovering a gem that way is thrilling – but one of my friends pointed out that’s hardly a realistic option if you need, say, a white shirt for an interview. That’s absolutely true. However, you’ll easily find exactly what you want on eBay or Depop.
It might not fit
Ok, this one can be a real problem. I stick to brands I trust to be consistent with their sizing, but have still ended up with a couple of items I thought would fit but don’t quite. Sellers on Vinted, Depop and other platforms will usually be happy to answer questions about fit, and often provide detailed measurements.
I’d be taking clothes away from people who really need them
This is honestly so unlikely. As secondhand influencer Charli says in my interview with her, the supply of used clothes massively outstrips demand. Anyone who’s worked in a charity shop can confirm that stores are overwhelmed by the constant procession of people dropping off donations.
What if someone died in it?!
Shop only for BNWT (brand new with tags)!
#thriftedfashion #thriftedstyle #thriftstorefinds #secondhandfirst #secondhandnotsecondbest #prelovedfashion #secondhandfashion #loveyourclothes #thanksitsthrifted #lovenotlandfill #sustainablefashion #sustainableootd #thriftedootd #thriftedoutfit #nonewclothes
3 thoughts on ““But what if someone died in it?!” – and other barriers to buying secondhand clothes”
So many good tips here! I like that you mention the unlikelihood that thrifting is ‘taking away clothes from those who need it’. This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately after getting some backlash about thrifting… The person said people who can afford new clothes should not be shopping at thrift stores. But my response was, how else are we supposed to be more sustainable?! Good to know that supply far outweighs demand.
Thanks for sharing this post!
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Thanks so much, Grace. I’m sorry to hear you had the backlash – but honestly, the volume of secondhand clothing available is huge: you really don’t need to feel bad about thrifting! Thanks for sharing 🙂 Jen
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Hi again Grace. Please feel free to say no to this but I’m currently completing my masters degree with a thesis that looks at fashion consumption. I am looking to interview a couple of fashion influencers and would love to send you a couple of questions via email or set up a short Zoom chat. No worries if you can’t. I’ll DM you via IG 🙂 Jen
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