How to Start Second-Hand Clothes Shopping | Sustainable Style | Rosie Abigail

How to Start Second-Hand Clothes Shopping | Sustainable Style | Rosie Abigail

The planet is burning and climate change is threatening everything that we know and love. It might not be a bright sentiment to start a fun and joyous post about second-hand shopping but hey, it’s the truth.

There is one industry in particular that seems to be holding the flame to our planet – the fashion industry. Oxfam, one of the UK’s leading charities on poverty, collated statistics about the fashion industry and fast fashion in particular. Did you know that “the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions?” and that “textile production contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined”? Big oof. 

When you read those kinds of statistics, it raises the question “well, what the heck can I do to stop this?”. At least, it does for me. Fashion and clothing are such a staple part of modern day culture, it’s incredibly hard to disentangle yourself from it unless you have a sewing machine and the sewing skills of a West End costume designer. So what can you, we, do? The easy answer is ‘buy sustainably made clothes from sustainable clothing brands that have an eco-ethos and give back to the planet’. Now whilst that would be wonderful, most fully sustainable clothes come with a hefty price tag. A price-tag that cuts the majority of consumers out. Knowing what we know about fast fashion (how damaging it is to the environment, how it engages in slavery, and how it is damaging to our bodies), shopping solely fast fashion isn’t on the cards. So what is the answer? Start second-hand shopping.

Extending the life of clothes by just 9 months of active use would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30% each.


I can understand that there are a lot of nerves around second-hand shopping if you’ve never done it before. I mean, that’s why I’m writing this post! But do not worry – second-hand clothes shopping is no longer the realm of smelly jumpers in charity shops. There is now a whole, online world and industry dedicated to shopping second-hand. I’ve battled through the trial and error of starting second-hand shopping and I’ve come out of the other end, smiling in my pre-worn jeans.

So let me put that trial and error to good use, and give you a step by step breakdown of how to get into the world of online second-hand shopping. 

DisclaimerI know it’s not the people who buy fast-fashion because that’s all they can afford that’s the problem here. It’s the people buying five dresses for a night out, doing hauls, buying Shein each week. Moreover, it’s the companies themselves that have made fast-fashion brands so catastrophic for the planet. I’d also like to mention that second-hand shopping is harder for some people than others – just like shopping for new clothes is. If you are in a straight-size body, then you’ll end up with hundreds, if not thousands of options. When you start getting to a UK size sixteen, things get a little tricky and just get worse and worse as the clothing sizes go up. Why, I hear you ask? Well, fashion is still a fatphobic industry and has a long way to go. But that’s another post for another day…

Step One – Choose your warrior

In the world of second-hand online shopping, there are a few big hitters out there – Depop, Vinted, eBay, Poshmark, Vestiaire Collective to mention a few. But don’t be overwhelmed by the choice. If you want to start buying, I would recommend starting with Depop – the app works like a social media app, the sellers have to maintain a level of professionalism across the board, and there are no buying fees to you, the buyer. 

Once you create an account, the world is your oyster. You can put parameters on the app so it only shows you your size or style. You can search by brand, era, or colour. You can even find out if your friends have accounts and shops on there! Plus, the more you ‘like’ or engage with items, the better the algorithm is at finding items for you.

Step Two – Shop what you know

Whilst you can go wild on liking items to build up the algorithm’s understanding of your style, I would recommend going with what you know when making your first purchase. If you have something you need to buy, say a new pair of trousers, set the parameters to brands you already know your size in. As we all know, sizing in one shop varies from another – you don’t want your first purchase to be hanging off you like a blanket or so small you can barely get it over your thighs. 

For my first purchase on Depop, I was in need of a new dress for the warmer months, so I stuck to parameters that I knew – size 16, summer dress, in ASOS, New Look, and M&S. This came up with plenty of options for me to choose from.

An image of Rosie, a white woman with wavy bobbed blonde hair, in front of Bristol Cathedral. She is holding a bouquet of sunflowers and is wearing a mini smock dress. The dress is light blue at the top with white flowers; white with pink flowers at the bottom; and white with black dots in the middle.
ASOS Tri-Pattern Smock Dress, bought on Depop

The best bit? There were barely any duplicates, so I knew I would find something to suit my style. After a bit of searching, I found the cutest smock dress from ASOS (complete with pockets!) and bought it for £15, shipping included. Shopping a brand that I had experience with meant that there was no disappointment to be had when it arrived, because I knew it would fit me. And yes, it does fit, it makes me feel cute, and it looks just as great with a turtleneck underneath it for winter. 

Top tip! Make sure to check the shipping fees. Some apps have free shipping, some sellers absorb the shipping price, and some tack it on at the end. So your £11 bargain could end up being £16 if you aren’t careful!

A black sweatshirt reading 'Wrangler' in white writing, against a purple wall
Vintage Wrangler sweatshirt from Worth The Weight Kilo Sale

Step Three – Broaden your horizons 

With a good purchase experience under your belt, that’s when I suggest removing the brand search. So, you’d no longer search with the parameters of brand, just size and requirement. This is also when it’s a good idea to start including the clothing sizes around your body too because all brands are different. As a size UK 16, I put size 14 and 18 as options as well to cover all the bases. 

Rosie, a white woman, is wearing a black and white gingham, maxi wrap dress. She is holding the skirt out.
Dreamy, cottagecore maxi dress from Nobody’s Child, via Vinted

When I was looking for a smart yet comfortable dress for eating at posh restaurants on my honeymoon, I came across quite a few Nobody’s Child dresses. I had never bought anything from this brand before. So instead of letting the fear of ‘no returns in second-hand shopping’ get to me, I did some research into sizes – and this is exactly what you need to do when looking at new-to-you brands when shopping second-hand. I like to look at the brand’s sizing charts, Trustpilot, and by simply Googling ‘is this brand true to size?’. 

When I found a dress I liked, I did my research, and found that Nobody’s Child dresses ran a wee bit small. So, considering it was a wrap dress and the price was good, I took the plunge on ordering this size 18, black and white gingham, midi wrap dress. This has ended up being one of my favourite pieces, and also one of my best bargains. Originally the dress was sold for £60, and I got it for £8. What a winner. 

Top Tip! Don’t be afraid to ask sellers questions. Questions on fabric, how it fits, wear and tear – any seller worth buying from will be happy to answer. 

Step Four – Go wild, baby

Once you’ve bought a few items from Depop or similar apps, you should get the hang of how online second-hand shopping works. No matter what app or website you use, the ethos stays the same. 

If you want more casual options, give Vinted a go – it’s less polished but buying comes with a Buyer Protection. If you want to explore more designer based options, Vestiaire Collective is the one for you. And then for everything under the sun, you’ve got the original second-hand site; eBay. Even though eBay is famed for being a bidding site, many sellers have a ‘buy now’ feature too. You can get some real, under the radar gems on eBay – you just have to explore. The world of second-hand shopping is yours for the taking.

Left: floating, green-blue coloured midi skirt, unbranded from Depop. Right: Full thrifted look! Denim jacket from Worth The Weight Vintage, ASOS cherry dress from Depop, and vintage Fujifilm camera bag from my local charity shop

Second-hand clothes shopping should be an enjoyable experience, whether you take part online or via kilo sales, charity shops, or fairs. Introducing second-hand clothes shopping into our clothing cycle is one of the best things us folks down on the ground can do to make a positive change to our world. Plus, it allows us a chance to really let our style shine. Why wear poorly made, lead lined clothes, when you can have timeless pieces that speak true to you?

Hopefully you are now feeling more prepared to venture into the world of online second-hand clothes shopping! Just remember, each time you buy second-hand and not from a fast-fashion site, you are making a difference. Be adventurous in your choices, do your bit for our planet, and hey – if your purchase doesn’t fit, you can always sell it on yourself! But that’s another post for another day…

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve dabbled in second-hand shopping and what your favourite find has been! I think mine has to be the denim jacket which I found at a Vintage Kilo Sale. You can never go wrong with an oversized denim jacket – that’s an all-season jacket baby!

Thanks for reading,
Rosie x

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Educate & Donate:  Verity PCOS | Mind | Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation | Stonewall |


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