My current room is bedecked with dresses – five of them strung across one wall, doing an excellent job of simultaneously providing decoration and hiding chipped paint marks. All but one are second hand, bought from an array of vintage stalls, charity shops and other clothes troves I’ve visited in the last few years. My wardrobe is also packed tight with skirts, shirts and jumpers that possibly had previous owners (and other stories) before I plucked them up from some pile or rail. This term the colours are all darkly jeweled - jades, deep blues, reds, pinks – with lots of black and grey thrown into the mix. There are velvets, silks, leather jackets, thick wools and the odd fancy hat.
This little assembly of items is typical of my wider wardrobe. A small selection of it was bought new (think People Tree, ASOS Africa and the occasional foray into an independent designer or sustainable brand), but the rest has passed through other hands, other houses, other heritages first. I’d say about 80% of my clothing is second hand, whether it’s been bought by me, sneaked away from my mum, passed down from previous generations or received as gifts.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the last few days, as the textiles charity TRAID have deemed this week to be one of going ‘Second Hand First’. They’re trying to encourage more people to think about the environmental impact of what they buy - and to source a percentage of their wardrobe second hand (you can even sign a pledge if you’re feeling ambitious). Obviously this is no challenge for me, as charity shops and vintage stalls are my natural hunting ground. But it’s good to be reminded of the thrill every now and then – the pleasure of sifting through fifties tea-dresses, the satisfaction of finding something you know you’ll wear time and time again. You can read more about the aims and actions of TRAID here.
To commemorate the occasion, I’ve put together a little bunch of images from the last five and a half years, charting some of the many, many outfits comprised of nearly all second hand clothes (although I realised in the process of choosing photos that I could have used just about any past post to illustrate the ethos). I also still own every item re-shown - including the floor length, red satin evening coat that belonged originally to one of my great grandmothers, given to me in 2009 by my Babi (Grandma). I won’t elaborate any more here, as my main thoughts on the subject were expressed in this recent piece ‘Some Words on Second Hand.’ Which I ended thus:
“It’s more about a slow-burn pleasure, having the privilege to keep on building a little emporium of second hand delights. Some pieces will come and go, while others – hopefully – will remain stashed away until I’m old. Who knows what clothes there are left to discover… Slightly superficial? Well, yes. But a joy to consider? Absolutely.”
TRAID are making this week all about that joy. I’ll be joining them as I stomp around Oxford in various outfits cobbled together from items owned by others first - hopefully adding in my own tales to the ones created when they were worn before.
In other news, I recently did an interview with Fashiola, which you can read here.