Spring has officially sprung. But for many of us the real turning point will be after the 29th of March when groups of six can gather again and our social lives return once more, just in time for warmer days ahead. By warmer I mean, with luck, anything over 10 degrees C. With the vaccines rolling out at a promising pace and a seemingly smooth plan for transitioning back into normality just in sight, the collective mood seems more restless than ever.
The time seems about right to give our wardrobes a classic old spring clean out and think about the changes ahead. While I was doing so I actually rediscovered a few items which, I have to admit, I had forgotten about. The trench and floral dress combo suddenly spoke to me. The outfit muses: “I’m ready for this season, but after Christmas was promised then cancelled (in the UK at least), I’m guarded with the sensible utility of a trusty trench.”
On another note, are we really ready to go from cosy quarantine gear back into actual clothes? I’m hopeful that back garden BBQs will give us some flexibility until we’re set to bedazzle all with maximalist ‘fits both outside and inside our favourite bars, pubs etc.
Dress: Make Do and Mend, a vintage pop up in Brixton I visited a few years ago. Can’t recall the exact cost but I think it was around £30. Trench coat: I honestly can’t remember, I guess that’s the thing about rediscovering older pieces from your own wardrobe. But the label makes me think it’s vintage. Shoes: eBay, £5.70 including postage. Sunglasses: Vintage St Helena Hospice Colchester, £1! A memorable bargain. Bag: eBay, £13.72 including postage. Earrings: A Christmas gift, I’m told they were from Etsy. Rings: A collection of hand-me-downs and one possibly from a charity shop in Colchester.
With 2020 now in the dust and many of us hoping a change of calendar means a change of luck in 2021, is there much chance for a slower fashion world? An article by the New Statesman from October last year broke down why a pandemic alone wouldn’t leave too much of a dent in the fast fashion industry. Even though there was a dip in online retail sales in April, people soon had the urge to spend, and by July online stores recovered quite significantly. Kate Nightingale, a consumer psychologist, says a reason for this may be that the COVID pandemic leads to “mortality salience” which can cause us to act and, of course, buy more impulsively because we’re faced with the idea of death. Who hasn’t indulged in moments of retail therapy at points of crisis in their life?
If you’re going to splash out on some new threads then why not say goodbye to carbon footprint filled, sweat-shop manufactured goods in 2021? Vintage sites like Beyond Retro, as well as second-hand clothes from depop and eBay are great alternatives. If you miss being able to support your local charity shops then Oxfam have their own online store which is still active through lockdown, as well as Age UK and others now using eBay to sell their wares.
The UK is in lockdown once again and many of us are experiencing those familiar quarantine blues, especially after a socially distanced Christmas season. Somehow the 120th drinks over video chat don’t quite hit the same anymore, and a lot of us have taken to brooding like moody teenagers who can’t go anywhere, although instead of our fake IDs not being convincing enough it’s more we can’t buy a Scotch egg accompanied by ten pints in our local, or even congregate in parks for stealth tinnies in state-approved groups of sixes. Even with the vaccine seemingly just in sight, lockdown is dragging more than ever. I especially can’t go anywhere apart from a few exciting hospital trips a week until vaccinated as I’m halfway through 6 cycles of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, so do or don’t worry about the lavender-pink ombre being my real hair.
Speaking of moody teenage years, mine weren’t especially different to anyone else’s; insisting on collecting Smiths albums on vinyl, thinking Pulp Fiction was totally the greatest film ever and, of course, updating my tumblr blog of the soft/pastel grunge variety. If you remember anything about this genre of tumblr fashion it was a lot of pink/purple hair matched with combat boots, oversized jumpers/shirts with crop tops and the shortest shorts- essentially grunge- but make it pretty. A near modern day equivalent (now I suddenly feel ancient) is probably the ‘e-girl/e-boy’ style which is popular amongst the youth of today- hermit teens with a semi-ironic aesthetic to express. In my case the powers that were parents and Catholic school would never have allowed bright hair dye and upside down crucifix necklaces, so while my fourteen year old self merely admired the soft grunge aesthetic, these e-kids are out here really doing it, even if it’s just mostly in the confines of their bedrooms for TikTok videos.
Hair loss from chemotherapy is pretty unavoidable for the most part so a month into treatment when I started shedding everywhere I decided to shave it off and embrace the whole wig thing. Immediately I was drawn to pink as it’s a colour I’d never actually commit to with my real hair. I wanted to make the shade pop with a dark clothing base, so I went for this men’s black Hugo Boss blazer, appropriately oversized for that grungey vibe:
Price breakdown (including delivery for online purchases): Hugo Boss Blazer- £2.50, Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Charity Shop, Colchester Pin stripe suit- £16.99, eBay T-shirt- £19.10, eBay Boots- £14, eBay Earrings- £2.50, Vintage St Helena Hospice, Colchester
An outfit for when you’ve got a boiler to fix at 9:00 and a St Andrew’s Day celebration at 12:00. Just kidding, we’re still in lockdown/tier restrictions, but of course that doesn’t stop us all buying for when things will one day be, we hope, ‘back to normal.’ As is the Black Friday tradition, many online stores were offering huge discounts on clothing, furniture, electricals etc. Even though Black Friday sales projections were predicted to be lower overall than in previous years, research from PWC suggested that those interested in Black Friday could spend more as a result of the second lockdown. This would be due mainly to pubs etc being shut, resulting in redirecting ‘forced savings’ to the sales.
With the assumption that fewer people in general will spend because of lockdown/restrictions, some retailers such as Pretty Little Thing took their offers to unsavoury extremes. Many garments were sold for mere pennies, prompting us to question even further the ethics and true cost of fast fashion. Greenpeace rightfully pointed out that “when the cost of clothing is staggeringly low, you have to wonder about the human cost of making that garment, and whether it comes from a supply chain of exploitation…remember when you see clothes selling for cheap, this always comes with a cost to people and the planet.” Read this article for more insight on the current PLT scandal.
My hope is that through this blog I can show an affordable and sustainable alternative to fast fashion websites, where personal style is not sacrificed. With charity shops reopening after the 2nd lockdown, and the option to buy second-hand on Ebay, depop and so on, why not give thrifting a go?
My outfit in this post cost just £18.75 (see full breakdown of costs below) and I was fully able to embrace that turning point in the year when we say a wistful, regretful goodbye to Autumn, while still simultaneously greeting the Christmas season. Of course, this look also embodies my loyalty to Scotch whisky (note the tartan scarf). The Autumn/Christmas crossover mood is, for me, very Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows (1955):
Breakdown of cost: • Jumpsuit- £3, British Heart Foundation Colchester • Bag- £2.95, Scope Camden • Scarf- £1.20 plus £3.10 postage, Ebay • Shoes- From the Vintage St Helena Hospice in Colchester many years ago, I can’t remember the exact price so I’ll give a guesstimate of £6 • Earrings- £2.50, Vintage St Helena Hospice Colchester Total: £18.75
I don’t particularly like cyclists. I especially don’t when I’m trying to enjoy a refreshing quarantine-era park walk and they seem to zip right past every five seconds, but I will appropriate their culture. Who in the past few years hasn’t worn cycle shorts for anything but sports? Festivals, running errands, lounging around during Covid-19; all equally valid situations which call for the garment.
I’ve had these cycle shorts for many years now, and although not thrifted I wanted to use other second hand pieces to create a look which involves something other than just an oversized t-shirt and bare-feet (the usual). I arrived somewhere between Princess Diana and Joan Crawford:
Joan drama up top and Diana comfort below
Feel like giving up during isolation? 1940s shoulder-padded-power-suit your way through it.
I’m a fan of a one-hole belt where one end can go through, loop round, and then be tied free-style at whatever tight-ness you want/need.
Unsurprisingly, Colchester’s St Helena Hospice clearance shop (a favourite) makes up a large chunk of my outfit:
Blazer- £1, St Helena Hospice clearance shop, Colchester
Belt- £1, St Helena Hospice clearance shop, Colchester
Bag- £1, St Helena Hospice clearance shop, Colchester
Shoes- Ebay, £6.30 (including p&p)
Earrings- Ebay £3.25
Conclusion: Sprinkling a casual piece like bicycle shorts with old Hollywood star inspired elements can in fact elevate your isolation mood. Plus a martini/quarantini a la Joan Crawford in Humoresque helps. Stay safe everyone.
It’s that time of year again, people celebrating and rejoicing that spring has (kind of) sprung, and the sunnier weather likes to trick us into thinking it’s here too. The season may be fast approaching, beginning officially on 19th-20th March, but winter doesn’t seem to show any sign of giving up its frosty grip. Yep, it’s still freezing. So what to do if you want to dress for the sunshine and the cold? Well, you can take what you consider the epitome of wondrous winter fashion, in my case Warren Beatty in the 1971 film McCabe & Mrs. Miller:
And throw that in a blender with the best of care-free spring style, for me Jane Birkin is the ultimate:
Then somehow after trawling through my vintage and charity shop finds I ended up like this:
Ready to face this confusing season-crossover period with 1970s-or-bust ‘tude. My main focus for the outfit was this unreal-ly luxurious coat which I found in Colchester’s Salvation Army shop for just £4.50:
Even though we’re nearing the end of winter, I knew I wasn’t going to wait until Nov 2020 to wear it, so I figured I’d pair it with more spring-time appropriate pieces to balance out the fur’s mighty heft. I found this shirt in the old faithful St Helena Hospice Clearance shop, where every item of clothing is £1. It does have a button missing, but I don’t mind, the gap allows me to appreciate more of that spring breeze/crisp winter air. A soft, suede-like feel, but still thin and lightweight.
I got the flares from Stour Vintage in Manningtree, it’s well worth a visit for the upstairs section of women’s retro clothes, no men’s unfortunately, but there’s furniture/records downstairs. I like these trousers as the denim isn’t stiff, it feels very comfortable and thinner than regular jeans, so even in much warmer weather they’d still be very wearable.
The bag’s origins I don’t fully remember, I’ve had it for a few years now, but I’m pretty certain it’s from the Vintage St Helena Hospice in Colchester Town. It has that straw/wicker basket vibe which immediately evokes Jane Birkin. Maybe if I keep dropping the contents of my bag everywhere then, like Birkin, I too can have a bag designed for and named after me with throngs of people waiting in line for one. Anyway, back to reality…
I bought the shoes from Ebay when I realised I was lacking a spring/summer pair of flats that I could wear til they start to fall apart (as is the usual pattern, I guess I have an aggressive stride when en route to stock up on vermouth and olives). They’re neutral/cream, but the question is how long will they remain that colour? In their second-hand, yet pre-scuffed, condition they look fairly new-ish, and like the shirt and jeans aren’t as stiff as their counterparts. These shoes aren’t from the world of traditionally tough and sturdy brogues, they’re softer and haven’t (yet) cursed me with blisters.
I tested out this look in a range of locations, were they as exotic as Jane Birkin’s favourite Parisian markets? Or as thrilling as McCabe’s entrance into a 1900s Washington mining town? Well, you decide. Here we have a stylish, brutalist car park entrance, something Colchester does so well:
And then we have an equally exciting, similarly-coloured off-white wall with a fascinating textural wood centrepiece. Clearly, I was captivated:
Finally, this classic brick wall and, with a spring-time flourish, some lush green foliage:
And the expression reads: “Foliage? For spring? Groundbreaking.”
The cost breakdown:
Fur coat: £4.50, Salvation Army Colchester
Flares: £12, Stour Vintage Manningtree
Shirt: £1, St Helena Hospice Clearance Shop Colchester
Bag: £5, (estimate) St Helena Hospice Vintage Colchester
How, where and why you ask? If you haven’t already, read my intro post on why second-hand styling is important now more than ever in this age of fast fashion.
I’m currently based in Colchester, where the town centre has a multitude of charity shops. One of my favourites has to be the St Helena Hospice Clearance Shop on Magdalen Street- every item of clothing is just £1! It’s actually maybe about a five-ten minute walk out of the town centre, but definitely worth it. Here I found the beige turtleneck and this great bag for- you guessed it- £1 each.
The neutral turtleneck is a good basic item/essential, especially if you’re wondering ‘is my wardrobe 1970s TV show detective enough?’ Would I pass for an extra on Van Der Valk? And I love the bag’s distressed effect- perfectly matches my personality and contrasts to the clean, not-as-textured outfit. It also contains the ‘big three’ of items I like to carry almost everywhere- 1 litre water bottle, book and umbrella. When I was studying in London I always had this irrational fear of getting ‘stuck’ somewhere for hours and not having water/entertainment near me. I’m not exactly sure where I was imagining getting stuck- on the tube? On top of Big Ben? But I felt weird not having those items with me. Also, of course, the bag can fit in a purse and other actual essentials.
I’ve had the belt for a few years now, and can’t actually remember which charity shop I got it from, but it’s the perfect length(?) for using as a waist belt. Recently I was scouring Ebay for some good heels which are wearable and not insanely high. I’m 5’9, and as much as I like towering over people in heels there’s a limit to it I’d say. They’re originally from Zara and have a suede effect- pretty versatileand can be paired with more casual or less casual outfits.
There’s definitely been an increasing interest in co-ords, not necessarily just suits, but having match-y top and bottom pieces. I’ve found it difficult to find a shorts-suit, maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that it’s February- who knows? But I think any season can call for shorts, just wear with tights (skin colour or low denier black tights is what I prefer) and a long coat- we don’t have to freeze for our fashion- although if I had to maybe I would just a bit. I found the tailored black shorts in Sue Ryder on Short Wyre Street for just £2, and the black blazer in PDSA on Long Wyre Street for under £5, forming my own kind of dream shorts-suit-co-ord. It was easy to do with black as they both match in colour, but finding the sand coloured shorts-suit of my dreams with second-hand separates might be a taller order.
I’d probably wear this outfit maybe to a bar, although if I was going to be drinking 5+ pints I might lose the belt- I still like the look without it. I would still see myself wearing this during the day, but maybe swap the heels with some black boots for more of a casual and comfortable time pacing/procrastinating around town.
Here’s a total breakdown of the costs:
Black blazer- £4.95 from PDSA Colchester
Black shorts- £2 from Sue Ryder Colchester
Beige turtleneck- £1 from St Helena Clearance Shop
Belt- estimated £3 from a charity shop I don’t remember
Heels- £10.40 (including postage) from Ebay
Bag- £1 from St Helena Clearance Shop
Total cost: £22.35
So if you’re in Colchester, or a different town with good access to second hand stores, consider thrifting your way to your next great look. If you prefer scrolling online, why not try Ebay or Depop as a sustainable alternative to the fast-fashion giants?
I’ll see you in a few weeks for another thriftily-shopped look.
Hi, my name’s Emilia and welcome to my thrifty fashion blog
I’ve always loved shopping second hand. In quite a few of my free periods during sixth form college around 5 years ago The Salvation Army charity shop in Colchester was my favourite distraction from going to the library and memorising quotes from The Tempest. Fast forward to my final year of University; I became time-poor and much more interested in the convenience of shopping online, ending up committing the cardinal sin of buying from fast fashion websites. You know, the ones which always seem to have at least 50% off, but two thirds of what arrives ends up being half the amount of fabric you thought it was, or the cut looks like some kind of shapeless Jedi robe. Well, I guess I got what I deserved.
Basically, I was mindlessly buying out of laziness, boredom, and not really thinking about the consequences of supporting fast fashion sites and brands. Recently, there’s been more awareness about how these companies operate, it’s not just the relatively newer dodgy online shops, even familiar high-street brands such as H&M are also guilty of feeding into the trend of turning over masses of new designs quickly at lower costs. But how does this affect the rest of the world?
“Global clothing production has doubled in the past 15 years, with garments on average being worn much less and discarded quicker than ever before.” – Ellen MacArthur Foundation
“We are increasingly disconnected from the people who make our clothing as 97% of items you’re overseas. There are roughly 40 million garment workers in the world today; many of whom do not share the same rights or protections that many people in the West do. They are some of the lowest paid workers in the world and roughly 85% of all garment workers are women.” – The True Cost
“Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing. But it takes more than 200 years to decompose.” – Forbes
“The fashion industry is designed to make you feel “out of trend” after one week. Once upon a time, there were two fashion seasons: Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. Fast forward to 2014 and the fashion industry is churning out 52 “micro-seasons” per year. With new trends coming out every week, the goal of fast fashion is for consumers to buy as many garments as possible, as quickly as possible.” – Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
“Only 10% of the clothes people donate to thrift stores or charities get sold, the rest goes to landfill.” – 1 Million Women
The bottom line is that clothing is being made and discarded at an alarming rate, which is destroying the environment, depriving workers of fair pay, and making us feel more and more obsessed with the ‘latest and greatest’ styles for the cheapest price possible.
So why not shop second hand? There’s already enough clothing in the world, why create a demand for even more? Fast fashion is affordable? I bet that charity shops, Ebay and Depop will find you outfits you love for even less, and without supporting unethical practices.
Thrifty Things is a commitment from me to shop second-hand, a return to what I’ve always loved, although I lost sight of it briefly. You don’t have to sacrifice your own personal style for sustainability, and I’ll be proving it by blogging my affordable outfits made up of second hand pieces in the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.