Successful Second Hand Shopping: Ain’t No Shame in Some Hand-Me-Downs

We’ve all heard the term Fast Fashion and been shocked by news stories of the terrible working conditions endured by garment workers across the world. In addition to the human cost, Fast Fashion is taking a huge toll on our planet as well.

To put this in context, here are a few facts about Fast Fashion:

  • It takes 2,700 litres of water to make a single cotton T-shirt; areas such as the Aral Sea in Central Asia have been reduced to desert as a result of global demand for cotton.
  • The UK produces over 200,000 tonnes of textile waste a year and is the 4th largest textile waste producer in Europe.
  • The fashion industry is responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions, with textile production contributing more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined.
  • 80% of fashion industry workers are female; in 2019 Oxfam reported that 0% of workers in Bangladesh and only 1% of workers in Vietnam received a living wage.

We clearly need to send an urgent message to the fashion industry that emissions, pollution and human suffering are not OK. One of the best ways to do this is to change your shopping habits and to simply Buy Nothing New. So, in this post, we’re going to talk about second hand shopping and share some of our tips.

We’ve been (mainly) buying nothing new for a few years now, since discovering Jen Gale’s blog about her year of buying nothing new. But I was a keen charity shop shopper for many years before that; I remember one Christmas about fifteen years I bought all my presents exclusively from charity shops. My motivation then wasn’t quite the same – rather than saving the planet, I was trying to save money! Nowadays, my kids, husband and I are clad almost exclusively in hand-me-downs from friends and family or bargains from charity shops and eBay. The irony is that with the rise of fast fashion, buying second hand clothes is not always the cheapest option.

If you haven’t already tried “buying nothing new”, it is an eco-action that we highly recommend. Since pledging to only buy second hand items, I’ve found my attitude towards buying in general has changed. It has made me re-evaluate my buying habits and question whether I really need or want particular items.

So, in an attempt to encourage you to “buy nothing new”, here are a few alternatives to the high street and our tips on successful second hand shopping:

Charity Shops (Thrift Stores or Op Shops to our international readers)

Charity shops are a brilliant place to start. They offer a lot of choice and good value for money, with the added element of surprise as you never know what you might find! Another bonus is that you can usually touch, try on (and even smell) before buying and nowadays most charity shops will accept returns (or you could just re-donate unwanted items).

On the downside, charity shops are not so convenient if you are looking for a specific item and it can be time consuming trawling through shops looking for just one thing which you might not find. I have also found that charity shops are sometimes not so good for men’s fashion or children’s clothes, they just don’t seem to stock as much as they do for women.

Top Tips

Have an ongoing list of things that you’re on the hunt for – I keep a mental list (you could write it down) of things I want or am going to need in the near future. So, for example, at the moment I’m on the lookout for school uniforms and waterproof jackets for the kids.

Get to know your charity shops – charity shops can vary in price, quality and quantity of clothes, and even the way the clothes are displayed. Personally, I’m not a fan of shops where clothes are arranged by colour rather than size, so I tend to avoid these ones.


You can find almost anything you need on eBay, if you’re prepared to pay. There really is a huge range of second hand clothing for all the family and it’s easy to search for specific items.

However, the auction format means you can sometimes miss out or have to wait longer than you would like for bidding to finish. What’s more, you can’t try before you buy and returns of second hand goods are not often possible, making some eBay purchases a bit risky. The fact that you will need to pay postage on top can make things more expensive and the choice available can be overwhelming. That said, I have made some great second hand purchases on eBay and got some real bargains!

Top Tips

Use the filter to search for “Used” items only – this way you guarantee you are buying second hand. Used does not necessarily mean in used condition, but make sure you read the full description.

Search for a particular brand that you like – this will narrow down search results even further. The beauty of eBay is the potential to buy brands which you wouldn’t normally be able afford to buy new.

Select the “Buy It Now” option if the Auction format is not for you.

Search for bundles rather than individual items (particularly good for children’s clothes) as postage will often be the same for one or several pieces of clothing.

Preloved Websites

eBay is not the only option for buying second hand clothes online. More and more websites selling preloved clothes are popping up all the time. Here are just a few which we are aware of, although we haven’t bought from them yet:

Vinted – this is a buy and sell site for women’s, men’s and kid’s clothing, shoes, accessories, as well as homeware. Prices seem very reasonable and there’s no auction element unlike eBay. Sellers set their own prices and payment options and aren’t charged a fee. This means, however, that buyers are charged a small fee, so factor this in.

Depop – one for the fashion-conscious younger generation, Depop is an App based marketplace for womenswear, menswear, jewellery and more. Prices seem higher than other sites, but sellers are encouraged to offer free shipping so this might balance out.

Re Fashion – a very user friendly website selling preloved women’s clothing. The website is designed very much like a high street store’s website in that you can shop by size, brand, and category. Because the clothes are sold directly by Re Fashion, photos of the stock are very professional, not the pictures of a crumpled T-shirt chucked on an unmade bed that you sometimes see on other sites! Returns are available on most items and are free.

Buywearswaprepeat – an actual second hand shop down in Poole which also has a great website selling women’s clothes, shoes and accessories. Free delivery is available on orders over £50. It’s worth following Buywearswaprepeat on Facebook and Instagram as they regularly preview new stock, which gets snapped up pretty quick!

We hope that we’ve inspired you to “buy nothing new”. If so, why not pledge to take part in Oxfam’s Second Hand September,  a 30 day challenge to change your shopping habits and only buy second hand.  As the title of this post says, there certainly “Ain’t no shame in some hand-me-downs” (lyric stolen shamelessly from the awesome Canadian band Arkells – please check them out). Not only will you be helping the planet, you can also save money and contribute to charities at the same time! And if you have any second hand shopping tips or preloved website recommendations, please share them with us.


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