Monday, April 24, 2017

Shopping Second-Hand

Second-hand shopping has always been a huge part of my (shopaholic) life. Long before it was "cool" to do so, my mom and I would raid Value Village (a large second-hand store in my hometown) on "99 cent Mondays" and return with bagfuls of clothes and books, much to my dad's horror (because we never seemed to get rid of anything either).

Although living in London has changed my style, it hasn't changed my shopping habits (though I'm still trying to change the way I spend my money because of this dreaded spreadsheet). And while I enjoy the thrill of a Zara purchase (or four) as much as the next person, and you'll regularly find me in COS admiring soft pleats and boxy shifts, approximately 20% of my wardrobe is purchased second-hand, via a mix of eBay, consignment stores, and our local community sell or swap Facebook group.

With glamorous social media accounts enticing us to "buy, buy, buy!" and want "more, more, more!" (guilty as charged), it's too easy to fall into a habit of constant consumerism - buying into the newest trend (for me, it's oversized sleeves and off-the-shoulder frills, at the moment) or aspirational item (I am stupidly obsessed with that Gucci belt in everyone's Instagram feed).

For me, shopping second-hand achieves two things: 1) I can buy labels I'm reluctant to pay full price for (like the cashmere Equipment sweater I'm wearing above or my Muubaa leather jacket) at a fraction of the price; and 2) I'm recycling clothing, which is better for the environment. I also like knowing that I'm giving a piece of clothing a new life. I encourage my friends to "shop in my closet", as my best friend calls it. Friends who visit often leave with a handful of clothes including French Connection shorts (remember those, Rebecca?) or Gap dresses.

I'm not professing to be perfect; to be the "conscious" shopper. Far from it. I regularly find myself walking up to the H&M till like a robot, handing over my card like an automated machine and walking out with some slip of a polyester thing, without having any recollection of how or why I bought it in the first place (thank goodness for return policies).

But for me, the thrill of a new, store-bought purchase is equivalent to the swell of joy I feel when I become the new owner of an item that has significant or sentimental value.

Recently, I bought an amazing, vintage Levi's jacket (with actual, authentic distressing that appeared naturally over time) from a woman in our local sell or swap Facebook group. Approximately nine minutes after her post appeared in my Facebook feed, I typed as quickly as possible to secure my place in line. The lady ahead of me ended up passing because of the holes in the sleeves, but I punctuated my reply with two exclamation points as I wrote, "Yes, please!! For the holes!!" The seller, a lovely woman who met me with the jacket at the tube station's gate so I wouldn't have to trek to her house, lamented parting with an item that had seen her through countless concerts and parties in the 80s, but now no longer fit. I assured her that the jacket would be given a new, much-loved life - and it has. I've barely taken it off since I got it!

The reverse can happen too: we recently sold an indoor/outdoor coffee table through the same Facebook group - a table that John had painstakingly sanded and varnished himself when we bought it together for our first flat over 7 years ago. I was sad to see it go, but we didn't have room for it. When the man who bought it arrived to collect it, I was pleased that he was around our age, seemed really nice, and that he had planned to put it in his newly remodelled garden. I mean, not that any of this mattered (it's just a table!), but I loved knowing that a piece of furniture that we had once loved and cherished was going to someone who would really enjoy it (having said that, I saw it for sale a few weeks later as it didn't quite work for the new owners - oh well!).

I guess what I'm trying to say is that, our possessions are a part of us. They carry memories of the person we were at the time we bought it (the denim jacket) and the thoughts, feelings, and events we experienced when we owned them (the coffee table). They're reflections of our personality and taste. And that's why shopping second-hand can be such a special experience.

Have you ever bought a second-hand item? What was it? I'd love to know!

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