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In with the old – why wearing vintage is my sustainable style choice

Vintage, retro, second hand, pre-loved; whatever term you use for those not-new pieces in your wardrobe, it’s arguably one of the most sustainable ways to shop – and the movement is booming.

I’ve been shopping and wearing vintage clothes for a long time. It started by stealing some of my mum’s clothes when I was a teenager and has snowballed ever since. On my 16th birthday I borrowed her Levi’s 501s and while my pals were in their brand new jeans I really loved my second hand pair.

I think this was my first lesson in choosing vintage; it’s usually more economical (well, it was free in this case), it’s better for the environment, it’ll be different to what everyone else is wearing, it’ll often last a lot longer and it’s the joy in discovering something you didn’t even know you wanted that sets it apart from ‘normal clothes’.

I’ve always felt that wearing second hand is not only more fun but also a much more sustainable way to experiment with fashion. In fact, the term second hand itself is a little misleading, it could even be third or fourth hand by the time it reaches you. This sustainable angle isn’t lost on a raft of responsible shoppers who are increasingly putting more thought into what they buy and the impact their purchases have on our planet.

A report by eBay in September 2020 revealed that, ‘the equivalent weight of 900 double-decker buses was saved from landfill, thanks to purchases of pre-loved items last year.’ So, I’m definitely not alone with my love for vintage…

 

‘There has been a 404% YoY increase in pre-loved sales on eBay since 2018, and as many as 3 second hand purchases every second, across all categories, last year alone.’ Clearly the appetite for shopping second hand is on the up.

Recycling or reusing old clothes used to have a stigma attached, but now there’s almost a badge of pride with wearing vintage. There’s no new production damage, you limit contributions to landfill and you’ll wear it over and over again because it will always be a one-off and feel special.

Whether it’s a pair of designer jeans you couldn’t afford to buy brand new or an incredible dress from a specialist vintage seller, there’s a charm as well as a feel-good factor to shopping vintage.

Some of my favourite clothes are vintage, many of which I’ve worn for years, decades even, and some of them were first made up to (or even over) 50 years before, so to say they were made to last and age well is an understatement.

The obvious investments are coats, dresses and handbags. I love the quality of vintage coats; they’re always super warm with great design details, collars and buttons. Vintage handbags are usually made from beautiful, long-lasting leather and often come with a handy pocket mirror, and vintage dresses are the ones you pull out of the bag for parties and occasions – because they always bring the ALL the fun.  

Of course, it’s not just second hand clothing that’s having a moment, vintage homewares are hot on the heels of those vintage frocks. Accelerated by a year spent in and out of lockdown, our homes really have become our castles, so buying fun things to cheer up the dinner table or jazz up the living room has become increasingly popular.

With many online re-sell sites as well as social media accounts dedicated to vintage, it’s never been easier to shop second hand. I joined the gang last year with my own vintage homewares Instagram, @cherubsetc, as an outlet for my growing interiors passion and to keep the cycle moving. And don’t forget the shops dedicated to vintage on your high street and your local charity shops, where gems have been sourced and loved for many, many years.

Ultimately, beyond bagging yourself something really fun and unique, buying something old rather than new means you’re choosing a more sustainable way to shop. So get out there, buy something old and enjoy. It’s all the rage. Just don’t outbid me on anything…

About the Author

Becky Boyce, freelance writer & vintage enthusiast

Becky Boyce, freelance writer & vintage enthusiast

A freelance writer based in London, Becky predominantly writes about fashion, beauty and interiors for a fun collection of brands, ranging from Vivienne Westwood to Anthropologie and Tangle Teezer. A big vintage shopper, she’s been wearing second hand clothes for decades and recently started a vintage homewares Instagram, @cherubsetc.

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