Wednesday, April 4, 2018

How to do it better: Vintage + second hand shopping

You’ve quit fast fashion. GOOD FOR YOU. You’ve spent time in shopping rehab and you’ve come out on the other side a better person. You’re shopping ethically. You’re shopping local. You’re shopping smarter. You’re reducing, reusing, and recycling your way to a better closet, with more unique pieces, that you can also feel better about. You are a conscious consumer.

I’m proud.

So let’s talk about vintage and second hand shopping. It’s cheap enough to still get the thrill you once felt scanning the Forever 21 racks without further paying into fast fashion, which is great. But are you still shopping for the thrill, just because you can? Buying vintage and second hand JUST because it’s cheap is still a poor use of your money and precious closet space. You’re still over-adding to the collection you’re supposed to be curating.  You’re still giving yourself more options than you need and they will still end up in the back of your closet, unworn, the same way the other clothes did. Its hard to reject stuff that’s too good to be so cheap. Trust me, I do it. But the result of that will always be a large collection of unworn clothes while you wear your favorite 15% of your closet and feel overwhelmed at the idea of decluttering all over again. This is a vicious cycle I know all too well.

“When the french girl shops, it isn’t a solitary act of buying something new. It’s part of a lifelong process of editing her environment, making small but meaningful additions or adjustments to her home, her closet, her life.” 
Words to live by.

I say again  ‘QUALITY OVER QUANTITY’.  This chant is great advice if you know how to put it into action. You need the know-how (and the will power).

- What is quality exactly?

A lot can go into describing quality, but at the end of the day it is pretty general. “A grade of excellence” is what the dictionary tells us. Quality items are to uphold a set of characteristics to meet a certain criteria and requirements. But what are they?  Well in short, MINE. My definition of quality is what matters for me. (And yours is what matters for you.)

- What do you consider quality?

1. Ethically made (not made in a sweatshop). It can be the best, nicest fabric in the world, but I can’t ignore the quality of life for the people involved in making it. For second hand though - everything is fair game. You’re furthering the recycling process.
 (Though I don’t suggest buying fast fashion clothes second hand, they’re already falling apart and it’s a waste of money).

2. For something to be quality, it has to be durable.

3. Made with attention to detail.

4. Preferred natural fabrics.

5. Well constructed.

When shopping at vintage and second hand stores: fabric is key. Fabric is the foundation of any piece of clothing and the “right” fabric to shop for varies depending on the climate you live in.

I personally have a few fabrics I feel for when shopping. When I say feel, I literally mean that I feel my way through racks.  The fingers know. You begin to recognize fabrics. “Sartorial wisdom accumulates with experience”.  I like to stray from polyester as much as I can, as well as thin stretched out jersey. But I love cotton, all kinds of cotton. 

I also love linens, silk and cashmere. I look for woven and knit fabrics - these keep a little bit of structure and the clothes fit and look better overall.

In this closet pruning journey, I have been trying to learn a few technical details when it comes to clothes and fabrics that will help me decide on a purchase and determine whether or not it is quality. I believe in sharing - so these tricks I've picked up are all yours now!


Silk is delicate and needs to be dry cleaned. This is an added expense, yes, but worth it for silk as there is no avoiding it (natural deodorant and silk are not friends, but the dry cleaner is their mediator). (** I will admit that I find myself breaking this rule and gently hand-washing some of my silks if it's just to refresh them. Gentle detergent, cold water, air dry. Deodorant or any kind of stain must be handled by the professionals or risk ruining your piece.)

Wool and cashmere are great fabrics - especially if you live in cooler areas. My love for sweaters and cashmere outweigh my need for them (living in CA) which is unfortunate. For both of these, you can rub the fabric together and if it balls up, put it back, that is an clear indicator of a lower quality or worn out piece of these fabrics.

Sizing down for second hand denim is optimal so that you can stretch them out to your body. Typically when buying your true size in denim, they have already been stretched out to someone else’s body and you will not have much luck re-stretching them to yours. Wear them every day for a week and they'll form to your body - the perfect fit is worth not being able to breath or sit for a couple days.

Brands, decades, etc all have a different way of sizing. Don’t get attached to a number. Your identity is not found in that (a simple statement that took years for me to come to terms with and is still a work in progress).
Try it all on. If you like it, eyeball it. Hold it up to yourself. And then try. it. on. Fit is a personal preference and the number on the item of clothing has no grounds there. 

All in all, they're just clothes. But you wear them every day and any amount of money you spend on them is an investment, so make it an educated one. I see a lot of clothes being describes as 'quality investments' solely because of the price tag (read: expensive), not the standard or quality of the piece.  Let’s talk about how clothes are made and who’s making them.

Or not. (But I’m going to.)

(I teased on my Intsagram a while ago that I had some more posts on ethical and sustainable fashion and shopping - so here we are! Post one of four...I think)


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