Monday, 18 August 2014

Some Words on Second Hand









I’ve reached the point where I feel that certain things are a given on this blog – number one being that, no matter what the outfit, it’s likely that at least part of it will have been sourced from a charity shop, vintage shop/market, or family member. It’s easy to get complacent, to forget that such a second hand approach is still considered by some a tad unconventional.

Occasionally I wander into a high street store – sometimes because I need practical things like underwear (I’m yet to find a good ethical manufacturer of bras, and, well, M&S ones are pretty), sometimes out of idle curiosity. I like to see if I feel like I’m missing out, if the clothes are so delectable that I’d drop certain principles just to own a particular dress. It hasn’t happened yet. A lot of the time I’m just mildly surprised to remember that, unlike the sifting and sorting of a charity shop, in a high street store it’s all laid out neatly – multiple sizes, particular designs, trends that filter in and out. I’m now so used to the combing process, of running my fingers along rails and snatching up intriguing looking fabrics, clucking at prices and being disappointed when the vintage treasure I thought I’d laid my hands on turns out to be Primark. (Clothes snob, me?)

But I’ve realized that it’s the 'unknown' element I continue to revel in most. I love the hunt. I like the feeling of some small achievement, however frivolous, in bringing home a gorgeous green felt fedora or a Chanel-esque knitted cardigan. Who knows what’s to be found beyond the doors of Oxfam, The Red Cross, British Heart Foundation, Age UK and the many, many others scattered across towns and cities? They’re like little beacons, their signs snagging my attention – cries of “just one more” as mum and I dive among the racks while my dad and brother sigh in exasperation.

And so my wardrobe, in tidal shifts, accumulates new chiffon skirts and geometric print shifts and white linen trousers – more and more wire hangers jammed in, laden with things I had no idea I’d want to wear until I saw them labeled with a £5.99 price in Cancer Research. Maxis, long cotton shirts, tailored shorts, the occasional ball gown.

Of course sacrifices must be made too. This summer I’ve slowly sorted out the contents of my room, jettisoning about six suitcases’ worth of clothes along the way – not that you can tell from the amount of stuff left in there. They’re now all neatly stored away, waiting for the moment (if it ever comes) when I have enough free time to sell them on. As my body has moved from skinny young adolescent to something with a little more flesh on the bone, certain items no longer suit. But that’s exciting – bringing the possibility for new acquisitions to accentuate other areas.

I mulled over much of this recently whilst back in Oxford with a friend, trawling my old favourites on Cowley Road – standing in Helen & Douglas House (a fab charity shop) holding things up and muttering, “but I don’t need it, do I?” The thing is, there’s never a question of ‘need’ now. It’s more about a slow-burn pleasure, having the privilege to keep on building a little emporium of second hand delights. Some pieces will come and go, while others – hopefully – will remain stashed away until I’m old. Who knows what clothes there are left to discover… Slightly superficial? Well, yes. But a joy to consider? Absolutely. 

These photos were taken in Oxford last term by my friend Dina of She Loves Mixtapes - who is particularly on point at the moment with her pithy writing and ace clothing choices. All the principle parts of this outfit were assembled from Oxford's finest charity shops, with special mention going to the Russell & Bromley men's Chelsea Boots - bought for £20 and stomped around in repeatedly for the last few months (and, very occasionally, as below, proving helpful in securing the silliest of poses). 

 

22 comments:

Anmarie said...

You got it when you said "it's all about the hunt..." It's why I called my blog Huntress London - all 2nd- hand all the time. Nice to meet someone with great 2nd-hand style and first class attitude. http://huntresslondon.blogspot.co.uk

Vix said...

You've summed up my feelings for charity shopping perfectly, it is the thrill of the hunt and the joy of unearthing treasure. I can't imagine what pleasure anyone could derive from buying from racks and racks of the same old bland offering. xxx

Helen Le Caplain said...

Wonderfully worded - so true! The odd occasion I go into high st shops I get thrown (momentarily) by the fact that there are multiple sizes of the same things! Love the pics too :)

Closet Fashionista said...

Love this look!
And I admire you for mostly shopping second-hand. I wish I could. But I do love going to consignment and thrift stores and digging through for hidden treasures. But I do it more because I'm cheap, than because I'm ethical. Although I do try to be wary of certain brands if I know they aren't environmentally friendly/use child labor.
http://www.closet-fashionista.com/

Callie Rew said...

Definitely write a post when you are going to bring out the suitcases! I have always lusted over your clothing and to own a piece or two would be a treasure!

Melanie said...

Yes! I also love how charity shopping gives me the freedom to buy things that are much too big because I can only get it in that size, which stretches my imagination to play with it. If I were buying new, everything would "fit".
I love these photos by Dina, especially your jump shots. You have a wonderful unique look that says, don't you wonder who I am?

Mary M. said...

I truly love this outfit and the fact that you're so patient to go through thrift stores- you find real treasures!! I love your shirt and hat so much!

Have a lovely week,
Mary x

Sofie Marie said...

I've been musing about this myself, about my buying habits and how unlike my peers they seem. I find high street shops so un-thrilling these days, but then again charity shops in my city are not so great either- I think charity shops in wealthy areas are normally better. You always look great in your charity shop finds, inspires me to do more hunting!
Sofie

Cory said...

I like what you say about the changing body--in recent years, my body has shifted from effortlessly thin to medium-curvy. I've regarded this as mostly a negative development, but I like the idea of looking at it as a new opportunity to clothe a new figure flattered by new sorts of clothes.

It's funny what you mention about walking into a conventional clothing store when used to shopping second-hand. I had this experience just today. I stepped into a shop by a line with an aesthetic that interests me, yet the shop seemed so tidy and minimal that it failed to really draw me in. There is something about the hunt and thrill of a good second-hand find--not to mention the ethical advantage.

Anmarie said...

YES! I get sort of frozen in most high street shops. My style ideas dry up, I draw a blank - the rows of same-ness blind me. But put me in the organized chaos of a charity shop and I can am on fire with ideas, inspiration and ingenuity. Nice to know I'm not alone! http://huntresslondon.blogspot.co.uk

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

Once again, you've articulated my experience perfectly. On the very rare occasion when I step into a mall or department store (usually for bras!) I'm instantly wishing I could leave. The music is unbearable, the clothes are mass produced and without any "soul". I can't afford the really high end stuff that I might find in a fabulous boutique in, say, NY or LA, so hence the thrifting and refashioning.

However, as you know, not only is the process of finding the perfect piece more of a thrill, the creativity required to put it all together is a joy unto itself.

You are looking utterly gorgeous. I love the colors along with the magnificent setting. Your hair is getting longer!! I remember you saying how hesitant you were to cut it because of your curls. So don't, right?! :-) The boots are perfect and I can't wait to be back in boots etc. myself. XXOO

Linn said...

'm glad I have found your blog! You are very charming. Like a muse from Edwardian era.

Amanda said...

Oh wow the first photo is just stunning =)

Anova said...

This hat looks amazing <3 And the bag goes perfectly with shoes! Great outfit xo

http://anovamelody.blogspot.com

FASHION TALES said...

I like to wear unique things, so when I do go to charity shops and vintage places, it's usually an event becasue I love to spend loads of time there and not be rushed. You look gorgeous, I particularly always appreciate your dedication to shop secondhand. x/Madison

Mei-li said...

Hello Rosalind,

I would like to thank you for your comment on my blog! I don't get many, and I have been so slow to notice that I had one ( 2 month !!!).
I really like your little 70s inspired outfit ! I love the combo of the purple burgundy and navy !! and that print is lovely !! 70s is so much in trends now, it's crazy, I never really liked or be much interested in that decade before ( watching a British TV show called The Persuaders was one of the things i like related to the 70s).

Oxford seems a cute city.

xx Amélie

Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

I really love this outfit, Rosalind. So blue, so british, so out-of-time :)

I absolutely agree with all your words in this post. When it comes to talk about myself I must admit that I just don't like to go shopping. I mean, I love to have "new" items (new just in my wardrobe) but I don't like to search for them.
This is the reason that I'm a real lover of inheritances. I love when my sister, or some friends or cousins call me and say: Oh I have a huge bag of clothes for giving away. Then I just run there to be the first in choosing items.
The truth is that my most special and favorite pieces come from that source. This way I don't have to spend money, I don't have to fight in the shopping centres and I'm always surprise with what I bring home.
Of course sometimes I feel a strong pleasure having fresh pieces and being the first hand. But my allergy to shopping centres move me to buy online. I don't go to the clothes but the clothes come to me hehehe
Oh! by the way, I enjoy too the post before this one.

Kisess!!

Carlota Antolin Vallespin said...

I really love this outfit, Rosalind. So blue, so british, so out-of-time :)

I absolutely agree with all your words in this post. When it comes to talk about myself I must admit that I just don't like to go shopping. I mean, I love to have "new" items (new just in my wardrobe) but I don't like to search for them.
This is the reason that I'm a real lover of inheritances. I love when my sister, or some friends or cousins call me and say: Oh I have a huge bag of clothes for giving away. Then I just run there to be the first in choosing items.
The truth is that my most special and favorite pieces come from that source. This way I don't have to spend money, I don't have to fight in the shopping centres and I'm always surprise with what I bring home.
Of course sometimes I feel a strong pleasure having fresh pieces and being the first hand. But my allergy to shopping centres move me to buy online. I don't go to the clothes but the clothes come to me hehehe
Oh! by the way, I enjoy too the post before this one.

Kisess!!

Mandy Bajwa said...

Love your outfit!! great post :)

www.mandybajwa.blogspot.com

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Dear Rosalind, it is so lovely to see you again, still framed by your glorious curls and a hint of blue velvet! I apologize for my digital absence. The gypsy life beckoned and we rode eastward to Washington DC. So the last few months have been spent packing, settling business, attending farewell parties, and now unpacking, setting up, attending hello parties ... But I truly missed your writing and you.

You've been my vintage-second hand heroine ever since. And I'm amazed you've been able to jettison six suitcases out of your closet. My husband was hoping I'd do the same with even half the amount during our move. Sadly (for him), all I've done is sequester an unused room in the new house as wardrobe storage. But really, he is quite sweet about the whole thing!

I am so curious what authors you are reading now in Oxford. You seem all settled in university life.

-- Jenny

Izzy DM said...

I had a blazer just like that one once upon a time! Speaking of jettisoning things... I wonder where it is now? It looks lovely on you. It didn't quite suit me.

Your post made an excellent point: it's just a lot more fun to shop second-hand, the thrill of the hunt minus any ethical quandary plus extra-gorgeous, designer finds at prices cheaper than brandnew crap from Forever 21 (our Primark, maybe?) equals a greater delight in clothes.

I loved the pop of color in these pictures against the somber, stately background.

xx
Izzy
www.brooklynbooksandbabies.com

Yasumi in Worshipblues said...

I love charity clothes shopping and recently I am loving making my own clothes too. I still have clothes from when the high st used to tempt me and I determined to wear them so that they are not wasted. I love your thoughtful nature x