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).