25 January 2024

Second-hand clothes are the best fashion statement

| Lucy Ridge
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wall of shoes

Vinnies Braddon is a great place to find second-hand clothes. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

‘Fast fashion’ is increasingly under scrutiny as negative impacts of the industry are revealed, whether it’s the sweatshop working conditions, the unsustainable agriculture practices to produce cheap fibre or the carbon emissions. We need to radically rethink our consumption of clothes.

A few years ago, I decided to stop purchasing new clothes (with a few exceptions – underwear and exercise gear), and as well as being a sustainable choice, it has saved me money. From everyday jeans to fabulous special occasion outfits, second-hand items fill my wardrobe and bring me a lot of joy.

Online shopping with speedy shipping can bring instant gratification, but slow fashion alternatives provide a different sort of satisfaction. One pair of boots often garners compliments, and I love bragging about what a bargain they were!

I often scroll through Facebook Marketplace over my morning coffee to see if anything interesting has popped up. My hot tip for shopping second-hand online is to offer cash (only scammers use payID) and be kind if you’re haggling on price.

And if you prefer to shop in person, then we have some great second-hand shops in Canberra, from the huge new Vinnies in Braddon to the more selective Material Pleasures in Fyshwick.

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I occasionally buy new shirts to support an organisation, a band or an artist. When I do buy something new, I try to find ethically made products that will last me a long time.

For example, I bought a new outfit for a wedding where I was part of the groom’s party, and the ensemble has already made several more appearances at subsequent events. That same groom’s party had a lot of fun choosing silly outfits for each other from an op shop for the bucks party!

Canberra is fortunate to have a thriving network of Buy Nothing Groups – they’re Facebook groups that encourage people living in the same suburb to give away unused items for free. These can be great places to gift, or even borrow clothes if you just need something for one event like a costume party. Some groups utilise a travelling suitcase where a case of clothes is passed around members who can try things on in the comfort of their own home, and add their own unwanted clothes before passing it to the next person. This is a great option, especially for kids clothes!

A friend of mine hosts a clothes swap and sale at her house twice a year. Her lounge room is transformed into an op shop, with participants adding a tag to clothes they’d like to sell and many offered for free. It’s a fun way to catch up with friends, and everyone always leaves with a few great items. I often go op shopping with my sisters or friends and more than once someone else has picked me out an item of clothing that I had overlooked which turned out to be a perfect fit.

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The most sustainable choice is simply to wear the clothes you already have. Mending clothes will extend their life and there are plenty of options available if, like me, you don’t have a sewing machine. Repair Cafes run by community groups like The Canberra Environment Centre have volunteers who can help you mend clothes. And the Canberra Community Toolbox offers sewing machines to rent if you’d like to have a go at doing it yourself. Having an ill-fitting outfit tailored can also be a great way to get more wear out of something you already own.

You may have seen the trend of ‘visible mending’ where rips and tears become an opportunity to add creative embroidery or colourful fabric patches to make your clothing truly unique.

There’s now a story behind almost every item in my wardrobe, which makes me value them even more.

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Karen Hedley3:29 pm 30 Jan 24

If only it was that easy for plus size women – I suspect most decent plus size clothes are siphoned off before making it to the racks these days, unfortunately.

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