My Second Hand September Round-Up + Top Depop Tips
Second hand shopping is a great way to limit your fast fashion consumption — but it certainly doesn’t have to be time-consuming or outdated. This September, I took to Depop to find some staple pieces for the office.
Times are changing, and fast fashion is on the out — there’s no doubt about it. Just a couple of years ago, YouTube haul videos were a staple piece of fashion blogger content. I was certainly no stranger to watching forty minute Primark hauls before setting off on a day of shopping on the high street.
These days, almost no haul escapes unscathed from comments about sustainability and the human rights implications of throwaway fast fashion. Ethical, sustainable brands like Everlane and Reformation are booming like never before. Even fast fashion giants like H&M and Zara are trying to keep up by committing to sustainable cotton or releasing Conscious ranges. I’m truly stoked to see such a radical shift in popular awareness about clothing, though it is only the tip of the iceberg.
The issue with fast fashion is that it renders clothes disposable. With every new season, masses flock to the Zaras of the world, looking for the latest trends at affordable prices. Most of these seasonal or bargain-sale items are bought mindlessly and worn once or twice before ending up in landfill. This begs the question: do we really need to channel the latest trends? Probably not — I hardly think the world will stop spinning if I don’t invest in a tiny impractical handbag or a corduroy suit this season.
But here’s the thing: fashion is fun! It’s expressive, highly personal, and it boosts our self-confidence. Beyond that, buying clothes is so often a practical necessity. So: if we do want to add some items to our wardrobe every season, is there a way to do so without supporting the fast fashion industry and not breaking the bank?
Well, at the very least, there are a few good places to start. One of those is buying second hand.
A white vintage embroidered blouse and grey wool trousers from Cos — both bagged for a bargain on Depop.
Second Hand September
This September, Oxfam launched the #SecondHandSeptember campaign, calling on people to say no to buying new clothes for 30 days, and instead say yes to buying second hand clothes. The concept couldn’t be more straightforward, and 30 days doesn’t seem like a lot — but when you consider the fact that fast fashion giants release new lines on a weekly basis, the value of the campaign is clear.
Of course, you could also take a more minimal approach and pledge not to buy any clothes at all in September. Shopping your own closet and choosing to make maximum use out of the pieces you already own is the best thing you can do for your wallet and for the environment. I usually don’t buy clothes at all unless I notice a clear gap in my wardrobe. This autumn, since I had a few office wear items to buy anyway, I decided to go ahead and embrace buying second hand for the month.
I’m definitely no stranger to charity shopping — I wouldn’t call myself an avid thrifter, but I’ve certainly found some amazing pieces over the years. A great denim jacket, a wool winter coat, a vintage baseball sweatshirt — these are just some of my favourites that have lasted me years. And don’t get me started on the Topshop dresses and Zara jeans I’ve found among the local Vincent’s racks. Typically fast fashion items, but bought sustainably while supporting a great cause.
So, since all of these options are out there in charity shops and on second hand sites, how come we need to raise awareness?
Ready for my author close-up in my second hand olive green H&M premium wrap blouse. Buying it second hand gives it a bit of a vintage feel!
The issue with sustainable brands
Truth be told, thrifting is not everybody’s cup of tea. Part of the reason is a distaste for buying clothes that somebody else has worn, stemming from fears of the unknown. Another, and perhaps more prescient, reason is the stigma that has always surrounded it. I remember being ashamed of stepping foot in the local Oxfam while wearing my school uniform, afraid that somebody would spot me and spread rumours. At the same time, I was thrilled to find Hollister hoodies that my parents would never have bought me otherwise. I wore my charity shop finds with pride, but never revealed their origins. The narrative was always double sided, rooted in insecurity and self-doubt about class and status.
These days, thrifting is a lot more socially commendable than it was just a few years ago. For many it signals awareness of ethical and environmental issues, and a desire to do better by the planet. While the shadow of stigma remains, there is also a defiance in the air that keeps thrifting alive.
This all boils down to a practical matter at hand: money. While public consciousness of the environmental fallout of fast fashion has risen, and although sustainable brands are booming, let’s not pretend that we can all afford to shop ethically.
The high street is popular for reasons other than trends. Realistically, why would you spend €250 on a silk midi skirt from Insta popular brand Realisation Par when you can buy a whole season’s worth of clothes for less at the local Primark or H&M? The vast majority of people buying fast fashion don’t have harmful intentions – they are simply taking the more convenient, more affordable route.
But here’s the thing: by shopping second hand, I was reminded that sustainable fashion does not have to break the bank.
I’m always on the hunt for a good pair of boots that last. Lately though, I’ve been trying to be more conscious about buying leather. I found these brand new Asos suede Western boots for the bargain price of €20 – while they were still on the website for €55!
The best ways to buy second hand
Charity shops are great. The proceeds go to a great cause and the feeling of finding a vintage gem while rooting through a bargain bin is nothing short of a treasure hunter’s high. If you have lots of time on your hands and the charity shop scene is thriving in your area, then dedicating a Saturday to the hunt is a great way to spend it.
But that’s the thing: charity shopping takes time. If you struggle to find the time to buy groceries, let alone go browsing through the Vincent’s racks, this might not be an option for you. It’s easy to get discouraged from second hand shopping altogether if you end up finding nothing in a whole day. You might find yourself browsing Asos before your bus even drops you home.
This is where online second hand shopping comes in. We’re lucky to live in an age where companies like Depop and ThredUp make it easy and accessible to buy and sell clothing online. In fact, finding a second hand piece is just as easy as scrolling through Asos. You can do it on your lunch break, or kill time on your commute from work.
In order to save time, Depop is where I went on my Second Hand September journey.
What is Depop anyway?
Most of you are probably familiar with Depop, but if not, I’ll briefly explain it here. Depop is an app where you can buy, sell and discover clothing as part of a social media-esque community. They have great search filters that allow you to find exactly what you’re looking for. Payment and shipping is done directly through the app, and you can message sellers directly to ask questions and negotiate prices. This makes for a pretty safe and reliable second hand shopping experience. Of course, your individual experience will depend on the sellers you purchase from — but if you follow a few guidelines, you can avoid the worst of the bunch.
I’ve been on the lookout for the perfect trench coat for a few years now, and I was delighted to find this classic one on Depop. The quality is so much better than anything I could have found at Mango or Zara. At €100 it was an investment piece, but still a bargain as they cost €240 new!
My top Depop shopping tips
Depop might make it very easy to shop second hand items, but there are still a couple of tips that might come in handy on your next browse. Here are a couple that I always stick to:
Go in with a purpose
Knowing what you’re looking for helps to narrow down your searches. It also stops you from buying too many things you don’t need. I like to go in with a list of items that my wardrobe is missing, and go from there. It’s important to remember that while buying second hand clothing is far better for the environment than buying them new, it still clutters up your immediate environment just the same. Buying loads of things you won’t actually wear is ultimately wasteful — even if it is second hand.
Triple check sizing
We’ve all found ourselves getting tricked out by different sizing charts while shopping online. I know I’ve had to return more than a few items because my usual size was not what I was used to. While shopping for second hand items, the challenge gets a bit more complicated. Most of the time, the item is only available in one size — so it better be the right one!
Consider the kind of fit you’re looking for in each piece of clothing. With jumpers, it might be safe to size up or down, but this might not fly with something like a pencil skirt.
Also, pay attention to vintage sizing or items from overseas — sellers sometimes don’t consider the changes in size charts over time. For example, I recently got tricked out while buying a silk top. What I assumed was a UK size 10 was actually a US size 10, so it didn’t fit me at all! Thankfully, it fit one of my family members perfectly, so I ended up passing it on. Moral of the story: check the sizing, then check it again.
Filter your searches
Depop has excellent searching filters — dependent on how sellers list their items of course! You can filter by keyword, brand, size, location, and many more. This makes it really easy to narrow down your searches and find exactly what you’re looking for. It can be so easy to get caught up in endless hours of scrolling through, particularly when you’re looking for something broad, like a black dress. By filtering the size and type of item alone, you can narrow the search down to 10% of the total items for the ‘black dress’ keyword!
Also, if you’re browsing around for the perfect trench coat, for example, you can save all your potential buys to your collection. I like to have a running collection of items I like so I can narrow my options down to my absolute favourites. And another tip: if you find a seller you really like, you can follow them to stay updated whenever they add to their store. This way you’re almost guaranteed to have an easier time finding items that match your style and size in the future.
This 100% silk blouse from & Other Stories makes me feel like a living, breathing pumpkin – in the best way! I would never have spent the money on it otherwise, but when I saw it on Depop I just had to have it. And it was brand new with tags, too!
Negotiate and bargain
The great thing about buy-and-sell sites is that you don’t always have to accept the first asking price. Depop is no different. You might see that the majority of seller bios include “open to offers.” This means the seller is willing to negotiate, so don’t waste the opportunity to save some cash!
Many sellers also offer ‘bundle deals,‘ which means that you can get multiple items from their store for a discounted price or with free shipping. If you see multiple things you like, it’s worth it to reach out and ask if a bundle deal is available. I’ve gotten the best deals this way — for example, buying a pair of Cos trousers and a pair of & Other Stories boots as a bundle saved me €20 and I ended up getting free shipping!
When making offers, remember to keep them reasonable. Aiming too low will likely get you a rejection. Keep in mind that the seller wants to get a good return on their sale. They also pay pretty high commission rates to PayPal and Depop for their hosting space and services, so not all the money is theirs to keep. Always be polite and considerate when making an offer — you might get a very good deal in return!
The in-app messaging feature on Depop is incredibly useful for asking any questions you might have. I always message a seller before making a purchasing decision, for these reasons:
To check if the item is still available, and can be shipped out soon. Giving the seller a heads-up is always polite — just reach out and say you’re interested in the item, and let the conversation go from there. This also helps to weed out inactive users if the listing is more than a few weeks old.
To ask extra questions about the condition of an item. Sometimes it’s hard to tell from a photo whether there’s any visible wear and tear. Asking the seller directly can clear that uncertainty up. Most sellers will give you an honest answer — it is a second hand site after all!
To ask for extra photos or information if needed. If you’re not certain about an item, a little extra information can help with the decision making process. For example, since I’m pretty short, I always ask about the length of jackets and coats. And another thing: there seems to be a trend where sellers only post pictures from the retailer website. If all you see is an Asos image, how can you know what the actual item looks like, or if the seller even has it at all? If you’re not sure about anything at all, just message them and ask.
I couldn’t be happier that these crescent-moon heeled sock boots walked into my life. They were originally €140 at & Other Stories, which I never would have been able to justify! They are incredibly high quality, and I got them for half the price of a new pair of New Look sock boots!
Keep your details safe
Depop uses PayPal in-app for a reason — this way, your bank details are safe. While the sellers you buy from will have access to your name and address for shipping purposes, they will not have access to your card number or bank branch. Always avoid communicating with sellers through your personal email, and never ever pay through an external bank transfer. Even if you’re meeting up to collect an item directly, don’t reveal your bank details. Also, it’s always worth having double verification switched on in your PayPal settings, just in case somebody did get access to those details. Protecting your details is always worth that extra step! Plus, if something goes wrong, it will be easier for Depop and PayPal to sort it out if they have all the details at hand.
Consider how much wear you’ll get out of each piece
If you’re unsure about an item, think about how many times you can picture yourself wearing it. Does it match other clothes you already own? Do you find yourself wearing that colour often, or skipping over it? If you just don’t see yourself wearing it, then it might be worth it to give it a miss. Why add to the clutter?
That being said, the beauty of buying second hand is that you often find unique or unusual pieces. Some of these may be completely out of your comfort zone — and that can be a good thing! It opens up a sustainable way to challenge yourself, experiment, and change up your style. So if you do fall in love with a piece you’re a little afraid to wear, there’s no guilt involved!
I’ve worn this perfect blazer at least twice a week since I bought it — and it’s from LK Bennett, a shop I never even walk into for fear of the prices! Buying second hand for quality investment pieces like these makes so much sense. It was good as new and cost me €40 as opposed to the €300 I would have had to fork out in store!
Other ways to shop sustainably
If Depop is not quite your cup of tea, there are plenty of other ways to shop sustainably! Here are a few of my suggestions:
You could find a local swap shop or even host your own clothes swapping party.
Vintage auctions are also a great way to find treasures on eBay or other sites, early Sophia Amoruso style.
If you’re into luxury items and are willing to splurge, Vestiaire Collective or The Real Real are fantastic services. They authenticate all luxury items to make sure you’re not getting a fake — an easy trap to fall into on Depop or eBay.
You could also go the traditional route of course and go scout out the local charity shops.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, vintage kilo sales are great days out.
Check Facebook events, MeetUp.com and Eventbrite regularly for listings of sustainable fashion events. You’ll definitely come out with some second hand treasures, and maybe make a few friends as a bonus!
And most importantly: the most sustainable option is always the one already in your wardrobe. So wear what you own, mend damaged pieces instead of throwing them away, and tailor ones that need minor adjustments. Be mindful of fabrics when shopping, and choose timeless, high quality pieces that will last you years. This will start you off on the right path.
You can never have too many blouses for the office. This classic suit shirt is from Mango’s suit collection, but was a fraction of the price on Depop!
Second Hand September Round Up
If I learned anything over the last month of buying second hand clothing, it’s that sustainable options are accessible and budget friendly. It can be so daunting trying to take a more ethical and sustainable approach — it can seem difficult, expensive, and out of reach. But when you actually make a conscious effort and challenge yourself to make a small change, you realise it’s easier than you think.
One note I have to make is that buying second hand clothes will not change your consumption habit. If your goal is to buy and own less clothing, then focus on quality pieces that will last you years. If you can get a sustainable version, that’s even better! My point is, there’s a lot of poor quality clothing out there on Depop. It makes sense — people shop on fast fashion sites, wear an item once, then resell it. If the item is very poor quality, you’re likely to do the same.
The way I see it, Second Hand September is not a radical move, but rather a shift of mindset. After completing the challenge, the first place I look when I’m keeping an eye out for a particular item is not Asos, but Depop. I know that if I can get a great quality piece second hand, it will last me longer than buying a cheaper alternative on the high street.
And lastly, just a quick disclaimer: I’m not going to pretend that I will exclusively buy everything second hand from now on. It’s just not feasible. Particularly with essentials like t-shirts, pyjamas, scarves and accessories, I won’t be rushing to the local charity shop. I will probably still have to supplement my wardrobe with some fast fashion. But the main difference is, it will be on a greatly reduced scale.
If you want to find out more about fast fashion and its impact on the environment and human rights, as well as some great thrifting inspiration, I recommend the following:
The True Cost documentary
YouTubers like Justine Leconte, Madeleine Olivia, Jenny Mustard, Elena Taber, and BestDressed
I hope you enjoyed my Second Hand September Round Up and found some inspiration for your next Depop scroll. Now, I want to hear from you: have you ever found a second hand treasure? Let me know in the comments below or over on Instagram — I would love to see your finds!
While you’re here, check out my Autumn 2019 reading list! It’s packed full of brilliant books to read on cold fall evenings with a warm cup of tea.
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