How I Shop For Stylish And Sustainable Clothing On The Cheap

   I  wanted to share a little bit about my way of shopping for clothes, or rather my buying philosophy.
    I like fashion and see it as a form of self expression, and I like to experiment a lot. I am definitely not a minimalist. I keep my clothes budget really low because it just isn't something I want to invest money on. But on the other hand I would really like to afford clothes that are ethically and ecologically produced - - without harm to the environment or human rights. I shopped the high street for some years, and wasn't really happy about it.

  Right now I am at the point where I have found my own style, and my wardrobe is filled with pieces I love and I get frequent compliments on. Almost all are pre-owned. What isn't pre-owned is usually a gift. I haven't bought new clothes in ages apart from underwear and summer socks.

    I get complemented on my style and my clothes, so buying second hand doesn't mean sacrificing style or quality! It's all about having an eye for which colours flatter you, which proportions work for you (I learned it from these blogs), and having a basic knowledge of fabrics.

I love to buy secondhand because:

* The variety of choice! I have access to all the colours and styles. I have had more luck in finding very specific items secondhand than in retail stores. Stores usually have a slim selection of colours and styles, which often don't match me at all. Nor to mention that half of the stuff here in Germany is grey or black.

* Financial and ethical freedom to experiment with my style: I spontaneously pick up a lot of items that are outside of my current style zone. At the last clothing swap I picked up several really interesting items, and I'll see how well they work with the rest of my wardrobe and my lifestyle -- if I don't, I'll pass them on. I wouldn't have bought them if I had seen them in a normal store, because although there is a 50% chance that the pieces would become my new favourites, but there is also 50% chance that they wouldn't work for me at all.

* Living outside the trends: because I don't shop in regular stores, I don't get exposed to the current trends so much. My fashion horizon is much wider. Thrift stores and swap events means I get exposed to a lot of very different stuff! It's especially cool when people who have traveled or have very eccentric fashion tastes bring their stuff to swap parties -- I have up with stuff from the UK, Japan, Malaysia in my closet. Stuff that I'd normally never get exposed to in "normal" stores.

* Releasing items that don't work for me. I regularly edit and purge my closet and bring the clothes I'm not keeping to swap parties or to my local thrift store. But first I let my friends take their pick -- It's really nice to see a friend picking out items that have been hard to part with. Also, I know that my unwanted clothes go -- did you know that a lot of donated clothes end up getting sold (yes sold, and not for low prices) in poorer countries, which kills the local textile industry?

* Ethics. I'm not giving money to brands whose ethics are not aligned with mine. No new stuff is getting produced just for me, no extra shipping, etc. Also, I know that this opinion might be controversial, but I feel ok with buying second hand leather and silk stuff, though I would balk at buying them new. (My feet are really fussy and I have to be really picky with shoes, and at the moment I can't afford the really good vegan shoes.)

* Champagne life on a beer budget: My closet includes some really beautiful pieces that I normally wouldn't be able to afford. Cashmere and lambswool sweaters, some really beautiful pieces from brands that would normally be way beyond my budget. Some fancy coats and scarves. My newest find is an amazing Alpaca coat. I paid 23€ for it.

* Real quality and durability: items that make their way to thrift stores or swap parties have survived wear and washes, so I know that they are sturdy and won't fall apart soon. I can see what to expect in regards of pilling, fading,  shrinking/stretching, beading staying on. This is especially true for sweaters and jeans!

Taking outfit pictures has to be THE most powerful tool in building your style. Try it :)

Where I shop:

* Local thrift stores: there aren't that many in my town, actually there is only one good and affordable one. I go there every time they get stuff for the new season -- on the first day. On the second day half of the best stuff is already gone. Also, the Sozialkaufhaus community shops usually have a small clothing selection -- usually really old and outdated stuff, with some amazing gems hidden in the midst.

* Foreign thrift stores: I often hit a thrift store when I'm traveling within Europe. The best ones so far have been in the UK, but even in Spain (which is the country of label snobs) I chanced upon a quirky flea market inside an old church. I always search online for thrift stores ahead of time, mark them on my map, and visit any that happen to be near the places I want to see.

* Clothes swapping and selling websites: Vinted has versions in several European countries and I still use it even though the have made really awful changes to the site. Shpock is another site / app that I have had success with. Fashion forums very often have a swap / sell section! Also local Facebook groups where the members swap or sell clothes are also gaining in popularity -- you can start your own if you can't find one.

* Ebay and Ebay Kleinanzeigen (classifieds): I always search for stuff from private sellers (to avoid the cheaply-produced new stuff from commercial sellers). My best buy so far is a pair of Ecco booties -- I tried them on in a store and loved them, but decided to search online for a used pair first. I found a once-worn pair on Ebay for half the price.
My secret to Ebay shopping is to tick the "private sellers" checkbox to filter out all the cheapo new stuff. Ebay hid this option, in fact on the Ebay US site I couldn't find it at all. In other countries you make a search, click on any "see all" on the left column,  go to "seller" and check the seller type > private option.

* Flea Markets and second-hand markets: Flea markets don't have any place to try stuff on, but are great for accessories, and the prices are often rock-bottom. Usually I take a quick glance the seller's stuff, whether they have my colour and a style that looks interesting. I have learned to spot stands with stuff that fit with my style -- these are the stands where I look at every item.

* Friends: I don't remember which one of us was the first one who started it, but we often say "I bought this lovely piece but it just isn't working for me, but I thought it's kind of your style. Would you like to try it on?" Sometimes we give away the stuff for free, sometimes we ask for a small amount for it. Sometimes we even help the original owner to make the item work for them: "that will work if you shorten it." It might be a little awkward at first, but it soon becomes a normal thing if your friends are open-minded.

* Clothing swap parties: love them. You can either invite just your friends, or people off a facebook clothes swapping group. Here are some tips on how swapping parties work. In my town someone started a Facebook group of local users of a popular clothes selling/swapping site, and we take turns in hosting swap parties. The people mostly don't know each other, but since everyone is interested in clothes and in swapping, it usually works really well.

     But there are no swapping parties or thrift shops in my town, you might say. There were almost none in mine either. I hosted my clothing swap parties back before they were a thing. Luckily thrifting and swapping is "in" now and in the last years swap parties have been mushrooming -- including some really big ones! 
   A culture of reusing, sharing and swapping takes time to grow, and someone has to start. Why not you? Sometimes there is a stigma attached to second-hand -- as if you're supposed to be able to afford to buy everything new, it's a sign of doing well in life. I see this in the middle-age Germans. The younger people are more likely to be concerned with the ethical and environmental impact of this attitude, and more open to buying used (the openness is often strongly encouraged by the limited budget). I think that talking about owning pre-owned stuff normalises it. My friends feel comfortable giving me clothes because I usually mention that what I'm wearing is second-hand when I'm complimented on it.

   So, that's all from me. I'd love to know how you feel like about shopping second hand? What are your best tips?

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