Updated: Mar 26, 2021
Thrift fanatic and second-hand shop owner Gabrielle Dyer gives us the lowdown on how to do pre-loved shopping like a pro...
I’m not exactly sure what initially drew me to charity shops. Something about the unknown, the rush of discovering something a bit quirky and cool that no one else has. As a teen, I’d take every opportunity I could get. Browsing Oxfam became my new favourite past time. It wasn’t just the fact that I was bagging one-off amazing items, I could buy as much as I wanted without harming the planet. It was new clothes but with a conscience. When people asked me where my coat was from I’d proudly say the charity shop. What began as a charity shop love affair soon evolved into an eBay, Depop and Vestiaire obsession (I have recently also added Vinted to the list). Some of my greatest purchases include vintage Fendi and Louis Vuitton bags, various pairs of leather boots, coats and a whole lot of tops.
When you consider the damage all these clothes are doing to the planet, it’s hard not to reconsider your shopping habits. It is rare for me to buy from high street brands now. I think there is a misconception that second-hand shopping is laborious or that the clothes are all old tat - which couldn’t be further from the case. A lot of the things I have bought have been brand new, tags still intact. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to wade through, but it is so worth it for the fantastic things you will find. If you’ve never done it before, it can seem overwhelming, but I urge everyone to try it. You don’t have to promise you'll never buy anything new again, just commit to start getting some of your things second hand. Now, I’d say 80% of my wardrobe is vintage or preloved.
Swapping your old clothes with friends is also a great idea. One of my best friends was throwing out a load of clothes a few years ago and said I could take a look. I ended up getting two incredible vintage T-shirts that I live in.
During the first lockdown, I decided to start a second-hand shop on Instagram called @daycontinued. I figured since I seem to have a knack for finding the best stuff, why not share it with others? When it first kicked off the response was amazing and I sold a lot straight off the bat. Some of the pieces were also featured in Cosmopolitan, which was a surreal feeling! I’ll be honest, it was very hard to let some of the clothes go, like an insane YSL mint green knit in perfect condition (still not over that one as you can probably tell!).
When it all kicked off, I underestimated the amount of time we would be in lockdown. My initial plan was to buy bits wholesale and from charity shops because I feel very passionately about not ripping people off. But the shops are shut so annoyingly that has not been possible. Instead, I was buying my stock from Depop, but things aren’t that cheap. At on point, I think I paid £18 for a dress and then sold it on for £25. I realised then that I’m not making enough of a profit to carry on, so I’ve put a bit of a pause on everything at the moment. I’m so excited to get back to it as soon as everything opens up again, so watch this space.
Want to get stuck into second-hand shopping but feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start? I’ve jotted down my top tips for backing the best-preloved bits in the game..
1. Ask questions
This is so important when second-hand shopping online. The more questions you ask the less likely you will be disappointed when your items arrive. Sizing is the most important thing to query. Is it oversized? How tall is the model? What are the precise measurements? The condition will usually be specified, but it’s impossible to tell from a few photos, so double-check that there are no marks or signs of damage.
2. Search for brands
One of the best things about second hand and vintage shopping is finding designer pieces at affordable prices. Before buying anything designer, I always run the brand through Vestiare, Depop and eBay first. I recently got a pair of pristine EYTYS boots in their original box for about a third of the price.
3. Request more photos
Ask for more photos so that you get a better understanding of the fit, condition and quality of what you are buying. A lot of the time, people only post a picture of the clothes on a hanger. In this instance, I will usually ask them to post one wearing it. If they have specified any damage, ask for a clear picture of this, too.
4. Counteroffer (but be fair)
The beauty of all of these platforms is that you can haggle, especially when something is clearly overpriced. As someone who also sells pre-loved items, I do think you should always be reasonable. Asking someone if they’ll sell a £50 jacket for £18 is not a fair deal, so don’t go in too low.
5. Follow, follow, follow
Depop is similar to Instagram in that you can follow the pages of people you like. Sounds obvious, but whenever I find a great item I will always follow the account. This has helped me build up an amazing feed where I am always inundated with cool stuff.
6. Look out for fakes
Unfortunately, you will come across a fair amount of fakes online. They’re not always easy to spot, so make sure you check proof of purchase, tags, labels and ask them outright if it is genuine. Luckily I’ve never been scammed, but I know friends who have, so be careful. If something looks too good to be true, chances are it is.
7. Check out charity shops
Over the years, I have found some utter gems in charity shops and my mantra essentially goes into everyone I see. It’s a bit like a treasure hunt - you never know what you will unearth. Ones located in more salubrious areas do tend to be stocked with unworn and designer stuff, but don’t underestimate the smaller random ones. I discovered my go-to white puffer jacket in Ruislip's Oxfam.