Zara works for Oxfam in the Festivals and Events Team. Inspired by the people she met at festivals in 2019 – Zara decided to only shop second hand for one year. 12 months later, she’s not stopping any time soon. Read on for Zara’s favourite wardrobe staples, where she finds her inspiration and get her top tips on how you can do it too..
How I got started
My journey started towards the end of 2018. I got involved in discussions for Oxfam’s summer campaign the following year – Second Hand September. The goal would be to highlight the effects fast fashion has on people and our planet. For example, did you know the UK sends 13 million items of clothing to landfill EVERY WEEK!? Second Hand September also aims to ask people to change their shopping habits for 30 days – by only shopping second-hand.
I instantly fell in love with the campaign. I’ve always loved second-hand fashion while at the same time being a fast fashion addict. I found myself aimlessly scrolling through retail apps for hours on end every day. I was buying stuff I did not need. And was hooked by the continuous sales and daily discounts landing in my inbox.
I didn’t actually decide to commit to my one year without fast fashion until a few festivals into the summer. It was in July at Latitude Festival where I was so inspired by the conversations I was having with people – and the hard work of Oxfam volunteers – I knew I wanted to make a change! So I did. And 13 months later I am still doing it!
Some of my favourite Second-Hand Outfits
I would say that at least half of my wardrobe is second-hand. From charity shops or friends/family or vintage.
I have also started to help my boyfriend fill his wardrobe with second-hand bits. It’s really fun. So whenever he needs a new item I will go on the search for it. This recently included finding a second-hand pair of unworn Levi jeans for £8. And replacing a pair of shorts he had worn to death skateboarding with the exact same pair for just £3! As well as ladies’ fashion, there is also great menswear out there in charity shops and on second-hand websites.
I love all of my clothes (thanks Marie Kondo!) so picking my favourites is difficult but here are a few different types of outfits I have picked out that I hope inspire you…
An outfit for an occasion
This outfit is great for any special event and it only cost me £3.25 including the shoes! The dress is a Zara dress from my local Shaw Trust charity shop and the shoes were given to me by a friend for free! I could not believe my luck when I found this dress and look forward to wearing it at a future event.
All items are from the Oxfam Superstore in Oxford! The trainers were brand new Asics that I got on the grand opening of the Superstore and were a bargain at £14.99 (£99 brand new!). New gym gear doesn’t have to break the bank! The sports top is LA Gear and leggings are Decathlon – more bargains at £3.99 each. Both looked fairly unworn and fit me like a glove!
Here’s a video I made about the amazing second-hand items I found on my first trip to the Oxfam Superstore.
Second hand casual
This outfit is a great everyday outfit, featuring one of my favourite Mickey Mouse jackets bought at the Leeds Festival, Oxfam Festival Shop for £10!
Colourful striped top: Boohoo brand new with tags for £3 from my local Oxfam Shop
Black Stradivarius jeans: Before this heatwave, I was living in these super comfy Mum-style jeans which fit me great. They were purchased brand new from eBay for £8. My trainers are Nike Janoskis and are currently going for upwards of £75 (I’ve seen them on eBay for as much as £500!) but I was super lucky and snapped them up on eBay for £20 and not a single scuff on them!
I really miss being at festivals this summer but this doesn’t stop me from wearing my second hand sparkles and festival-ready footwear. My outfit is a mixture of charity shop and eBay finds. With the bargain being my Dr Martens that I found for just £25 hardly worn from eBay.
Black ASOS crop top: £2 brand new from Facebook Marketplace
Purple sheer H&M top: £1 from eBay
Denim shorts: These were a golden find to get my ‘perfect fit’ Mom style Newlook shorts from Sobel House for just £5
Sunglasses: £3 Oxfam Superstore
Travel in style
At the beginning of the year, I went to Thailand for 3 weeks. I would say 80% of my suitcase was second hand, from beachwear to loose summer dresses. Including this outfit featuring one of my favourite skirts.
Skirt: £7 from the WOMAD Oxfam Festival Shop
Top: Given to me by a friend
Necklace: £1.99 from the Oxfam Superstore
Sunglasses: £6 from my local Cancer Research, brand new in a case.
How you can do it too
My tips and tricks to only shopping second hand (or at least make a start!)…
Unsubscribe and unfollow
The best thing I did at the start of my journey was to remove any temptation by unsubscribing from clothes retailers and wow it felt great to do that! I also started the process of unfollowing influencers who continued to promote fast fashion hauls and instead replaced them with sustainable fashion accounts including @LaurenBravo and @theniftythrifter_.
Declutter and evaluate your wardrobe
This can be a long but worthwhile process – you won’t regret it! Something I have always known but didn’t fully recognise until last year was that I already own A LOT of clothes. But the problem was that I owned so much I had forgotten what I had in my wardrobes (yes plural).
So I decided to Marie Kondo my life! I managed to do my own fashion stock check and designate items to be donated, swapped and sold on. I recommend getting to know everything in your wardrobe and bring items to the front that have been hidden and forgotten about.
Sell, Give, Swap, Thrift
Going without fast fashion does not mean going without!
Swaps are great ways to refresh your wardrobe and give items you own a chance to be loved by someone else. You could organise a clothes swap with a group of close friends, colleagues at work or in your community. Sadly with social distancing guidelines, this will be difficult to do on a large scale. But I have done this recently by taking photos of the items and sending them after a group chat with friends. They can request any items they would like, I then donate the rest to my local charity shops.
Still need retail therapy?
Well, you can refresh your wardrobe at a fraction of the price by buying clothes and accessories from high street charity shops or online on the Oxfam Online Shop, eBay, Depop and Vinted. I have bought some amazing pieces over the last year with many being brand new and unworn by the previous owner #winning!
Want to keep up with the latest trend? Why not ‘window shop and search’? This is the term I have given for when I may have seen an item I really like that a friend or maybe a celebrity/influencer has worn or possibly something I have seen when walking past a shop window. I will then try to find it second hand! It’s not easy and not always successful but it makes my shopping experience a lot more enjoyable and cheaper!Shop second-hand online
Inspire and educate yourself
Over the last year, I have tried to educate myself more on the damaging effects of fast fashion and how I can have a more sustainable lifestyle. Below are some of my recommendations which I hope you find useful.
The True Cost (a hard to watch film but I highly recommend), Stacey Dooley Investigates Fashion’s Dirty Secrets, and Machines by Rahul Jain.
Accounts to follow
‘How To Break Up With Fast Fashion’ by Lauren Bravo, Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes by Dana Thomas, and A Year of Frugal Fashion by Caroline Jones.
Good On You, this app was one of my favourite discoveries and is a great way to know more about the brands we buy from and choose to support.
You don’t have to be perfect
I know I said I went a year only buying second hand but actually I did make a small purchase which was a bridesmaid dress which I could not get out of buying. This was a small bump on my journey and instead of feeling guilty about buying it, I remembered how much positive progress I had already made.
You can start by making small changes, like buying items for your next holiday wardrobe in charity shops, wearing what you already own or borrow an item from a friend. It is all about training ourselves out of old habits and start by making those new small lifestyle changes!
Get involved in Second hand September 2020!
Second Hand September started last summer and like I said this was the main catalyst for changing my shopping habits.
I am SO excited that it’s BACK this year. Now is your chance to take part and buy only second hand for 30 days or more. Are you up for the challenge?
Let us know you’re getting involved by sharing your pledge using #SecondHandSeptember and tagging @OxfamGB
And remember to share the great items you find too! I can’t wait to see your outfits. And you could inspire your friends and family to do the same.
Fast fashion facts
I really hope you found this useful and if I inspire to you do a year without fast fashion or just help you think of alternative options for your next purchase then that is GREAT! You can change the world with your wardrobe! If you want to start right now – take a look around the Oxfam Online Shop. You’re sure to find something amazing.