Wardrobe Revamp – Preloved Style

Since I wrote about not needing any more clothes No new clothes – learning to love the clothes I have and realising I actually don’t need more., and successfully extended my challenge to not acquire any new or new to me clothing from an initial 4 month period to 10 months, I have really fallen off the wagon when it come to clothes shopping.  Over the last 6 weeks I have acquired, I think, 3 new dresses, 3 new tops, a scarf and a necklace .

But do you know, I don’t feel guilty about it at all – all my recent acquisitions have been pre-owned and purchased in aid of charity, at a friend’s fantastic clothes swap party and the local Oxfam Shop.    These are great ways of having a bit of a wardrobe makeover without breaking the bank, and in a more sustainable way than buying cheap new fast fashion. And this is pretty much all I have bought over the past year.

Buying pre-loved is an easy way to be part of a circular economy, prolonging the life of items and preventing (or at the very least delaying) them ending up in landfill.  My new clothes were all acquired without a need for more resources going into clothes production, and in turn many of the items I no longer wanted were passed on to new owners.

Swishing Party (Clothes Swap)

This has to be my favourite way of looking for some new clothes. Even though I didn’t end up with quite what I wanted this time, it was a great social event.

A friend kindly opened her house to host a swishing party which was really well attended.  I had a bit of a wardrobe rummage and managed to come up with 2 coats, 2 skirts, 4 pairs of trousers, 1 pair of shorts, 1 cardigan, 1 blouse, 2 hats, 2 necklaces, 2 belts and 1 handbag to take along.  Wow, that’s 18 things I had in my wardrobe that I didn’t need or want!  And that’s not counting the ones I couldn’t quite decide about, some of which went later.  I hoped to come home with a dress, ideally a shirt dress.

Clothes swap parties work in a number of ways but for this one, there was a £5 entry fee with clothes sold at a flat rate of 50p per item.  I also took along a bottle of Cava for the raffle and some Prosecco for the evening.  All proceeds were donated to the Red Cross.

As you can see from the poorly focussed pictures above (and I was only on my first glass of prosecco at that point), everyone had managed to turn out a lot of things from their wardrobes, so there was plenty of rummaging to be done, with clothes and bags spread across several rooms in the house and bedrooms serving as shared changing rooms.  Some people knew each other, others didn’t, but trying on clothes together is a great way of breaking down any barriers and we were soon trying things and passing them around between us to see who they suited and fitted best.  A few glasses of Prosecco probably helped!  At the first round of trying things on I decided on a T shirt and was persuaded about a pair of jeans.  Remembering I’d been wishing I had a larger scarf to cover up with when I had caught the sun a week earlier I managed to find one of those too. Sadly, although there were lots of dresses, I didn’t find quite the one for me.

After much rummaging, chatting, drinking and trying on a few more things we congregated for the raffle – there were so many prizes this went on for a while and I eventually won a cute little manicure set.

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At this point in the evening the clothes rails were still bulging so, as some people were starting to leave, I suggested a second round of rummaging.  This turned up a couple of blouses, a T shirt and a necklace to add to my earlier buys.

A couple of the items did end up going straight off to the charity shop when I tried them on at home, where I am sure they got more for them than the £1 I had paid, along with a few extra items I cleared out subsequently.  In total I had spent £8 (excluding the raffle and wine) on a whole load of new things to refresh my wardrobe. And I did achieve my goal of coming home with fewer things than I had donated!

At the end of the evening I helped with the clear up and took a bag of items to the nearly new  shop in town where they earnt some additional money for the Red Cross Charity – the event raised around £350.  I would guess about 10 bin bags full of good quality leftover clothings  were also donated to a variety of charity shops around town from where they hopefully found a good new home as well as raising additional funds.

 

Dresses

Still on the hunt for a dress I popped into my local Oxfam shop and over a few weeks managed to pick up not one, but 3 lovely dresses. My wardrobe has definitely become more dress orientated over the past few years , primarily pre-loved.

The first is a Per Una dress from Marks and Spencer which cost me £6.99.  This is perfect for the office, and happens, by chance, to match perfectly the grey and green necklace I had picked up at the swishing party.

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Per Una Dress for work

My next purchase was a bit of an impulse buy , which I am trying to avoid. We were off out for a walk on my birthday and I spotted a lovely green cardigan in the shop window.  As I was still thinking about it when we walked back I popped in to have a look but sadly it had gone already.  As it was my birthday I had a bit of a rummage through the rails anyway and came up with this casual cotton dress from  Mistral which will be perfect for holidays.  I think this one was £7.99.

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Holiday Dress

I then received an invitation to a family wedding.  I wasn’t going to buy something new but having tried on a few things from my wardrobe,  nothing felt quite right, and I noticed I had put on a little weight round the thighs since a cycling injury last year  which had forced a hopefully temporary reduction in exercise. In a spare 10 mins on the way to pick son up from his town centre school I nipped into Oxfam again and found this lovely Phase Eight dress which is perfect for the occasion and also fits perfectly.  It even goes well with a grey cardigan I have already.  A top quality dress for £12.99.

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Phase Eight Dress for a family wedding

 

I admit to buying another unsuitable dress along the way from a local Facebook group for £4 which I donated to Oxfam along with a couple of old dresses replaced by my new items. and a gorgeous dress from Cancer Research UK’s ebay shop which didn’t fit so is on its way back to find a more suitable new home. You can also buy online from Oxfam

Together all these new items,  including the clothes swap and the items I donated straight on again, set me back less than £40. This is all I have spent on clothes since last July.

And the quest for a shirt dress?  Well I’m about to try dyeing one I have already to give it a new lease of life. Will see how that goes.

What is your favourite way of buying new clothes?

 

 

 

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Rhubarb and Apple Jam

 

 

Rhubarb is one of the few plants that reliably turns up a bumper crop in our garden every year. It grows so well in its spot next to the compost bin that we always have way more than we know what do with, even more so since my dad split it into 4 plants a couple of years ago.  Preserving it in a jam is a great way of keeping some for later in the year (although I must admit to starting eating this straight away).   Although best made with early rhubarb you can also use larger stalks just fine.  Our rhubarb plant has been passed down through the generations so I have no idea what variety it is – it originally came from a plant in my great grandfather’s garden and as a child it came with us when we moved house.  When I first got my own place we split the plant so I could plant my own and it has since moved again with me, and a plant has been returned to dad for his allotment.

The apples and the lemon rind and juice in this recipe help it to set – if you were to leave them both out you may need to use jam sugar, which contains added pectin. If you are organised enough to have planned ahead I am sure you could use frozen diced apples which would allow you to use foraged crab apples or homegrown if you are lucky enough to have an apple tree.

Rhubarb and Apple Jam:

Ingredients:

  • 1kg rhubarb stalks, washed and trimmed, then sliced into approx 1cm chunks
  • 3 eating apples or a large cooking apple, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
  • 1kg preserving sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 1tsp ground ginger (optional)
  • 25g unsalted butter

Equipment needed:

  • Large bowl
  • Either a preserving pan or a heavy based large saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Grater or lemon zester
  • Sterilised jars – you can reuse old jam jars. This recipe will probably make about 4-6  jars depending on the size but have a couple more ready just in case.
  • Jam or sugar thermometer (optional) or put several saucers in the fridge or freezer (to use later to test the jam setting point).

How to sterilise the jars:

Wash your jars thoroughly in soapy water or a dishwasher and dry in an oven at 140 degrees C for at least 10 mins – then keep them warm until ready to use.  Scald the clean lids in boiling water.  You can alternatively use a sterilising solution according to the pack instructions and warm the jars after rinsing thoroughly.

 Method:

  1. Place the sliced rhubarb into a large bowl with the sugar.
  2. Use the lemon zester or grater to grate the lemon rind into the bowl. Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze in the juice.
  3. Give it all a stir. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth such as a tea towel and leave for a few hours, stirring occasionally.  You should see some juices start to come out of the rhubarb (if not you can leave it longer – some recipes say to leave overnight but I find a few hours works fine).
  4. Meanwhile wash and sterilise your jars as above.
  5. Empty your bowl of rhubarb and sugar with all the juices into your pan. Add the chopped apple and ginger (if using).
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil slowly so that the rhubarb and apple have time to soften.
  7. Then bring the mix to a rolling boil and boil until it reaches setting point ( see below), stirring frequently to prevent sticking (and because personally I prefer the rhubarb broken up rather than in big chunks in the final jam). I found this took about 25 mins but this may vary.
  8. Once your jam has reached setting point remove from the heat, stir in the butter and leave to cool down a little. You may find it has formed a skin on cooling in which case give it a quick stir before spooning carefully into your warmed jars.  Place the lids on while still warm.

 

How to test for setting point:

Using a jam thermometer – setting point should be achieved at around 104 -105 degrees C.  However you may find it difficult to test accurately if you are making a relatively small amount of jam in a large pan – I have never managed it and prefer the saucer method.    When you think the jam is approaching setting point (it will start to thicken a little), get a cold saucer from your fridge/freezer and carefully drop a little of the jam onto it.  Give it a moment to cool and then press with your finger – if ready it should wrinkle a little. If not cook for another few minutes and test again.