How do you decide what to wear for those Christmas and New Year parties?
Do you have to have the latest fashion? Do you buy something new, or do you start with a rummage through the wardrobe to see what you have already? Perhaps you already have an outfit that could be refreshed with different accessories?
Last Christmas I was on a mission to not buy any new clothes, including any that were just new to me, from July until after Christmas – you can read more about that here: No new clothes – learning to love the clothes I have and realising I actually don’t need more. So when I decided to attend my work’s Christmas presentation evening for the first time, I had to come up with something suitable without buying anything. There was a black and silver dress code for the evening. I already had a gorgeous fitted black satin skirt from Coast, bought in a charity shop a few years earlier, which I had never yet worn as it really didn’t go with any of my shoes. As I wasn’t buying anything I asked a friend with the same sized feet if she had a pair of smart shoes I could borrow. She came up trumps with a perfect pair of black court shoes, which she had herself bought from a charity shop and only wore occasionally for parties. My auntie lent me a black lacey blouse and a silver scarf and I was good to go. I really liked this outfit although I sadly don’t seem to have taken any photos.
Over the year I have been keeping my eye on the local charity shops for a suitable new (to me) top to go with the same black skirt without any luck. But, whilst in looking instead for items to go in the Christmas crackers I was making, I happened to spot a lovely Monsoon tunic dress. Sometimes the best finds are when you’re not actually looking. So here was my outfit – an evening dress for £5.99. And I was able to borrow the same pair of shoes from my friend. I wore jewellery I had already (a previous Christmas gift from my husband) and accessorised with a Planet handbag, also from a charity shop a few years earlier. My coat and scarf are also charity shop sourced – though only the scarf is new to me this year.
So, why buy preowned?
There are plenty of advantages to buying preowned. I’ve always bought some of my clothes this way because:
It’s fun – you never know what you will find, and there is something different to look at every time
You don’t have to follow the crowd
You can often get much better quality items than you might afford or want to spend on otherwise
But recently I have been trying to source most of my clothing this way with other reasons also in mind:
It saves the use of new resources, in terms of the material and the energy and shipping that goes into the production of new clothes
I’m not supporting “fast fashion” often made by workers in poor conditions to make it cheap and disposable
I like the fact that my money is supporting a charity rather than a multinational clothes shop
Because I live in a small town, I can also find the things I want locally and on foot more easily this way
Have you got any favourite ways of shopping or favourite finds?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Du zéro déchet à l'écofrugalité. Faire Mieux avec moins ! Une famille qui se sensibilise aux gestes éco-citoyens et qui cherche à réduire son empreinte sur l'environnement par la réduction de ses déchets, la recherche d'économie d'énergie, de l'anti-gaspi ... Changer ses habitudes pour protéger son environnement : c'est possible!