Second Hand Shopping: Tips, Tricks and Recommendations

After trying my hand at second hand shopping at the end of 2018 and reading about the environmental benefits of cutting back on fast fashion purchases, I decided that one of my resolutions for 2019 would be to try and only buy pre-owned clothing.

Vintage denim dress

Whether it was from vintage shops, charity shops, second hand online markets or any other option, I was going to avoid buying new or from high street stores (unless ethically sourced or supporting independent businesses).

Now – I haven’t been perfect, I’ve slipped up along the way but I think I can count the instances on one hand so I’m pretty happy with that.

Orange converse from a NY vintage store

The truth is I LOVE second hand shopping.

I could spend hours in vintage shops looking through all the different colours, cuts and styles of clothing. It’s a great way to experiment with your style, get creative and save money as it’s often a way cheaper option for updating your wardrobe.

This blog will share some of my favourite purchases, best places to shop and tips I’ve picked up along the way!

Look around

It may take a while to find some of your go-to places but a couple of visits to a variety of different shops (such as charity or vintage stores) will help you to pick out which are most likely to have something you’re interested in.

One of my all time personal favourites is Hobos Vintage in Cardiff. It’s rare I go in there and don’t come out with something… and the prices are really good!

I love buying vintage Harley tops in Hobos

Don’t be put off by charity shops

You’re more likely to have to rummage around and really dig to find that gem piece but it can happen!

The bonus with charity shops is that you can find some incredible bargains AND the money goes to charity. It’s a win-win.

Beautiful colours on a charity shop midi dress

Be open and creative

It’s important that you’re not just buying things for the sake of it or because it’s too good of a bargain to put back – but also don’t be afraid to just try something on.

It might seem a bit out there or not quite the right shape but, you never know, you might able to work with it!

It could just need a bit of styling to feel more ‘you’ or perhaps you could do a little DIY to make it fit perfectly. I recently didn’t like the sleeves on a dress I loved so I just gave the thread a little snip and they were sorted.

Rework items you already own

Whether it’s something you’ve already bought second hand or an item that’s been sitting in your closet – is there something you can do to give it a new lease of life?

You could consider dying it another colour, bleaching it, adding pins and patches, cutting it, cropping it… the list goes on.

Before you give up hope – there may be a chance to revive it in your wardrobe!

Reworked a black brewery tee with bleach!

Swap with friends

Another easy way to get rid of unwanted clothes and revamp your wardrobe is to swap clothes with friends. Even if you’re not similar shapes or sizes, you might be pleasantly surprised.

For example, my friend forgot to a return a body that was too long for her, but perfectly sized for me!

The wine coloured body gifted by a friend

Look around different areas

You may be used to shopping in one particular town or city or rely on a particular store but try and branch out if possible.

Big cities will typically have somewhere good for vintage shopping – for example, I recently came across Flamingos Vintage UK in Cardiff and immediately fell in love.

I’d been looking for a t-shirt like this for ages!

But I still take the opportunity to pop into charity and second hand shops when I’m… well, pretty much anywhere else. It can be good to do even just to get a feel for whether the store is likely to stock something you might like (but don’t be afraid to come back and reassess!).

I really enjoy finding vintage shops when I’m travelling to see what kind of styles they have so maybe add this to your to-do list next time you’re off somewhere new.

Vintage shopping in Barcelona

Fashion isn’t binary

I’m a huge advocate for wearing whatever the heck you want – and, for me, that often includes so-called men’s clothing.

As a tall lady who isn’t particularly feminine (most of the time), one of the first sections of a vintage store I head to is the ‘men’s’. They typically have the best oversized tees, jumpers and shirts. I still look in the ‘women’s’ but I tend to come away with the best loot from elsewhere.

Don’t be afraid to take a look at everything in the shop!

One of my favourite ‘men’s’ jumpers

Just ask

Depending on whether it’s a kilo sale or a random market, you might not be sure about the pricing of the items.

Sure, some vintage shops can take advantage of their popularity and hike up the prices but it’s worth asking how much something is (and even bartering) just to find out.

I would have normally walked away from a coat (like below) thinking it’d be outside of my budget that day – but I asked the question, and it was only £4!

My favourite vintage coat

Don’t forget to look online

If you’re looking for something in particular, sometimes an online search is your best bet. Whether you use Depop, eBay or another site, you’re able to get a bit more tailored in your approach.

Rummaging through stores in real life can be a bit hit or miss depending on what you’re hunting for (although I think that adds to the thrill of it!) so if you’ve exhausted your ‘physical shop’ options then have a look online.

Don’t feel defeated

Sometimes you’ll just have no luck – other times you’ll feel like you’ve hit the jackpot!

Second hand shopping isn’t always super reliable (unless you happen to live near your dream store) but it’s a great way to be creative and eco-friendly.

It’s okay if you slip up now and again on the journey to only buying second hand items so remember to cut yourself some slack and know that you’re doing the best you can!

Vintage t-shirt and coat combo!

I hope these tips help if you’re looking to get into second hand shopping!

Let me know if you have any further tips or recommendations for places/sites I should check out too.


  1. OMG! Love these tips. My go-to thrifting tip is to always check sections you wouldn’t normally check!!

  2. Great read and brilliant tips. I’ve bought a lot less recently due to redundancy and less income. It’s really highlighted the disposable nature of fashion and conspicuous consumption and how much ‘crap’ I used to buy. If something cost £4 you can bet the supply chain/etichal credentials aren’t great.

    I bought my complete outfit as a wedding guest from charity shops recently for £30, safe in the knowledge no one else would have the same outfit (unlike the 2 ladies who wore beautiful but identical Ted Baker dresses, many times over my budget).

    Thanks for the tip on checking out the ‘mens’ section too. I feel a 90’s grunge revival of lumberjack shirts and corduroy jackets coming on 👌

    1. That’s amazing! It can be difficult to find specific, more formal outfits but that’s so cool you put together a whole wedding guest outfit!

      I love the fact that second hand items are so unique and usually a fraction of the price. I recently bought an amazing floaty maxi dress that I’ve fallen in love with for just £2.99!

      Really glad you enjoyed the blog x

  3. Totally loving the blog. £2.99 for a maxi dress is pretty impressive. Looking forward to trying your autumn recipes. Currently on holiday and bought 2 ‘new’ dresses in charity shops for it. That was my total pre holiday spend on clothes. I’m not as good as you yet but aiming for 50/50 pre owned v new in my future purchases and those 50 % I buy being ethical/classic. Keep up the excellent work x

    1. Thanks lovely! I’ve been lucky to get some absolute bargains recently but that’s awesome to find holiday clothes from a charity shop as it can definitely be tricky when you have something particular in mind! I had to hunt for ages to find the perfect dress x

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