Alongside its powerful role in expression and identity, there can be a wealth of memories and stories sewn into an individual’s style, especially when the clothing is secondhand.
I’ve been cutting down on my fast fashion purchases over the last few years, and particularly last year when I put myself on a self-imposed clothing ban for any items that weren’t vintage, sustainable or from small businesses. I’ve loved building my wardrobe into something that reflects me, my interests, my beliefs and my own personal style.
When you take the time to really think about what you’re purchasing and how often you buy clothing, it calls on you to also think about how wearable an item of clothing is, how long-lasting it will be in your wardrobe and how much you actually love it. Naturally, these questions have led me to only buy items that I see sticking around for a long time and those that make me smile every time I put them on.
When I flick through the shirts, t-shirts, dresses and jumpers hanging up in my closet, it’s always the vintage pieces that immediately bring back the strongest memories. Whether it’s where they came from, how long ago they were made, the journey they’ve been on to get to your hands or the part they’ve played in your life, secondhand items hold onto their histories.
Here are some of my favourite secondhand pieces, and the stories they tell for me.
Tie Dye Harley Davidson Tee
This is one of my all time favourite tees, and the piece of clothing that made me fall in love with vintage and secondhand shopping. I was staying with friends in Philadelphia, and we headed out to visit the local Fishtown RiverCity Festival (where our very talented friend was selling his printed t-shirts).
I came totally unprepared for the grey, cloudy and cold weather. With my teeth chattering, I was desperate for a hot drink to warm me up but there was only beer available at the festival. Luckily, there was a convenience store down the road so I all but ran there and bought myself the biggest cup of coffee to keep me going as we browsed the pop-up stalls. I stumbled upon a cute little vintage stand filled with rails of reworked clothing. As soon as I spotted this top, I was sold. I grabbed the tie dye Harley tee and a bleached purple cropped jumper (and obviously put them both on straight away).
I took any excuse to wear this tee again throughout the trip, so it always reminds me of Philadelphia and one of the best trips of my life. It also began my love affair with vintage Harley Davidson tees!
Bright Orange Converse
A match made in heaven!
Whilst wandering through Brooklyn to find a pizza joint, we passed a huge thrift store which I immediately disappeared into. There were hundreds of Converse scattered all over the place, but these orange beauties were singing out to me. I was expecting them to be the wrong size because I have big, awkward feet but miraculously they were the perfect fit. I’m pretty sure they stayed on my feet for the rest of our time in America. It would have been rude to not wear them, right?
We spent the rest of the day in a grungy dive bar where I flitted between sipping goblets full of cider, playing pool and arcade games and admiring my bold new shoes.
Multi-Colour Plaid Midi Skirt
Whenever I wear this skirt, I am transported back to a humid Barcelona on the cusp of a heavy thunderstorm. I’d had a great morning wandering around the Gothic Quarter and sitting in indie coffee shops, waiting for this vintage shop to open. I was hoping to find something lightweight and airy to change into because I’d totally misjudged how hot Barcelona would be and, foolishly, only brought the one pair of trousers I had on. As you can imagine, I had sweated them into oblivion.
The skirt’s material is so soft and the colours were so eye-catching that I knew I had to have it – especially considering it was less than £10. I spent the rest of my trip flouncing around everywhere, grateful for the breeze and feeling oh-so-fancy.
Oversized Fleece-Lined Denim Jacket
This is possibly the biggest and best coat I have ever owned. I love throwing it on over any outfit because it reminds me of just how excited I was the first time I put it on in a vintage shop in Swansea.
It’s such a comfy, huge jacket that may as well be a duvet, so it also reminds me of the winter trips I’ve been on where this jacket has kept me cocooned in warmth. It may be 4 times too big for me, but it’s perfect.
Button-Up Denim Shirt Dress
This dress was a great find from a small vintage shop in my hometown, and it fits me like a dream.
The first chance I had to wear it was on my 27th birthday. As my birthday is so close to Christmas I tend to keep it low key as it’s a quiet and cold time of year, and everyone’s skint post Christmas festivities. But this year, I had a lovely day hanging out in Cardiff with Ryan and my brother, eating delicious vegan food, getting tattooed and then celebrating over pizza and drinks with friends where they surprised me with a birthday cake (and a crown!). Simple, small gestures but they meant a lot and have clearly stuck with me.
Bargain Navy Corduroy Jacket
Before the big denim jacket came on the scene, this was my go-to jacket. I still love it, it’s just slightly more fitted and I’m a sucker for oversized clothing.
It’s a beautiful dark navy colour, contrasting the tan fluffy lining and a great, warm throw on piece. I’m always amazed by the fact that it was just £4 in a pop up secondhand sale in Cardiff’s The Bone Yard, an up-cycled shipping container village with the cutest little shops.
Me and my friend, Kayleigh were out for a Christmas get-together when I pulled this absolute no-brainer of a jacket off the rail. I’m pretty sure I threw my money at the guy and ran away before he could change his mind.
Patterned Floaty Maxi Dress
Whenever I wear this beautiful dress, I am transported back to the sunny streets of Copenhagen. Just before our trip, I picked up this maxi dress for just £2.99 in a local charity shop!
We were lucky to have amazing weather during our time in Copenhagen so this light, airy dress was an absolute life-saver. As someone who rarely wears dresses, I can’t help but feel whimsical whenever I put one on. The dress always reminds me of walking down cobbled streets in the early morning sun, on my way to grab a coffee and start a day of exploring.
Did I mention that I love Vintage Harley tees?
Yeah, I wasn’t lying!
Do you love vintage and secondhand shopping? Let me know about some of your favourite pieces in the comments!