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Why I Only Buy Second-Hand Clothes

By Sarah-Jane Miller | 18 June 2018 | Comments (8)

I was sat in church about two years ago listening to a sermon about modern slavery. We were invited to think about each garment of clothing that we were wearing and ask the questions; where did it come from, who made it, what was life like for the overseas garment worker?

I hadn’t thought about it before. I was confronted with the idea that when I purchased new clothes I was unconsciously supporting a system where workers were paid as little as 40p per hour, had limited employment rights, and poor working conditions. And I didn’t want to be part of that. I think that where we spend our money really makes a difference - money talks!

I wanted to make a change. And because I couldn’t really afford to buy all of my clothes Fairtrade, I started to think about different solutions. So I made the decision to only buy second hand clothes (with the exception of underwear)…

Mostly I buy from charity shops, but if I’m looking for a specific item I’ll search for used clothes online at Oxfam, Freecycle, EBay, or local Facebook buying and selling groups. If I’m going for an interview or have a special occasion to attend, I might borrow something from a friend.

It’s obviously great for the bank balance but it’s also a lot of fun, and can be very rewarding when you find a real bargain! I love summer tea dresses and have found some gorgeous ones, including one second hand dress from EBay for £14.99 that was originally £125. And for a summer party this year I wore a dress that I purchased from Shelter charity shop in Muswell Hill for only £6. I’m also beginning to realise that I’m a big fan of a brightly coloured cardigan - I have a green one from Reiss that I purchased in Sense that I have worn almost every week for 3 years!

The other reason I choose to shop second hand is because I hate waste… According to The Guardian; in 2016, UK households binned 300,000 tonnes of clothing. But I found out you can take clothes which are no longer wearable (maybe they have multiple holes and are beyond repair) to your local charity shop for recycling. Charities are paid by the kilo for clothes that they recycle, so this contributes to their income and reduces landfill. Win-win!

My husband is also in the charity shop clothing mission. His second-hand North Face coat is still going strong two years later. He scavenges for fancy dress costumes and his cosmic kitten t shirt won first prize, after an impromptu buy from Mind!

In our block of flats we have a clothes recycling bin. Often I find discarded clothes that are “brand new with tags”. With the permission of the other residents, I started to go through the clothes bin and give the good quality items to local homeless shelters and organisations supporting refugees who have arrived in the country with nothing. What’s considered rubbish to some can literally clothe others. It always reminds me of Matthew 25:36: I needed clothes and you clothed me. When we clothe the poor and look after the planet God has given us, we are doing the work of Jesus.


Three Steps to Raising a Generous Child

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Sarah-Jane used to work for Stewardship as part of the Charity Formation team and as part of the Business Development team. 

She enjoys baking vegan cakes (and eating them!), and is working towards a single use plastic-free house (one room at a time). 


Tony Crook

June 20, 2018 10:24 PM
Really thought provoking! We are in the process of moving countries and having to chuck out or give away large quantities of clothes that are very serviceable but no longer "fit well".
When it comes to replacements well we can see we don't need as many options in clothes as we thought!!


June 21, 2018 8:52 AM
I thoroughly applaud what this lady is doing & share her sentiments. I also buy clothes & accessories second hand & have had some great However, the situation may be more complicated. I do NOT 9approve of Dave labour, but if this market collapses or shrinks, what happens to these women in the short term? Will they end up with no work or is some work better than no work? What can we do to alleviate this situation? There is big business involved, I know . I only ask these questions to seek the opinions of others. Comments please

Jane Smith

June 21, 2018 11:41 AM
My first thought was "What about the livelihood of the clothing makers?" On reflection, I think it likely that the market for new clothes is unlikely to abate any time soon and those of us who choose to go down the recycling route will make barely a dent. It is, however, a great idea and does indeed do something to contribute to Matt 25:36. At the frivolous end of the spectrum I have a beautiful long dress bought for

Roxie Weaver

June 21, 2018 8:38 PM
While I applaud the idea of being frugal and not wasteful and buying used, someone still made those clothes originally and it could be a legitimate garment company or a sweat shop. Maybe a better option is to buy from a manufacturer that pays its employees a living wage (which varies widely from country to country) and really looks out for the welfare of their employees, there are some of those - not every company is a scumbag. There are also many small mom and pop shops worldwide putting out unique clothing, why not support them. By not buying new at all, you are assuming others will do so, but if we all bail or a large percent of us does - where will those garment workers be? Who is the winners and losers? A friend of mine started a nonprofit company in Africa that teaches women to sew and sell their items. Another failed business owner decided he would take his expertise in lingerie making and went to Vietnam and started a small business providing decent paying jobs to women and men there. Where would those companies be if we all just went to the thrift shop and bought used NIKE clothing?

Philip Pike

June 23, 2018 12:07 PM
I totally agree with Carole June 21st. If you cut their work, they'll end up in probably worse conditions or work practices.
I haven't got the answer, but their providing what we want & that's why these bosses employ them.!!!!!

Bridget Hickey-Williams

June 25, 2018 4:54 PM
Snap, yes, I too have been recycling now for over 40 years. I started in London where I saw such waste; had a responsibility fir a Charity to renovate a dilapidated house, and had numerous blessings finding amazing and useful item so managed to renovate a house with secondhand furniture and all items to provide a home for 13 people. Today I live in a really attractive smallholding in Norfolk where 17 of us live, and you could count the new items on one hand, isn't that wonderful, giving a new life to old items not needed by the original buyer. And second wonder, the councils in our area are extracting many items from peoples'rubbish' to give them new life. so thank you for encouraging the 3 R's Recycling, Renovating and Renewing


September 20, 2018 1:24 PM
I came accros this post as I asked myself the question. As to weather or not I should buy new or second hand.. I was thinking that maybe if we buy second hand when we can afford to buy things new. Is that like taking from the poor, that can't afford to pay for a new item.
And on the point of wages, we are always on about a living wage in here in the UK..but in the county,s where the. Workers are been paid 40p an hour. That is a living wage in that country.
And as others have mentioned, we don't want to put other people out of maybe if you can afford new items maybe you should buy new and leave the second hand items for those less fortunate.


October 22, 2019 1:00 PM
I always shop second hand as well, my fave being - buy 1 get 1 at 50% off on everything... i always get 2 items for around £10 with free delivery as well..

love it

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