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.