25 Feb 2014

second hand clothes

Slowly and mindfully we have begun to pare back our ways and live more simply; treading more carefully on the earth.  We have gently transformed our home, the way we nourish and care for our bodies, and what we consume to encompass our beliefs on sustainability and to honour our fellow man. It was inevitable then that our eyes would one day cast a scrutinous gaze over the clothes we wear.

Ethical fashion is a veritable quagmire of ideals. It's one I'm yet to wade through successfully what with conflicting viewpoints, inaccessibility to facts and downright dishonesty leading me up the garden path. Ignorant and false claims of fair trade origins lurk in dark corners and ridiculously cheap and disposable clothing lures anyone with little cash to spare. But to clothe myself and my family ethically and with an environmental conscious is a philosophy that has seeped into my everyday.

Thankfully, timeless and beautiful handcrafted pieces that live up to our ideals are fast becoming more available. Often the price point deters me though, not because these garments aren't worth every cent with their ethics, environmental philosophies and simple beauty but simply the constraints of a one wage budget. Such timeless pieces are chosen for their durability and ability to transcend seasons. They are then mindfully saved for and finally splurged on.

So for now we balance treasured items with some Mumma made pieces and much thoughtful thrifting. Trawling through racks of second hand clothes has become second nature to me and these are some tips I've picked up along the way:
  • Choose natural fibres - check for the tags for fabric types. 
  • Think a season or two ahead especially with things like childrens' tracksuits and long sleeved t-shirts. These can easily be rolled up if they are a whisker too big when needed. Adjustable waists are always a winner too.
  • Don't purchase things that have sweat stains or smells - they are near impossible to remove.The same goes for black mould spots.
  • Light coloured fabrics with small stains can often be revived with a soak in washing soda* and then hung directly on the line without rinsing. When dry, wash as normal.
  • If the fabric appeals but the cut isn't something you can work with consider if it can be re purposed perhaps like this skirt. I have a torn black silk skirt waiting to be turned into a simple tank. 
  • Inspect items carefully for missing buttons, stiff zippers, tears etc. Somethings might just need a little bit of mending but others are best left behind.
  • Check washing instructions to make sure it fits in with your way of life.
  • Let go of your prejudices and embrace a new way of recycling. Most op shops these days offer exceptional quality in a clean and friendly environment. Hunt out a few favourites and make a point o visiting regularly.
  • Have a list of items you're searching for so you don't double up. I like to think of what might be needed for the next season and keep my eyes out for these things.
  • Check out your local flea market from time to time. Mummas on a simplifying mission turn up in droves to pass on clothing that has been outgrown. Last Winter I dressed Remy almost entirely in secondhand clothes from one stall at a flea market. The lady had a huge selection of beautiful  boys' clothing from Fred Bare, Seed and Old Navy and I took most of it. I have even squirrelled away checkered shirts for the next few years! 
  • Ebay can also yield some fabulous finds. I recently picked up a pair of new with tags grey suede leather boots (last season from The Horse) for $14.44 including postage and a gently worn wool dress from Gorman for pittance.
  • Be wary you don't over consume just because things are cheap. The "fill a bag" rack might cost next to nothing but you can often end up with a cupboard full of clothing that nobody needs or will wear. I have been particular guilty of this and have found myself drowning in children's clothes. A few weeks and a good decluttering later sees me returning it all back to the op shop I purchased it from. 
Do you have any secondhand clothing tips? Have you unearthed any treasures?

* washing soda is an eco friendly solvent that we use as a soaker and as an ingredient in our homemade washing liquid. We purchase ours in the laundry aisle of the supermarket.

Steph x


  1. Hi Steph. Thanks for these tips. I have been planning on making washing powder from your previous blog:


    Which of these recipes/methods do you prefer? xxoo

    1. Hi Julie! The liquid seems to go further and is much cheaper to make without the Castile soap but you have to be prepared to do a bit of soap grating. I do a few bars at a time and keep in ready in a container for when I need to make a new batch of liquid. It's great to rub onto stains too. Hope your week is a lovely one xx

  2. Love this post. Garage sales are my treasure trove. I am often told by friends how beautifully dressed my girl is and they are surprised when I reveal another $2 garage sale bargain. So much so, that I often pick up a beautiful dress or knitted jumper for friends babies. Beautiful wooden toys are also a lovely find and I find that the mamas holding these sales are so pleased that another child will wear and play with these sentimental treasures. I do find that the more expensive brands are easier to remove day to day stains from...it must be the quality of the material. I too have been guilty of buying too much because they are such a bargain and then finding that our morning starts are delayed because my lass is overwhelmed with choices. Since culling, it may mean more frequent washing but a more peaceful dressing process.

  3. Wonderful tips. I've pledged my commitment to ethical fashion this year (on Pip's blog- Meet me at Mikes) and so far so good.
    I've picked up some wonderful op-shopped clothing, including a black skirt for work and some lovely tan leather belts.

  4. Love this post! Those little brown shoes are too gorgeous x

  5. I love your blog and I find it really helpful. I've been buying and selling my kids used clothes ever since and I sometimes fall into "fill a bag" thing and then found out that they don't need some of the clothes I have gotten from the store :-)

  6. Thanks for sharing interesting post. I've been purchased used clothes likely a new. I found very useful as well as interesting. I will come beck read more.


Your words brighten my day! Thank-you so much for joining me on my adventure. x