Is it Vintage or is it Second Hand?

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These days second hand clothes are not always a bargain. The vintage label seems to come with a hefty price tag. Since when have hand-me-downs and cast-offs become ‘vintage’? Is there any real difference? Today I am going to explore this further, with the help of a new series on BBC Radio 4 – From Rags to Riches.

Second-hand is no longer seen as the poor man’s choice and is becoming quite mainstream, with the rise of the likes of eBay. People who bought vintage clothes up until  the Millennium tended to buy only the rarer or more collectible pieces. In more recent times, there has been a real shift and almost anything goes, so long as it is a unique one-off or fits current trends, but without the large price tag of buying new. But with this sweeping change, should we be concerned about true vintage items dying out? This seems likely with the rise in poor quality, fast fashion pieces which are not made to last or even cut well in the first place. I cannot see them enduring in the same way, as items from 40+ years ago.

I have mentioned in a previous post about the history of the garment trade. But what is vintage? Is it simply a garment that is too old, for you to have worn the first time round, in your lifetime? Or is vintage about having a connection with the past? Sometimes people have the luxury of knowing a garment’s original story. But often they are bought anonymously, in a shop or online. I know that I am attracted to clothes from certain eras. I particularly love a lot of the styles that were around in the 1970s, the decade just before I was born. But I can’t really explain why that should be so, it’s probably just personal preference. There certainly seems to have been a lot more meaning attached to certain types of clothing in the past; like flapper dresses, the ‘new look’, mods and rockers or teddy boys, are just a few examples. I am certain that the rise of the term ‘vintage’ has concurred with the rise of the internet and various online marketplaces. Perhaps this is because search engines rely on people searches for certain labels or definitions?

Vintage fashion is quite possibly a counter-cultural movement, a reaction to the fast fashion of the high street. Around the turn of the Millennium,  vintage began to step outside the wardrobes of Punks and students and onto the red carpet. It even found its way onto the pages of high fashion magazines, starting with British Vogue in May 2003. Perhaps some people still adhere too strongly to labels, even when buying second hand. Certainly some people may only buy second hand designer labels. Others may stick to labels that they know suit them, or they like the style of and there’s nothing wrong with that! Still others will actually just like to purchase something second hand, from your common charity shop and just enjoy wearing something that they love, that no-one else has.

So perhaps now, buying vintage or second hand is not an alternative lifestyle choice and has become mainstream in itself? It seems to me that the label vintage is simply applied to any garment over 20 years old, in order to inflate the price artificially. Although I admit that some people have an eye for finding the nicer pieces and perhaps this curation is worth paying a bit extra for. But I love the thrill of the chase. I certainly think there is good vintage and bad vintage, but again perhaps that is a matter of perception. This modern fashion concept called ‘vintage’ just rebrands everything in the same way, whether it’s a Regency gown or a pair of 1990s Adidas Gazelle’s. That is an unhelpful paradox to create.

Certainly, if you head into any fashion design studio what you will find are rails of old clothes (or shall we call them ‘vintage’ darling?) As my Grandad used to tell me, there is nothing new in this world and he always swore that if he kept clothes long enough, they’d be back in fashion again. Not that he truly cared about that, it was just an excuse to never go shopping, well except at jumble sales. (See where I get my love of second hand from – ha!) Anyway, the point is that designers use them as reference points for the ‘new’ trends that they create – whether it’s copying a button, a hem-line, a frill or a motif.

Vintage carries a prestige now because you have the garment and no-one else can. I suppose when people made their own clothes, there was far less likelihood of someone else wearing the same thing, as you chose the material, the pattern and cut it to fit you. Whereas nowadays there is a real fear of turning up in the same thing as someone else, at least for some people. But clearly, the word ‘vintage’ means different things to different people. I still prefer the rummage at the charity shop, along with the generally acceptable price tag. Although even some of them are now offering vintage boutiques, with prices to match! You just have to remember to check the condition of the items, as I often find that they don’t check and have been left with an imperfect, or sometimes unwearable item due to staining.

If you’ve enjoyed my blog post today, you will enjoy listening to the Rags to Riches podcast.

Things That Have Gone This Week – 6

Here we are, week 6 and the clear out continues! I took 2 of those massive charity plastic sacks to a charity shop this week- they contained yet more clothing, from both me and my OH. Plus board games, footwear and a whole stack of books. These were all things I hadn’t been able to sell, so I hope the charity shop will have more luck than me! I also took another big plastic sack of clothing that was too worn to a textile recycling bank. I had been planning to hold onto it for rags etc, but at the end of the day there was more than I was ever going to re-use and we don’t have the space to keep it all for years. I understand that it can be recycled into padding for car seats and the like.

Add to all this the 8 items I sold on eBay this week and I’d say it’s been a pretty good week 🙂 I got £92.45 for this little lot which I am pleased enough with, for stuff I don’t want the responsibility for anymore. This is the net figure, not minus postage etc but it’s still pretty good. I didn’t buy any of these items new and I ended up in profit on most of them.

  1. 2 sacks to charity
  2. 1 sack to textile recycling
  3. Turquoise Monsoon Skirt
  4. Vintage Laura Ashley Velvet Ballgown
  5. Vintage Laura Ashley maxi skirt
  6. Laura Ashley shirt dress
  7. Clarks Silver Ballet Flats
  8. Tu Pink Dress
  9. Juicy Couture Jeans
  10. Ice Skates

Another 2 items have bids on them too, so they’ll be included next week. But this was probably my best week so far for getting rid of stuff! Are you decluttering? If so, how’s it going?

Things that have gone this week – 2

Here we are, another week has passed and several more items have sold. In-fact, I have now surpassed the £1000 mark. You can read here about how I made £800 selling my no longer used/needed, everyday items on eBay.

 

  1. Retro 1970s summer dress
  2. Bridesmaid dress and matching sandals
  3. Pair of purple shoes
  4. A vintage black velvet jacket

2 is something I had to admit that I was never every going to wear again, particularly as I could no longer do it up. I struggled to let it go, as I felt responsible for it in some weird way, as someone else had purchased it for me and it was linked to an important family event. But surely it is going to do more good being worn by someone else at their wedding or prom, than gathering dust in my wardrobe? I am really grateful to have the space back, as those big, netted skirts take up a lot of room! I still have all the pictures to look at from that special day.

1, 3 and 4 are examples of over-purchasing in charity shops! Trying hard to avoid this now I am more conscious of my buying triggers. Just because it is a bargain doesn’t mean to say I have to have it, especially if I do not need any more clothes and shoes! 1 and 3 were never even worn. 4 was worn once to a Christmas party. However, the fact that they were purchased second-hand in the first place, has meant that I broke even on them.

I’m still hoping to sell a few more things. What have you let go of this week? Have some items been easy to let go and some been hard?

When Britain was Zero Waste

Having studied Home Economics in the distant past and always being fascinated by social history, I love stumbling over relevant articles on the internet. I’m also a big fan of the BBC series ‘Call the Midwife’. Apparently some have accused the BBC of presenting a sanitised version of poverty in the 1950s. However, if you search for photographs from the era you will see that they are portraying history accurately.

You see in days gone by, people did not produce much rubbish. They did not buy packaged goods, they shopped every day and only bought what they needed for the next day or so. They did not have the means to keep food fresh for longer, there were no refrigerators or freezers in general use. They also used everything up until it disintegrated – if you look at figures from the period, you will notice that they practically never threw textiles away. What a contrast to today!

Consequently, the streets were clean too. Those were the days when there was a sense of local and national pride. People cared about where they lived and everybody knew you, so you would not dare to drop litter for fear of the local bobby catching you or your class teacher!

Let’s think about it for a second….

  • Milk was delivered in churns and poured into jugs, or once milk bottles arrived – these were returned to be washed and used again. The only waste being the foil tops which were recycled.
  • Fruit & vegetable scraps were composted, along with eggshells and tea leaves
  • Soot from the fire was dug into the ground as fertiliser
  • Groceries were bought unpackaged for the large part and paper bags could be burnt on the fire
  • Cooked food leftovers were probably forced upon family members (i.e. you must eat everything on your plate or children will starve in Africa!) Or fed to pets.
  • Clothing was worn until it wore out and even then, useful fabric was cut out for re-use
  • Newspapers were reincarnated as toilet paper or fire starters
  • There were no luxury appliances needing to go to landfill and I’m pretty sure people kept their mattress for a lifetime. They recovered and repaired their chairs.
  • Anything else was sold to the rag and bone man who called at the door
  • Other hawkers were common visitors to the door – people to sharpen knives, repair china, patch pots and pans and more.

As our waste has increased, people have moved from using biscuit tins for waste in the 1900s, to medium sized metal bins in the 1950s and on to the larger plastic bins we use today, in the 1960s. In fact, did you know the name ‘dust bin’ was derived from the fact that these bins contained mostly dust or ash from fireplaces?

How to Deal With Non-Paying Bidders on eBay

No doubt, if you’re trying to minimise (like me!) you will be selling some items on eBay. I find non-paying bidders to be a more and more frequent problem. It’s so frustrating when you’ve listed a whole bunch of stuff – you would prefer to make just one trip to the Post Office and you have to leave 1 or 2 parcels sitting waiting on the side. I just don’t get it – if you went into a shop you wouldn’t get away with paying 3 days (or even longer) later. So why do eBay buyers think they can get away with it? I find it disrespectful.

My top tip is that you use eBay’s non-paying bidder process for every bad buyer. This is the only way you can get your fees funded, if they ultimately refuse to pay. They will also have action taken against their account and I believe this depends on the severity of their offence. For example, a first time offender will probably simply get reminded of the rules, but it will still be a strike against their account. If they do it again, they won’t be able to bid on my items or any other seller who has set up tight buyer requirements. If they offend further, they will likely find their account restricted or banned.

I prefer not to set up the non-paying bidder process to run automatically, as you have to wait twice as long for the process to kick in (4 days then 4 days to get payment!) As far as I’m concerned, 2 days is plenty of time to pay for an item! I start the process myself, as soon as possible after the 48 hours has passed. You just click next to the item in your selling page and click the option to resolve a problem. Then select that you haven’t received payment yet. The case will open and you won’t need to do anything more for a few days. If the buyer pays, all well and good- there is nothing else to take care of. If they don’t, in 4 days you can close the case yourself- get their account marked with a strike (they’ve had 6 days to pay, plenty of time in my mind) and get your fees back, so you can get on and re-list that item and get rid of it!!! You can open a case immediately if for some reason, your buyer is no longer registered with eBay. When you close the case, you must select the options to say that the buyer did not pay and that you want to receive a fee credit.

Since eBay no longer allows sellers to leave negative feedback about buyers, I simply refuse to leave feedback for bad buyers. I know this is unhelpful to other users of the site, but eBay have tied our hands. I also take a moment to add them to my blocked bidders list, so I don’t ever have to deal with them again.

Another tip I find hugely helpful, is to set up tight buyer requirements on your account. Bring all your settings down to the minimum levels allowed. This means that (in theory) only the best buyers will be able to bid on your items. For example, I don’t allow people with 2 unpaid item strikes within the last year to bid on my items. I frequently find this one kicks in, to stop them bidding. So many buyers now seem to have 100% positive feedback – but it’s masking a bad buyer. I don’t allow people with low feedback scores to bid on my items. This may be harsh to newbies, but I had a spate of zero feedback buyers not paying. I also block buyers from countries I don’t post to and those who don’t have a Paypal account – this is to protect myself as a seller.

I hope you find this guide helpful.

A Short History of the Second-Hand Clothes Market

Anyone who knows me well will know that I love to shop second-hand, be it charity shops, jumble sales, car boots, eBay or anything else! During the many years I have been a part of the second-hand market, I have built a working knowledge of the value of items and particularly those which are sought after (hint: it tends to be the good brand names, as people know those are quality items). I also have been able to develop my love of vintage style, as I find genuine vintage items in the charity shops. One of my great loves is vintage Laura Ashley garments and I hope to be able to share a little more of that on my blog soon. I recently discovered a book published by Laura Ashley in 1983 and it’s a really fascinating read. It’s called Fabric of Society – A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870 by Jane Tozer and Sarah Levitt. You can pick up a hardback 1st edition for 1p, plus P&P on Amazon so it’s a real bargain!

I was very interested to come across this information about the history of the second-hand clothes market. As still is the case nowadays, second-hand clothing provides a way for poor (and financially savvy) people to buy the essentials. Then, as much as now, people were often too busy to sew or make their own garments. The Primarks of the day were known as ‘slop’ shops! I’m not sure if that’s where we get the word sloppy from. But just as today, the quality was poor and the garments did not last. The savvy people knew to buy second-hand, high quality garments that had come from the large houses. People who knew the market were very shrewd and able to judge which were the high-quality pieces. This meant if you were buying through a dealer, you’d pay a higher price than if you found the bargain yourself. Nothing changes eh?

Certain items of clothing were only worn by the gentry, such as dress coats and so, there was no second-hand market for these. They had to be turned into other garments, so they could be sold on. So, people either bought them and turned them into wool hats or caps, or traders did. These coats were also used to patch other garments. If a waistcoat began to wear, then it would be cut down into a smaller size or used to create cloth tops for boots. I think we could learn a thing or two from those days, don’t you?

Woollen garments which were so worn, they could no longer serve as clothing were sent for recycling. They would be ground down and mixed with new wool, into a fibre known as ‘shoddy’. I wonder if that’s where we get that word from also? This fibre was used to make cheap, mass-produced clothing. They didn’t waste anything and the dust from the mills, was used as manure on the hop-fields of Kent. This of course is safe with natural fibres, unlike the plastic micro-fibres that are clogging up our oceans today because we like to wear micro-fleece garments.

Old boots and shoes were patched up with anything they had to hand, even cardboard! Although that can’t have been great for anyone concerned, as it’s hardly durable or waterproof. Then they would be blackened to look good as new, if only temporarily. For this reason, people who worked outdoors often purchased new boots, even if they had to save up for them because they knew that quality footwear was essential to do their jobs safely and well!

In the 1700s and 1800s, women’s dress was less subject to change and this was because they knew how to sew! They would carry out any alterations themselves if fashions changed, or either repairing garments or cutting them down into child-sized ones. They would also tend to sell garments on themselves, after cleaning them. Old silk garments were used to line new clothing, or work boxes or dressing cases. They could also be turned into childrens or even dolls clothes!

Wool and cotton were recycled into shoddy thread and linen rags went to paper mills, but silk was not salvageable once damaged or worn. Cotton gowns were the most popular as they stood the test of time well and could be cleaned. Woollen dresses were less popular, as they did not last so well- probably prone to bobbling. Then of course, there were the furs. Any second-hand furs were mostly sold to prostitutes, as most people could not afford them – even second-hand! So much of this bears true today, if you buy a quality cotton garment it will be very long-lasting, as opposed to cheaper man-made fibres. I suspect that wool is more long-lasting today, as we know to hand wash it to keep it looking good.

The items that were most worn, such as trousers obviously tended to wear out and that’s why we don’t see many of these types of items, or working-class items at all in museums today because people actually wore their clothes out in those days. That really is a testament to the thriftiness and historic success of ‘the rag trade’, which really abhorred waste. A story that really is so relevant today!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Everyone! I’m excited to see what 2017 will bring.

My New Year’s resolution is to share even more money-saving, frugal, minimalist and zero waste tips with you. Over the past 4 years that have been my foray into this ‘alternative’ lifestyle, we have accumulated over £30,000 by selling our excess possessions, online earning opportunities and matched betting. We have learnt to save money in a myriad of ways, including swapping from supermarkets to local shops and the environment has benefited too, as we have ditched excess packaging at the same time. We cook from scratch almost every meal time, buy second hand items and have learnt how to use coupons and apps to our advantage. I have lots more exciting things to share with you this year, but for today – here is one small thing that has made a big difference to the dry skin during wintertime in our household.

I’d like to share a recent discovery in T.K. Maxx (but also available on Amazon here).

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Bee Bar Lotion – it is completely natural, smells divine and comes in this great re-usable tin. Inside it’s the cutest hexagonal block, wrapped only in greaseproof paper. I grabbed them when I saw them, at only £9.99 each in T.K. Maxx they were comparable with Lush’s massage bars which I normally use as they are completely packaging free. They are made by an American Brand (which I’d never heard of being here in the UK) called Honey House Naturals. It appears they will ship outside of the USA, but can only advise of the shipping and customs taxes at the time of dispatch.

They are utterly portable, great for travel, no chemical nasties and last around 2-3 months.

Do share any great products you have found, as sometimes it’s very hard to come by good zero waste items.