My new year's resolution for 2021 has been to buy as little new items as possible. This involves some planning (predicting when you will need something replaced), and a bit of time. The added benefit is that you will impulse-buy less, and so lower your consumption. Another win for you and the planet!
So how do you go about it? I used to be daunted by the chaos in some shops, and mystified at the sizing, and just leave second hand shops in frustration. But now, no longer!
Step 1: Analyse your wardrobe
I will post more about a sustainable wardrobe at a later point, so this is the abridged version. Look at the clothes in your wardrobe. Divide into piles: favourite and fits, favourite but doesn't fit/broken, donate. The donation piles needs to leave your house, or at least your wardrobe (thank goodness for tall daughters). They stand a better chance of survival out in the world if you mend them first. If you sew yourself, or plan on mending your clothes, then retrieve buttons and belt and zips and clasps and anything else useful if the item is already broken in some way. The favourite but doesn't fit/broken should be mended or altered. You could do it yourself, or find a friendly tailor/seamstress in your area. I recommend doing some visible mending, or contacting me to do some for you, but it might not be your taste. The favourite pile needs to be re-examined. You should be able to wear each item with at least 3 other items you keep. If it doesn't go with anything else, then think carefully about why you are keeping it, and what you still need to make it work. Compile a list of what you now need.
Step 2: tape measure and colour chart
Now that you are ready for a fresh start, it is time to be critical. Why are the favourite items your favourites? What is your real style? Do you actually need more office wear than party frocks? (I know, me too...) Do you hate pastels, but they actually suit you very well? Find out what your best (and favourite) colours are, and what other colours complement them best. Time to play with your wardrobe a bit! Next, grab your tape measure and measures your bust, waist and hip circumference. Write them down somewhere, especially if you are shopping for others. Measure on the (near) naked body, and make sure your tape measure isn't tight, and straight. You will need to take your tape measure with you when shopping, so pop it into your bag right afterwards.
Step 3: going into your local second-hand shop
I am most familiar with Belgian/Antwerp shops, and my go-to's are:
Kringloopwinkel: I love how they always always hang their clothes per type (dresses, nightgowns, trousers, ...), and per colour. I usually first scan per item, and then per colour. I know which hues are more likely to suit me, so I can pick out the colours I want, and then decide on whether the size is right. If I am not in the mood for unnecesary trying on of clothes, I will quickly measure the item. Keep in mind that you will need an extra few cm's than your measurements for movement. About 2cm (half circumference, so flat) for trousers, skirts, dresses and shirts, and about 4 to 6 cm's for outer wear. Unless you like everything more oversized, then go for more cms. Old clothes or clothes from other countries have weird sizing sometimes, so if you can't tell by eyeballing it, whip out the tape measure. The prices here is the lowest, and the diversity in styles also the biggest. This is my favourite chain of shops.
Think Twice: These shops are a little pricier, but they have 'think twice days' regularly, where they will sell off the remainder of the current batch of clothing at decreasing prices. They are more focused on vintage fashion, and you will find some cool retro clothes, as well as items that 20-year olds like to wear. They will hang their clothing per item, but not particularly per colour, so there is more of a treasure hunt feel to the experience. The sizing is also more focused on 20 year olds, so not always size inclusive.
Pardaf: This shop has higher-end labels on sale, and will be pricier.
Vinted: Ah Vinted. This online "shop" is actually a collection of individual sellers. You can search items by category, or brand, or size, or colour, or a combination of all of the above. The handy thing about fast fashion, is there is so much of it. If you ruin your favourite dress, or grow out of it, you can find a new one in the right size, reasonably easily. If you know the brand and your sizing, it is quite easy. If you don't know the brand in question, or fear it has ben stretched or shrunk in the wash, you can ask the seller to measure the garment for you. That way you can check that it will fit nicely. The drawback is that you are dealing with private people, who may not be honest, or punctual, or polite. But most of the time the atmosphere is good. You are also having individual items transported all over Europe, and so the carbon footprint is higher than if you would go to a shop.
Now that you are a vintage fashionista, it is time to take political action. Voting with our money for the last 20 years hasn't actually done much to make fashion more sustainable or ethical, now has it? What we need are laws, laws that have teeth, to force big companies to behave better. So consume less, and write to your representatives to demand that they take action now.