Vintage and second-hand: the ultimate guide to thrifting

How to buy second-hand and vintage clothes and where to buy them.

We should all buy more vintage. Especially in the last years we are witnessing a shift in the fashion industry to a fast-moving, over-wasting, exploiting, unsustainable reality. The advent of fast fashion has made us all slaves of capitalism even more than we already were and the reason is that it is convenient. How could it not be? You go to the store and find tons of items of all colors, fabrics, sizes possible at a low price; you can buy more and more easily. So, you might be asking yourselves why we should buy more vintage and secondhand clothes…well, buying vintage and second hand is a completely different experience than buying fast fashion. First and most importantly there are environmental reasons. The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. The production, manufacturing and transportation of every new piece of clothing has a non-negligible impact on the environment. Enormous quantities of water are used for the dyeing and finishing processes in addition to the considerably big quantity of water used for the cultivation of cotton. Moreover, every time we wash a synthetic garment about 1,900 individual microfibers are released into water going directly into our oceans eventually making their way into our food chain. Waste accumulation is also worth mentioning; with the advent of fast-fashion clothing has become disposable. The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions; not only synthetic fibers are made from fossil fuels but also most of our clothes are produced in countries such as China, Bangladesh or India which are essentially powered by coal. Lastly, the fashion industry is also responsible for soil degradation and rainforest destruction. Apart from environmental reasons there are ethical ones in favor of buying second-hand and vintage for example the over-exploitation of workers in least developed or developing countries where the manufacturing processes usually take place, the lack of human and workers’ rights etc. Lastly, there are personal reasons for buying second-hand and vintage clothes for example the fact that second-hand items are very cheap, or the uniqueness of pieces you can buy at a vintage boutique. As I previously said, buying vintage and second-hand is truly an experience; you have to find stores, look for what you like in a multitude of items and when you finally find the perfect one you are satisfied way more than when you buy a pair of jeans in a regular shop. It is a way to trigger our creativity and discover our personal, authentic and unique style.

In this article I am going to give you some advice on how to buy second-hand and vintage clothes and where to buy them. First things first, we should draw the difference between vintage and second-hand. Vintage includes clothes from the 1930s to the 1990s. Clothes before the 1930s are difficult to find in good conditions because they usually used very cheap and fragile materials. Clothes from after the 1990s are considered to be second-hand with some exceptions. To begin with the thrifting experience, you may want to check your closet to understand what you need/want; you need to know which needle in the haystack you are looking for. In addition, you can select some of the clothes you don’t use and donate or sell them especially if you go to a consignment shop (in Milan there is a beautiful initiative by ‘Tempio del Futuro Perduto’ where you can leave your clothes on the ‘kindness wall’ and people in need can take them). A smart thing to do is look for shops, boutiques, flea markets and antique markets in your city to understand where you can most likely find what you’re looking for; there’s a huge difference between a second-hand store and a luxury vintage boutique. Milan is a city that offers a lot of choice for vintage and second-hand shopping. My favorite shops are Napoleone Vintage (especially for vintage Levi’s), Guenj (for coats and jackets), Ottica Veneta (for glasses and sunglasses), Cavalli e Nastri (luxury and second-hand), and Bivio (second-hand). Don’t forget about flea and antique markets such as the one in Navigli every first Sunday of the month or the East Market. We should not forget about online thrifting; there are tons of websites, apps and Instagram accounts we can buy from. Here are some apps and websites you may find interesting: Greenchic, Vintag, Shpock, The Vintage Bar, Vintage-Paris, VestiaireCollective. Some Instagram accounts also sell vintage and second-hand, and you can get very good deals, Lolitavinatge, Tugstore, Ziepulci, and Sillabecollection are worth mentioning. Back to in person shopping, when thrifting try to keep in mind what you’re looking for, it will save you time and make the experience more enjoyable and not overwhelming. You may want to look for items that are out of season because they usually cost less. Remember that sizes are different from the past, especially when you buy online; look for conversion tables or more details about the size. Lastly, think unisex (you have way more options) and be patient. When you find a piece you like, try it on and examine it closely; look for stains, rips, snags, loose hems, missing buttons, faulty hardware, turn them inside out to check the lining. Remember to read the tags and consider the materials of an item to check if you like them. Learn how to identify easy alterations, thrifting is a process of searching and editing: some alterations are very cheap and easy to do like shorten a pair of pants, some others may require more money and the result may not turn out as you wanted. Finally, listen to your instinct, you want to feel comfortable wearing your clothes. If the idea of trying something on is already annoying, you probably don’t want to buy that piece. Remember that there are no strict rules, what works for you may not work for someone else. It may be difficult to revolutionize our way of buying clothes but there’s no rush; it would be impossible not to buy anything new from one day to the other. You should take your time and perhaps start by buying some second-hand pieces and progressively reach the point where your closet is full of vintage and second-hand clothes and your environmental impact is way lower than before. Ultimately, I believe that in our globalized, fast-moving world buying vintage and second-hand could really make a positive impact on the world and on our personal level of eco-consciousness.

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