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A common theme in any discussion about ethical shopping and ethical fashion is that it’s far too expensive for the average person to shop ethically. I won’t lie, ethical clothing does tend to be more expensive than it’s fast fashion, mass-produced counterparts, and there is simply no getting around the fact that if you want to buy ethically produced and fairly made clothing that respects the rights of the garment workers then you do need to spend a little more.
However, if you want to shop ethically on a tiny budget then don’t forget that the single most ethical and sustainable way to buy clothes is to shop secondhand.
If rummaging around a charity shop doesn’t sound appealing to you, or you’re too time poor to amble around your local charity shops, then there are heaps of ways to shop for preloved secondhand clothes online. Here are five to start you off:
Ahh, eBay*, my old favourite. I’m sure everyone knows what eBay is and does, but perhaps you haven’t used it yet.
eBay can be a veritable goldmine for secondhand clothes online, and anything you could ever want or need is on eBay. To be honest, most of my online secondhand shopping, nay, most of my wardrobe has come from eBay. It’s the first place I look when I’m in need of something, and a lot of times I don’t need to look any further than eBay. It can be a little overwhelming for beginners so see my top eBay buying tips here.
I do have a few eBay niggles: photography quality can vary, and item specifics can be scant, depending on the seller. Many sellers don’t offer a returns service, and you can only combine postage if you are buying multiple items from the same seller. In the last few years, it also feels like eBay has become awash with brand new clothing direct from China, so you do have to be on your toes. That being said, you can pick up some great bargains if you’re prepared to search and come back when the auction is ending to bid.
Want to shop secondhand but still support a charity? Yes, you can shop Oxfam online*! From women’s clothing and accessories, to mens, kids, and vintage clothes, everything that you can find in your local Oxfam shop is online.
Easy to navigate, you can filter by category, size, brand, price, colour, and condition. So much so, I personally find things are easier to find on the Oxfam website rather than in-store!
Unlike eBay, where the photography can be hit or miss depending on the seller, everything on Oxfam is photographed well, from multiple angles, so you can get a clear view of your potential purchase.
Items are reasonably priced (although I feel a little more expensive than in store), and delivery is just £3.95, no matter how many items you order. For extra peace of mind, returns are free, and you get the added bonus that your purchase is supporting a good cause.
Depop is new to me and I haven’t made a purchase yet, but I have spent a little while browsing the app, and I must save I have been enjoying its Instagram-meets-eBay style format.
What I do like about Depop for buying secondhand clothes online is that if you find something you like you can buy it straight away. None of this having to remember to come back at a specific time on a specific day to bid, like with eBay. With Depop’s fixed-price format you also know how much something is, which can make it easier to budget. That being said, I think you are more likely to get a bargain with the eBay auction style format compared to Depop’s fixed price model.
I initially found it harder to find what I was looking for on Depop as the search function isn’t great. Unlike eBay, sellers are allowed to use other brand names in their listing so trying to find an item from a specific brand via the search function can be quite tricky. I found I was having to wade through a load of items until I happened to find the specific brand I was looking for. Then I found the filter (on the search screen), which allows you to filter your search results based on category, size, brand and price. This makes for a much better Depop experience!
Depop doesn’t encourage sellers to list item specifics so there is very limited information available – you will need to message sellers to find out what the item is made of, for example.
Vinted is a new-ish site where you buy, sell and swap clothes, shoes, and accessories online. It’s broadly similar to Depop, in that’s it a fixed price format, however, unlike eBay and Depop, where sellers pay to sell, on Vinted, buyers pay to buy. Buyers pay a service fee of 3% to 8% of the item’s price, plus a “fixed fee” of 3op to 80p on top of their purchase. Why the “fixed fee” is variable is something I don’t understand!
Vinted say that all buyer fees are clearly visible at the checkout, so there are no nasty surprises, and this fee covers payment processing and protection for your order, in-app postage options and tracking, and support from the Vinted team in case anything goes wrong.
I’m not too sure I’m a fan of the pay to buy format, and I dislike the sliding fee scale, which is only visible come checkout time (making it hard to budget as you are browsing) so I personally haven’t purchased from Vinted yet.
If vintage is your bag then try ASOS Vintage* where you can browse thousands of quality vintage items for men and women. You can filter by size, colour, style and material to hone down on a specific item. Items are very well photographed, on actual models, which is something I always appreciate in order to anticipate how it might look on me!
When buying on ASOS vintage you do buy from individual sellers, so you will have to pay shipping on each individual item unless you buy from a single seller.
Have you shopped on any of these sites? Would you recommend them? Or have you shopped elsewhere for secondhand clothes online? I’d love to hear!