It’s Oxfam’s Second Hand September, the annual pledge to shop only second hand for the month. And who better to get shopping tips from than sustainable stylist Karen James-Welton, otherwise known as the Fabulous Miss K?
I loved watching my mum get dressed and always used to want to wear her high heels and jewellery. I was always sneaking in her wardrobe and trying things on.
I have worked in the fashion industry for more than 30 years in London, Paris and now in my home town of Norwich. I have always had a passion for ‘old stuff’. When I was a teenager I wanted the clothes that I saw in Vogue but couldn’t afford them so I found my own second-hand and vintage versions and still do! I love playing dress up and having adventures in vintage as an unconventional 50-plus fashionista!
I have always had a passion for vintage clothing and tried to encourage others to shop and wear vintage but now there is much more interest in shopping sustainably and a need to break away from fast fashion. I want to use my knowledge to make a difference and show people how they can wear vintage in a modern way.
I think that more people have become aware of the impact that fast fashion has on the environment and the injustice of the workers. With social media coverage more people are starting to look at who made their clothes, and where there are coming from. Second-hand is the new ‘cool’ way to shop. With celebrity stylists and influencers starting to take notice it is definitely having more impact.
This year, more than ever, I have been ‘shopping my wardrobe’ and finding new ways to wear what I already own. It has made me realise what is really important in life and it is not material things but small things that I have taken for granted, like swimming in the sea, seeing my friends and giving them a big hug!
I love eBay and Etsy but hate the idea of shopping online for fashion unless it is from a small independent sustainable brand. I have found alternatives to Amazon for all my books and try to avoid it for everything else too.
Fabulous Miss K’s five golden rules when it comes to second hand clothes shopping:
1) Always try things on if you can. Lots of vintage pieces have little or no hanger appeal but could turn out to be amazing.
2) Know your measurements and carry a tape measure. Vintage sizing is different from today’s sizes.
3) Don’t go with a set-piece in mind when shopping. That is the joy of second-hand shopping: you never know what you will find. Be open minded. You can always get pieces altered or cinch a dress in with a belt.
4) There is nothing new in fashion so you can always find current looks with vintage pieces.
5) Hold items up to the light. That way you can see the condition. Check under the arms. Any staining in that area may not come out.
(And a bonus rule – buy my book when it is published!)