Me Made May ’12 – Second-hand as good as new

If I’ve learnt anything while doing the Seamless pledge, it’s that second-hand clothing is just as good as new, if not better.

charity shop oxfam boutique

Most people who’ve been around the sewing blogosphere long enough for the likes of Wardrobe Refashion, New Dress a Day and Sew I Thought will know charity and second-hand shops are a godsend for anyone keeping an eye on their clothing consumption. It’s starting to become more and more mainstream as belts continue to tighten, with the likes of Marks and Spencer’s “shwopping campaign”, as Zoe wrote about on her blog recently, becoming de rigueur.

I do most of my second-hand shopping at charity shops, being lucky enough to live around the corner from Albany Road in Cardiff, where some real treasures can be found on the numerous charity shops along the street. But charity shops are obviously a two-way thing and they rely on our old and unwanted clothing to keep going and keep raising money.

Last year, 64 per cent of you told me you donate your old clothes to charity, but I also found charity shops are struggling somewhat when it comes to donations. Hard times mean less shopping and fewer wardrobe clearouts.

This month, cancer charity Tenovus is running a campaign in my area to try and get people donating. Liz Rawlins, the charity’s PR and Communications Manager (and fellow blogger!) explained the difference one bag of clothing could make to a charity shop:

“Every single item donated to any one of our shops raises vital funds that enable us to support cancer patients and their families across Wales.

“One bag of clothing makes on average £20, and that £20 means we can continue to provide services such as treating people closer to home on our Mobile
Cancer Support Unit, bereavement counseling and keeping our freephone cancer support line open 7 days a week”.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much, much rather be helping to make this extra £20 for a charity than contributing some extra pennies to a multi-national company.

For the “Worn by You, Loved by Us” campaign, Tenovus set up a great little fashion shoot in Cardiff using clothing from their shops, modelled by staff from Tenovus. All the photos were taken by Amy Davies of Cardiff Arcades fame, so they’re pretty schnazzy to say the least, showing off second-hand clothing AND one of Cardiff’s amazing arcades.

As it happens, Me Made May Day 24 happened to be all about the charity shops, as I donned my refashioned vintage skirt and skinny men’s belt for a day of exam mocks and revision. In fact, aside from the cardigan, my whole outfit had passed through other hands before they arrived in my wardrobe.

The scarf is yet another vintage one from Lush, the necklace and my cream lace top were both birthday presents and my Mum bought me the shoes this time last year when she noticed how full of holes my favourite pair of pumps were.

But here’s the fun bit – I was heading back from the Students’ Union when someone working for More! magazine stopped me to ask if they could take a photo of my outfit. For those of you who aren’t familiar with More!, it’s a fashion/celeb women’s magazine which is pretty popular over here.

I won’t lie, it felt like a small victory to attract the attention of someone employed by a magazine with a direct interest in promoting fashion and the high street.  Score one for second-hand fashion!

So I’ve divulged my favourite charity shop haunt, what about yours? Where do you, without fail, manage to find something fab to refashion. I promise I won’t tell…

Clothes Swapping

Clothes swapping has become an increasingly popular way to spice up your wardrobe without breaking the bank.

clothes swapping swishing

How many times have you bought something on a whim, only never bothered wearing it? I know I have. Everyone seems to have at least a few garments lurking, unworn at the back of their wardrobe. Maybe you bought it because it was on sale or because it fit into whatever trend was en vogue at the time.

Charity shops are full to the brim with unwanted clothes. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is where clothes swapping comes in. Also known as swishing, clothes swapping has become popular both online and offline, with swapping sites like Big Wardrobe and Swishing popping up left right and centre.

A couple of days after I began my pledge, I went along to my first ever fashion swap, armed with some unwanted clothes rescued from the back of my wardrobe. The concept is simple: you get a certain amount of ‘points’ or tokens in exchange for the items you bring along. After you’ve collected your points, the rifling begins and you hunt down your bargains.

The Cardiff Fashion Swap at the Vulcan Lounge charged only £2 in entry fees, meaning those who brought an armful of clothes got more than their money’s worth. Swappers had brought garments aplenty and we were surrounded with potential swap items. A touch of vintage was represented with a stall courtesy of Vintage Gem Cardiff – a boutique in Radyr I definitely plan on visiting in the future.

vintage brooch mannequin

On the high street, shopping is made easy for you. After all, it’s in a shop’s best interests to make clothes easy for you to find. Rifling through a mixture of clothes at a fashion swap is a completely different experience. I don’t know about you, but I find it much more satisfying to find a lovely item or two after a good search through clothes rather than the high street’s spoon feeding.

The Cardiff Fashion Swap was organised by recent Cardiff graduate Ellie May Williams with the help of Cardiff’s Oxfam Boutique.She tweets under @elliemay_13, and I’d keep an eye on her Twitter if I were you, as she has an Oxfam Boutique and more clothes swaps in the works. Ellie told me:

“It was lovely to see Cardiff get its swap on! Can’t wait for future swaps, where we’re hoping to get more high quality items and maybe even some vintage pieces so we can raise even more money for Oxfam!”

The night itself was pretty successful all around. Ellie told me they made £100 on the night itself and items left over will raise at least another £150 for the charity. So it’s no surprise Ellie’s planning on holding a few more in the future.

cardiff fashion swap garments dress and shoes

I know what you’re all thinking… what did I nab myself? I didn’t do too badly, nabbing myself a dress and a pair of shoes. Not exactly Winter wear, but hey! It was free and some of my unwanted clothes went to a better home!

People in the Cardiff area should keep an eye out for more fashion swaps. As for those of you from further afield, have you attended any fashion swaps? Or do you organise one of your own? Get in touch, and let me know which items you swapped your way to!

The photos of the event are courtesy of my lovely friend Magda, who blogs here!