I only bought second-hand clothes for a month but drew the line at used bras

LIKE many millennials, Abby McHale was raised on fast fashion. But in a planet-friendly challenge, the 27-year-old went four weeks without spending a pound in chain stores or with the online mega-sellers.

Week 1: Renting

My first big outing was a day at the races with 15 other girls. The WhatsApp chat about our outfit choices was non-stop. The pressure was on to look good.

Rental fashion is big. Carrie Symonds hired her wedding dress for only £45 when she married PM Boris Johnson in May.

Having looked at a few options, I went with the app By Rotation. For £10 a day (for a minimum of three days), I was able to rent a Birger Christensen dress that would have cost me £320.

The app, which lets you filter by size, is easy to use and you can choose how long you want the rental to last.

It was a great option. I got so many compliments on my dress and loved telling people it was rented. It was a statement piece I would never wear again. Plus I could hire a high-end dress I would never buy, at just a fraction of the price.

Week 2: Online apps

After the success of renting, I was off to a good start. My next delve into secondhand shopping was with the marketplace app Depop.

With friends from Leeds visiting for two days of London sightseeing, I wanted something cool and comfy to wear. Browsing through the app was as easy as scrolling through Asos.

Within half an hour I’d found pieces from some of my favourite brands. I chose a pair of brand-new Mango sandals at £30 (RRP £50) and a new Zara top for £15 instead of £25.99.

I was impressed with how sellers kept me up to speed with my orders’ progress and within five days the items had arrived.

But my sandals rubbed on my day out – and badly. I have scars on my feet three weeks later to prove it.

While I would have marched into Mango and complained if I had bought them directly from there, the seller on Depop had specified “no swaps or returns”.

The top also was a tad snug and again, there was no returns.

So I am stuck with shoes that kill my feet and a top that doesn’t fit. Next time I will check the return policy.

Week 3: Charity shops

Midway through and I am ready to hit the charity shops. It’s the most well-trodden track when it comes to shopping secondhand, as there are more than 9,000 stores in the UK.

This time I was on the hunt for outfits for a vineyard tour and festival.
The first stop was the shops on my local high street. I spotted two shirts for less than £15, which I nabbed, but the rest was old tat.

So I headed to Chelsea, south west London, where the charity shops are known for top brands at decent prices.

There I found two Zara dresses both under £15, an Emporio Armani T-shirt and a pair of linen trousers from a French designer, for £32 each. They had that musty smell I hate but after a wash, the dresses went down a storm.

Three times at the festival I was stopped by strangers asking where I got my outfit. It’s Zara, darling! But because it is not in store this season, no one recognised it. Win!

While this was a boost, trawling through charity shops was exhausting.

Week 4: Car boot sale

MY final week and the last stop on my secondhand adventure was a car boot sale. We spend £1.5billion a year at them.

But the 8am Sunday morning wake-up call put me in a grump and, after scouring the charity shops, I knew I was in for another morning of rummaging.

However, it turned out there were lots of bargains to be had as I looked for something for a friend’s birthday. The first spot was a Topshop skirt for £1 – an absolute steal.

Next, a £4 denim jacket and £3 for a trench coat. I couldn’t believe it.

There was even a stall selling bras for only £2.50. I was tempted when I saw my size but decided a secondhand bra was a step too far. An hour in, though, and the buzz of my buys had worn off. It was time to go home and rest my battered feet.


THIS month has opened my eyes to secondhand shopping.

I’d previously given clothes to charity shops but had never wanted to buy from them before. Knowing the impact fast fashion has on the environment, I’ll certainly try to buy secondhand more often.

I’ll continue to rent and use apps such as Depop . . . even after my shoe disaster. But I’m not totally struck by rummaging through charity shops or car boot sales.

Maybe to make the most of it, I need to go with a plan of action – specific items I want to buy and a budget. At the end of the day, I’m a high street girl who enjoys a bargain. What’s not to love about getting great brands for a fraction of the price?


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