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"I don’t keep clothes, but I have always liked the idea of giving them another life" 

Secondhand September by Clare Hastings


‘Secondhand’ has been rebranded over the past few years. Are you a fan of ‘preloved’? A vintage type (this is a haphazard term as it includes anything made during and before the nineties), keen on a bit of retro (similar to vintage, use whichever word you prefer) or a lover of antiques (something your gran might have owned).

Secondhand has become very on trend. You know something is hot, when Selfridges gives over an area to it. This September, inspired by an Oxfam campaign, we are all being encouraged to buy secondhand, to save on landfill and basically go greener.

Over the years I have donated some rather tasty outfits to charity shops. I don’t keep clothes, but I have always liked the idea of giving them another life. My mother gave away her whole collection of Pucci shirts to a local Oxfam. This is not something I would have recommended. Clearly I took my eye off the ball at the vital moment as I thought they were heaven. Lucky the buyer who spotted those.

The only clothes I have kept in my wardrobe - for purely sentimental reasons- are a red Quorum dress from 1974 - slit up the thigh with a ruched bodice to remind me of heady disco days, and a Foale and Tuffin jacket in multi coloured tiers, that I loved. Every now and again I put the jacket on, thinking it will have another moment - but it doesn’t, so I think that maybe, at last, it could be heading towards a new future. One for an Abba fan.

My best friend had an aunt who was a ‘hoarder’. This is not usually something to be celebrated, as it is a serious health issue, but this particular aunt was the right kind of hoarder. She would only buy designer labels. Often the same colour and style, in different sizes. The clothes were never worn. When she died this fixation was revealed, and if you are a fashion addict, it was rather glorious. 

Missoni, Sonja Rykiel, Browns, Jean Muir all kept in a huge container in bin bags. The aunt did not stop at clothes. Shoes, linen sheets, Murano glasses, plates all boxed up waiting for their moment in the sun.

The sad part of the tale is that the clothes had succumbed to terrible moth, but there was still enough to be shared around. I could never afford Missoni when I was younger, so I wear my knits with more joy than I would have done first time round. The sizing is peculiar. Certainly not standardised.

secondhand september


I really do prefer styling homes to styling me. There is one particular shop that I cherish. I have certainly spent more time scouring their shelves than could possibly be good for me. There is not a room in my house that has not benefited from their avid house clearances. All my cutlery, glasses and plates have come from the shop - cheaper than Ikea, and so much more individual. I love to sip a glass of Prosecco from the delicate 1940’s champagne saucers, etched with leaves around the edge, or use my bamboo handled butter knives ( still boxed) at breakfast. It starts the day off with a bit of cheer. I look for items that boast ‘made in England’- manufactured within our borders, before vast sea containers bearing plastic became the norm.

I love it when I see ‘patent applied for’ stamped into goods. Even my ancient bread knife has a patent number - you can sharpen it with a steel to a razor finish. No sourdough is safe. That bread knife has witnessed a lot of life.

I have linen napkins galore collected for Calypso’s (Head of Everything at the Indytute) wedding, which I have subsequently dyed in fabulous colours and donated to friends.

As for vases - well you can never have enough as far as I’m concerned - and again so much better for being used. I am also keen on a boxed set of L.P’s What’s not to like? People cared for and dusted their box sets in a way they didn’t with a single disc. Often the records have never been played.

Designers incline to the past for their inspiration. I have a green wine bottle shaped like a fish - apparently from the Amalfi coast, where these bottles were a feature in every restaurant. I have now seen copies, but mine is the real deal. Secondhand? Multiple drunken hands more like.

So while I may not have filled my wardrobe with preloved, I have certainly done my bit for home furnishing. It doesn’t have to be September for me to celebrate the old, the worn, the chipped and the cracked.

Sounds a bit like me - but still going strong, and of course, terribly lovely.

Words by Clare Hastings.

FURTHER READING... Our Mother and Daughter story >

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