The grown-up guide to shopping secondhand

Alyson wears: Vintage Burberry raincoat, £400, Menage Modern Vintage; striped wool jumper, £220, Paul Smith from Fenwick; cotton trousers, £165, Me+Em; suede ankle boots, £149, Hobbs; vintage Prada handbag, from a selection at Sign of the Times; hoop earrings, £140, Monica Vinader; 18ct gold-plated ring, £185, Loveness Lee

My favourite way to dress is to mix old and new items. Here, the secondhand raincoat looks effortlessly stylish over this season’s Paul Smith striped jumper, Me+Em trousers and Hobbs suede boots, finished off with a vintage leather Prada bag from Sign of the Times. “People love a story,” continues Timpany. “It’s easy to go into a shop and buy something off a rail, but mixing high and low fashion, adding an incredible vintage piece, is more fun.”

When buying secondhand, my advice is to figure out exactly what you’re looking for, then have a virtual rummage around online to check comparable prices. It sounds obvious but if you’re splurging on a designer item, make sure you’re buying from a reputable website. I do like to try before I buy, so I stick to secondhand accessories online, where size doesn’t matter. 

In terms of clothing, I’d recommend focusing on classic pieces, such as trench coats, blazers, jeans, in superior fabrics. “Another great advantage of buying secondhand is that you can afford better quality – even high-end designer items become accessible,” adds Menage. “This in turn means the clothes last longer and keep their value.”

My secondhand style tips

Choose a trustworthy site

Always look at the website’s reviews! If you are splurging on a Birkin bag, make sure it’s authentic. Sites such as Sign of the Times use a device (originally used to authenticate fine art) to check handbags and small leather goods. Most sellers do not offer returns on vintage items, so it’s important to read the small print and be aware of your consumer rights.

Check the details

Be sure to check the sizing details and look closely at the images for any damage, stains or wear and tear. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions about the quality of the piece – things that you can’t see online like the underarms, zips and fastenings. And if you’re buying a designer item, ask to see pictures of the labels.

Size matters

Don’t be put off by the size label. DO check the garment’s measurements! The sizing of vintage pieces can be quite small, so it’s worth having a tape measure handy and don’t worry about sizing up.

Three of the best secondhand bags 

Linda J. Picard

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