We all know that the most sustainable clothes are, naturally, the ones already in your wardrobe, but it is nice to update our collection now and again – especially as the seasons start to change. One of my favourite ways to do this is by mixing my already-owned pieces with a healthy dose of pre-loved, second hand and vintage clothes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint when it comes to fast fashion, however – and particularly since the first lockdown – I’m getting a lot better, and do favour rummaging the rails of my local charity shop than hitting checkout because I got an email with a 10% off code for a big name brand. Would you believe I recently found a Saturday by Megan Ellaby shirt in Oxfam for less than £7?
Since I learned to sew – I use that term lightly – I also really appreciate the work that goes into clothing now, and you really can tell a lot about a piece of clothing from it’s stitching. It’s the first thing I check when I buy anything now.
Whenever I visit a new town or city, the first thing I do is scout out the secondhand shops and make a beeline for them. It’s so interesting to see how their contents change dependent on where they are in the country, for example more affluent areas like Buckingham will have some pretty high end finds, while urban haunts like Sheffiled and Stoke-on-Trent have some really cool, unique pieces.
With the cost of living crisis and worries around climate change, I thought I’d pull together a list of my favourite spots where you can get affordable, pre-loved and vintage clothes to inject some sustainable style and personality into your wardrobe. From down in Brighton to God’s Country of Sheffield, here are some of my favourite vintage, pre-loved, secondhand and charity shops dotted around the UK.
Sparrowhawk Vintage, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire
Sparrowhawk is located on Liverpool Road, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and is a treasure trove of vintage denim, retro blouses and everything in between. I’ve been shopping with Sparrowhawk and vintage clothing expert owner, Rhi Corey, since around 2014 and I always come home with something.
Being located close to both Keele University and Newcastle-under-Lyme College, it’s a real haven for students to shop some unique pieces from throughout the decades.
Some of my favourite Sparrowhawk pieces from over the years include my beloved Levi’s denim jacket, my leather baker boy cap which I’ve worn to death, a pair of leather Wrangler black heeled boots, a pink St Michael’s blouse and a stunning 70s woollen dress.
Prices are cheaper than you’ll find vintage on Depop or through online sellers, such as £8 to £10 for blouses and £15 or so for dresses, as well as a bargain bin where you can get one item for £3 or three for £5.
As well as vintage and pre-loved fashion, Sparrowhawk also stocks a range of homeware, gifts and jewellery.
Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity Shop, Buckingham
The charity shops in Buckingham are absolutely fantastic and often have some really rather luxury brands in them like Hobbs and Joules, but the real goldmine, in my opinion, is the Florence Nightingale Hospice Charity shop.
The store opened last year and exclusively stocks vintage and retro gems and antiques. Located in a Grade II listed building, the treasure trove store makes for the perfect place to add something beautiful and unique to your wardrobe, while supporting a worthy charitable cause.
I could spend hours trying on all of the dresses and hunting through the records in this beautifully laid out store. And in fact, the prices are extremely affordable with any defects reflected in the price.
My prized find in this particular charity shop was a pink 60s floral Laura Ashley dress that had been hanging in the window. I fell in love with it and was stunned that it was only £14, and even more stunned when it fit me like a glove. You’d pay upwards of £60 for a dress of this age and quality at an online boutique, and its only flaw was a small seam tear under the armpit that I was able to fix quickly and easily with my sewing machine.
Waiste Vintage, Brighton, East Sussex
Located in Brighton, I’m yet to visit the physical bricks and mortar Waiste Vintage on Gardner Street, but I have been a customer of their thriving online shop.
Waist Vintage is owned by content creator Sara Louise Thomas, who’s originally from my stomping ground of Stoke-on-Trent. The Brighton-based blogger now has more than 128,000 followers and the most unreal sense of style.
Sara said: “I am influenced by the past but love giving vintage style a truly modern twist, mixing high street with luxe, vintage with British brands.”
There’s a real mix of carefully curated vintage pieces on Waiste, spanning the decades from the 50s to the 90s, including prairie dresses, midi skirts, blouses, bags and knits.
My first purchase from Waiste Vintage was handmade lace up leopard print shift dress with a shaped back and v cut front, and is the perfect summer look with oversized Italian shades, Dr Martens chunky sandals and lots of gold jewellery.
Walk The Line Vintage, Nantwich, Cheshire
Walk The Line Vintage was launched in 2020 by Lea Burgess, and has had a recent refurbishment at its Cocoa Yard store. The vintage haven stocks a range of carefully picked and sourced vintage and pre-loved items, and you can find some real gems, from Adidas track jackets and Dr Martens, to some of the most coveted vintage labels.
Lea has been a personal stylist for over 10 years, and has a great eye for knowing what will suit her customers as soon as they walk through the door. She said: “I worked as a professional stylist at big companies for years but have always worn, reworked and loved Vintage. I had a good eye for it, people began to ask me if I would sell the clothes off my back, and eventually I did! I’ve been selling vintage clothes ever since. Now instead of from my back, it’s from my shop.”
One thing I bought from the shop at my last visit was a pair of insane faux leather knee high platform boots that would put the Spice Girls to shame – and they were only £15.
British Heart Foundation, Manchester
The British Heart Foundation charity shop at Piccadilly Gardens is a not-so-hidden gem in the heart of Manchester, and offers a selection of clothes and accessories, with PrettyLittleThing and Boohoo pieces among vintage finds and donations from the public.
Located on the Piccadilly approach, the BHF charity shop opened in September 2020. From the outside, the shop looks fairly unassuming – a pleasantly put-together window display – but nothing to suggest it offers anything much different to any other charity shop. But inside, thrifters can pick up a whole new wardrobe with change from a £20 note, some of which still have tags.
A whole section of the store is dedicated to vintage finds, including preloved denim, old school sports jerseys and fashion pieces from eras gone by, some recent spots include a retro green Nike top with yellow branding and a vintage, teal blazer co-ord.
The Vault, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
The Vault is an absolute must for vintage fashion lovers, where shoppers can pick up hand-picked pieces that are environmentally friendly and ethically sourced.
The brand launched around a decade ago and they’ve been encouraging more people to consider used items to prove that just because it had already been worn does not mean it’s necessarily worn out.
The Vault said: “Our aim was to help reduce the vast amount of waste that was generated through the fashion industry which is currently at 350,000 tonnes per year going to landfill. Also, we wanted our fellow fashion lovers to be able to get their hands on items that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to find in their local high street for a fraction of the price of an inferior imitation.”
As well as their physical store in Shrewsbury, they also sell on Etsy, ASOS and Depop.
Dougie Mac, Biddulph, Staffordshire
I’ve had some absolute crackers from this charity shop of late. The branch recently moved from its small high street unit just around the corner into a larger space, and offers homeware and clothing donated from the public at cheap-as-chips prices.
I’ve had Fred Perry tops for £4-6, a gorgeous Ben Sherman polo for Jake for less than £5, and my brown quilted trench that cost £7. I’ve also picked up several homeware bits and wicker baskets that are perfect for planting flowers in for summer, or gifts for friends and family.
I also bought a new with tags Miss Selfridge glittery skirt and TU x Gok Wan silky blouse, and I’m always keeping an eye on their pottery section for quirky pieces, too. I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of this place empty-handed.
Glass Onion, Sheffield
I discovered Glass Onion at Tramlines festival this summer, and could have spent hours rummaging through the rails between music acts. Launched in 2004, Glass Onion have grown their empire from one man selling vintage out of his Grandma’s coal shed in Barnsley, to the UKs leading vintage clothing company, processing up to 20,000 kgs of second hand clothing that was destined for landfill every single week.
On top of reselling vintage treasures, they have an in-house remade factory where they recycle damaged and unwanted clothes and off-cuts by transforming them into something new that can be worn again for years to come. They manufacture around 12,000 pieces of remade clothing a month, my personal favourite being mini skirts stitched out of vintage silk scarves.
As well as their physical stores and market stalls, you can also shop Glass Onion online. My favourite piece of clothing I own from them is a delightfully garish fleece that looks like the garment version of the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine with the word ‘Rodeo’ on the front. It cost me £20 at the festival and it’s ideal for working from home in.