Smart Consumer: How to dress for less with a second-hand wardrobe
Do you have any resuscitated clothes or re-purposed vintage in your wardrobe? Clue: We used to just call them second-hand.
Buying second hand is making a come back, but with the price of new clothes falling (CSO figures show a price drop of 11.4pc in 2009), why not just buy clothes on the high street?
You can definitely get bargains in stores such as Penneys, Dunnes, Topshop and among the crammed rails at TK Maxx, online at sale sites and eBay or at the outlet stores in Kildare Village. But if you want something you won't see other people wearing, still want to look stylish and get it for next to nothing, can the second-hand clothes shops deliver?
In an effort to find out, I decided to trawl through some second-hand stores to see if I could kit myself out in decent clobber for little cash.
The first hurdle was in deciding where to look in Dublin as there is a confusion of choice. Was I looking for retro, vintage, designer, re-purposed clothes or just second-hand?
Stores like Flip, Wild Child and Eager Beaver, all in Temple Bar, specialise in retro clothes, or call it a bit of vintage if you want. If you want to dress in 1970s flares with a vintage airline bag, these are for you.
If you're looking for a more modern outfit and have some money to spend, it's the designer second-hand stores that have really taken off in the past year.
Traditional "swap shops" in towns around the country will buy your clothes and sell you more. Newer shops like Dublin's Shebeen Chic and The Swapshop and Cork's Chambers Stitch and Switch Shop promise more swapping, and the Fashion Exchange runs events around the country with events planned in Wexford and Waterford this month.
That's the tip of the iceberg, but if you just want to buy fancy second-hand clothes there is more choice again, including All About Eve in Malahide, Wear It Again on Baggot Street and Ruby Ruby in the Hiberian Way. And I'm not even getting into the "vintage" revolution.
In these shops you're likely to find a €300 dress for €100, but unless you're looking for something very special, that's still a lot of money to spend.
So I headed to Lucy's Lounge, a basement shop on Fownes Street in Temple Bar. Spotting two fifty-something women gave me encouragement that this wasn't just a student hangout, so I started rummaging.
I found a gorgeous Helen James silk dress for €25 and a cute brown leather bag for €20. There are plenty of wearable dresses here for €10 and €15, a range of hats averaging €15 and a good choice of leather jackets selling for just €10.
Lucy's Lounge has a men's section too, and is a mix of everything. It stocks "re-purposed" clothes, clothes from young designers, fabric and accessories, vintage and modern, so you'll need time and patience to find what you want.
According to shop assistant Emma Fraser, the shop is "one of a kind". Emma admits that most of their customers are students but they are also seeing new customers who wouldn't have shopped there before.
Another shop seeing new customers, according to shop manager Samantha McGarry, is Oxfam on Dublin's South Great George's Street, where I headed next. One of 48 shops around the country, with two new stores opening soon in Mullingar and Belfast, Oxfam is one of the better known charity shops for its second-hand clothes and for leading retail in running Oxfam books, bridal and home.
Many of the charity shops now have professional window displays and market their wares according to season and trend. Charity shopping is not what it was, but would I find a good outfit and for how much?
The store was packed, with people and with clothes, accessories and more. There is a second-hand designer section but I wanted to find cheap and good, not labels.
There was probably too much to choose from. I settled for cream satin trousers for €7.50, paired with a silk cream top (€9) and a brown polka dot blouse over it (€3). Keeping the trousers, I changed tops for a sequined brown number (€9), for a day into evening make over. Bingo. Two outfits, each for less than €20.
Samantha said that because Oxfam's prices are based on materials as well as make, cotton clothes tend to be cheaper and she reckons you could get a whole outfit for €10 or €15.