Smart consumer: How you can cut a dash with half the cash
This week we saved €2,668 on second-hand clothing
Would you wear a dress that once belonged to someone else, a shirt that someone else used to iron or a bag that once held the bits and bobs of another person's life?
If you wouldn't, think again. Firstly, you probably don't have as much money so you may as well buy clothes for less. Secondly, there is great quality and choice out there and lastly, many other consumers are doing it.
Charity shops have come into their own, with great window displays and big ranges of clothes at cheap prices. Plus there is the added bonus that your money is going to charity.
If you're after the rockabilly look or want to add a dash of Mad Men glamour to your wardrobe, then second-hand and vintage shops can show you how.
For modern mid to high-end clothes, including designer labels, you're best off going to one of the many exchange shops that have sprung up around the country, and if you want no money to pass hands at all then find your nearest swap shop.
"Since the recession hit people have begun to re-evaluate their relationship with money," believes Sinead Van Kampen of savvyshopper.ie.
She has seen an increase in footfall in second-hand shops and that a big part of the trend has been the rising popularity of vintage and pre-loved clothes.
"Now it's as much about the money you saved and what you actually buy and wear rather than a need for labels and status."
Solene Rapinell, manager of Oxfam's George's Street store, agrees that saving money is the key driver for her customers.
"We have become much busier," she says, "and people are asking for discounts even on an item that costs €7.50. We can't do that though as the money is going to charity.
Another striking shift is that they now have less donations coming in; in fact they had none at all in December."
"People may be wearing their clothes longer, or going to swap shops, but whatever the reason it is an indication of the leaner times we are in."
At Wear it Again, owner Sharon Smurfitt says she has also seen an increase in footfall over the last two years. She believes "there will always be someone looking for a bargain."
Time to put clothes shopping -- 2011-style -- to the test! Could I find decent outfits in second-hand shops and save consumers a lot of money in the process? The answer is a resounding yes.
First stop was Oxfam's busiest shop on George's Street in Dublin. There the average price for clothes is €12.50 but for a designer label, for example a Hugo Boss shirt, you could expect to pay €15 or around €60 for a designer suit.
I was looking for a summery outfit, high-street-style, and decided I wanted a flowery blouse and a denim skirt. There was a lot of stock to choose from, but clothes are colour-coded so it only took me two minutes to find few examples of both.
I settled on a denim skirt from A-Wear and a floral blouse from Miss Selfridge, and teamed them with a pair of sparkly silver flats.
The whole outfit cost €17. If I were to buy a new floral blouse in Miss Selfridge, a denim skirt in Debenhams and similar shoes it would cost me around €99.
Next up was a very different experience; Wear it Again on Dublin's Baggot Street opened in 2009 and stocks mid to high-end clothes and accessories, many carrying designer labels.
Prices are well below what you'd expect to pay when buying new and the quality is great.
Assistant Veronica teamed a lime and silver Vera Wang dress with a Jimmy Choo bag and designer shoes.
This outfit would cost you €540 and you would save a whopping €1,146 compared to buying new.
The second outfit consisted of Yves Saint Laurent shoes and a leather jacket worn over a stripy Jaeger dress wrapped up with a Chloe belt. This splash would cost €615 and that would be €1,140 less than buying new.
Yes, these prices are dear, but if you're the type that likes labels but can't afford them any more, or if you want a special event outfit, you can spend less to get more.