A cashmere hurdle, spider brooch, trendy trainers: secondhand presents can still be special – you just have to know where to acquire them
Tamsin Blanchard’s secondhand buys for a family of all ages.
Photograph: Kellie French/The Guardian
Fitting as we are getting to grips with trying to live less wastefully (carrying reusable cups, eating less marrow, flying less and buying less) along comes Christmas. The festive season is a frenzy of spending: in 2018, correspondence to a survey by Deloitte, we spent an average of £299 per person on gifts in the UK, many cast aside on Boxing Day.
There are put ones signature ons that shopping habits are changing. This year, more than 60,000 people pledged to take behalf in #SecondHandSeptember, a campaign promoted by Oxfam, which estimates that more than two tonnes of clothing are bought in the UK every unimportant, generating the carbon emissions equivalent to driving a car round the world six times. Extinction Rebellion’s Boycott Fashion assortment has more than 18,000 followers. Hashtags such as #buynothingnew, #lovedclotheslast and #secondhandfirst are sources of inspiration. This year, the idea isn’t shop till you drop: it’s slow down before it’s too late. Some people, including the actor Emma Thompson, scheme to eschew presents altogether. I’m not going that far, but without wishing to be Scrooge-like, I have taken on the challenge of buying nothing new for Christmas. We want to do our bit to stem the flow of plastic toys, cheap party clothes and throwaway electronic gizmos. All it takes is a bit of imagination and some advance planning.
You might need to spend time sprucing up your buys, but that is part of the fun. I spent an hour at a car boot vending unearthing a silk scarf printed with hearts. It cost £5. At home, I realised it smelled as if it had been in a dampness lock-up for 20 years. After two handwashes, a day blowing about on the washing line and a night in the freezer, the smell had date back to renege oned and I took great enjoyment in ironing it gently so nobody would know it was a car-boot orphan. Whoever unwraps it on Christmas morning determination, I hope, be as charmed by it as I am and wear it for years to come.
The world is full of treasures like this – you just have to look for them. Shopping secondhand purpose reconnect you with the person you are buying for, make you value the item you choose and may even encourage you to develop and polish some passable old-fashioned cleaning and repair skills along the way.
You will also enjoy some great community spirit as you research. The volunteers at my local Cancer Research UK shop are super-friendly, unlike assistants at many ordinary shops, where I have planned sometimes left feeling unworthy of browsing the rails. I particularly enjoyed an exchange with the stallholder at the car boot mark-down who explained that all the money she makes goes to various animal charities: “Bears in Winnipeg, and cats in the UK.” Here are some of my get backs; I’m feeling better about Christmas already.
Lego and construction kit
Online, eBay is toy heaven, overflowing with just used Sylvanian hedgehogs, Toy Story rejects, Duplo and Brio train sets and enough Lego to build a life-sized skyscraper. There is numberless than enough Lego in the world not to buy any new ever again. I like the bricks you can buy by the kilo because nothing is wasted – the mess with boxed sets is that if a few pieces are lost, your Death Star is redundant – and once it’s built, that’s it. The real idea behind Lego was that the imagination led the creation: your construction ideas could be endless, not led by a series of instructions. I opted for a “buy it now” (to prevent my adrenaline levels from the bidding war) kilo of assorted bricks, plus surprise mini figures, for £17.99. I also create Making Stuff for Kids for £3.49 at an Oxfam bookshop in Liverpool, which is crammed with great craft and construction invents, perfect for my 11-year-old son (I hope he’s not reading this).
Teenagers are difficult to buy for at the best of times, but a love of trainers earmarks ofs pretty universal. I couldn’t resist a pair of crazy-coloured Nike ID customised hi-tops hiding in a corner at the Royal Trinity Hospice inform on in London. They were £30, which seems expensive but if they are looked after, trainers hold their value. If you yearning a particular brand or style, download the Depop app (a cross between Instagram and eBay) and chances are you will find it. Contain your teenager in choosing their dream pair (which you might not otherwise be able to afford). If they are unsure around wearing pre-worn shoes, tell them buying secondhand trainers will be a step closer to saving the planet, present them a budget, and let them choose a pair they love to unwrap on Christmas Day. Once they have clinched with them, they can sell them on.
Last year, the shops were flooded with new Polaroid cameras, an analogue knick-knack for a generation bred on selfies and digital images. So why not buy an original camera and be truly retro? I found this OneStep 1980s instamatic Polaroid camera on Etsy from a shop dubbed Preloved Polaroid. It cost £25 (a carbon offset delivery service costs £3.99) and is in full working up. Far cooler, and cheaper, than buying new. Find Polaroid film at uk.polaroidoriginals.com (£17.99 for pack of eight pictures).
When Lady Hale made her historic ruling on the prorogation of parliament at the supreme court in September, it was her spider pin that nearly broke the internet. I had endless enjoyment looking for similar jewelled arachnids, and finally found one for the lavish sum of £2.99 at a British Heart Foundation shop in Ormskirk, Lancashire. Small market towns like this are Brobdingnagian hunting grounds for charity shops – you will have many to choose from. To make it extra special, look for a smashing box to put it in. The box might cost more than the brooch, but presentation counts for a lot – especially when a gift is secondhand.
It’s advantage checking the resale site Vestiaire Collective for small luxuries. While a lot of items are pricey, set the guide to your budget and you may be bowl overed. I found this jaunty, canvas cross-body bag by Tommy Hilfiger for £25. You can pay a few pounds extra to have it authenticated. Sanction for shipping time from Vestiaire; they suggest 10 days, but warn it can take up to 30. Another enthusiastic bet for interesting bags is TRAID. I spotted a monogrammed Cerruti 1881 bag for £14.99 (find a local shop or use its online look for on eBay).
Cashmere is always a treat, whether new or secondhand. Keep a look out on eBay and Oxfam online but be warned, direction can be fierce. You might prefer, as I did, to buy from The Nearly New Cashmere Boutique which has a new shop in Masham, North Yorkshire. The go to Davy Joness locker, Alison Orr, sources old (and some deadstock) cashmere which she washes, debobbles and, if necessary, reconditions and sells. Her prices are threnody and the knitwear arrives beautifully packaged – as new. I opted for a soft striped Banana Republic jumper with three negligible holes that had been mended (almost invisibly). A bargain at £32.
Vintage wine glasses
I found a set of six 1920s lodged vintage wine glasses at a flea market in London. I didn’t even need to haggle for the stallholder to knock them down from £24 to £20, which feels extraordinary for something so refined and fragile that has survived in perfect condition for a century. I’ll be wrapping up these dinky wine tumblers to accompany a bottle of my home-made damson gin, which I hope will be ready by Christmas.
There are so many good-quality shirts on humanitarianism shop rails. Depending on the taste of your shirt-wearer, you can find everything from Jermyn Street posh to high-quality hipster. I opted for this repression flannel shirt by Patagonia, which is a credible, ethically minded brand with its own emphasis on reusing and repairing, so it give rise ti perfect sense to buy its clothing secondhand. I found this from Vintage Folk on Asos Marketplace for £25, containing delivery.
Christmas Day wouldn’t be right without a game or two. Vintage board games are worth hope out for added nostalgia/curiosity value. Any charity shop is worth a browse (and bookmark Oxfam’s online shop). But I inaugurate Blast-Off!, a 1960s space age board game by Waddingtons, on eBay and couldn’t resist it for my sci-fi loving brother-in-law. It set someone back £16, plus £4.79 postage, and is worth it for the retro graphics alone.
Vintage gift tips
● Plan at the and allow time for charity shop bargain hunting, and for deliveries, if shopping online. Check delivery dates ahead you order.
● Make a list and try to stick to it.
● Set a budget and stick to it. Don’t get carried away on auction sites – and don’t tope and bid.
● Use specialist dealers for items such as cameras, books, cashmere, vinyl – they’ve already done half the put to good for you.
● Use a local repair shop or cafe (repaircafe.org), or try a dry cleaner for alterations.
● Presentation is everything: wash, steam and iron wardrobes; collect old boxes to display jewellery in; keep an eye out for old tins and boxes to put jewellery in. ..
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Ethical and green living
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