Old Clothes, New Tricks

When I first started this project, I knew that not only would my purchasing habits have to change, but also my browsing habits. I’m the kind of person who loves actually going shopping, looking through racks of clothes and trying things on before I buy them (it’s just too much of a faff to buy multiple items online and then send back the ones that don’t fit, not to mention all of the waste which goes along with it). I do still love going to websites and scrolling for hours – it’s actually a bit of a habit to open ASOS or Zara as procrastination. The trouble is, by doing that I’m constantly bombarding myself with clothes I would like to have, rather than actually thinking about what I really really want, because there’s so many pages of products, which you can easily pop into your basket and buy with just a few clicks.

Another thing that happened when I began researching for The Green Mode was that charity and vintage shops kept getting mentioned. It’s a bit of a no brainer really – if you want to reduce waste without having to scour the internet for sustainable brands, what’s better than recycling something pre-loved and also, in the case of charity shops, giving money to a good cause? It’s something that’s everywhere on #ethicalinstagram: the somehow bang on trend pieces that were found for only a fiver! What more could you want! Combine that with my love for browsing the shops, and we’re onto a winner, right? So I decided to hit the streets of Newcastle to find some bargains…

I arrived back to uni with a few days to kill before term started again, so of course I wanted to make the most of being free from the avalanche of work that my last semester of third year (!) is bound to bring. My friends, James and Lucy, agreed to come along on the expedition of Newcastle’s various vintage suppliers, ready to run a critical eye over the rails, and maybe pick up some bargains themselves.

We started off at Retro, a small vintage shop hidden down a side street in the centre of town. It started off pretty promising, with a huge selection, neatly organised into sections which made sense and were actually super easy to look through – varsity jumpers here, fur coats upstairs, 80s shell jackets over there. The latter was something I was interested in, for adding an extra wavy layer for nights out on the Toon (having grown out of my first year penchant for venturing out in minus temperatures wearing nothing but a silky cami and tiny skirt). However, this is where we ran into our first problem: it was just too expensive. Not on everything – there were some lovely shearling coats in the range £45 – but I was not willing to shell out (pun absolutely intended) upwards of £70 on a piece of late twentieth century nostalgia. And, heartbreakingly, when we did find a very cute one for a decent price, we realised that the back was emblazoned with the branding for what appeared to be a German business. Someone might be able to pull that off, but that someone is not me.

Side note, James tried on some absolutely fabulous fur coats in Retro (pictured right) and looked incredible. Lucy and I tried to persuade him to make a purchase but he decided that it was just a tad too extra… and he already does have a black one. It’s one of the reasons vintage shopping is so fun compared to regular high street shops: you find yourself eyeing things you’d never give a second glance otherwise.

Leaving Retro, we headed up to Grainger Market, to try and find the Yesterday Society. On the way there, we popped into the British Red Cross shop, which has a teeny vintage section as well as your normal charity shop wares. To be honest, it’s one of the best laid out charity shops I’ve been in – and I used to volunteer in one when I was younger – everything is colour co-ordinated, so it’s fairly easy to have a browse. Still you do have to visit with a bit of determination and perseverance to find a bargain, which we just weren’t feeling. I’ll have to go back another time to have a proper look.

Freshly cooked pizza @ Grainger Market

Finally, after a bit of searching, including an impromptu slice of pizza from one of the many vendors, we eventually ended up at the Yesterday Society, which occupies a tiny corner of Grainger Market. This was where we encountered another problem with ‘vintage’ shopping – there was a pair of sunglasses identical to ones we later saw in a high street shop, but with a big markup. Of course, that’s not the case with every vintage piece, but it is sometimes difficult to tell whether the price you’re paying is right. The next issue was found when I tried on a baby blue jacket – it was just too small, and there were obviously no other size options. Then again, this can also be an upside, because you know that the clothes you buy at a vintage shop are pretty unique.

It might seem like it wasn’t a super successful trip, because none of us really found anything we wanted. However, we did have a lot of fun and it made a few hours of shopping into an actual trip out, exploring new parts of the city, instead of mindlessly scrolling through ASOS. Whilst the donations in Newcastle will probably never match up to the gems you might find in London charity shops, with a bit more determination I’m sure I could find some really cool stuff. I will definitely go back to Retro, although I’ll probably avoid the Yesterday Society (pictured left), and next time I’ll drag along my housemate Lauren (a seasoned charity shopper) to help me find some proper bargains.

As always, like this post if you enjoyed reading and comment any thoughts below. I’d love to hear about your charity/vintage shopping experiences! You may also have noticed the shiny new Pinterest icon in the menu – I’m pinning sustainable brands I find along with runway looks.

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