Cheap and Cheerful – Dressing Second Hand

Second hand clothing may be cheap but my self-worth is now priceless.

“You’ve got a mobile face”, I was told.  Aged six, I worried that a wicked thought would skid from my cheek bones, leaving tread marks along the way. Or worse, that I’d lose my mouth and nose. So I tilted my lips to keep them in place – and discovered over the years that a sunshine smile kept the adults happy too.


But this day was a low point of  high street trudging. A sulk brought the clouds.

“You’re too fussy”

“I know what I want and just can’t find them yet.”

“Take these trousers. They’re cheerful.”

“But I don’t like them, they don’t fit properly”.

“They’re cheap and we’re going home”.


Yellow does not know the word anonymous, it does not fold itself into an origami box and hide. Neither does it disappear quietly into the cracks. It prances in the garden calling “pick me, pick me” and enjoys the attention of bees.


If  yellow had been colour of that year I would have danced amongst other daffodils at my first disco. Instead I was out of season. My new trousers yelled: “pick on me, pick on me” and the insults stung. Confidence dismantled. Smile dissolved. I felt socially discarded because of what I wore.


How is it that a walking coat hanger, with an expression of blank boredom can traverse the length of a catwalk in anything a designer chooses and attract a following; set a trend; cause us to part with vast sums of money to make us socially acceptable?


Years later I recognise myself clinging to a rail, bent and wiry, one shoulder limp. Just a hint of  yellow peeks out from the tight space between a lavender scented wool coat and faux leather jacket. My hand reaches out to extricate the item from the rack. It’s inspected for style, fit, quality of fabric and construction.

“ Yep definitely me”, I twirl with a sunshine smile.

I’ve reconstructed myself  with a $2 dress and $15 coat, and have never  felt more fabulous. 


How did I get from the disco to dancing in a warehouse of second hand clothing? It began with deconstructing the influence the fashion industry had on me to wear the latest fashions. Recognising that advertising had persuaded me what I needed to wear in order to ‘fit in’ even if the clothing didn’t ‘fit me’ properly. And that I was paying handsomely to ‘feel good’. 


Now I’ve made a set of decisions to:

  • Distance myself from advertising, social media, trends
  • Define myself by what colours suit me, what styles fit my body shape and what I feel comfortable wearing
  • Dare to purchase less clothing and enjoy more
  • Celebrate diversity by accepting that others differ from me in their fashion sense

Second hand clothing may be cheap but my self-worth is now priceless.

One thought on “Cheap and Cheerful – Dressing Second Hand

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  1. I absolutely relate to this post: all the way from being named ‘too fussy’ when shopping with the parents, feeling pressurized by the fashion industry into looking a certain way and purchasing the ‘right’ brands, and not feeling free to go with what’s right for me. These days I frequently buy second hand and I really love finding things in natural fabrics, in good condition, in my size and colour of course, and with any luck at a good price. Even this morning I found lovely linen trousers and a light jumper in cotton and cashmere at a price that speaks to me. Feels good doesn’t it ? 🙂


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