Sick of fast fashion? Circular economy of second-hand clothes can give you the same dopamine hit – Laura Waddell
I am surprised, when listing my first item on an online marketplace – a dress that no longer fits – how straightforward it is to get started. Selling is almost as easy as buying, and for those of us with bulging wardrobes, that’s entirely too easy. I include the necessary information, which isn’t much at all. Colour, material, size; anything much further beyond ‘suggested occasion’ feels like frippery.
Scanning other shopfronts to get a sense of what’s expected of a listing, and to make sure I’m not wildly off mark, I start noticing trends in the descriptions, like one puffy-sleeved, cream and pink vintage dress screaming Laura Ashley but instead labelled “cottagecore”.
The site, Vinted, definitely skews younger than Ebay (which despite now advertising on Love Island, I found laborious and slow-moving when I last tried it several years ago) but not so much so that it’s alienating to anyone not actively doing a TikTok dance right this very moment. In fact, it was my Gen X friend Katy with her 70s-inflected academia stylings, all hip patterns and chic turtlenecks, who recommended it and prompted me to give fashion reselling another go.
Dead-end service station arguments
Things have modernised; I discovered, having a look around the new apps that in their efficiency feel more like ordering a cab than negotiating the auction house. Descriptions favour brevity. Even the sales patter is kept to a relative minimum, which makes it easy to pop things up without fuss.
Besides, what else do people really need to know? I do not tell its potential purchaser the reason I want this particular dress I am listing out of my wardrobe is that because every time I look at its sunny floral pattern, innocuous daisies on a bed of gold, I am transported to a day soured by dead-end arguments in service stations or an especially cursed wedding anniversary party in a South Glamorgan hotel whose level of dysfunction would shame Basil Fawlty. Their lore insistent of a resident ghost, the place was so understaffed that had one turned up, an extra pair of hands could only have made things better. Perfect for your spring or summer, I write, omitting the subtext – just not mine.
Listing more than three items increases the likelihood of a sale; but thinking back to the last time I tried this, I don’t want to put too much time into photographing items until I see if it’s worth it. But I’m quickly surprised. Within 48 hours, I sell something. The first to go from my modest shop of half a dozen items is a chunky charm fashion necklace from a hyped high street shop designer brand collaboration, still with its cardboard price tag wrapped around the heavy gold-coloured metal chain.
I bought it during the pandemic and have never, not once, worn it; the imagined occasion, some pined-for excursion, never having come to pass and distantly irrelevant to my concerns today. It is easy to take it from my things-for-sale storage box and drop it into a cardboard packet, wondering whether its buyer was imagining themselves or someone else wearing it.
Five-star review hopes
With one sale to date, I quickly develop pride in my shop. Anticipating more to come, in an uncharacteristically optimistic mood, I buy a pack of biodegradable postage bags, swayed by a graphic with the words “worms love these!”, and hoping my expected smattering of customers will too.
Next time I won’t have to reuse packaging; although it’s acceptable, it’s not always to hand. While the compostable bags are not the cheapest option, their eco-friendliness is in the spirit of the second-hand marketplace and I've come to concern myself with customer expectations, hoping the bit of tissue I packed round my wares takes it into five-star review territory.
Having a digital storefront makes me feel like a creature in the game Animal Crossing, a cosy little thought that makes me want it to look neat and nice. I put a little more effort into steaming the creases from next item I list, a few more seconds fanning out skirts to suggest movement.
What a rush
It’s quickly apparent which items spark interest. Some wait for their buyer quietly, while others lap up all the attention immediately – excitingly for the dress and its chance of having a life happier than the one I could give it. Notifications that buyers have favourited the item and offers of 75 per cent of what I’ve asked keep coming in, but before my counter-offer to meet in the middle can be accepted, someone pays my full asking price and the item is marked “sold”. What a rush for a dark and dreich February night. I begin looking around to see what else I can sell.
Without too much effort, I made £45 from selling on two items with lots of life still in them that would otherwise have languished in my wardrobe. But folly; so good is the site’s own homepage algorithm that exactly the same amount of money slips away from me on an impulse purchase of a leather skirt at a quarter of its original retail price; somehow, exactly the right item to tempt me at exactly the right time.
Perhaps I need to readjust my expectations. Rather than seeing this project as an additional income stream, perhaps this should be ringfenced fun money. I am freshly invigorated by the idea of chopping and changing, buying and selling my wardrobe regularly rather than hoarding investment pieces. A way for the circular economy of my already full wardrobe to bring dopamine hits. A genius rationale for shopping. Or at least one less win for fast fashion.
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