Whenever there’s a knock on the door and I’ve ordered something preloved I get a little rush. I’m like the mum from The Tiger who Came to Tea. I know it’s not the milkman because it’s 2021. It can’t be the boy from the grocers because my Ocado delivery slot is Wednesday. And it can’t be my husband because he’s got his keys (after I nagged him to remember them). So, I open the door and see… Hurrah! There isn’t a giant orange cat on the other side, waiting to guzzle down everything in my kitchen – it’s the two tops I ordered for my 20-month-old daughter. Not from a high street chain, all wrapped in plastic with the anonymous return label shoved inside. It’s from a lovely and friendly seller, who’s covered the items in pretty paper and has even written me a note, hoping I enjoy them. And do you know what? I will enjoy them. I know that because any questions I had she answered for me straight away, they’re in great condition and such a steal that I’m not anxious about my kiddo getting them dirty.
There was a time before nappies and car seats and Iggle Piggle, when I didn’t really give much thought into what I wore and used or where I got it all. I enjoyed vintage shops, but it was mainly to hunt out cool things that weren’t really very useful. I mean I love my 1920’s silk kimono but has it seen the light of day since purchase? Absolutely not. I didn’t mind splurging on new items, had no concept of my environmental impact and assumed being a parent meant doing the same, although buying much more and spending way more money. I was so wrong.
When I became a mum, I discovered the real world of second hand buying and realised it’s not just a hobby; it’s a practical, ecological and financial lifestyle that makes so much sense. Every time I sourced something for cheaper, my husband would be thrilled. Every time I spoke to a vendor who had honest information about the item I was buying, because her child used it before mine, I was reassured. Every time my daughter wears something another little girl and her sister wore too; I feel comfort knowing that’s two less dresses to add to the huge piles of waste building up all over the planet. And every time an item I buy gets complimented, followed by the ‘no way’s’ after I tell them it’s second hand, I can’t help but be a bit smug. Sorry, but it’s true! I am now that person, wanting to tell everyone I speak to that they’re missing out on the best shopping experiences, if they’d only go pre-loved (‘You got that from John Lewis? I saw two of those last week on myTOT going for half the price, barely used. Just saying…’). I think once your eyes have been opened to the brilliance of buying preloved, you can’t really go back.
And then there’s the practicalities of everyday family life. I buy many things preloved – items for my home, prams, even my daughter’s Sleepyhead and cot. But I’m still that Kimono loving girl deep down. I want my girlie to have some special and, dare I say it, designer pieces. This is where the preloved market can really shine.
I was given a very expensive new season outfit for her to wear for her first Christmas. The second it was placed on the angelic babe, she covered the outrageously pricey garment in very impressive amounts of sick, quicker than I could shout ‘oh my Bonpoint!’. It was so disheartening because I knew how much it had cost the lovelies who bought it for us. Luckily, I had a backup outfit for her – a beautiful, mauve Baby Caramel dress (the Diorite lace detail silk dress, to be precise). Made of the lightest pure silk with gold thread trimming along the boat neckline, it’s the sort of dress you can imagine a baby princess wearing, or something the costume designer of a Kiera Knightley period drama would put on a child. Truly stunning and eye-wateringly expensive. Except it wasn’t for me. Those who would have purchased it off the rack at retail would’ve set their purses back at least £80. It cost me £12.29, including postage, preloved. £12.29! And in perfect condition. A brand new, very expensive, pure silk dress for a 12-month-old is the sort of thing you buy full price if; A) Budget is not an issue (no judgement – you do you!) B) you’re probably on a first name basis with your local dry cleaner C) Don’t mind that it’ll only be worn once and for a very short span of time. I’m none of the above. Budget is an issue, I don’t even know where my local dry cleaner is and if my baby will only wear something momentarily, it better be cheap!
But this is the beauty of buying preloved. The reality is your kids’ clothes are going to get messy. They are going to outgrow them. They will end up on the floor or the laundry basket for far longer than you’d like to admit. They will be sent off to Rugbytots and won’t return. So, if you can find pieces that are not only wallet-friendly but are also gorgeous, in great nick and don’t leave you constantly flinching every time your wee ones pick up a spoon or jump in a puddle, why not?
I think the great thing with going preloved, is that there are so many options. If you prefer your clothes straight from a shop, you might find you’d be more comfortable buying the big-ticket items like prams and cots in their second life cycle. Or it’s only toys you’re happy to go with second hand (very smart move by the way). One person’s preloved size doesn’t fit all – you are your own shopping stylist. But the point is, it’s all there waiting for you, with no faff, no judgement and some genuinely exciting moments, like snagging that brilliant item you’ve had your eye on for months but just couldn’t justify buying new. I’ll never go back. I’m well and truly on the preloved train, feeling very pleased with myself. And let’s be honest, it’s quite nice to feel a little bit smug sometimes, isn’t it?