My Second Hand Life

No, I don’t mean to say that I live vicariously - but thanks for wondering. My second hand life has more to do with what I buy these days than with my experiences. I believe in second hand stuff and first hand experiences.

It all started with expensive designer jeans I saw on Facebook. $5,500 patchwork designer jeans, adorned with the type of fabric we occasionally get at FabMo: cottons in pretty patterns, sometimes coordinating sets so you don’t even have to think too hard about how to combine them. We often get small pieces which I have used for patchwork pillows - but I was ready for a different project.

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And here they were, patchwork jeans at absurd prices while I had this beloved, but ripped pair of jeans in my closet (and I believe when I say that I am past the age where I should be wearing torn jeans or cut-offs). So my very own pair of FabMo patchwork jeans was born (as a side note - it ain’t easy to sew fabric securely to pant legs, it is quite tight and difficult to move around and so the craftsmanship on my inaugural pair leaves a lot to be desired).

I love them, though I have to admit, I had naively hoped that all the adornment would have a slimming effect - but unfortunately, the opposite seems to be true - but maybe that’s just me.

What to wear for reunion?

After that reunion of my business school class was looming. Since I work mainly from home my selection of the recommended “business casual” attire was limited. Especially tops, it turned out, where stained, too small, too short or too something else and so - on a whim - I went to Goodwill and came away with a pair of Capri pants and three tops that can pass as business casual with a decent pair of pants - all for $20 and that included taxes.

The Capris are for riding my bike but the tops came in handy during reunion. Nobody complimented me for them but nobody looked at me either saying “are these from Goodwill?” If I were to venture a guess, all 4 pieces together were probably worn by their previous owners less than 10 times combined. So they were pretty much new - but still second hand.

Second hand camera - good as new

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Then I traveled to Germany and when I got there found out that husband and son had forgotten to bring my camera. Not that I hadn’t made a big deal out of them taking it, not that I had placed it smack on top of the suitcase and had re-emphasized the importance of getting that crucial piece of equipment to Europe on a daily basis! So, here I was cameraless and annoyed as hell.

The solution came in form of a second hand camera, actually, a whole set including body, 2 lenses, 4 batteries, an external flash unit, a remote controller, storage, a large and a small tripod, a practically unused camera bag and more books on the topic than I can carry. All for less than the price of a new lens, all in excellent condition, purchased from a guy who had apparently decided he needed a camera, had gone out and bought it all, then decided he didn’t like photography and was now abandoning it.

So when I saw this challenge on Facebook “Go three months without buying any new stuff” all I could do was laugh. Rookies! I have done that without even trying hard and it was surprisingly easy. Everybody should try it.

What got me into this second hand life is the realization, that we all produce and consume way too much. I knew this all along and have never been an excessive shopper but recently the message gets more urgent. As we hear and read more about the devastating impact of fast fashion, not only on the environment but also on people who are forced to work for ridiculous wages so we can buy $4.99 T-shirts and $19.99 pants. But that is a topic by itself and worth a blog or two in its own right (to come!)

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I am not alone

When it comes to fashion I am usual half a decade behind the latest trends but this one I caught early: second-handing it is popular and the market is growing at an amazing rate - supposedly it will be $51B in 5 years.

While that sounds huge, it is still a drop in the bucket of the $1.5 trillion But, you know, you got to start somewhere.

The same report also claims that the percentage of women who are willing to shop second hand has increased a lot over just the last three years from 45% in 2016 to 64% in 2018 - and amazingly it seems to be one of the few things that Boomers and Millennials have in common: 31% of second hand shoppers are boomers and 31% are Millennials. My own generation, Gen X only provides 20% of the second hand shoppers. The youngest ones, Gen Z have the highest growth of new second-handers, so the future might hold even more second hand shopping.

Of all the “fashion trends” this is finally one I can get behind whole-heartedly. The other one is mending and, of course, upcycling.

Being FabMo shoppers we all know a thing or two about upcycling rescued materials, but since not everybody can sew delicate blouses, dresses and winter coats shopping second hand might just be the way to go!

If you have never thought about buying used, or selling you still beautiful clothing now is the time to embrace this trend. And for once - unlike those short jeans cut-offs - it is something that will look good on everybody regardless of age and shape.

(If you want more data and insights into the second hand/resale market, here is the full report - pretty pictures and all)

Tina Baumgartner