I Avoid Shopping on the High Street—Here’s Where I Buy Affordable Clothes

January 23, 2021 at 12:00PM

Since breaking up with fast fashion a couple of years ago, I haven’t really looked back. Aside from underwear (I’m working on that part), I pretty much avoid the high street entirely. I really thought I would miss it and, other than the odd temptation from Uniqlo U, it’s been much easier than I thought. The thing I was worried about the most was finding affordable alternatives for my more sustainable lifestyle. Because for years and years, the narrative around fast fashion has been that it is the democratic and more affordable choice.

But when I stopped to think about the number of times I’ve had to re-buy something because it had fallen apart, versus the pieces I had bought vintage or saved up for, it didn’t actually feel like I was saving that much. For example, I had bought a pair of gold hoops from the high street, on repeat at least seven times because they turn green. At £10, I could’ve bought one pair at £70 that don’t fall apart after six months. I also considered how much I was spending. Two tops in Zara often set me back about £80, which is actually quite a lot. In looking at some of my favourite small, ethical brands, there wasn’t actually a huge price difference. 

So here is how I’ve figured out to how avoid fast fashion affordably, which has been especially difficult when most charity shops are closed intermittently this year (although, hot tip, Oxfam online is full of treasures!). Of course, it is important to recognise that not everyone can quit fast fashion, and more sustainable, affordable options need to be available to all and in all sizes. But these are some of my tips that have helped me and I think will get you started if you just don’t know where to begin. 

To the non-believers, I am here to convince you of the wonders that is eBay. How do I love eBay? Let me count the ways. In fact, I am writing to you while wearing a pair of Ugg boots I found on eBay for £10. To those asking, yes, it’s the best thing I ever did. Over the course of the last year, I’ve not only found some amazing pieces at great prices, but I’ve also saved up for more expensive designer pieces by selling less-used clothes in my wardrobe. 

If you are still unconvinced (I know there are eBay sceptics out there, and that’s okay!), here are some highlight purchases of the year. I am almost always able to find core Marks and Spencer items, so rather than buying it new on the high street, I found the ribbed roll necks I love for £4. I also found an H&M roll neck from 2009 for £1 that I lost in a break up. 2009! On the other end of the price spectrum, I found a runway Jacquemus jacket from the Provence collection (pictured above) for £100.  Remember that eBay is not just about auctions, you can often “Buy It Now” or send in an offer. I recommend eBay for many things, but I’ve had the most luck looking for vintage Marks & Spencer or Jaeger (a cashmere gold mine) and Acne for basics. 

A fun take on classic hoops! 

Mondi is one of the best kept secrets on the vintage market. Princess Diana was a big fan. 

Plissé is a quirky yet timeless addition. 

Did I ever think I’d be wanting a vowel-inspired knit jumper? No. But eBay does things like this. 

Heritage brands are abundant on eBay and always the best quality. I recently fell for Armor Lux breton tops, the cotton is just so thick and gorgeous.

Once one is initiated in the great depths of Etsy, it’s hard to return. Careful, friends, it is dangerously wonderful. I’ve had dreams about pieces of clothing and somehow Etsy vintage dealers manifest them. I kid you not. Etsy is my favourite place to hunt down vintage trends, like kitsch knitted jumpers or Laura Ashley. My favourite finds this summer was an 80s cotton dress (£30) and clasp leather handbag from the ’50s (£5) that I wore to my best friend’s wedding. 

I love finding vintage Gianni Versace pieces, and at £76 this is a similar price point to a nice blazer on the high street. 

I love this Etsy shop, Narrations Ldn, for simple, timeless pieces. They carry gorgeous vintage La Perla pieces too. 

The number of vintage white blouses I’ve accumulated from Etsy… Well, let’s just go with a few. The shop that sells this particular top carries them in a wide range of sizes too! 

Vintage Coach bags are amazing. Expertly made in simple silhouettes, plus rumour has it that Coach bags are under warranty forever, so you could take it for repair. 

Scandi influencers are loving patchwork pieces at the moment, and so do I!

I’m having a moment with polo-collar knits. Isn’t this one divine?

This year, I made an effort to really try and save up to buy less and buy better. I’ve found that vintage designer pieces are the ones I wear the most and made sure to try and remember that.  I love the vintage section of Vestiaire Collective and have found some amazing pieces on there this year, all under £100. From this Yves Saint Laurent dress (£70) to Maryam Nassir Zadeh shoes (both pictured above), to a pair of Issey Miyake Pleats Please trousers (£80) I’ve been longing for years, it’s been a great treasure trove this year. Don’t forget you can also put in offers on items and negotiate lower prices. 

Yves Saint Laurent in the ’80s was just the best. 

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If you ever find Issey Miyake Pleats Please under £100, go for it. It’s a great investment and timelessly always sought-after.

There are so many great leather shoulder bags in the vintage section of Vestiaire. I love this colour.

A Max Mara coat is a forever piece. I love this shape.

The noughties are calling. Hello! Cloth bags are the most affordable vintage option, and there are many to love. 

Last, but not least, shop small. I love finding small brands on Instagram and being able to DM the designers directly. Because of small production and limited batches, a lot brands now are able to keep prices affordable. I always look to Joan the Store and inNEOSS to discover other small brands too. 

Hai makes dreamy silks and if you haven’t noticed by now, I love smocking so this bag is a major win.

Sandra Alexandra has the most fun with her earring collections featuring different fruits and veg. 

I have just discovered this brand and I love it! This dress has the dreamiest silhouettes and the brand has an amazing size range that others should aspire to. 

I have the long-sleeve version of this top (made from deadstock fabric) and it feels amazing.

Miss Crofton makes such gorgeous lingerie in their London-based studio. Next up, I Love Finding Brands No One Else Knows About—and These Are My New Favourites.

Author Isabel Mundigo-Moore | Whowhatwear
Selected by CWC

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