Image description: A colourful rack of second hand clothes
For years, students have been heading to the spires of Oxford to learn, but, most importantly, find themselves and their new style. Gone are the days of popping to Topshop and spending your student loan on denim jackets. Instead, in an era of social media and environmentalism, we are searching for more ethical and individual ways of shopping.
Although not having been around quite as long as the university, second-hand shopping has a long history; second hand market stalls, allowing people to buy usually unaffordable items at a discount, were even popular in the 17th century. This popularity continued through the world wars and has always been particularly apparent amongst students, attempting to dress well despite restricted budgets.
Charity stores have become even more popular as outlets for self-expression!
And that’s where second hand shopping comes in. Vintage shopping has provided people with a way to buy typically unaffordable items at a great price (shoutout to students attempting to dress well despite restricted budgets). The concept of ethical second-hand however, was introduced around 1987 when the Salvation Army began donating their collections to charity. And now, as the latest fashion trends grow increasingly excessive and harmful to the environment, charity stores have become even more popular as outlets for self-expression. With this in mind, take a look at our top five sustainable shopping suggestions for your new wardrobe.
Oxfam Superstore – Cowley
This store is exactly what you’d expect: a huge building full of clothes and nic nacs. It’s definitely one that requires some time and dedication to trawl through, but the hard work pays off when you come across that perfect pair of Levi’s. It might be further out than the others on this list but still perfectly located for a spot of shopping if you find yourself living in Cowley!
Reign Vintage – also Cowley
Don’t worry, I promise there are places on this list that won’t require you to relive your Duke of Edinburgh days to reach, but, unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. Reign is a London based shop with a branch in Oxford, not far from the Oxfam superstore. A more curated option for those without the time for a charity shop-style trawl, it’s by far the most spacious and un-intimidating shop in Oxford. There’s some beautiful stuff, it’s definitely one of the best places to find a statement piece for your new wardrobe. While slightly pricier than a charity shop, Reign isworth the money for good quality vintage.
Ballroom Emporium – St Clement’s
For those of you looking for proper vintage, Ballroom Emporium specialises mostly in pre 1975 fashion (think ballgowns and poodle skirts). Not far from the Botanical gardens, this one’s easy to find. For those with a slightly more reserved taste, it may not be worth the trip but if you’re into the Oxford drama scene, it’s definitely one to consider as Ballroom Emporium’s costume design is next to unrivalled. Not to mention the extensive backrooms full of ballgowns in every colour and design under the sun. This is definitely one to keep in mind for a bargain ballroom dress now that everything is opening up and balls are back on the agenda!
The Retro Room – St Clement’s
Relatively new to Oxford, the Retro Room is a gem! With quite literally something for everyone, this shop boasts rooms full of accessories, racks of vintage clothing and even a strong collection of designer vintage. No matter your price range, you’re bound to pick something up here. What makes this shop even more special is that they offer a 50/50 commission option so you can even sell your own clothes when the time comes to clear out your wardrobe.
The Unicorn – Ship Street
A small treasure trove hidden away in the city centre. I first stumbled across this shop at interviews and I have been in love ever since. Run by a very eccentric lady, the Unicorn is open when it’s open, and it’s shut when it’s shut, but don’t be dissuaded. From jeans to ballgowns,this tiny shop is crammed with some really amazing vintage pieces. . There’s no pricing so if you enjoy a haggle this is the place for you – it’s super rewarding when you come up for air having found something amazing. Possibly not the first place a beginner should visit, but give it a go if you’re up for trying something new!
This isn’t a definitive list of all the hotspots in Oxford; I’m sure some of you have your own favourite jaunts omitted from the list, but if you take anything from this, it’s that we are spoiled for choice in Oxford when it comes to vintage and sustainable shopping.