A beginner's guide to shopping for preloved treasures

Vintage shopping rail
by Limara Salt
18 November 2022

As we become more conscious of the impact our life choices have on the world, changing the amount of clothes we buy and ditch is regularly touted as a quick way to make a big difference. For the unconvinced, the stats are startling: according to the BBC an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year and the equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up in landfill sites every second.

Vintage (also known as secondhand, preloved, or preowned) clothing and furniture has always been an option but thanks to the internet giving us endless ways to discover treasures, shopping vintage has become not only easier, but a more sustainable choice. 

Luckily for Virgin Red members, there are many ways you can earn points while you shop for more eco-friendly clobber; Etsy and eBay are great options for vintage stores and people selling their unwanted items after a spring clean, while ASOS Marketplace is home to over 900 businesses including independent brands and vintage boutiques. 

But as shopping for preloved gufts is a very different experience to shopping on the high street, we’re here to give you some tips on finding something unique that will have a lower impact on the environment while earning points - win win!

Be prepared to take your time

High street brands know just how to entice us with the best looks, and while window dressers in charity shops are pretty adept at catching our eye the very nature of vintage shopping means you need to hunt for the best finds.

With that in mind, it’s smart to set some time aside to really trawl the rails for special pieces; some of the best pieces can be buried in bins or tucked away between other clothes, so you need a fair amount of time to have a proper look. Similarly when shopping online, there can be hundreds of items that meet your match so get ready to have a few tabs open while hunting for something special. 


Refine your search by choosing specific stores

Since vintage shopping takes more time, it helps to narrow your search by choosing specific stores; Etsy, eBay and ASOS Marketplace have hundreds of outlets, and most will stock specific styles or from a certain era.

So if you’re after a 1970s tea dress, don’t waste time checking out a shop that specialises in ‘90s streetwear. And never forget, the search bar is your friend.

Check the measurements, not the label size

When you do discover that dream item and are ready to add to your basket, make sure you’re (relatively) certain it’ll fit. UK and EU sizes have changed drastically over the years, so even if you wear a 12 and find an item of that size, it may not fit the way you’re used to.

Most stores will give a modern size for reference, but your best bet is to check the actual measurements and go from there. And even if it isn’t perfect, going for a slightly larger piece means you can make alterations if need be. 


Keep an eye out for wear and tear

Secondhand clobber has been rechristened ‘preloved’ for a reason; these clothes have gone from person to person, transcended eras and in some cases, crossed oceans. But that journey takes a toll which means a wonderful item could have frayed hems, missing buttons or even moth holes.

Be sure to check for any distress of the item and when online, read the description carefully as sellers are beholden to be honest with the condition of items. 

Upcycle to make it your own 

Don’t be put off by wear and tear though, as most can be fixed by anyone handy with scissors and a needle and thread. Vintage pieces are already unique, but part of the fun is altering something to make it completely yours; anything from removing shoulder pads (ubiquitous for any item from the 1980s), raising a hem and turning a maxi into a mini, or swapping scuffed buttons for a brand new set can make your item brand new again. 

Found nothing? Keep checking

And finally, be persistent should you not find what you’re after straight away. Etsy, eBay and ASOS Marketplace add hundreds of new items every day so you never know when the piece you’re looking for will appear. Similarly Cancer Research and Mind – both partners of Virgin Red – have charity shops on most UK high streets and update their racks all the time. Happy hunting!

P.S. We always do our best to include the most up to date information but our offers do change from time to time. Click on each offer for the current points price and all the details.

Find out more about Virgin Red, the rewards club from Virgin, and login or join for free, right here.